From Mr Simon Bass
Sir, - The Revd Dr Peter Stell (Comment, 2 May)
deserves high praise for pointing out that survivors of abuse
deserve from Churches specialist support as well as their having
effective safeguarding policies. It is certainly not an either/or,
because effective and properly implemented policies are a necessary
precondition for safer churches.
The Church of England's safeguarding policy document for
survivors is Responding Well (2011), which built on the
excellent CTBI book Time for Action (2002). It outlines
the basis for much of what Dr Stell advocates, including clerics'
and others' undertaking specialist training.
I am less convinced, however, by his argument that each diocese
should recruit specialist counsellors and psychotherapists to
address the needs of survivors. This is because, as Dr Stell
admits, one consequence of being abused in a church context is
often a loss of faith and trust, and this makes it far less likely
that anyone who has suffered in this way would seek such
counselling from the very institution within which he or she had
For many survivors, having someone listen to their story is
important. The part played by the "authorised listener" who can
provide an "attentive and attuned listening ear", as Responding
Well puts it, is vital, therefore.
Churches at their best can be places of refuge and comfort,
where excellent pastoral care is given to survivors. But this can
happen only if churches embrace all the good practice enshrined
within Responding Well. Support for survivors should
include assisting them in finding appropriate specialist
counselling, and providing all means to gain access to this.
Churches' Child Protection
Advisory Service (CCPAS)
PO Box 133, Swanley
Kent BR8 7UQ
From the Revd Peter Mockford
Sir, - I completely agree with the Revd Dr Peter Stell's article
on "What survivors deserve from the church". As a psychotherapist
as well as a clergyman, I see predominantly members of the clergy
and clergy families. All of us carry some degree of trauma, and
within society, I believe, the level of trauma has increased
massively in the past 100 years. So in our churches we carry trauma
as a matter of course, but obviously it varies in degree.
Various practices have arisen in churches over the years to deal
with this, from "inner healing" to "sozo". But, in the wider
society, a huge amount of work has been done on the nature of
trauma and its resolution. This has happened mainly in the field of
counselling/psychotherapy since the turn of the 20th century.
Although there are deep-rooted historical suspicions here, it is
time that we listened to the world of psychotherapy and
counselling. The key to good and safe practice to dealing with
trauma is, without a doubt, self-awareness. Without this. the
helper, however well-intentioned, will inevitably involve his or
her process. This can easily result in increasing the level of
trauma rather than decreasing it.
Self-awareness is not easily gained; indeed, it is a continual
and ongoing process for all of us. We do know, however, that one of
the key ways of achieving it is in counselling and psychotherapy. I
agree with Dr Stell that Bishops need to recruit more
professionals; but this would be only a limited step. It ought to
be mandatory that the clergy in their curacies do at least 80
sessions of therapy.
It is better for this to be done in curacies than in colleges,
as curacies are in the "real world", and tend to be for at least
three years. In this diocese (Lichfield), the infrastructure is
already in place, if not the finance. I do know that there are
church bodies (e.g. the Churches' Ministerial Counselling Service)
that could provide this service across the country. This needs to
be a priority for the Church.
Second, no profession that deals with such a high level of
people contact should be without regular supervision. The days of
the independent incumbent have gone. Current practice is, I
believe, unsupportable. Clergy supervisors need to be properly
trained, and accountability needs to be built into the system, as
it is for other professions. I appreciate that this is a long-term
project, but, to prevent further abuse and to make our churches
safer, we need to start with the clergy now.
The Vicarage, School Lane
Stoke on Trent ST3 3DU
From the Revd Ravi Holy
Sir, - In his excellent article last week, the Revd Dr Peter
Stell argued that the Church needed to go the extra mile to help
survivors of abuse, and talked about the particular part to be
played by survivor groups, of which Heal For Life is one.
Our five-day residential courses are run by trained survivors
using a highly successful model developed and refined in Australia
over the past 15 years. At £400 per person (which includes
accommodation and all meals), they are highly affordable. Of
course, for someone on sickness benefits, this is still
prohibitively expensive; but we maintain a bursary fund, so that
lack of funds is never an obstacle to someone's getting the
life-changing help he or she needs.
In Australia, the Church has paid for many survivors of clergy
abuse to attend our course, and this could be an attractive
solution for the worried bishops Dr Stell imagines, too. Details of
Heal For Life (whose patrons are Lady Williams and Baroness
Howarth) can be found at www.healforlife.org.uk.
Chair of Trustees, Heal For Life UK
Cherry Garden Crescent
Wye, Kent TN25 5AS