More than 3 percent of adult women who attend religious services at least once a month have been victims of clergy sexual abuse, according to researchers at Baylor University, Waco, Texas .
Four percent of respondents said they knew of a close friend or family member who experienced a sexual advance by a clergy member in their congregation, the study said.
Baylor researchers said their report is the largest scientific study into this issue in the U.S. "Because many people are familiar with some of the high-profile cases of sexual misconduct, most people assume that it is just a matter of a few charismatic leaders preying on vulnerable followers," said Diana Garland, dean of Baylor's School of Social Work and lead researcher in the study. "What this research tells us, however, is that clergy sexual misconduct with adults is a widespread problem in congregations of all sizes and occurs across denominations."
One of the case studies involved an ELCA member coerced into a sexual relationship by her pastor.
Researchers, Garland said, hoped the findings would prompt congregations to adopt policies to protect members from "leaders who abuse their power."
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers