The newspapers, TV and social media have been alive with information about Jimmy Savile. We all agree it’s terrible, and we’re all wondering how he managed to get away with so much for so long.
In the early days of this news breaking some people pontificated about why the “Alleged Victims” waited until after he was dead - that comment on it’s own shows how many people just don’t understand the issues facing those who have been abused by a high profile person (Will I be believed? They are so powerful, I’ve been threatened etc).
As it turns out, a few of his victims did speak up - but sadly, for many reasons, nothing was done.
But I’m not writing here about the failings of all those involved in this, people and policies that should have kept so many young people safe. I want to talk about how “The Church” is going to respond to it.
The temptation is to shake our heads sadly and assume it only happens “out there” and not in our nice comfortable churches.
I commented on social media last week that ‘The Church’ in this nation should “...sit up, listen, take note and learn. Most importantly... Act.”
By act I mean three things:
- Act - have a safeguarding policy, it will go a long way to preventing abuse.
- Act - If someone makes an allegation, do something about it. Your safeguarding policy will tell you what to do.
3. Act - If you have a survivor of abuse in your church family, support them. If you don’t know how, then get some training.
I want the church in this nation to learn from the mistakes behind the whole Savile saga..
It’s wrong to think it wouldn’t happen in a loving church community - it can. To think that is wrong. Sadly, I know all too well how people in leadership in churches can ‘get away with it’ and how the victims can be left feeling they have no voice. I know survivors...and those who didn’t survive.
NEVER say NEVER!
It could even happen in a church with a very good safeguarding policy - CRB checks are good, but not foolproof. We always need to be on our guard. I’m not saying we should view everyone with suspicion before we’ve even welcomed a child into our churches - that would be wrong. What I AM saying is - be aware and be ready - just in case.
Church - please listen.
Make sure you have an up to date safe guarding policy, and then make sure you use it. Don’t just leave it on the shelf gathering dust.
Make sure everyone in your church knows about it. Do safeguarding training regularly for those involved at any level with children and young people.
Inform the parents of children who attend your clubs that you have a policy - put a statement about it in all your information.
Display the child line phone number at child eye height in your church buildings, and if any one says you should’t do this because it encourages false allegations - ignore them. I’d rather see the complainer ignored than a child who has been abused. (Aside from that - it’s just not true)
As well as the usual checks, use supervision as one of your main safeguarding tools.
Have a clear and simple whistle blowing policy
Don’t brush things under the carpet - shine God’s light on stuff and act (Whilst still maintaining confidentiality for the child/young person)
Don’t use this as an excuse NOT to do children’s work or youth work. If it stops your children and youth work - you’re doing something wrong.
If you know nothing about safeguarding, have never heard of child protection but want to do do something - contact the professionals for help - they’ll be happy to help you.
I’ll say it again: Church, please...sit up, listen, take note and learn. Most importantly... Act.