The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) published its Interim Report (“the Report”) on Wednesday 25 April 2018, which was welcomed by the Rt Rev Mark Sowerby, the Bishop of Horsham, the Church of England’s deputy lead on safeguarding. This post reviews the progress of the IICSA in relation to the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church.
The Interim Report provides an overview of the work undertaken by the Inquiry to date and sets out the key emerging themes from the Inquiry’s work which were identified by the Chair and Panel. It also includes recommendations for specific changes which will help to better protect children from sexual abuse. The Press Release includes links to the Executive Summary (32pp) and to the Interim Report (109pp), both of which are also available in Welsh.
The work on institutional responses to child sexual abuse includes:
- Case study into the English Benedictine Congregation (part of the ‘Roman Catholic Church’ investigation); and
- Case study into the Diocese of Chichester (part of the ‘Anglican Church’ investigation).
The Inquiry has already published its report and findings in relation to the child migration programmes, infra, and ‘Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale’ public hearings. The report and findings in relation to the other hearings will be published in due course.
Religion and abuse
In its consideration of The nature and effects of child sexual abuse, the Report makes the following comments on the abuse of positions of trust and authority:
“Perpetrators in professions or positions of trust may use their authority and position to create opportunities to be alone with children and to shield themselves from suspicion. They know that their reputation and authority can be used to deflect and discredit accusations if concerns are raised…
“A significant proportion of the victims and survivors taking part in the Truth Project have said that they were abused by people in a position of trust. Nearly one in three (28%) were abused by family members and around a quarter (23%) have said that they were abused by teaching or educational staff. A further fifth (20%) were abused by perpetrators such as friends of the family or trusted members of the community, and nearly one in eight (12%) have indicated that they were abused by other professionals, such as medical practitioners, social workers and police”.
With regard to the effect of abuse on religion and faith, the Report states:
“When considering the effect child sexual abuse has on a victim and survivor’s religion or spiritual beliefs, two particular themes have been highlighted to the Inquiry through the Truth Project. Victims and survivors may question their religion and spiritual beliefs, particularly where the perpetrator was connected to their religion or faith. They may also use religion and faith as a coping mechanism for resilience and recovery.
“Research suggests that it can be common for victims and survivors to feel disillusioned with religion and spiritual beliefs after they have been sexually abused. They can feel abandoned or punished by a god and begin to question their understanding of the world. Studies show that this is particularly likely when the perpetrator is someone who represents God in the eyes of the victim, or has used religion or spiritual beliefs to justify the sexual abuse.
“The Inquiry has heard that some victims and survivors continue to practise their religion or spiritual beliefs to ensure that their children grow up having faith. Others try to use their religion or spiritual beliefs as a way of dealing with the sexual abuse they suffered as a child but can find it challenging and be left feeling disillusioned”.
Child sexual abuse in the migration programmes
On 1 March 2018, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse published its report Child Migration Programmes which criticised Government for the policy of child migration and recommends that all child migrants are financially compensated by HMG through a redress scheme. We summarized the findings of this work in IICSA, child migration, and the CofE. The present Report notes:
“The Inquiry…found that the institutions involved in the operation of the child migration programmes failed to take sufficient care to protect child migrants from the risk of sexual abuse. These institutions included the Fairbridge Society, the Children’s Society, the Royal Overseas League, Cornwall County Council, the Salvation Army, the Church of England, the Sisters of Nazareth, Father Hudson’s and the Catholic Church. The Inquiry made a wide range of more specific findings for each institution mentioned here, and these can be found in the investigation report
“Many, although not all, of these charitable and public institutions have apologised for their role in the child migration programmes ‒ some only apologising for the first time in their evidence to the Inquiry.
“Since the Inquiry published the child migration programmes investigation report, the Royal Overseas League has issued a general public apology to former child migrants who were under its care”.
Case study into the English Benedictine Congregation (part of the ‘Roman Catholic Church’ investigation)
This programme of on-going work is summarized in the Executive Summary:
“The Inquiry’s investigation into the Roman Catholic Church is examining how it has dealt with allegations and suspicions of child sexual abuse. The investigation’s first public hearing on the English Benedictine Congregation was held in November and December 2017, and looked into two abbeys: Ampleforth and Downside ‒ both of which have private, fee-paying boarding schools associated with them.
“Both schools have been the subject of concerns about the sexual abuse of pupils and this case study is examining whether the schools took responsibility for safeguarding children and protecting them from sexual abuse. It is also looking at the English Benedictine Congregation’s efforts to investigate, learn lessons and implement changes in response to allegations of child sexual abuse.
The hearing into Ampleforth and Downside schools in numbers • 3 preliminary hearings • 14 days of public hearings • 16 core participants • 63,095 pages of evidence disclosed to core participants
“The Inquiry is still considering its findings in relation to this public hearing and these will be published in a separate investigation report later this year”.
Case study into the Diocese of Chichester (part of the ‘Anglican Church’ investigation)
This programme of on-going work is summarized in the Executive Summary:
“The Inquiry’s investigation into the Anglican Church is examining how institutions have protected children from sexual abuse in both the Church of England and the Church in Wales.
The first public hearing on the investigation was held in March 2018, and examined the culture within the Diocese of Chichester and the effect this has had on safeguarding children; how practices and procedures for responding to concerns and deficiencies in safeguarding practices have changed over time; how the Church manages recruitment, promotion, resignation and disciplinary action; and whether victims and survivors have received reparations.
The Diocese of Chichester hearing in numbers • 4 preliminary hearings • 14 days of public hearings • 41 core participants • 57,795 pages of evidence disclosed to core participants
The Inquiry is considering its findings on the Diocese of Chichester case studies and will publish these at a later date”.
July: Anglican Church Peter Ball case study) public hearing; Children in custodial institutions public hearing September: Mandatory reporting seminar October: Nottingham Council public hearing November: Roman Catholic Church (Archdiocese of Birmingham case study) public hearing. Accountability and reparations public hearing February 2019: Roman Catholic Church (Ealing Abbey case study) public hearing Children outside the UK (Sexual Harm Prevention Orders and SexualRisk Orders case study) public hearing March: Westminster public hearing