Child Sexual Abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in France: Prevalence and Comparison With Other Social Spheres

Nathalie Bajos, Julie Ancian, Josselin Tricou, Axelle Valendru, Jeanna Eve Pousson, Caroline Moreau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study aims to estimate and compare Roman Catholic Church-related child sexual abuse (CSA) prevalence and characteristics to CSA in other social spheres in France since 1950. Using a cross-sectional representative web-based survey of 28,026 adults in 2021, the weighted prevalence of CSA was estimated according to six social spheres of perpetration: family, Church, school, sports club, artistic activities, and summer camps. Altogether, 14.60%, 95% confidence interval [CI: 13.41; 15.80] of female respondents and 6.38% [5.73; 7.03] of male respondents had experienced CSA. Family was the most common social sphere of perpetration (3.55% [3.18; 3.92]), followed by the Church (0.81% [0.62; 0.99] of respondents exposed) and public schools (0.32% [0.23; 0.40] of respondents exposed). Altogether, we estimate 213,000, 95% CI [147,000; 278,000] people were victims of Church CSA since 1950 in France. Church CSA was more common among men than women (1.28% [0.93; 1.64] vs. 0.34% [0.20; 0.48]) while the opposite was true for other social spheres. CSA was overwhelmingly perpetrated by men ranging from 93.37% in the Church to 97.65% in schools. Many victims spoke with someone about these abuses: 41.81% of the Catholic Church compared to 41.25% of school CSA victims and 51.68% of family CSA victims. Results suggest structural factors including gender norms, but also the spiritual authority of the priest and the culture of secrecy contribute to clerical CSA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5452-5470
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • catholic church
  • child abuse
  • child abusers
  • sexual abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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