One of Britain’s leading Catholic schools, Ampleforth College, has revealed that some Benedictine monks there have received specialist training on how best to help victims and survivors of sexual abuse. In a statement ahead of its participation in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) later this month, Ampleforth said the aim was “to be much more focussed on survivors of abuse.”
So far, four monks have undergone two days of intensive training with an external agency which was recruited for the task, with the aim of rolling it out further in the coming months. A spokeswoman told The Tablet: “We wanted to make sure the monks were able to listen and respond to abuse survivors in the most appropriate way possible and to better understand the journey of abuse survivors. “
One monk added : “The training was very helpful. It gave me a deeper insight into the likely feelings of those who have been abused and I feel it prepared me to be more sympathetic and helpful to survivors who contact us.” The spokeswoman conceded the Inquiry could be a trigger for people to come forward and a confidential independent telephone helpline has also been set up for victims.
Ampleforth has been rocked by a series of allegations linking priests to the abuse of boys. Since 1996 three monks and a lay teacher have been convicted of sex offences against more than 30 pupils dating back to the mid-1960s and up to the mid-1990s. Ampleforth’s statement expressed ‘sincere and heartfelt apologies to anyone who suffered abuse in our schools, monastery, parishes or other ministries.’
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was set up in 2015 to investigate whether public bodies and other non-state institutions in England and Wales ‘have taken seriously their responsibility to protect children from sexual abuse.’ The Inquiry chose the English Benedictine Congregation as one of the Catholic Church’s case studies; its first public hearing in this phase is scheduled for 27 November and expected to run to 15 December when witnesses and core participants will provide evidence and face questioning. In its statement, Ampleforth said that to date, it had submitted “a number of witness statements to the Inquiry from across the organisation; as you would expect, we have taken expert advice on our participation in the Inquiry and prepared carefully for the public hearing.’
The training at Ampleforth was conducted by the support group Survive York & North Yorkshire. The training covered:
- How children and vulnerable people are targeted groomed and kept silent
- How survivors respond to the threat of sexual violence at the time and later in life.
- Common complexities and impacts of sexual violence and abuse
- Looking at myths and case studies of people who have experienced abuse within the Catholic Church.
PICTURE: Ampleforth College ©Ampleforth Society