Responding to sex abuse in faith contexts


Our guest this week is Kaya Oakes, author of The Nones are Alright: A New Generation of Believers, Seekers, and Those in Between and a contributing writer to America. Ms. Oakes wrote “Sex abuse happens across denominations. Here's how one Protestant minister is helping people heal.” in the Oct. 2 issue of America.

Ms. Oakes profiled the Rev. Carol Howard Merritt, a survivor of domestic abuse whose sister was sexually abused by their pastor. She is now an ordained Presbyterian minister who holds workshops for abuse victims from different denominations to find comfort in their faith. In her article, Ms. Oakes examines how spiritual abuse differs from psychological or physical abuse and how patriarchal structures can contribute to abuse and its cover-up.


You don’t stop believing in your tradition just because you’re hurt by your tradition.

On this week’s show, Ms. Oakes discussed what Christian communities can do to help abuse victims heal spiritually.

“You don’t stop believing in your tradition just because you’re hurt by your tradition, so how can we, collectively as Christians, help people recover the life-giving part of the tradition and not necessarily say to them, ‘You have to stay,’ because that’s their decision, but ‘We as a tradition owe you an apology. We owe you to recognize that collectively,’” Ms. Oakes said.

Rev. Merritt told her the most effective thing Christians can do for victims is “a lot of apologizing, listening and understanding.”

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