The Diocese of Truro has published a ‘survivor’s charter’, to give assurances to individuals who come forward to make disclosures of abuse that happened in a church context.

The document, called Safeguarding: Caring for People Who Have Experienced Abuse, sets out how anybody coming forward to talk about their experience of abuse can expect to be treated and the care they should expect to receive. The aim is always to give control to the person making a disclosure, supporting them to access the help and support that they feel is right for them at any stage.

Independent chair of the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panel, Nigel Druce, said: “We set out earlier in the year how we were embarking on what is called the Past Cases Review 2. This involves looking back at diocesan and parish records to see what safeguarding concerns have been raised in the past and to check that they were dealt with properly at the time. Any outstanding matters are to be investigated and dealt with now. The review includes allegations of abuse made against any clergy or church officers, and is in relation to both children and vulnerable adults.

Back on track after lockdown delay

“Our reviewers had to pause their work, because of the physical restrictions imposed by lockdown and our need to ensure they were able to work in a covid-secure environment. But while the process has been delayed, it is now very much back on track.

“I would like to emphasise that we would like to hear from anybody who believes that they experienced abuse in the context of the Anglican Church within living memory.

‘Offers guarantees’

“The ‘survivors’ charter’ will, I hope, give people confidence to come forward. It offers them guarantees as to how they will be treated. They will remain in charge at all times – the only exception would be if colleagues believed that an individual was in imminent danger of suffering harm, when they have a legal obligation to intervene. But otherwise it is down to the individual to say what they want to happen.

“We also understand that for some people who might have experienced abuse in a church context, the last thing they want to do is to talk to the church about it. That is perfectly reasonable, so we have set up a mechanism by which people can go direct to First Light, who are extremely experienced in helping people who have experienced abuse. They will offer people a chance to talk about what has happened to them and to make decisions about what might be next.”

‘Please make contact’

If you believe you experienced abuse from a member of the clergy or an officer of the Anglican Church, as a child or a vulnerable adult, you are invited to make contact with the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor, Sarah Acraman. Sarah is a licensed, registered and experienced social worker, who will take your complaint seriously. You can email Sarah on sarah.acraman@truro.anglican.org or phone her on 07591 203589. Please be aware that Sarah does not work full-time, but she will get back to you as soon as she is able.

Options independent of the church

Alternatively, if you would prefer to make contact with someone who is independent of the church, please contact First Light via one of these ways: by phone on 03458 12 12 12, via email at info@firstlight.org.uk; or via a website referral at firstlight.org.uk https://www.firstlight.org.uk/diocese-referral/.

In addition to the local support organised by the Diocese of Truro, the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church in England have joined forces to create a national service called Safe Spaces. This is run by Victim Support and provides remote support via a helpline, live chat service and website, www.safespacesenglandandwales.org.uk.

‘Depending on need’

The support available is provided for as long as the survivor needs. It can include advocating for and supporting the survivor, providing information including on church and police procedures, understanding individual needs and working on support plans. If face-to-face support is also required, contact ad referrals will be made with appropriate local organisations depending on need.

The ‘survivor’s charter’, called Safeguarding: Caring for People Who Have Experienced Abusecan be downloaded from here.

Mr Druce said: “We are extremely grateful to anybody who considers coming forward. We understand that the effects of abuse can be profound and last a lifetime. We are doing all we can to make our church as safe as possible for everybody, and an important part of that is ensuring that we have been tireless in investigating when things have gone wrong.”