Last week Lord Ahmed was imprisoned for 5 years having been convicted of offences against two children in the 1970s when he himself was a teenager. His victims spoke about the burden of shame they had each carried with them for around 50 years, and about justice having now been done. The judge commented on the lifelong impact of the abuse that they had suffered, and that Lord Ahmed’s conviction therefore warranted a stiff sentence.
Our safeguarding training at both the Foundation and Advanced levels aims to underline the significance of the lifelong impact of abuse experienced in childhood. The Past Cases Review recognised this, sensing that many in the church did not appreciate it, and that we needed to be far more alert to it. Hence the inclusion of this topic in each course. As some survivors have told us, the trauma they experienced at the time can be vividly brought back to the surface again by a trigger that to others might seem quite innocuous. Other survivors have testified as to how what happened to them, in some senses, shaped how they have lived their lives.
The training also focuses on trying to understand why churches, and individuals who are part of that community, can sometimes find it difficult to hear what a survivor of abuse, or someone experiencing abuse of any kind at the present time, is trying to say. We recognise embarrassment, feeling uncomfortable and changing the subject as initial human responses, then backed up with concerns about not knowing what to do about it, not wanting to interfere or being fearful of the consequences of passing on the information.
So this is really yet another plug for churches to take up the Reflect and Respond study course, which has been produced by survivors, with the aim, not necessarily of making the subject any easier, but of enabling the wider church community to learn about why this is such an important area of the Church’s mission. The course will help church members to feel more confident about their own ability to respond to victims and survivors in a way that does not perpetuate a culture of silence or denial. Full details are here on the Methodist Church website (in the safeguarding pages) or ask your minister about it.