Section 8 - Caring pastorally for victims/survivors of abuse and affected others
The House of Bishops’ Safeguarding Policy 2017 states that ‘The Church will endeavour to offer care and support to all those that have been abused, regardless of the type of abuse, when or where it occurred … Those who have suffered abuse within the Church will receive a compassionate response, be listened to and be taken seriously. Our first response to those who have suffered abuse, especially abuse within the Church, should be compassionate; we must listen and take what we are hearing seriously.’
Most chaplaincies are likely to have amongst their congregation children and young people who have been abused and/or adults who have experienced abuse, either as adults or when they themselves were children. Some may have been abused in the Church.
Responding well to a disclosure of abuse is essential to being able to build trust and support (see Section 7.3.). For some, just being able to talk to a trusted person about their experiences can be a powerful, healing event. Some may be seeking pastoral support from the Church. Some may need advice about how best to seek professional help. This may involve support to access local specialist services. Victims/survivors who are children or young people will require specialist support. If you need any advice about how best to support a victim/survivor of abuse, please contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor (DSA).
We journey alongside those who have been abused, for some forgiveness may be a part of that journey, for others, it may not be so. In any event, there should not be any pressure or expectation from the church on the victim/survivor to forgive. For further information, please see The Faith and Order Commission’s ‘Forgiveness and Reconciliation in the Aftermath of Abuse’.
Support following alleged abuse by a church officer
All concerns or allegations of abuse by a church officer must be reported to the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor (DSA) (see Section 7.2.). The DSA will arrange for a Support Person to be offered to all alleged adult victims/survivors. The role of the Support Person is set out in Section 1.4 of the House of Bishops’ guidance: ‘Responding to, assessing and managing concerns or allegations against Church Officers 2017’. What the Support Person offers will be agreed with the alleged victim/survivor, but they likely will:
- Listen to and represent the victim/survivor’s pastoral needs.
- Identify any therapeutic or other needs and offer choices as to how these may be best met.
- Record any meetings or contact they have with the victim/survivor.
- Share relevant information with the DSA.
Victims/Survivors who are children or young people will require specialist support. The DSA will seek advice from your local children’s services to access support from a professional agency, as required.
Support for families of victims/survivors and for the parish is coordinated by the core group in conjunction with local agencies. This would involve discussion with the local Safeguarding Officer, incumbent and archdeacon as appropriate.
The Diocese in Europe will work to identify specialist support services for victims/survivors of abuse. This may be through a local counsellor, therapist or victim support agency if such services exist within the jurisdiction, and it is felt to be appropriate. The nature of any ongoing support needs will be agreed by the DSA together with the victim/survivor. For further information, please see the House of Bishops’ ‘Responding Well to Those who Have Been Sexually Abused’ Practice Guidance 2011.