Homework Discussion: Religious Leaders Helping Victims of Sexual Assault

Discussion Thread Title: Chaplains, Pastors, and Counselors

Thread prompts from Professor F.

Chaplains (military, police, fire, or organizational), pastors, and counselors all strive to help their clients with methods based on their positions. Briefly discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each in helping a victim of a sexual assault. You may substantiate your opinion by citing the texts, presentations, or outside sources.

May 3, 2021

Introduction Post Class, When considering our discussion for this week, consider the ethical codes and laws that each profession follows. Also, keep in mind the mandated reported or non-reporting for each profession. I look forward to our discussion this week.

May 6, 2021 8:51PM

Cassondra Johnson

When helping victims of a sexual assault, several things need to be considered by chaplains, pastors, and counselors, such as mandatory reporting that varies by profession, state, and the age and physical or mental disability of victims. For example, the Children’s Bureau’s (2019, April) website states that chaplains and ministers will need to preserve the confidentiality of pastoral communications, which is sometimes called clergy-penitent privilege. It allows chaplains and ministers to offer help without the involvement of the law or, in the cases of the military, the involvement of other military personnel (e.g., senior staff, co-personnel). In other words, it allows any information shared between individuals and their chaplains or pastors to remain confidential, and any information attain may not be admissible in court without a waiver of rights (Frederich, n.d.). However, it can enable some crimes to continue, and the perpetrator of abuse goes unreported.

Furthermore, some chaplains and pastors may not have the skill level to deal with any mental health issues associated with sexual assault or other abuses. Therefore, chaplains and pastors need to refer and/or persuade abuse victims and perpetrators to get professional mental health counseling. Additionally, clergy-penitent privilege laws vary by state, such as the state of Kentucky recognizes clergy-penitent privilege, but Virginia state does not (Children’s Bureau, 2019, April).

On the other hand, all professional counselors have a legal and ethical obligation to report any kind of abuse of children (Children’s Bureau, 2019, April) or abuse of any type to adults with physical or mental disabilities. Moreover, counselors have a duty to break confidentiality to seek help for individuals who plan to harm themselves or others (ACA, 2021). This includes sexual assault in some domestic violence cases. Therefore, it is imperative for counselors and therapists to inform clients before the counseling session begins of the counselor’s responsibilities to report. Unfortunately, this may impede trust within the counseling session. It also may delay or prevent some victims from seeking help.

Nevertheless, chaplains (military or otherwise), pastors, and counselors will endeavor to aid individuals with the skills, techniques, and limitations established by their professional roles. Sometimes it means being silent when confidentiality must be maintained; other times, it means speaking up. Therefore, when helping any individuals in a crisis it is with hope that chaplains, pastors, and counselors will recognize, “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: — a time to tear and a time to mend (counsel), a time to be silent (confidentiality) and a time to speak (report)” (New International Version, 2011, Ecclesiastes 3:1&7).


American Counseling Association. (2021). 2014 ACA Code of ethics resources. https://www.counseling.org/knowledge-center/ethics/code-of-ethics-resources#

Children’s Bureau.  (2019, April). Clergy as Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect. Child Welfare Information Gateway: State Statutes. https://www.childwelfare.go (Links to an external site.)

Frederich, P., Waynick, T. C., Euckworth, J. E., &Voyles, J. (n.d.) The role of chaplains in the operational army. https://ke.army.mil › CBM-ch11-final

New International Version. (2011). Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com

Reply to Classmate’s Post:

Hello K.,

I enjoyed reading your post, and I recognized two of the references you mentioned, Dr. Diana Langberg and Entwistle (2015). Furthermore, I have heard isolation is the enemy’s tool against people several times lately, even in a sermon. Similarly, Liberty University (2021) mentions, “isolation kills relationships, and we can be convinced of anything when we are isolated. I agree with Langberg, Liberty University, and the preacher from the sermon. Isolation is the enemy’s tool that allows negative thoughts to develop more, especially in sexual assault victims.

I also agree with your post and what Langberg (2003) implies about being careful how religious beliefs and teachings are expressed with victims of sexual assault. For that matter, we should be cautious communicating religion with any victims of any crisis. Entwistle declares, “religious beliefs and behaviors contain elements that may be useful or harmful psychologically” (Entwistle, 2015, p. 173).

The moment of crisis is not the time to answer, “why questions,” such as “Why did God let this happen to me?”. However, let us consider how we may support one another onward toward love and good deeds encouraging victims not to feel isolated, not giving up on meeting with them (New International Version, 2011, Hebrews 10.24-25). Also, the presence of ministry can be powerful even if a word is not spoken.

Thank you for your post.


Entwistle, D. (2015). Integrative approaches to psychology and Christianity: An introduction to worldview issues, philosophical foundations, and models of integration (3rd ed.). Cascade Books.

Langberg, D. (2003). Counseling survivors of sexual abuse. Xulon Press.

Liberty University. (2021). CRIS 608: Trauma Assessment & Interventions [PowerPoint slides].  Week five, lecture one: Psychoeducation & Family Issues. https://libertyuniversity.instructure.com

New International Version. (2011). Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com

Reply to Classmate’s post:

Hello H.,

I found your post noteworthy with the comparison of chaplains, pastors, and counselors’ roles. According to the Partnership Center (2019), 1 in 4 individuals with mental illness seek help from clergy before going to a doctor or counselor. Most likely because of the trust and respect individuals develop within the relationship with their chaplains or pastors before serious issues come up (Frederich et al., n.d.). Consequently, it is crucial for clergy to be partners with helping professionals who know how to provide restorative care for sexual assault victims. It is also wise for clergy to have a resource list of available services for counselees. Finally, religious leaders should check with the state they are practicing in to see if they are covered by clergy-penitent privilege (Children’s Bureau, 2019, April). Thank you for your post, and God bless.


Children’s Bureau.  (2019, April). Clergy as Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect. Child Welfare Information Gateway: State Statutes. https://www.childwelfare.go (Links to an external site.)

Frederich, P., Waynick, T. C., Euckworth, J. E., &Voyles, J. (n.d.) The role of chaplains in the operational army. https://ke.army.mil › CBM-ch11-final

The Partnership Center (TPC). (2019). Addressing mental health needs in your community: Statistics for faith communities. The Center for Faith Opportunity Initiatives US Dept. of Health & Human Services.

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