The well from which we drink is poisoned: clergy sexual exploitation of adult women

Kennedy, Margaret (2009) The well from which we drink is poisoned: clergy sexual exploitation of adult women. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


The thesis adds to the body of knowledge on clergy sexual exploitation of adults in the UK and Ireland, which has rarely been studied, and not at all from the victim's perspective.
The study explores the lived experience of women who were sexually exploited by Christian clergy when they were either parishioners of their Church or seeking help, support or spiritual guidance. The sample is relatively large, with 63 women completing questionnaires and 19 also interviewed in depth. Data analysis has been quantitative and qualitative, using grounded theory.
Theoretical and conceptual frameworks draw on feminist analyses, especially the concepts of power and control and entrapment. This framing challenges many dominant constructions of clergy relationships with adult women; especially that which locates these encounters as 'affairs'. The analysis seeks to demonstrate that clergy sexual exploitation of adult women should be located within the continuum of violence against women.
Detailed analysis of women's accounts is presented to explore the processes of 'getting in, 'getting trapped' and 'getting out'. The complexity and variability of women's experiences are also central themes, including their changing perceptions of the sexual involvement and how entrapment limited their 'space for action'. Later chapters document the harms of sexual exploitation and some women's attempts to achieve redress and justice. There is no other contemporary study, which traces these processes in depth and over time.
The thesis includes in appendix nine an overview of Christian Church guidelines and procedures for dealing with 'sexual misconduct. This is not part of the main thesis as the whole area requires an in depth analysis not undertaken in this study. Yet it does give an idea of how far the UK and Irish Churches have progressed (or not) in the area of policies and procedures.
Women's own recommendations for change are combined in the conclusion with insights from the whole study.

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