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Five words

Only 5 words, but key ones for those who tell their story of abuse for the first time. Firstly, a question posed by the storyteller;

‘What happens now?’

After summoning up the courage and determination to share, seeking the right person to tell, at the right time and in the right place, these three words are of critical importance. However, any immediate relief from having told, may be quickly replaced by anxiety about the various possible directions that could be taken by the person who has been listening, especially if they reply with the other two words;

‘ That depends.’

Hopefully the first responder will give a more assured response that describes exactly what will happen next and who might need to know depending on what’s been shared. The Church has provided advice and guidance to church leaders through the safeguarding training programmes and earlier this year published a leaflet designed to be picked up in churches by survivors that explains what response they should expect to receive. However, it’s also true to say that the outcome of making a disclosure may follow a number of pathways that are dependent, amongst other factors, on the application of the Church complaints procedure, safeguarding measures or the intervention of statutory authorities for example. The storyteller may also then feel anxious about the personal impact of the various processes that may be set in chain.

But the first response remains critical. It’s why the gathered session for the refreshed online Advanced Module course starts with a listening exercise to emphasise the importance of listening, really hearing and understanding. Then, it’s about swapping two words for six;

‘This is what I’ll do now.’

None of the words are complex. They are all very simple and straightforward, which is how best to respond. Of course, the other three words that must follow are also really important:

‘Is that OK?’

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