Rebecca was honoured to be part of a group which came together to form a response following the publication of the PCR2 report by The Church of England, which you can find here. The responses have been compiled and sent to all Bishops, General Synod representatives and national church representatives, and shared across relevant blogs and survivor organisations. We at The Ordinary Office are committed to the creation of a safe space for our community, and contact surrounding this should be made to Rebecca via @DeChurching on Twitter, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SURVIVOR RESPONSES TO PCR2
These responses were gathered in the week following the publication of PCR2. 17 survivors contributed to this review. All of them have direct experience of abuse in Church of England settings. Survivors reported that they were victims of physical, sexual and spiritual abuse and
Variable/poor survivor input
The experience of engagement with survivors varied markedly from one diocese to another.
“There was a lack of survivor input. Fewer than two survivors per diocese were involved.”.
“Beverley who oversaw the PCR2 survivor group said survivors would be pre-warned when the report was coming out. We weren't. The impact on survivors is betrayal, hurt and re-abuse again.”
“The only support offered to survivors is the contact details of Safe Spaces. We’re having to organise our own support.”
“There was a strong survivor representation in the PCR2 output workshops, after the individual reports had been brought into the final document. We weren’t able to change the outputs. They are what they are, based on the outputs from each diocese. However, we were able to make it clear that we wanted a transparent and clear view of how the recommendations would be taken forward.”
“I can only speak of my role as the survivor representative on PCR2 in the diocese of X. Reviewers were robust and asked for engagement with survivors and a considerable number were interviewed and their accounts noted in the diocesan report, with the support of ISVA. I know that others weren’t anywhere near as inclusive.”
“I have experience, but it won’t be counted in this report.”
“I was not invited to contribute to the review of my case. I wasn’t told how that could happen.”
“My reviewer was thorough and sensitive, it was a validating process. But I don’t recognise my feedback in the published summaries.”
Questions about independence of the review, and the failure to include known cases
Survivors questioned how independent the review really was. Some reviewers were closely linked to the church, or were previously employees. The editorial control of the report seemed to be with the church. As a consequence there was concern that the review had wrongly excluded some known cases.
“I thought PCR2 was meant to flush out all the unfinished and badly handled cases, yet mine has been simply ignored because "it didn’t reach the criterion for inclusion”. That’s rubbish. How many other cases have been ignored and how many victims are left feeling worse?”
“How do I know if I am included in the count?”
“The direction of PCR2 was set by a review of blue files. In my case the offender’s file (a bishop) has ‘gone missing’. So it wasn’t included.”
There was concern that the review, the diocesan reports and the follow-up were uneven and inconsistent between dioceses.
“The review has identified serious inconsistencies. Dioceses taking such different approaches: different language, different tone.”
“I’ve heard three dioceses saying ‘At least we are better than them!’”
“There are huge weaknesses in procedure, records management and information governance identified by PCR2. When the report discovered loss of files, the recommendation was “better filing.” That’s laughable.”
“The report from one diocese talks about “complete chaos” in filing.”
“PCR2 was supposed to be an exercise to review files. They began to let it become a review of safeguarding. If you wanted to do that, this isn’t the way you would go about it.”
What happens next?
Survivors identified a failure to care for survivors identified in the review. There was a concern about what will be done for the victims in the ‘new’ cases that have been identified.
“What is happening for the 383 victims?”
“I was told that my file was one that would be reviewed. But I was also told there would be no follow-up on what was discovered.”
“There is acknowledgement of failings and of suffering. However, there is a complete absence of words or commitment to repair the damaged lives, leaving victims/survivors feeling used - and abused.”
“Every institution in Britain has a problem with historic safeguarding. The only issue is how they are dealing with the survivors now.”
“I haven't seen anything about the Church's responsibility to alleviate the spiritual suffering of victim-survivors by making active steps to show that the Church doesn't condone abuse and doesn't think abusers are acting in the name of God.”
“Why is there no information on if and how the files identified as needing follow up will be? My understanding is there won't be.”
“The church needs to look at every case identified, review it with survivors, and make appropriate redress.”
“Restitution and redress for survivors is a right.”
“Survivors should be involved in safeguarding training.”
“DSAs need to be independent of the bishops.”
“There needs to be an audit of implementation. Who is going to ensure follow-through?”
“What is the point of having a review if you don’t do anything to put things right?”
“I want the church to go back to every case where a survivor feels they have been abused, and make restitution to that survivor. It must be done by an independent, trauma-informed expert. Survivors are offering to design and oversee the process.”
“I would like to see a question and answer session with the two Archbishops and the Lead Bishop at the next General Synod.”
“There’s lots of talk about "referrals to the right services", and "good communication between this and that body." How about with the victim-survivor? What's actually coming of these referrals and this communication if it's so good?”
Questions of definition
There was felt to be inconsistency in definitions. Particular concern was expressed over the exclusion of bullying, the use of the term ‘vulnerable’, and the lack of understanding of domestic abuse.
“Sleight of hand in the definition of 'safeguarding' is evident everywhere.”
“We need the CofE to publicly state what they are using for their definitions of safeguarding. We need them to say what their threshold is. And we need to benchmark that against mainstream professional practice. It will not match.”
“On p107 of the report there is a denial that bullying is a safeguarding issue. I’m gobsmacked. Why is bullying not included? It is included in the training documents. Bullying changes lives and it changes you. It makes you feel paranoid. It is so common anywhere there is a caste system.”
“The National Safeguarding Panel has discussed safeguarding terminology. The term “vulnerable adults” was not felt to be useful. The NSP said that ‘Policies should simply refer to safeguarding adults and not use the term vulnerable.’ Yet the PCR2 report uses the words "vulnerable adults" without criticism or comment.”
“The report identifies a failure to understand domestic abuse. There are reasons why people don’t tell.”
“Anyone can become ‘vulnerable’.”
“Multiple times the Archbishops refer to adult victims and survivors as “weak” and/or “vulnerable”. I am greatly insulted by this. I was not vulnerable before the abuse. It was the abuse that made me vulnerable. I became vulnerable when I interacted with the Church over the abuse when I disclosed. I was strong before the church abused me. I became vulnerable because of the Church. It is not their place to call me weak or vulnerable.”
“The Archbishops send a message to encourage victims to come forward. My message is strongly not to do so. There is absolutely nothing positive that can be gained by a survivor disclosing except, as we are told, for the Church.”
“Until repairing lives they have shattered is the number one priority for the Church, encouraging victims to come forward leads only to further suffering for the individual.”
“The House of Survivors should be a permanent fourth house of General Synod.”
“I’m desperately disappointed.”
“PCR2 was not set up to deliver anything for survivors. We are re-abused by the church when we report, and also when we put ourselves forward for survivor engagement.”
“Where the data is pointing to a terrible situation, the narrative is describing a mostly positive situation.”
“(The 383) ... are not ‘new’ cases but old ones that had been improperly dealt with and now identified as safeguarding failures. This means that the victims in these cases will have lived with significant trauma over many years which will, statistically, have led to tragedy in some cases...if that was me I would resent my case being referred to as ‘new’ if I had lived with unbearable pain for years.”
“The lack of survivor engagement means it’s essential that there is a review of safeguarding that is co-produced with survivors. This report mainly represents the professionals’ view.”
“I do think there has been some hard work gone into PCR2 and good things have come from it but have little confidence in it making much difference.”
For more details, please contact Jane Chevous via email@example.com or Andrew Graystone via firstname.lastname@example.org.
18 October 2022
We have long spoken out about the inherent failings in safeguarding within the Church of England. The current operational practices cause real harm every day. We call for an independent body to take over governance of safeguarding, standardise practice across the diocese and offer real recompense to those who have suffered through negligence and self-preservation.
Rebecca & Dave