Professor David Shemmings and Yvonne Shemmings published findings from their qualitative research study into the sexual abuse of children in Chichester Diocese.
They interviewed children and young people, survivors of abuse, and professionals within the diocese, focusing on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of abuse to examine patterns and the organizational structure that allowed this to happen.
Social workers and others working with children should take survivors’ whole accounts and memories of sexual abuse into consideration, and discuss their findings honestly and openly if they aim to draft policies.
Survivors should be listened to with compassion, which may help them feel empowered and strengthen their resilience. To achieve this, the interviews for this study were conducted in a calm place, to help survivors feel safe and taken seriously.
The abuse by these clergymen was similar to other forms of sexual abuse, except that they tried to gain the child’s trust in devious and manipulative ways; sometimes the offender bought expensive gifts for the children, or used alcohol to lower their defences. To normalise sexual activity, the abuser used sexual language and jokes.
Listening to and learning from survivors’ stories, child protection workers are able to recognise signs of abuse and find ways to support and protect victims, as well as gain the trust of survivors in order to support them.