'We promise they will be heard,' Church of England tells abuse survivors

The Church of England has been strongly criticised by an independent inquiry over its handling of sexual abuseThe Church of England

The Church of England has promised that those who come forward to report abuse "will be heard". 

The Church is currently the subject of an ongoing inquiry into its handling of sexual abuse claims going back decades. 

A recent report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse accused the Church of England of putting the reputation of clergy before the interests of victims and said that its response to accusations had been "marked by secrecy". 

A focus of the report was the response of the Diocese of Chichester and the case of former bishop Peter Ball, who was convicted in 2015 for offences against 18 teenagers and men spanning decades.  Ball was the suffragan Bishop of Lewes, which sits within the Diocese of Chicester, from 1977 to 1992.

The next phase of the independent inquiry commences on July 1 with a public hearing considering the Church's response more widely to sexual abuse cases. 

In a statement this week, the Church's lead safeguarding bishop, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, Peter Hancock, said that the conclusions of the inquiry so far were "disturbing and in many places shocking".

He expressed concern about another key finding from the inquiry revealing that those sexually abused in religious institutions were less likely to report the abuse at the time (69 per cent) than survivors in other institutions (54 per cent).

"We would urge anyone who wants to report abuse and find support to come forward and we promise they will be heard," he said. 

He said the Church was "working constructively" with the inquiry ahead of the wider Church hearing in July as he commended the "courage" of survivors who had come forward so far to share their experiences.

He continued: We welcomed the findings and recommendations published by IICSA this month, on the Peter Ball and Chichester Diocese case studies.

"This states that the Church of England should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors but it failed to do this.

"It is absolutely right that the Church at all levels should learn lessons from the issues raised in both these reports and also strengthen our resolve to make the Church a safe place for all." 


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