Thinking Anglicans

IICSA report on child sexual abuse in religious institutions

In addition to the several investigations  by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse into specific religious organisations, including the continuing investigation into the Church of England, IICSA’s separate Truth Project has recently published a Thematic Report: Child sexual abuse in the context of religious institutions.

The full report (92 pages) can be downloaded from this link.  There is also an executive summary available here.

IICSA also issued a press release: Shame and guilt stop survivors reporting child sexual abuse in religious institutions.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has published a research report on child sexual abuse in religious institutions, based on accounts shared by survivors at its Truth Project.

The report includes data on religions with a significant presence in England and Wales, including the Anglican and Catholic Churches, Christian faith communities such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists and Methodists, and Islam and Judaism.

The report’s key findings include:

  • Those sexually abused in religious institutions were less likely to report the abuse at the time (69 per cent) than survivors (54 per cent) in the same institution.
  • Over half of survivors did not report the abuse due to feelings of shame (37 per cent) and guilt (18 per cent).
  • Half of victims (48 per cent) knew of others being abused by the same perpetrator.
  • One fifth (18 percent) of survivors reported a loss of faith as a consequence of the abuse.

The report also examines institutional failures, with most participants firmly believing others were aware of the perpetrator’s behaviour but did nothing. Sexual abuse was most frequently perpetrated by an individual with an official religious title, such as priest, vicar, imam or elder.

At the Truth Project, survivors are invited to make recommendations for change. Participants told the Inquiry that it needs to address the secrecy that comes from the sanctity of religious institutions and the assumption that religious figures are automatically moral…

The Church of England issued this press release in response: Statement on IICSA Truth Project report.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has recently published a research report on child sexual abuse in religious institutions, including the Anglican Church.  It is based on accounts shared by survivors at its Truth Project, and its conclusions and findings are disturbing and in many places shocking.

One of the report’s key findings includes that those sexually abused in religious institutions were less likely to report the abuse at the time (69 per cent) than survivors (54 per cent) in other institutions. We would urge anyone who wants to report abuse and find support to come forward and we promise they will be heard.

IICSA continues to shine a light on the safeguarding practices of religious institutions, including the Church of England, and we are working constructively with the Inquiry as we approach our wider Church hearing on July 1.  We commend those survivors who have had the courage to come forward to share their experiences to the Inquiry and in particular to the Truth Project, knowing how difficult this would have been.

We welcomed the findings and recommendations published by IICSA this month, on the Peter Ball and Chichester Diocese case studies. This states that the Church of England should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors but it failed to do this. It is absolutely right that the Church at all levels should learn lessons from the issues raised in both these reports and also strengthen our resolve to make the Church a safe place for all.

Bishop of Bath and Wells, Peter Hancock, the Church’s lead safeguarding bishop

There has been some media coverage of this:

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Rowland WateridgeSimon SarmientoSusannah ClarkRichard W. SymondsRichard Ashby Recent comment authors
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Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

“I witnessed the closing statement made on behalf of the Archbishops’ Council at the Inquiry’s Chichester hearing. They seemed to be saying that although they had got it wrong in the past they will do better in the future. I felt this was false. I do not think that they are doing better now, and I do not think that there is sufficient will to change the cultural attitude. The recent George Bell case shows the church not only doing things by its own rules but even trying to police the Police!……The church has had to face some painful truths.… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

One simple, practical way for the Bishop of Chichester [and the Chapter] to start to be “unflinching in proclaiming its core message of reconciliation” is to restore the name of George Bell House at 4 Canon Lane Chichester:

https://www.change.org/p/the-dean-chapter-of-chichester-cathedral-justice-for-george-bell-479a626f-47aa-400d-8fc3-61b19fcc5d98

Alan Davies
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Alan Davies

This may be a bit off-topic for this thread, but Richard may already know (and I thought others might like to) that this coming Thursday’s Great Lives on Radio 4 Extra (1800) features George Bell.

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

No, I didn’t know Alan – thank you so much for letting us know. Should be an interesting June 6th!

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

Editors Note: the following comment is copied from Surviving Church. Nick, I note with concern your comment: “In my evidence I also record my repeated concern that as recently as 2016 Martin Warner had not passed on to the Police information I gave him about a suspect.” Nobody has picked up on this. Not surprisingly the discussion has focussed on the finer details of patronage, as this was the subject of the article. It’s troubling if any bishop is not acting on information reliably given by a member of clergy or officer within the diocese. And astonishing really that after… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

The facts in the Chester case are far from straightforward on the extremely limited information which we have. There was misleading press reporting at the time, both nationally and locally in Chester. Bishop Forster had clear grounds for complaint to the Press Council, but like the similarly affected Bishop of Lincoln he has taken a dignified and cooperative stance. I thought it inappropriate of Meg Munn to call for Bishop Forster’s resignation – it seemed to me that in doing so she disqualified herself from any further participation in the matter by pre-judging his culpability (if any). Similarly, Sir Roger… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

Editor: May I please add a further paragraph to my post submitted just now:

Incidentally, a Clergy Disciplinary Tribunal does not have jurisdiction in the case of bishops. They are treated differently: at Chester it is a matter for the Archbishop of York, and at Lincoln the Archbishop of Canterbury – and the Vicar-General’s Courts of both Provinces.

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

Another complicating factor at Chester is that when the letter was received in 2009, whether by the Bishop or diocesan staff (and whether or not in the latter case it came to the Bishop’s notice), the safeguarding provisions in the CDM weren’t enacted until 2016. Legislation isn’t retrospective (except in most exceptional cases when it must state that is retrospective. The CDM doesn’t.)

So, as we were recently advised on another thread, we mustn’t speculate but merely wait to see what happens.

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

The Bishop Bell case in the Chichester Diocese is one of a considerable number of major cock-ups by the Church of England hierarchy. This has led to major cover-ups – both at national and local diocesan level. The casualties of this ‘cock-up & cover-up’ safeguarding system are more often than not the lowly, dispensable clergy or church worker who are considered ‘collateral damage’ in the cleansing process.

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner needs to be asked whether or not he passed a clergy letter (concerning a known abuser) to the Police.

Also, the Cathedral’s Chapter and Dean Stephen Waine need to be asked: Why did you edit Bishop Bell (and the Coburg Conferences) out of the Chichester Cathedral website history? Upon what grounds is Bishop Bell’s life work to be denied after the Carmi, Carlile and Briden Reports?

T Pott
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T Pott

If I understand this rightly, it is said that Father Nick Flint gave information about a suspect to Bishop Warner, and Bishop Warner failed to pass this on to the police. What I find hard to understand is why Father Flint hasn’t himself passed the information to the police. Is there a rule or convention that vicars mustn’t talk to the police but only report matters to the bishop who, alone, decides whether to pass it on? Or, if Father Flint has already told the police then why does it matter that Bishop Warner hasn’t also done so. Would the… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

T Pott, are you suggesting therefore those who wrote letters about abuse to – say – Archbishop Justin Welby or former Archbishop George Carey should not have done so – they should have gone straight to the Police?

Mark Bennet
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Mark Bennet

There are two different situations here. One is of a person who has suffered abuse approaching someone in the institution where it happened because they hope that the institution will respond in some way. The second is of a person within an institution who hears that abuse may have happened and escalates it within the institution. The referrer in the second case may be in direct contact with person who has suffered abuse and there may be sensitivities about how their wishes are taken into account. There is a greater understanding now that everyone within the institution who receives such… Read more »

T Pott
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T Pott

Not necessarily. In some cases, maybe it would have turned out better if they had done both. I agree with Mr Bennet they are different situations, and also that was then and this is now, and attitudes have changed on the part of public, police and Church. In a case like this, if Bishop Warner tells the police they will ask him how he knows. and he will say he knows because Father Flint told him so. Then they will presumably wish to speak to Father Flint anyway. It would just be simpler if Father Flint told them in the… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

I can’t quote chapter and verse, or guarantee that this is correct, but I have a recollection of reading on TA, I think last year, that any (alleged) abuse was to be reported to the diocesan safeguarding officer. At the time this was, indeed, seen by some TA contributors as keeping matters in-house. I also seem to recall one spirited reply that anything on their patch would be reported to the police!

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

Archbishop Welby again called upon to apologise for his “significant cloud” remark against Bishop Bell – following the ‘Welcome to George Bell House’ event in Chichester.

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

As one who had to run the gamut of the so called ‘Welcome to George Bell House’ demonstration last Thursday, I was dismayed by the inappropriateness of the event and the obstruction of the private highway which greeted those attending an entirely separate event in the house. I don’t think that the campaign did themselves any favours by this stunt.

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

As one who attended the ‘Welcome to George Bell House’ event at 4 Canon Lane Chichester [George Bell House up to 2015], I am left wondering if Mr Ashby was at the same event as myself: https://richardwsymonds.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/june-6-2019-welcome-to-george-bell-house-midday-event-4-canon-lane-chichester/ All very friendly. No obstruction. And no “entirely separate event” at George Bell House, 4 Canon Lane. The whole building was taken over by the Chichester Cathedral Friends [CCF] to celebrate their 80th Anniversary – started by Bishop Bell in 1939. So it was entirely appropriate to have a ‘Welcome to George Bell House’ event. Mr Ashby can read all about it –… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

From Professor Peter Billingham In brief response to Richard Ashby’s comments re last Thursday’s successful George Bell protest: A) We had correctly approached the Police who gave permission for this entirely peaceful protest The police officer assured us that we lived in a democracy where peaceful protest was to be supported and defended. We also understand that it is a Public Right of Way, allowing access for example to the Bishop’s Gardens. B) At no point did we obstruct anyone neither was that ever our intention. C) I, my wife and a close family friend were aggressively, verbally assaulted in… Read more »

David Rowett
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David Rowett

Operation Redstone (Lincolnshire police) explicitly endorsed reporting via Lincoln’s safeguarding team in its staement about +Christopher’s suspension. Perhaps different forces have different degrees of confidence in the robustness of their local diocesan safeguarding….

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

Yes, different police forces have different degrees of confidence in the church.

Sussex Police threw out the second allegation against Bishop Bell when the Church presented the ‘evidence’ to them.

The ‘evidence’ had enough holes to fill a string vest, as the Briden Report later discovered.

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

It is now becoming clear the Bishop Bell injustice is not just a
‘one-off’. There are many other innocent people in the Church – alive and dead – who have been ‘thrown under the bus’ by those at the top of the church tree – their lives destroyed or cut short by false accusation and lack of pastoral support from those who have a duty of care.

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

With respect, almost everything in this article, and the huge responsibility we have to protect children from sexual abuse, is getting de-railed and drowned out by the repeated return to the George Bell case. If you look at the media headlines at the foot of the article, their focus rightly concerns the dangers of victims not being believed or listened to – and indeed, feeling intimidated from reporting the harm done to them. “Children abused by religious figures less likely to report crimes because of belief in perpetrators ‘automatic morality’.” “Child sex abuse victims tell of being ‘fobbed off with… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

For a very long time sexual abuse was a taboo subject. People knew that it happened, but never spoke about it. That was admitted to me many years ago by a senior social worker. Having dealt with cases of various kinds of abuse in my work, I have to stress that I have had no experience of abuse in the church. My work involved schools, children’s homes (sadly) – both public sector and private, former Home Office Approved Schools and Remand Homes for both boys and girls, sometimes child-fostering – both official and ‘unofficial’, etc. Some cases involved extreme physical… Read more »