Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Education and Human Services


Family Science and Human Development

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Jennifer Brown Urban

Committee Member

Miriam Linver

Committee Member

Kathryn Herr

Committee Member

David Pooler


This study examines the relationship between institutional responses to reports of clergy- perpetrated sexual abuse of adult women and the survivor’s level of posttraumatic growth, current spirituality, current religious commitment, well-being, and flourishing. The experience of adult women abused by clergy is not well-researched; this study seeks to highlight those experiences to the extent possible. This study utilized a mixed methods approach wherein surveys were collected from 108 participants, and follow up interviews were conducted with ten participants to further illustrate their experiences. All participants experienced some level of institutional betrayal which left lasting impacts on their ability to achieve posttraumatic growth, and their levels of spirituality, religious commitment, general well-being and flourishing. The findings suggest how a religious institution responds to reports of sexual abuse of adult women can make a difference in how that survivor experiences their life post-reporting of abuse. Interview participants shared recommendations for ways in which they felt institutions could better respond to reports of clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse. These findings support the need for additional research on institutional responses to reports of sexual abuse of adults by religious institutions.

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