Date of Degree

2-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Criminal Justice

Advisor

Karen Terry

Committee Members

Amy Adamczyk

Joshua Freilich

Subject Categories

Criminology | Criminology and Criminal Justice

Keywords

restorative justice, sexual abuse crisis, clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse, healing, sexual abuse, child sexual abuse

Abstract

For much of the last 20 years, the United States has been at the center of the sexual abuse crisis within the Roman Catholic Church. Victim-survivors of clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse have long been waiting for the Church to acknowledge them and respond to their needs. This study sought to answer two important research questions: (1) whether restorative justice can be used to redress harms stemming from clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse and promote healing, and (2) whether there are common characteristics among victims who benefit from restorative events. The study employed a mixed-method research design consisting of both a quantitative and qualitative component. Due to a low response rate for the quantitative component (five responses), the results of the survey were discussed in the context of the qualitative component (i.e., interviews with nine participants). The study found that restorative events in the Diocese of Arlington fostered an environment in which healing was likely to occur and identified six elements related to the restorative events that positively contributed to healing: (1) account-making or storytelling, (2) an apology, (3) faith, (4) forgiveness, (5) community, and (6) procedural justice. However, restorative events were not the only activities that contributed to participants’ healing. Participants discussed six additional concepts that enabled their healing: (i) individuals who showed compassion and empathy, (ii) therapy and counseling, (iii) financial reparations, (iv) time and physical distance from the abuser, (v) other resources, such as support groups and reading lists, and (vi) reading, studying, and writing about experiences. These findings greatly add to the literature on restorative justice and the sexual abuse crisis within the Catholic Church. The results of this study can aid in the development of policies and practices that promote healing, which the Roman Catholic Church can use to better meet the needs of victims of clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse. Furthermore, the results may influence policies in other communities and organizations that have experienced widespread sexual abuse of children (e.g., the Orthodox Jewish community, USA Swimming, Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University, and the Boy Scouts of America).

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