A cultural shift to support sexual abuse survivors must be seen in the Anglican Church
Faith based organisations such as the Anglican Church must be seen to be leading in offering refuge and unstinting support to survivors of sexual trauma by holding perpetrators to account.
The cultural shift from hiding sexual predators to overtly supporting survivors must be seen at all levels of the Church, according to Mags Godderidge, Chief Executive Officer of Survive, a Yorkshire-based charity specialising in counselling support for survivors of sexual trauma.
Mrs Godderidge comments follow a report released by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) released at midday on Tuesday, 6 October 2020.
“It is simply horrific that arrogance among the Anglican Church’s senior clergy allowed them to believe that the reputation of the church was more important that protecting children from sexual harm. Their belief in the right to do this indulged and supported a positive attitude towards perpetrators of sexual violence even after some of them were convicted.”
The IICSA report highlighted that from the 1940s to 2018, 390 people who were clergy or in positions of trust associated with the Anglican Church have been convicted of sexual offences against children. Many of these cases demonstrate the Church of England’s failure to take the abuse seriously, creating a culture where abusers were able to hide. Alleged perpetrators were given more support than victims, who often faced barriers to reporting they simply could not overcome. The Church’s failure to respond consistently to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse often added to their trauma. Archbishop Justin Welby described this failure as “profoundly and deeply shocking”.
“The Survive team sees time and time again that survivors battle on their own with what has happened to them – taking months, years, even decades – to seek the help that they need to rebuild their lives, their relationships and reach their full potential, “ Mrs Godderidge continued.
“The Church’s Archbishops’ Council previously acknowledged and characterised its treatment of complainants, victims and survivors as “shocking, even callous”. We applaud them for recognising this and we hope that lessons have been learned.
“We welcome changes that have been made as result of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse within religious institutions and hope that the culture shift not only takes place at senior levels in the Church but as grassroots throughout the dioceses. The Church should never be a place where sexual predators can hide. The Church must now stand with survivors and ensure they get the support they need to recover from their traumatic experiences.”