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Syracuse University Professor Calls for Proper Treatment for Clergy Sex Abuse Victims

A Syracuse University professor who specializes in the treatment of children and adolescents who have experienced sexual abuse, trauma and loss says it’s crucial the victims of clergy abuse in Illinois receive proper treatment and case.

This comes following a report from the Illinois state attorney general on the likelihood of widespread clergy abuse. The report indicates that more than 450 adult Catholic clerics and religious brothers sexually abused almost 2,000 children across that state over a 90-year period.


Jennifer Genovese, assistant teaching professor of social work in the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, who also maintains a private practice helping young people, says these revelations are added to a long list of sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy against vulnerable children who put their trust in their religious leaders, only to find that trust violated.

“The effects of sexual abuse are far-reaching, resulting in such emotional and behavioral symptoms as sleep disturbance, nightmares, appetite disturbance, impaired relationships, anxiety, depression, lack of self-worth, low self-esteem, anger, substance abuse, self-injury and suicidality,” says Genovese, a certified social worker who adds that abuse by clergy adds another element to the trauma of sexual abuse. “The betrayal of trust by a religious leader may damage the victim’s faith and spiritual life. This trauma may extend beyond the victim to the family, who may have taught the child to trust the religious leaders, and who also put their faith and trust in them.”

According to Genovese, “it is crucial that victims of sexual abuse, past or present, reach out for help and support. As the most recent cases in Illinois demonstrate, the effects of sexual abuse may be life long, but help and support are available and can bring healing and recovery for survivors and their families.”


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