By Aaron Earls
As a whole, Americans say churches and other places of worship can do better in their response to sexual harassment and assault. Majorities from every major religious tradition in the U.S. agrees—except white evangelicals.
New research from PRRI found 62 percent of Americans say churches aren’t responding well to issues like sexual assault. Only one-third (36 percent) say they’ve handled it properly.
Among white evangelicals, however, 6 in 10 say churches have responded somewhat or very well to those issues. Forty percent said places of worship have responded not too well or not well at all.
Black Protestants are more split—48 percent say churches have responded well, and 51 percent disagree. Almost 6 in 10 Catholics (58 percent) and white mainline Protestants (59 percent) say churches have not responded well.
Hispanic Protestants (71 percent) and the religious unaffiliated (82 percent) are most likely to say places of worship have handled the issue poorly.
Among Protestant pastors, many know firsthand the impact of sexual or domestic violence. In a LifeWay Research study, 81 percent say they know someone who has experienced it and 64 percent of pastors say domestic or sexual violence occurs in their congregation.
One in 5 pastors say they have personally experienced domestic or sexual violence.
LifeWay Research also found an increased desire among pastors to help in those instances.
In 2014, 23 percent of pastors who said they speak about the issue said they had training. Today, almost half (46 percent) say they’ve been trained.
Pastors today who speak about domestic and sexual violence are more likely to they are problems in their community, that they’ve seen its impact firsthand and they’re aware that resources are available that can help.
Yet only about half (55 percent) say they are familiar or very familiar with those resources in their community.
“Pastors want to care for victims of domestic and sexual violence,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
“And they are often called to care for victims. But they don’t always know what to do.”
The distrust of institutions’ handling of sexual harassment extends beyond the church, according to PRRI’s study. Majorities of Americans also say the Republican party (63 percent), colleges and universities (55 percent) and the Democratic party (51 percent) are not handling it well.
Meanwhile, 54 percent say businesses are responding to sexual harassment properly.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor for Facts & Trends.