The continuing story of reporting abuse and rape to the church and police. Shared in order to support survivors who wish to report and to support good practice by those whose job it is to respond, within a truth and restoration perspective.
#Trigger warning# I will never share details of my abuse, but mentioning what happened and talking about the symptoms of trauma and the impact may be triggering for some. Please take gentle care of yourself as you read this and remember to stop reading and breath or use other grounding techniques if you start to feel triggered.
Please read the introduction to my first blog for a full explanation of why I am sharing my story here, and the values I bring to this.
“One who craves sweetness must not flee away from things that are bitter.”
Birgitta the Inspired
I am thinking of changing my name to Mara, which is Hebrew for ‘bitterness’. Like Naomi in the book of Ruth, it seems more appropriate to how my life’s course has run recently, than Jane (which means gift from God). As Naomi says, over the last 12 months life has dealt very bitterly with me.
One year ago, on my 60th birthday, I wrote my first blog about reporting rape and clergy abuse to the Church of England and the police. I hoped that this would bring support and comfort to survivors, and insight to any supporters and professionals that are involved in our safeguarding journeys.
I knew it would be a hard journey, but I was hopeful that at the end there would be sweet justice. Like a rainbow, I understood that justice only comes when the light of truth shines through the torrent of trauma.
The arc of justice
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Martin Luther King, Jnr.
Over 14 months after I reported, it is with a heavy heart that I have to tell you there is no justice. There has been the sweetness of good intentions, and good people, but the bitter taste of injustice sours my soul.
The psalmists often cry out, how long? Oh, how long? I knew it wouldn’t be quick, and of course Covid caused unprecedented delays, complicated by our weeks at sea without internet. I understood that the process focussed on risk management, so the core group meetings were focussed on the current risk posed by my abusers and the two bishops who failed to act when I first reported. What I hadn’t understood, and now protest, is that there is no consideration of what justice might be for survivors as part of the process. That if it is one word against another, there is no finding on a balance of probabilities and both abuser and victim are given equal weight. However credible the victim and however unlikely the denial by the person who abused them. Worse, for someone like me where the abuse started over 40 years ago – so one abuser has died during the investigation and all the other clergy involved are retired – the risk is judged as low and I was told it was therefore not proportionate to undertake a really thorough investigation. One of the bishops was not even interviewed and has not been told that the investigation is taking place.
I can only describe the impact of this process as re-abusive. From being generally okay most of the time, I have been taken right back to where I was 20 years ago, the first time I reported and started working through my trauma in therapy. On the trauma traffic-lights I am permanently on amber alert (fight/flight/fawn) and at times down into red. I began using ‘protest art’ on twitter to depict the pain that words couldn’t fully describe.
Darkness with hardly a glimmer of light. A godless process.
St Lucia, also sentenced to a brothel. Her story relates her pain at this abuse, preferring to be burned, have her eyes gouged her out (possibly by her own hand – extreme self-harming) and be stabbed in the throat (silenced) than prostituted.
The outcome was ‘unsubstantiated’ I lack substance. I am insubstantial. I am not essential. My abuse is washed back into nothing by the tide.
The church is like a fortress. It shuts survivors outside & protects their abusers inside
The church is cruel. It sacrifices women on the altar of male domination.
I have an ocean of tears in my soul, a storm of pain and distress raging inside me.
The cruellest thing was they promised me hope. I knew the path would be rocky but I was hopeful the light of truth would shine in the end. There never was any hope. They deceived me. And hope kills.
How many of us will the church sacrifice before the truth is revealed? When will survivors be free from the oppression of the church?
Still we look for the dawn. Still we search for the glimmer of light, breaking through the clouds of darkness.
The church should have offered me refuge, comfort and justice. Instead it has defended itself and crushed my spirit.
The legacy of abuse is shame. We look to the church for restoration. Instead it denies and reinforces the desolation of shame.
I lament the violated young woman whom the church have left hanging on the crucifixion of abuse. I lament the youth that was stolen from her then and the justice that is denied her now. I lament a church that is satisfied to be a bystander @ the cross. (Sculpture by Edwina Sandys)
My well is dry, my spirit rusty & broken. I’m depleted. The church’s process has utterly drained me. Close to nothing left.
Cristo Negro, Portobelo. Legend relates the black Christ was washed up on the beach. His face reveals suffering & pain, the harrowing. Washed up on the shore of the Church’s failure to listen to survivors & act to change.
Today I learnt about the last of the 5 priests I reported. It doesn’t matter that I was raped many times over. It doesn’t matter they tried to blame me, gaslight, cover up. Because they’re judged not to pose a risk now, nothing is going to happen.
I don’t matter. Nothing changes. (Sculpture by Guido Rocha)
I turned to the church for the 2nd time looking for the light of justice and healing. But the clouds of indifference overcame them & I am abandoned.
The church is in the darkness & drags me there. The light of God is not in this place.
The crucifixion of abuse. An act of protest and suffering.
I looked to the church for restorative justice. Instead I was cannoned into despair.
“We have to be candles, burning between hope and despair, faith and doubt, life and death…that is the disquieting place.”
I have had to rely on the support and solidarity of family, friends and fellow survivors, as well as my wonderful therapist and advocate, to keep my light burning this year. At times I was close to being extinguished. I had to rely on my champions to keep me going. I am so fortunate and so grateful to have them.
There is a verse in Isaiah that I have always held on to as a survivor:
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.” (Isaiah 42:3).
It has been a brutal year in so many ways, but I have not been snuffed out. With my peers and companions in Survivors Voices, I will continue to burn for justice and truth in 2021. You would be very welcome to join us.
For a list of agencies and contacts that can help and support, please visit our website, www.survivorsvoices.org, and click on Support for Survivors.
If you are a fellow sailor dealing with a #metoo situation, please see my new #seatoo page with links and resources for sailors around the world.
Thank you for reading part of my story. I will be posting regularly as the process unfolds, with links and resources to help survivors and anyone involved in justice and healing from abuse. If you have found this helpful, please share to spread the light, and I hope you will visit again. Please be in touch with your reflections, and thoughts on what works well and how things could be better, so we can all learn and work together to be the change. You can write a comment below or use the contact page to email me directly. Please note I am currently living on a sailing yacht and don’t have internet every day. I will respond as soon as I can.