Comments: Sexual harrassment in the Church of England

When will Lord Carlile's report be made public?

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 7 November 2017 at 8:08am GMT

Jayne Ozanne is a very brave woman. She speaks for me, and for so many others.

Thanks to all who have spoken out on the issue of abuse in the Church - there are some excellent articles above.

Bp. Mullally's piece demonstrates why we need female bishops; it's the first time I've seen a bishop talk intelligently about the use and abuse of power within churches and the Church generally. Where I differ from her is that I believe we really do need to outsource safeguarding and reporting of abuses. Within the Church old habits die hard; cover-up and victim-blaming will continue. And those of us who have reported abuses and been ignored, discounted or betrayed are going to be very slow to trust Church officers again.

Gilo is right; we need a Truth and Reconciliation commission.

Posted by Janet Fife at Tuesday, 7 November 2017 at 4:34pm GMT

If I were in the position of having been sexually abused I think I would bypass the Church's - or any other organisation's - internal processes entirely, and go straight to the police.

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Tuesday, 7 November 2017 at 7:48pm GMT

Laurence, if you work for the Church of England that isn't so easy. The Church has so many ways of making life impossible for you.

And of course, a lot of harassment and abuse isn't at criminal level, though it would be a disciplinary matter in any commercial organisation and would probably result in the offender losing his job. If you are a woman working for the church and a senior member of the clergy is sexually harassing you, there is really hardly anything you can do. And there certainly wasn't 20 or 30 years ago.

Even if the offence is a criminal matter, pursuing a prosecution is notoriously traumatic for the victim, with very uncertain results. I was a 'peripheral' witness in the prosecution of a paedophile priest (my former vicar) and that was horrendous. God knows how his victims coped.

Posted by Janet Fife at Wednesday, 8 November 2017 at 9:07am GMT

Thank you, Janet. I suppose that's why I included the phrase "I think I would" in my comment. I'm conscious of having almost the full deck of privileges and can see that other people might react differently, and the reasons for that.

I was genuinely shocked by your comment: "If you are a woman working for the church and a senior member of the clergy is sexually harassing you, there is really hardly anything you can do." I had hoped, it would seem naively, that that position had improved in more recent years.

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Wednesday, 8 November 2017 at 1:27pm GMT

Laurence, there might be something you could do now, there wasn't when it happened to me. When I reported the offender to the bishop he said he wasn't going to do anything - and that he would tell the offender of our conversation. Which made matters very much worse, as you might imagine.

Even now, I suspect it would be risky to report, unless you were sure of having a sympathetic archdeacon and bishop. You. only have to read or listen to the stories of Gilo, Jayne Ozanne, and Jeremy Pemberton to know the system is still geared against those reporting abuse. And none of those was a female junior cleric.

Posted by Janet Fife at Wednesday, 8 November 2017 at 3:56pm GMT

Janet, this is deeply shocking. I am sad to say that I believe you. Whatever happens, whatever structures are in place, whatever a code of practice may say, I fear that it will founder for the lack of heart speaking to, and listening to, heart. That's the only thing that has ever made me feel that I am being attended to. It's always the thing I try to do in pastoral situations. I am acutely aware of it having just this minute returned from an excruciatingly sad funeral visit, and wading my way through the second anniversary of my son's death. I'm glad that you see signs of hope in Sarah Mullally's piece. I'm more cautious, for when I heard her on the radio responding to an abused priest's story a couple of months ago, I was struck by her evasiveness, her spouting of corporate managerialese and what came across to me as hardness of heart. Maybe she is growing into the job.

Posted by Stanley Monkhouse at Wednesday, 8 November 2017 at 5:48pm GMT
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