Sex abuse victims are ‘bullying and harassing’ Church of England staff

Alexander Kubeyinje
Alexander Kubeyinje

Sex abuse victims have “horrifically bullied, harassed and abused” Church of England officials with some sending death threats, its safeguarding chief has claimed.

Details of the claims emerged in papers submitted before the General Synod, the Church of England’s law-making body, by its National Safeguarding Team (NST).

Updating the Synod on his “experiences and observations” during the first six months in his role as national director of safeguarding, Alexander Kubeyinje said he had been “taken aback with the amount of abuse, bullying and harassment that colleagues receive and threat to life on occasions”.

He added that this has “predominantly been from a small number of survivors, advocates and others who have concerns with regards to safeguarding across the wider church community”.

Mr Kubeyinje said that NST staff “are at the forefront of this abuse”, that it has “a detrimental impact on them and their families”, and that “all of them come to work to do a good job, but this is often received with abuse and harassment.

“There is not always a sense of how staff can be protected from such horrific abuse and bullying,” the safeguarding chief concluded.

The document also revealed that as a result of the alleged behaviour of some abuse victims towards them, church staff “will often shut down and not want to engage with the people who are abusing staff which in turn has a detrimental effect on all involved”.

The comments have prompted fury from lawyers, charities and campaigners representing victims of institutional abuse, with one survivor telling The Telegraph that the Church needs “to find a way to handle vulnerable people with kid gloves and treat them very, very carefully” rather than blame them.

The NST documents have been put before the Synod which will be convening in London from Feb 6 to 9.

Responding to Mr Kubeyinje’s comments, one survivor of sexual abuse linked to the Church who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “There are some very damaged people out there and the NST and Church staff have to be able to cope with that. If you were in a psychiatric ward in the NHS, you would just learn to cope with it.

“So many survivors have developed severe mental health or addiction issues following their abuse, and this is often compounded by their treatment from Church officials.

“But this paper really does read as ‘poor diddums’. They have to find a way to handle vulnerable people with kid gloves and treat them very, very carefully and deal with people competently and gently but also appropriately. It should be part of their skill set.”

Phil Johnson, chair of the Minister And Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors group, described the comments as “outrageous” and said they show “a total lack of comprehension of the depth and impact of abuse on people”.

In response, Bishop Jonathan Gibbs, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop said that the Synod paper drew upon Mr Kubeyinje’s personal experience and “highlights the unacceptable harassment of staff that he has witnessed”.

“He fully recognises that the experience of trauma often underlies how people may respond and he is absolutely committed to strengthening the Church’s ongoing safeguarding work, including through better engagement with victims and survivors.”