There are likely to be people in the congregation who themselves were abused sexually as children. According to national statistics, as many as one quarter of adult women and one in seven adult men experienced at least one incident of inappropriate sexual touching as a child. And for a significant minority this has had lifelong ramifications. As Rev. Pat Hoertdoerfer, former Director for Children, Family and Intergenerational Programs for the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), has written, “I remind myself and our colleagues often that in every congregation there are people of all ages who have experienced the pain of abuse, people who have caused others the pain of abuse, and others who remain silent and are complicit in the harm of abuse. We need to find the courage to call ourselves and one another to justice as we heal ourselves, our congregants, and our Association.”
Congregations can offer support groups for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. There can be healing services for survivors. Religious professionals and other pastoral care providers can obtain special training in providing counseling to people who have been abused. It is important to have referrals for people who need more intense therapy around past sexual abuse issues. A referral agreement/relationship with the domestic violence and sexual assault programs in the area is also critical.