Fletcher victims speak of hurt over IAG statement

Jonathan Fletcher

Victims of Jonathan Fletcher have spoken of their hurt and anger at a statement by the Independent Advisory Group (IAG) in response to the review into Jonathan Fletcher and Emmanuel Church Wimbledon.

In an open letter, the victims accused the IAG of pursuing their own agenda by releasing the statement in the wake of the final report from ThirtyOne:Eight.

The report, released in March, included survivor accounts of naked massages and saunas, beatings, and forfeits like smacking with a gym shoe, ice baths, and a "serious incident of a sexual nature" that had been reported to the authorities.

Soon after its release, four IAG members, Sarah Smart, Graham Shearer, Dan Leafe and an anonymous victim representative, released their own statement saying that the issue of abusive leadership needed to be "dealt with properly, openly and fully, through repentance and transparency", and that "genuine repentance for some may involve them stepping down from positions of leadership".

But the seven survivors who issued the open letter this week say they have been "wounded" by the IAG statement, and feel as if they are being used.

"It has left us profoundly hurt and confused. It has left us dismayed and angry – because of the unjustified erosion of trust in leaders we know acted responsibly, promptly and kindly," they said.

"Compared with your 31:8 report, the IAG statement seems to speak with a different voice pursuing a different agenda.

"It feels like our abuse has become a convenient launching pad for its authors' and their supporters' real interest. We have been left hurt and frustrated that the focus has been allowed to be taken away from our suffering, the sin of JF and the failings of Emmanuel Wimbledon.

"We have been left wondering: why did the IAG take advantage of this moment to pursue their other interests instead of allowing the report to speak with its own voice?

"Having been used once we find ourselves being used all over again, indeed we feel we are being weaponised for somebody else's agenda."

Responding to the open letter, Thirtyone:eight said the IAG statement was "their views alone" and was "not made on behalf of Thirtyone:eight".

"One of the results of publishing a report of this kind which seeks to give a voice to those impacted, will understandably be to give confidence to others to speak out, especially those who may not have previously done so," it said.

"In line with our organisational values, we respect the right of any individual to express their own personal views and that no one should be prevented from speaking out."

Bridget Robb, Interim Chair of the Board at Thirtyone:eight said, "This review has been one of the most complex, sensitive and lengthy pieces of work that Thirtyone:eight has undertaken. We remain grateful to all those who participated in the process and acknowledge that for many, this came at a great cost and demonstrated great courage as insights and experiences were shared.

"Since publication there have been many views shared, statements made, and articles written, by a wide range of voices holding many different and varied opinions. While we respect people's right to share their views, we would encourage everyone to consider the opportunity for wider learning within the report recommendations, specifically in regard to the methods used for sharing information and the impact this can have on others."

"As an organisation we are committed to putting survivors first, as we have sought to do throughout this process, and apologise for where we have not achieved this fully, or for where our actions may have caused hurt or distress. We would strongly encourage anyone who has been impacted by the issues raised by the review to seek appropriate support from the sources listed on our website."

Members of the IAG who issued the statement have been contacted for comment.