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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child protection in religious organisations and settings Investigation Report


E.3: Support for victims and survivors of abuse

23. Very few religious organisations that we looked at have arrangements in place for professional counselling or therapy services for child sexual abuse committed within the religious organisation or setting. For example, Mr Gillies said that the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have in place any formal arrangement for providing resources for professional counselling or therapy for members who have been the victims of sexual abuse.[1] Mr Kamran Hussain, Chief Executive of the Green Lane Masjid and Community Centre, explained that it does:

“not have specific pastoral care (apart from our safeguarding leads) and would expect the police and authorities to provide or sign-post victims or claimants to such support”.[2]

24. Within some organisations, there was evidence of an organised system of pastoral support.

24.1. The Bahá’í community has in place a structure at the national level – a Community Care Team – which is responsible for developing the capacity of local communities to “deal with a wide range of pastoral situations”. Among the team’s members are those with professional expertise in relevant fields.[3]

24.2. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Great Britain) provides:

“Pastoral support … to victims and survivors of abuse primarily by the bishop … The bishop also provides pastoral care and support to those who bring the allegations or make complaints regarding the abuse, where they are not the same person.”[4]

24.3. The Baptist Union of Great Britain – an umbrella body for Baptist churches in England and Wales, which currently counts 1,945 churches as members – has produced a guide to supporting those who have experienced abuse, which offers its member churches advice and signposts to a number of providers of pastoral care. The Union’s accredited ministers are trained to provide pastoral care to those in their congregations. It also recognises the need for specialist counselling and support. Designated Persons for Safeguarding are able to contact the Association Safeguarding Leads for their area for recommendations of professional counsellors, charitable organisations and social care contacts.[5]

25. There were other organisations that made informal spiritual or pastoral support available, but this support is often not systematic or well publicised. For example, Mr Michael Stygal, President of the Pagan Federation, said that it:

“has not been directly involved in the provision of pastoral support to victims of child sexual abuse, partly because of the lack of recent allegations, and also because we do not have a pool of volunteers trained to provide such support.”[6]

26. We note that there are a number of other organisations that do not have a system for pastoral support. This includes the Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick (one of the largest Sikh gurdwaras in Europe with one of the largest congregations in the UK).[7]

27. The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Churches does not have any arrangements in place to provide pastoral support when responding to allegations of child sexual abuse.[8] Ms Elizabeth Slade, Chief Officer, told us that the General Assembly has “limited accurate knowledge of the level of pastoral support within each member organisation”, as its members are independent.[9] The General Assembly has recently commissioned an independent audit of its safeguarding practices as part of which it is considering the role of pastoral support for those involved in responding to allegations of child sexual abuse.[10]

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