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Last Updated: Friday, 25 May 2007, 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK
Church abuse survivors speak out
child with teddy
Victims say the church ignored their warnings

As the Archbishop of Canterbury launches a review of recent child sex abuse cases in the church, some survivors of abuse have been talking to BBC News about their anger at the way the church handled their cases.

Derrick Norris, a churchwarden at Emmanuel Church in Northampton was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison last month for raping and abusing a young girl and sexually abusing a teenage boy.

The offences date back to the 70s and 80s.

A woman who was abused by him as a girl told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Nobody came to me and asked exactly what happened. Nobody asked what was going on or for how long but I was told I had to forgive my abuser. I was told it was for my own well-being.

"They wanted it swept under the carpet. At that stage I felt I had to please people. I would do what people wanted me to do.

"I tried to pretend that nothing had happened. It was not until much later that just by saying 'I forgive you', which is what the church told me to do, it was still eating away at me.

"It had not been dealt with. It has had a major effect on the rest of my life."

My abuser used to say that I mustn't tell and things would happen if I did. The church just reinforced that
Female abuse survivor

After she told the church of the abuse, Norris was given more responsibility and became a church warden. His victim says he even helped out at children's and youth events. He only lost his roles in the church when his victim went to police almost 20 years later.

"I'm sure if I'd have had more self-worth this would all have been dealt with earlier but with the church confirming messages that I received it became impossible.

"My abuser used to say that I mustn't tell and things would happen if I did. The church just reinforced that."

Protocols in place

In other recent cases, abusers were jailed for offences stretching back decades.

For one case, the Diocese of Peterborough at first said it was unable to comment on a woman's allegations of abuse.

She said: "I was infuriated by it to be perfectly honest. It made me write to the Bishop of Peterborough. They were still sweeping it under the carpet even now. They just didn't want to know."

She has since received a private response from the Bishop of Peterborough but she is still worried there may be other historic cases elsewhere in the Church of England. That view is shared by others.

I really do feel that the church are holding me responsible, hiding behind what I did or did not do in 2001 to defend themselves from lack of action at the time
Male abuse survivor

The Reverend David Smith, 52, of St John's Road, Clevedon, Somerset, was jailed for sexually abusing six boys over a 30-year period.

It emerged that a victim had contacted the church in 2001. He went to see the then Bishop of Bath and Wells, Jim Thompson.

"At the time, I was told they had done something. They had put a protocol in place to ensure David Smith would not be in a position to be alone with children.

"I'm not confident now that anything was done in terms of monitoring his access to children because we now know that he was abusing then and has been abusing since."

Choirmaster

The church says could not act in 2001 because this man refused to make a formal complaint

"I'm a bit angry at the current Bishop of Bath and Wells for saying I didn't do enough in 2001. One of the press reports talks about me refusing to make a complaint, which is not true at all.

"I really do feel that the church are holding me responsible, hiding behind what I did or did not do in 2001 to defend themselves from the lack of action at the time. I'm pretty annoyed about that and pretty upset about it."

And men who were abused as boys by former choirmaster Peter Halliday, 61, from Farnborough, Hants, in the 1980s also accused the church of inaction.

"I was amazed that in 2003 the vicar was still writing to Peter Halliday seeking assurances, asking him if the role he had then meant he had any contact with children.

"That's like asking a bank robber, please give me assurances that you won't rob banks and this is 2003 when mechanisms to prevent abuse are in place."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
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SEE ALSO
Calls for clergy sex-crime review
16 May 07 |  Manchester
Vicar jailed for child sex abuse
03 May 07 |  Bristol/Somerset



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