This information is based on "The Assessment for Rehabilitation of Exploitative Health-Care Professionals and Clergy" by John C. Gonsiorek, Ph.D., in the book "Breach of Trust" (Sage Publications).

While most people think that the sociopathic predator is the most prevalent sexual abuse perpetrator, John C. Gonsiorek, Ph.D., and Glen O. Gabbard, M.D., have found that "reasonably well-trained, responsible individuals," who are undergoing a stressful time, are at greatest risk of violating boundaries.

Gonsiorek and Gabbard have worked together in the field of typing exploitative professionals, mainly mental health providers. But their profiles are applicable to clergy with some caveats. Clergy roles and responsibilities are inherently more

complex because their boundaries are much less clear-cut than those of other professionals, such as psychologists or psychiatrists.

Gonsiorek and Gabbard's information is important because if congregants merely look for sociopathic predators, they could very well miss warning signs of a pastor or spiritual teacher in trouble due to unremitting long-term stress, such as marital problems, illness, etc. The case of a female Episcopal priest, who was going through a nasty divorce and became sexually involved with a parishioner, is one such example.

One way to reduce clergy sexual misconduct is identify which individuals might run into problems. The stressed-out professionals, almost without exception, have only one victim, are remorseful, and usually confess to authorities. Their prognosis is generally good.

There are also the perpetrators who are severely neurotic and whose problems are more long-standing and significant. Work tends to be the sole source for filling their personal needs, and transgressions by individuals in this group tend to recur every few years or so. They are self-punitive rather than motivated to change. Prognosis is mixed; rehabilitation may or may not be feasible.

Other categories include the impulsive, character-disordered perpetrator whose main problem with impulse control can lead not only to sexual boundary violations but to criminal activities as well; sex offenders who are clinically diagnosed as pedophiles or ephebophiles; the medically disabled who have impaired judgement and poor behavior control (those with bipolar disorder might fall into this category); and naive individuals who lack training and experience.

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad