#ChurchToo: Christian victims flood social media with own stories of clergy abuse

Christian men and women were emboldened to speak out on social media using the hashtag #ChurchToo to tell their own stories of sexual harassment and assault in church settings, or even at the hands of a clergy spouse.

(REUTERS / Nick Oxford)St. Mary's Catholic Church is seen in Guthrie, Oklahoma, September 15, 2015.

The #ChurchToo trend was initiated by spoken word poet Emily Joy and writer Hannah Paasch to encourage women and men to come forward and share their stories if they had been sexually abused or disbelieved by their religious leaders. The new trend stemmed from the recent revelations of sexual harassment in Hollywood and the #MeToo campaign on Twitter which the issue generated, ABC detailed.

"I have followed the stories of survivors online, lived them myself, and held my friends as they waded through the aftermath of their abuse and trauma, while [also experiencing] a complete lack of care and often hostility from the faith communities that were supposed to care for, support and protect them," Paasch, who is also a religious trauma researcher, told ABC.

Some women revealed that they had been advised by priests to forgive, stay with and "submit" to their abusive husbands. Joy, who was also an abuse survivor, said churches ought to come up with and implement new rules to deal with sexual misconduct within the church.

Meanwhile in Canada, a Catholic archbishop said the sexual abuse lawsuits were threatening the financial situation of the Roman Catholic Church. From 2012 to 2014, the archdiocese of Moncton gave 10.6 million Canadian dollars to 109 victims of sexual abuse, while Bathurst shelled out CA$5.5 million to pay 90 victims, CBC News reported.

The Moncton diocese had to cut its staff number by half, and the church's coffers were now empty. Archbishop Valéry Vienneau said they had already sold things to pay the victims.

Based on data from the Canada Revenue Agency, the Moncton archdiocese has been experiencing a financial deficit in the last two years. It also does not have any land or building assets, and acquiring insurance may be its last hope.