There are few betrayals more shattering than being sexually abused by a trusted member of the clergy. Some have called it “soul murder.” Like all child sex abuse, it is traumatizing and shakes the foundations of a child’s universe. It can also steal one of the sources of inspiration and comfort for a survivor. The public first learned about the paradigm of powerful religious leaders covering up child sex abuse for the sake of protecting the religious organization’s image and power with the Boston Globe’s Spotlight report on sex abuse in the Boston Archdiocese in 2002. Of course, clergy sex abuse had been going on for centuries before that, as Thomas Doyle and Richard Sipe document in Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church’s 2,000 Year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse. Yet, it is only recently that we have seen public outrage and a global push to protect children from this threat. Once the Catholic Church’s problems were detailed in print, victims from other religious organizations began to emerge from the shadows. This is a problem that is society-wide, and not just limited to one organization.

So why are there so many resources about the Catholic Church’s experience with child sex abuse here? Because it is the largest religious denomination on the globe, and the scourge of child sex abuse has occurred worldwide. If one believes in the goodness of providence, then learning the scope and depth of the scandal in this organization with 2000 years of experience will help us understand it in other contexts.

To be sure, the Catholic Church’s dealings with abusing priests and the victims are just the beginning of preventing religiously-based child sex abuse. We also shine a light on other faiths in our curated collection to bring home the message that all children in all settings need to be protected. Thoughtless trust of adults who have the capacity and opportunity to harm children is a mistake – even in the religious sphere.

I hope you find this reading and viewing illuminating and that it is a pathway to thinking about prevention in the future.

— Marci


Our selected books are typically available in public and/or university libraries. The link provided is a path to purchase if you so choose.

Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith by Martha Beck

A Harvard-educated sociologist and therapist tells the story of her recovered memories about ritualistic sexual abuse by her father, the noted Mormon scholar, Hugh Nibley.

Render Unto Rome by Jason Berry

Award-winning investigative journalist, Jason Berry, delves into the system of top-down secrecy that characterized Pope John Paul II’s papacy.

Vows of Silence by Jason Berry

This book discusses the evasions and deceit that occurred in Pope John Paul II’s papacy.

Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church

Written by the reporters who broke the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer prize-winning Spotlight series into the cover up of clergy sex abuse in the Boston Archdiocese.

Hush by Judy Brown

The author of this searing and revealing novel about sex abuse in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, Judy Brown, originally wrote the book under a pseudonym, Eishes Chayel. She came forward for the first time in the online resource below.

Not Without my Sister by Kristina, Celeste, & Juliana Buhring

The Children of God, a California-based cult that became a sex cult, has been profiled in Rolling Stone and elsewhere. 

Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal by Michael D’Antonio

Investigative reporter Michael D’Antonio delves into the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandals.

Clergy Sexual Abuse: Bibliography of Selected Sources Related to Clergy Sexual Abuseby Thomas P. Doyle

This is a thorough and excellently curated bibliography on clergy abuse and malpractice. 

Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes by Thomas P. Doyle and Richard Sipe

In this eye-opening book, former Catholic clergy, Thomas Doyle and Richard Sipe, document and analyze the long history of sex abuse in the Catholic Church.

The Oxford Handbook of Children and the Law by James C. Dwyer

A collection of essays by leading experts on topics related to children’s rights and protection, edited by Prof. James Dwyer of William and Mary Law School.

Tears of the Silenced: An Amish True Crime Memoir of Childhood Sexual Abuse, Brutal Betrayal, and Ultimate Survival by Misty Griffin

A gripping story that takes you on the journey of a child abuse and sexual assault survivor turned activist and her experience within the Amish community.

God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty by Marci Hamilton

Law and religion scholar, Prof. Marci Hamilton, makes the case for the law to apply to religious actors to prevent harm to others, including a full chapter on children.

The Case of the Pope by Geoffrey Robertson

Human rights barrister, Geoffrey Robertson, details the secret legal system within the Catholic Church that has contributed to the Vatican’s failures with respect to clergy sex abuse.

The Silence We Keep by Karol Jackowski

The first book about clergy sex abuse in the Catholic Church was by a nun, Karol Jackowski. It is insightful and takes a humane perspective from a position of faith.

Lost Boy: The Trust Story of One Man’s Exile from a Polygamist Cult and His Brave Journey to Reclaim His Life by Brent W. Jeff

In this powerful and heartbreaking account, former Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) member Brent Jeffs reveals both the terror and the love he experienced growing up on his prophet’s compound.

Escape by Carolyn Jessop

Carolyn Jessop describes her upbringing in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), a polygamous cult that has routinely married girls to older men, and what it took for her to leave.

Triumph: Life After the Cult—A Survivor’s Lessons by Carolyn Jessop

This is the inspiring account of Jessop’s journey after leaving the FLDS.

Church of Lies by Flora Jessop and Paul T. Brown

Leading advocate against abuses in the FLDS, Flora Jessop, recounts the story of her upbringing and the child sex abuse she endured from family members. It is one of those books that once you start reading, it’s hard to put down.

Breaking Free: How I Escaped Polygamy, the FLDS Cult, and My Father, Warren Jeffs by Rachel Jeffs

In this searing memoir of survival, the daughter of Warren Jeffs, the self-proclaimed Prophet of the FLDS Church, takes you deep inside the secretive polygamist Mormon fundamentalist cult run by her family and how she escaped it.

Cardinal Mahoney by Robert Blair Kaiser

The plot of this realistic fiction novel involves the kidnapping and subsequent trial of an American Bishop, who helps develop new practices within the Catholic church.

Catholic Boy Blues by Norbert Krapf

This story, written from the perspective of a survivor, provides both encouragement for victims and information for friends and family on how they can support loved ones in their long-term recovery.

Sexual Abuse, Shonda, and Concealment in Orthodox Jewish Communities by Michael Lesher and Dane S. Claussen

This book examines different instances of systematic cover-ups of child sexual abuse in Orthodox Jewish communities.

Holding the Bishops Accountable by Timothy Lytton

It turns out that a major reason we know as much as we do about sex abuse in the Catholic church as a result of civil lawsuits.

Abuse in the Jewish Community by Michael J. Salomon

Psychologist Michael Salamon offers definitions of abuse and describes signs that should indicate to parents, teachers, and school officials that abuse might be occurring.

Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs by Steven Hassan

This book provides a modern approach to “undue influence” in a post-9/11 world.

Divine Disenchantment: Deconverting From New Religions by Janet Liebman Jacobs

Examines why individuals joined and left various religious movements or cults.

Wolves Within the Fold: Religious Leadership and Abuses of Power edited by Anson Shupe

A collection of articles exploring religious leaders’ abuse of authority and the victimization their followers.

Bad Pastors: Clergy Misconduct in Modern America edited by Anson Shupe, William Stacey, and Susan Darnell

This book investigates the corrupt activity of a myriad of clergy members.

Predatory Priests, Silenced Victims

This collection of articles provides a sober and sobering analysis of the interlacing historical, doctrinal, and psychological issues that came together in the sexual abuse scandal.

The Murder of Innocence

The Truth about Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church Written by Sam Unglo, brother of clergy abuse victim, Michael Unglo.




Lev Tahor search warrant documents allege abuse, underage marriage, imprisonment by Tim Alamenciak

The article reports on the allegations against the Lev Tahor Jewish community including allegations of forced child marriage, child imprisonment and physical abuse.


The Rules Against Scandal and What They Mean for the First Amendment’s Religion Clauses, 69 Md. L. Rev. 115 (2009) by Marci Hamilton

Numerous religious organizations have similar rules against the disclosure of bad acts by clergy to the outside world. These rules have been instrumental in fomenting the secrecy that has surrounded child sex abuse.


Secrets and Lies by Linda Stasi

This article discusses child abuse at New York’s Yeshiva University High School for Boys in the 1970s and 1980s.


The Ultra-Orthodox Community's Sex Abuse Crisis Has Finally Reached a Tipping Point by Hella Winston

This article discusses the possible exposure of one of the most secretive and isolated subcultures in the United States, the ultra-orthodox Jewish community, thanks to the Child Victims Act in New York.


The Ultra-Orthodox Community's Sex Abuse Crisis Has Finally Reached a Tipping Point by Hella Winston

This article discusses the possible exposure of one of the most secretive and isolated subcultures in the United States, the ultra-orthodox Jewish community, thanks to the Child Victims Act in New York.


The grooming of children for sexual abuse in religious settings: Unique characteristics and select case studies by Susan Raine and Stephen A. Kent

Covers many of the unique features of religion and religious belief that contribute to an extraordinarily powerful grooming process.


The Waterloo for the So-Called Church Autonomy Theory: Widespread Clergy Abuse and Institutional Cover-Up, 29 Cardozo L. Rev. 225 (2007) by Marci Hamilton

This law review article lays out why religious institutions cannot be autonomous from the law, and in particular, with respect to the laws against child sex abuse.


Study finds widespread history of sexual abuse among formerly Orthodox by Sam Sokol

This article discusses child sex abuse in the Orthodox church.


Woman Sues Mormon Church for Reporting Her Husband's Sexual Abuse Confession by Sanya Mansoor

This Time news article features the controversial story about a woman suing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for breaking their doctrine of confidentiality by revealing her husband’s sexual misconduct with their underage daughter.


Child Abuse in Institutional Settings: What is Next by Marci Hamilton

Prof. Hamilton delivered the annual McElroy Lecture at Detroit Mercy Law School, where the local bishop demanded that her lecture be cancelled. It was not, and this is the result, a discussion of the taboos surrounding discourse on child sexual abuse and the potential impact their crumbling has on our society and legal system.


The “Licentiousness” in Religious Organizations and Why It Is Not Protected Under Religious Liberty Constitutional Provisions, 18 Wm. and Mary Bill Rts. J. 953 (2010) by Marci Hamilton

This article discusses the attitudes of the founders of the United States and the Framers of the Constitution on the limits of religious liberty and explains why religious liberty does not protect religious actors and institutions from the laws against sex abuse and assault.


A Secret Jehovah’s Witnesses Database of Child Abuse by Douglas Quenqua

A former Jehovah’s Witness is using stolen documents to expose allegations that the religion has kept hidden for decades.


Sexual Abuse in the Orthodox Jewish Community: A Literature Review by Weisrose et al.

This article presents meta-analyses on existing literature researching sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish Community (OJC)


Young Boy From 'Jewish Taliban' Reveals Physical, Sexual Abuse: 'Hell Is Real, I Live There' by Allison Kaplan Sommer

This article discusses child sex abuse within Lev Tahor in Mexico.


Secrecy and the Underpinnings of Cycles of Child Sex Abuse in Religious Organizations, chapter in Fundamentalism, Politics and the Law by Marci Hamilton

This chapter discusses secrecy in fundamentalist and non-fundamentalist religious institutions and how it has encouraged a culture that permits child sex abuse.

Documentaries & Videos


A 50-minute video of Rabbi Josef Blau, Yeshiva University, and a 30-minute Dr. Michael Salamon at a 2015 Decalogue Society Program in Chicago

A Peloton of One

This 1-hour 40-minute documentary highlights a man’s determination to ride across the United States in protest of clergical child abuse.

Unforgivable (Documentary)

This 26-minute documentary centers on the stories of those who endured child sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

Child Brides That Escaped the Sexual Abuse of Polygamist Cult FLDS (Documentary)

In this 16-minute documentary, VICE travels to Short Creek, an established community of FLDS, to meet with some of the young women who escaped from the polygamist cult and who have recently returned to the town to try to rebuild a new life there.

Here, Judy Brown, author of Hush, speaks out publicly for the first time in this 30-minute video. Founder of SNAP, Barbara Blaine, also spoke movingly at this event in a 22-minute video

Dark Secret

This 1-hour documentary tells the story of child sex abuse by 35 Catholic clergymen in Philadelphia and its cover-up.

Deliver us from Evil (Documentary)

This 2-hour documentary film chronicles the life of Irish Catholic priest Oliver O’Grady and his abuse of 25 children in Northern California.

Code of Silence - Sexual Abuse in the Jewish Community (Documentary)

This 56-minute documentary follows the story of a formerly Orthodox Jewish man who was abused by an Orthodox Jewish security guard as a child and the cover-up in the community that ensued as he attempted to find justice.

The Witnesses

The first 2 episodes of this documentary series covers a reporter’s efforts to expose child sex abuse and extensive cover-up efforts among the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are members of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

The Keepers (Netflix Documentary)

This 7-episode documentary series explores the murder of a nun, Catherine Cesnick, who uncovered rampant sexual abuse by a priest who taught at the same high school.

A Church in Crisis (Documentary)

This 56-minute documentary reflects on the recent 2018 reports of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church and what these reports mean for the future of the Church.


Filmmaker Amy Berg sheds light on the sexual, financial and spiritual abuses heaped upon members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by their former leader, Warren Jeffs.

Online Resources


The Amish Heritage Foundation

A group dedicated to helping victims in the Amish community.


Empowering Christian communities to recognize, prevent, and respond to abuse.

Stop Baptist Predators

An organization dedicated to shining light on Baptist clergy sex abuse.

Bishop Accountability

A detailed website documenting the abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church.

Sacred Spaces

A group dedicated to preventing institutional abuse in Jewish communities.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

This website provides resources and support for people who suffered abuse by priests and those wishing to advocate on their behalf.

Stand up and speak

Created by Tim Lennon, this website provides personal blogs and a wealth of resources for survivors.  Lennon is a survivor of rape and sexual abuse.  He is currently the President of the Board of Directors of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

Catholics4Change serves as a forum for Catholics who want to share their concerns and questions regarding Church accountability to laity on a variety of issues relating to the protection of children.

Silent Lambs

A victim’s support group for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Rabbi Josef Blau, Yeshiva University, and Dr. Michael Salamon were among the speakers at a 2015 program in Chicago: