New guidelines to help churches support abuse victims
The Church of England has issued new guidelines to churches to help them respond to victims of sexual abuse.
The document, titled Responding Well, contains new policy and guidance on good practice authorised by the House of Bishops.
The working group that drew up the document included experts in safeguarding and victims of sexual abuse.
It builds on the Time for Action resource published by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland in 2002, which encouraged church denominations to devise their own policies and guidance on sexual abuse.
The new document advises churches on how to respond as positively and constructively as possible to people who have suffered abuse.
Speaking at the launch at General Synod yesterday, National Safeguarding Adviser Elizabeth Hall said Responding Well was a response to the challenge laid down by Time for Action.
"The policy sets out firm expectations for the quality of response to
be made by those responsible at parish, diocese and national level,"
Responding Well has been designed to support people who have suffered abuse within or outside the church.
It recommends that churches appoint trusted and trained individuals to oversee the safeguarding of children and adults, and that these people act as a first point of contact for a survivor who wishes to disclose an incident of abuse.
“Each diocese should appoint carefully chosen, competent and trained people who will be able to be ‘authorised listeners’ for those who disclose, in particular for those who disclose abuse from within the church community,” states the new policy.
It offers suggestions as to how churches can be safe places where
victims feel able to come forward about their experiences, and how to
respond if someone does.
The authors of the report conclude: “It is our hope that parishes and dioceses will use this document as an important resource in continuing the task of transforming our culture within the Church.
"This in turn will lead to increased learning and sharing, and more work in the future built upon that learning.
"We offer this document, together with the other policies, as another important part of helping us all ‘respond well’ and reaching out to those who have suffered the trauma of abuse, for their healing and ours.”
The Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, the Rt Rev Paul Butler, Chair of the Church of England’s Naitonal Safeguarding Committee said: “We are committed to the safeguarding and protection of all children, young people and adults, and the establishing of safer, caring communities.
"We have worked hard to improve our culture of informed vigilance, our practices of safer recruiting, and our safeguarding at every level of our church life within congregations and dioceses.
"We are conscious that there is always more to be done and that this continues to be work in progress.
"The best of all possible ways of ‘responding well’ would be to ensure that abuse never happened again.”