Thursday, 26th April 2012
One in four people in the UK have been sexually abused (1). Is your church a safe space for those people?
In March, Holy Rood House near Thirsk hosted the Northern Launch of Responding Well, the Church of England’s policy and guidance on working with people who have been sexually abused.
The day was led by the Revd Dr Jan Berry and the Revd Elizabeth Baxter of Holy Rood House, and included presentations from Canon Carolyn Buckeridge and Revd David Gamble. Carolyn is Child Protection Officer of the Diocese of Bristol, part of the group who wrote Responding Well and a has a counselling practice, which includes working with survivors of childhood sexual abuse. David is Co-Chair of the Church of England/Methodist Joint Safeguarding Liaison Group, and the Methodist Church’s Officer for Legal and Constitutional Practice.
Canon Carolyn Buckeridge said, “Responding Well is a good practice guide for churches to help survivors of sexual abuse, and help make churches safe places for those survivors. Over half the people in the group who worked on Responding Well were survivors of sexual abuse, so it comes from first hand knowledge and experience.
“When writing Responding Well, we took inspiration from Micah 6:8 – ‘What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, have mercy, and to walk humbly with your God’. I hope this guide will help churches act justly and have mercy for survivors of sexual abuse.”
Topics covered in Responding Well include:
- What is sexual abuse
- The impact of sexual abuse
- How to be a good listener should someone choose to disclose
- The impact on listeners
- Awareness of issues surrounding worship
- Police referrals
Other areas covered include a parish checklist for volunteers, a table correcting common myths, information on mental health (including PTSD and dissociation) and the issue of forgiveness. You can download or buy a copy of Responding Well here.
The northern launch of Responding Well was organised by Holy Rood House’s face2face project. face2face aims to support survivors of sexual abuse and listen attentively to the issues such experiences raise for the churches, as well as provide training for clergy, leaders and lay people on issues pertaining to sexual abuse.
The Revd Dr Jan Berry from face2face said, “How churches respond to those who have been sexually abused is important. It’s not a popular topic, but it is important. The church should offer safe space for these people, but so often it has failed to do this. face2face can offer help and support for people wanting to make their churches safer spaces for survivors.”
For further information about the work of face2face and Holy Rood House, contact the Revd Dr Jan Berry firstname.lastname@example.org or 07969 056243.
(1) P. Cawson et al ‘Child Maltreatment in the UK: A study of the Prevalence of Child Abuse and Neglect’ published by the NSPCC in 2000 and quoted in Responding Well.
Pictured (l - r) Jan Berry, Carolyn Buckeridge, David Gamble and Elizabeth Baxter.