DEAR ABBY: I'm writing in response to "In True Love in Washington" (Feb. 4), about the 16-year-old who became pregnant by her pastor. What she described is not a "love" relationship; it is an abusive one. A pastor who has a sexual relationship with a member of his congregation is misusing his power, and this constitutes clergy sexual misconduct.
You were correct when you stated that "if there is any 'shaming,'" it should be directed at the pastor. Unfortunately, that is not typically the case. The shaming of victims that follows disclosure is nearly unbearable. Church officials typically collude in denial or cover up the problem. Rarely is there any care for the victim.
For this reason, a sex-abuse therapist and a spiritual director familiar with this type of abuse are helpful in the healing process. In addition, it is vital for the victim and her family to find the support of someone who has lived through clergy sexual misconduct because it is unlikely they will find support in their current circle of friends. -- C.W., MUSKEGON, MICH.
DEAR C.W.: Thank you for sharing some valuable suggestions. The responses to "True Love" offered additional steps for her to consider. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: You were right to point out that "Reverend Ron" is the one in the wrong. However, if the issue is not turned over to the police, the church's investigation may put a different slant on the results. Only law enforcement officers know the questions to ask in order to get the facts as they should be obtained. -- ADA IN OLEAN, N.Y.
DEAR ABBY: Both my husband and I are pastors and have had to deal with a similar situation in our region. Unfortunately, the abuse and misuse of pastoral authority is too prevalent. It is widespread, although not indicative of most clergy, who seek to serve faithfully.
I don't know who is responsible for holding Reverend Ron accountable, but hopefully there are church leaders who will take this situation seriously and not ignore it. Far too many people in the pews feel that it is not their place to hold someone accountable for his/her mistakes. The congregation will need someone trained in dealing with this kind of situation to help them heal as well. -- REVEREND JOANNA
DEAR ABBY: As a therapist, I have helped many people deal with this kind of emotional wreckage. The affair, which the pastor convinced this girl was OK because they were "truly in love," actually falls under the category "sexual abuse by one in a position of trust," and it is a crime. In some states, it may be considered statutory rape.
After being told, the mother should contact the police and the district attorney. Reverend Ron is a sexual predator who has taken advantage of a vulnerable young girl. He needs to be stopped and removed from any and all contact with young teens. -- THERAPIST IN LONGMONT, COLO.