New guidelines help churches support abuse victims

Guidelines from the Church of England can help U.S. churches review and renew their present policies.

How Churches can Support Victims of Abuse

A new policy and good practice document for churches to

All Saints Church (Church of England), Bakewel...

respond well to those who have been sexually abused has been published recently by the Church of England.

The new document – authorised policy and guidance from the House of Bishops – has been produced by a working group which includes both experts in safeguarding and those who have suffered personal traumas.

It provides guidance to churches on how to respond as positively and constructively as possible to anyone who has suffered abuse, building on the good work that already exists.

Speaking at the launch at General Synod, National Safeguarding Adviser Elizabeth Hall said: “The excellent resource Time for Action*, published a few years ago, encouraged each denomination to develop its own policy and guidance in this important area. Responding Well is the Church of England’s response to this challenge. The policy sets out firm expectations for the quality of response to be made by those responsible at parish, diocese and national level.”

The report is designed for churches dealing with survivors of abuse from both within and outside a church context. “Each diocese should appoint carefully chosen, competent and trained people who will be able to be ‘authorized listeners’ for those who disclose, in particular for those who disclose abuse from within the church community,” states the new policy.

It adds that all parishes should have named individuals who have particular responsibilities for safeguarding children and/or adults. These people may be a good first point of contact for a survivor who wishes to disclose. Their names should be made available at the church.

The report also provides pointers for what makes a church a safe place for someone to feel confident that they can disclose their experience and suggestions on how to respond if someone shares their experience.

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 Revd 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.”

Related Resources:

Responding Well, Church House Publishing
* Download the PDF 
Time for Action: Sexual abuse, the Churches and a new dawn for survivors
Protecting All God’s Children PDF
Promoting a Safe Church PDF
Responding to Domestic Abuse PDF (for clergy)
Safeguarding Guidelines relating to Safer Recruitment PDF (volunteers)

* Here you will find a large number of related sources all on one page: Justice and Mercy

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* If you are a member of the clergy serving in a church (or the spouse of one!) and are interested in sharing your blog, please leave a comment so I can get in touch!

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