Nuns as sexual victims get little notice
The St Louis Post-Dispatch carried a disturbing report on Sunday, picked up by other major media outlets around
the world, of research at the St Louis University paid for by several orders of religious nuns that shows
"about 40 percent of all nuns in the United States, have suffered some form of sexual trauma". The study
was undertaken in 1996 and reported in some respected but small circulation religious journals in 1998 but
not picked up by the mainstream media.
The newspaper reports some of the key findings of the
¥ Nearly one in five nuns said she had been sexually abused as a child. While
most of the abuse came at the hands of a male family member, about 9 percent of the cases were attributed
to abuse by priests, nuns or other religious people.
¥ One in eight nuns said she had been sexually
exploited. Of those, nearly three of every four maintained she was victimized by a priest, nun or other
religious person. The exploitation included everything from pressure for "dates" to requests for sexual
favors to sexual intercourse. Two of every five nuns who said they had been sexually exploited said the
exploitation involved some form of genital contact.
¥ Slightly fewer than one in 10 nuns said she
was the focus of sexual harassment at least once during her religious life. Almost half of those were
reported to be at the hands of priests, nuns or other religious people. More than half of the total
harassment cases involved some type of physical contact, according to the survey.
In their report,
the researchers noted that they believe the figures are more likely to underestimate rather than
overestimate the true prevalence of sexual victimization among sisters. "The fear and pain of disclosure
would be sufficient enough to discourage responding in some sisters," the report said.
of the nun survey on abuse seem to be in line with many other surveys of women. National surveys indicate
that about 20 percent to 27 percent of all women have been sexually abused as children.
St Louis Post-Dispatch
ABC "Forty per cent of nuns in US victims of sex abuse: report"
Courier-Mail "Study details sexual abuse of nuns"
Seattle Times "Catholic nuns frequently suffer abuse, study finds"
6 Jan 2003