U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: How Situational Crime Prevention Strategies Can Help Create Safe Environments

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice and Behavior Volume: 35 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2008 Pages: 643-657
Karen J. Terry; Alissa Ackerman
Date Published
May 2008
15 pages
In order to prevent child sexual abuse by Catholic priests, this article proposes using the situational crime prevention (SCP) framework used by Smallbone and Wortley in their study of child sexual abusers in Queensland, Australia.
The SCP techniques applied by Wortley and Smallbone (2006) are increasing effort, increasing risk, controlling prompts, and removing responsibility. These techniques are applicable to the Catholic Church in its efforts to prevent priests from committing child sexual abuse. Increasing effort involves making abusive behavior difficult or inconvenient by controlling access to potential victims; teaching potential victims prevention tactics; and by controlling the use of facilitators of abuse, such as alcohol and drugs. The second SCP technique is to increase the potential abusers' risk of detection by strengthening formal surveillance, increasing natural surveillance, and using place managers. Controlling prompts, a third SCP technique, includes identifying and removing situational triggers that may prompt a potential offender to engage in sexually abusive behavior. Such prompts by the Catholic Church should focus on controlling or limiting any potentially intimate activity that involves the priest being alone with a child or that facilitates an emotional bond with the child. Removing responsibility, another SCP technique, involves clarifying responsible behavior, personalizing responsibility for the care of potential victims, rule setting, and making clear the consequences of engaging in the sexual abuse of children. The Catholic Church has taken a positive step by implementing safe environment programs that are being monitored for compliance under the Church's Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which established the Office of Child and Youth Protection and the National Review Board. 4 tables and 38 references