Walking with victims of clergy sexual abuse, listening to them and learning from them, has led to two important steps in the past month.
Firstly, the Archdiocese of Regina has a newly revised policy on clergy sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people, replacing the 2013 policy. The policy online here, drafted and edited by a group which included victims of clergy sexual abuse, aims to provide a victim-friendly and victim driven process. Procedures for reporting sexual abuse and for the care of the reporting person are addressed directly to a person making such a report in sections three and four of the policy. Other changes from the previous policy include:
· the recognition of the long-term ramifications of abuse including spiritual, psychological, emotional and physical challenges;
· the clear assurance that victims did not cause and are not responsible for the abuse;
· informing the reporting person of their right to go to the police or the court system;
· the encouragement of having a support person present with a reporting person whenever that would be helpful;
· a confidential email contact and phone number to report abuse; and,
· the option of having a female layperson to handle a complaint.
Over the next six months, people are invited to send in suggestions to improve the policy. Moving forward, there is a commitment to regularly review and revise the policy to ensure we are meeting the needs of victims in all instances.
Secondly, beginning on Monday, October 21, a trauma counsellor with sexual abuse expertise will be available one day a week to work with victims of clergy sexual abuse. Lorie Harrison of Legacy Ridge Inc., will offer client-centered counselling to victims, with an approach that respects the wisdom of the victim “by offering responsive, compassionate support options focusing on breaking the silence, reducing shame, and fostering resiliency in the healing process.” Lorie is a registered professional counsellor and Master Practitioner in Clinical Counselling and provides extensive experience in accompanying victims and survivors in their healing process. She will be available on Mondays (except holidays) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Regina. She can be contacted at lharrisonlegacyridgefoundation [dot] com or by phone/text at (639) 317 8104 to arrange a meeting. This is fully funded by the archdiocese at no cost to victims. Further information is forthcoming and questions can be directed to Lorie or to the Archdiocesan Delegate, Fr. Brad Fahlman by phone at (306) 400 3655 or email at enquiryarchregina [dot] sk [dot] ca.
Meanwhile, efforts continue both in the areas of prevention as well as in better implementing ways of supporting those who have been abused. We recognize that, in every instance, our priority must always be directed towards the protection, care, and healing of victims of abuse, past, and present. Where bonds of trust between victims and the institutional church have been broken due to past failures in transparency, accountability and minimization of the problem, the diocese commits itself to work towards reestablishing that trust.
In addition, an education committee dedicated to the ongoing education of both our clergy and the population at large, made up of victims, laypersons and clergy, has been created. It is tasked with fostering greater awareness and generating ongoing discussion on the importance of creating as safe a context as possible in our churches. This education includes:
• how to establish preventative measures against abuse;
• how to identify the signs that grooming of potential victims is occurring;
• how to be more sensitive to the needs of victims;
• becoming attentive to power differentials and ways in which inappropriate exercise of power can lead to abuse;
• what to do if a victim approaches you for support;
• protecting the victim from further harm or re-victimization;
• preserving confidentiality;
• how to accompany a victim, and;
• how to refer appropriately.
Presentations have been made to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, to lay formation and diaconal candidates, to diocesan centre staff and to clergy. With the finalizing of a new policy, several presentations are planned, including one in each deanery in the coming months open to anyone interested in attending. Our goal is to involve at least one victim in each presentation so that the voice of victims can be heard.
Prayer services thoughtfully prepared by victims, laypersons, religious and clergy, are being held throughout the diocese. These prayer services are a way of letting victims know that their voices are being heard, help to create a safe environment for them to come forward, and foster awareness and support within the community. Those who have drafted these services and those who have worked to host or participate in them have provided an important outreach to victims.
The question of whether or not to post names of those clergy accused of sexual abuse was narrowed by our victims to a discussion about posting the names of those accused of sexual abuse and found guilty in the court of law. All of the victims with whom we are in communication are calling for transparency and accountability. And all want us to create a space where other victims can come forward in a safe way to speak of what happened to them. Regarding the publication of names, we heard strongly that if we do publish the names of those found guilty, names which are already in the public domain, we need to make sure that no other victim would be further hurt or revictimized by our actions. Victims weighed the pros and cons of posting names, and asked whether or not it would bring healing, whether there were other ways that would draw as much attention to the legacy of abuse as this, and whether it would open the door to retaliation against or put pressure on other victims. Some felt strongly that there are better ways of inviting victims to come forward, and it is clear that we need to continue to work on those. At this time, the matter is still under discussion.
Bishop Don and/or his Delegate for victims of clergy sexual abuse meet or are in regular communication with victims who have come forward, both for the purposes of providing support and encouragement as well as to receive input from them on how to more effectively reach out to other victims. They are open to such meetings should other victims find that helpful. Though many have come forward, they represent a small minority of the victims out there. Our hope is to communicate to victims that there is a safe environment within the church wherein they can share their stories without fear of being re-victimized.
Written in collaboration with the clergy sexual abuse core working group and its communications committee.
Page URL: http://archregina.sk.ca/news/2019/10/23/archdiocese-regina-announces-trauma-counselling-victims-and-new-procedures-reporting