The Oblates of St. Joseph recognizes that sexual abuse by Members has devastating consequences for survivors and their families and the lay and religious communities. We have become increasingly aware of the effects of this tragic behavior and have developed a steadfast commitment to helping those affected.
This page is intended to provide basic information about (1) how the Oblates of St. Joseph defines sexual abuse (2) what its procedures are for responding to complaints of sexually inappropriate behavior and sexual abuse, and (3) to whom those subjected to sexual abuse can turn for help.
Sexual abuse of a minor is sexual contact between a religious and a minor.
Sexual exploitation or sexual abuse can include actions such as:
- Sexual touch or other physical contact that makes the person being touched to feel uncomfortable
- Giving a sexually charged gift (such as lingerie)
- A prolonged hug when a brief hug is customary behavior
- Kissing on the lips when a kiss on the cheek would be appropriate
- Showing sexually suggestive objects or pornography
- Sexual intercourse, anal, or oral sex
- Innuendo or sexual talk
- Suggestive comments
- Descriptions of sexual experiences, fantasies, or conflicts
- Sexual propositions
*This is not an exhaustive list.
To be clear, the Oblates of St. Joseph’s stance is this: Sexual abuse of a minor by its Members, employees, and volunteers is contrary to Catholic morals, doctrine, and canon law. It is never acceptable. It is entirely the responsibility of the Member to maintain appropriate emotional and sexual boundaries with those with whom he works and/or serves.
The Oblates of St. Joseph responds to all allegations and reports of sexual abuse with great care. To ensure that we handle each report promptly, thoroughly, and compassionately, the Oblates of St. Joseph contracts with an independent Survivor Assistance Coordinator, who is a lay professional who will listen to, understand, and offer help, including appropriate psychological counseling for those affected by sexual abuse by a Member. See below.
The Oblates of St. Joseph, through the Survivor Assistance Coordinator and independent investigators, will respond swiftly to evaluate and investigate any accusation of sexual abuse by a Member.
The Oblates of St. Joseph, consistent with the directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, relies on the Review Board of Region VI of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men. This interdisciplinary board of lay professionals advises the Oblates of St. Joseph on all matters related to sexual misconduct.
Any Member who has been found to have an established allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against him will be removed from ministry and placed under restrictions to ensure he does not have unsupervised access to minors.
In addition to establishing procedures for responding to sexual abuse, the Oblates of St. Joseph has undertaken a series of measures to prevent future incidents of abuse. These include extensive mandatory psychological evaluation of seminarians and novices before they enter formation and the provision of continuing education programs for Members about issues of sexuality and personal conduct.
It is our firm belief that Religious must maintain appropriate boundaries with minors. We call upon those with knowledge of a Member’s inappropriate behavior-whether past or present-to come forward with this information and prevent further harm. In short, we ask everyone to join with us to protect the safety of children, women, and men, and with firm determination, to promote healing where there is pain.
If you or someone you know believe that a Member has violated the boundaries outlined in this pamphlet, we urge you to report such behavior immediately to the Provincial, and/or the Survivor Assistance Coordinator. Your case will be handled with the strictest sensitivity and confidentiality. IF YOU SUSPECT THAT A MINOR IS BEING ABUSED, REPORT IT DIRECTLY TO THE CIVIL AUTHORITIES. YOU CAN FIND STATE RELATED REPORTING INFORMATION AT www.childwelfare.gov
Oblates of St. Joseph
544 West Cliff Dr.
Santa Cruz, CA. 95060
Survivor Assistance Coordinator
Kristin Austin, after graduating from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, entered the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and later pursued a master’s degree at the University of Maryland. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional. After working several years in Employee Assistance (EAP) and providing counseling to couples and children, she answered the call to serve the Church in working with survivors of clergy sexual abuse. Kristin currently serves as Victim Assistance Coordinator for a variety of different religious orders throughout the United States.