Professor Caffo spoke about the direct health impacts on children who are the victims of online abuse. He revealed that, when impacted by digital and online forms of abuse, the brains of children are placed under huge stress and this creates higher levels of mental health issues. In such cases, this will often lead to a change in that child’s behaviour, making them depressed or violent. Alongside such changes in behaviour, children can also experience higher levels of cortisol in the blood which has additional negative side effects.
Associate Professor Gabriel Dy-Liaccog, a clinical psychologist, was asked to identify some common traits of the clergy who are themselves perpetrators of sexual abuse. He shared with the conference his findings from his ongoing research, which revealed that clergy who commit sexual abuse often have very high levels of self-control in most aspects of their lives, such as their commitment to work, but very low levels of self-control in relation to their sexual needs. In such situations, Professor Dy-Liaccog informed the conference that certain imposed gradual ‘external restrictions’ onto the clergy had been effective in curtailing child sex abuse. He argued that this process was effective but it was also ongoing.
Professor Dy-Liaccog also revealed research into the long-term psychological impact of children who are abused by members of the clergy. He revealed these victims do not feel as if they matter to whichever transcendent being they believe in, and struggle to turn to religion as a source of comfort to help handle the issues they have faced. Professor Dy-Liaccog concluded the session by arguing that faith communities need to be able to tackle these issues head-on, promoting child-safeguarding measures as a positive extension of all religious missions. Professor Dy-Liaccog said that in recent years there has been a higher level of response from religious groups in their efforts to tackle the abuse of children.
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