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Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 66, Issue 4, pp 437–460 | Cite as

“Learning to Have a Voice”: The Spouse’s Experience of Clergy Sexual Misconduct

  • Fiona B. Kurtz
  • Samuel B. Rennebohm
  • Heather L. Lucas
  • Jessica A. Carlile
  • John W. Thoburn
Article
  • 138 Downloads

Abstract

The present qualitative study aimed to explore the systemic experience of spouses of clergy members who engaged in sexual misconduct in order to gain a holistic picture and therefore inform clinical practice and research for this specific population. Seven clergy spouses, five females and two males, participated in semi-structured interviews that utilized narrative inquiry. A consensual, team-based approach to analyzing patterns across the interview transcripts revealed two simultaneous organizing structures—relational (intrapersonal, dyadic, and contextual) and temporal (pre-misconduct, during misconduct, and post-misconduct)—both of which are derived from an ecosystemic approach to viewing participant experiences. The resulting structure highlights challenges faced by participants, couples, and congregations as well as factors influencing the recovery process. Specifically, findings suggest the need to increase awareness of systemic risk factors for sexual misconduct and to utilize clinical interventions that extend beyond the individual to address marital, familial, and communal distress. The results also point to the need for further research examining the means through which sexual misconduct impacts other individuals, relationships, and communities and for a more thorough and encompassing understanding of the overall impact of sexual misconduct by religious leaders.

Keywords

Clergy Clergy spouse Clergy sexual misconduct Family relations Ecosystemic theory Resilience 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fiona B. Kurtz
    • 1
  • Samuel B. Rennebohm
    • 1
  • Heather L. Lucas
    • 1
  • Jessica A. Carlile
    • 2
  • John W. Thoburn
    • 1
  1. 1.Seattle Pacific UniversitySeattleUSA
  2. 2.VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle DivisionSeattleUSA

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