On Tuesday 3rd October we held our annual clergy safeguarding conference at the conference centre at Buckfast Abbey. More than 80 clergy attended along with several Parish Safeguarding Representatives.
The training was led by MoMENtum, who are an organisation that supports male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The theme of the day was how to work in a trauma informed way to support survivors of abuse. John and Ezra were the main speakers from MoMENtum. They shared their own personal experiences as survivors to demonstrate the interactions and support that they have received which they have found helpful, as well as those that had been unhelpful or dismissive. They emphasised that when supporting survivors, your response does not need to be perfect, but that it is important to take the time to listen and believe what is being shared with you.
Just before lunch Antonia Sobocki, the Project Manager of LOUDfence, gave a short presentation. She spoke about the origins of LOUDfence on her kitchen table and the growth of LOUDfence across the country in the Catholic Church, following the LOUDfence held in Plymouth earlier in the year. Antonia also talked about her recent trip to Rome to present to the the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which then led to a meeting with Pope Francis. During the meeting Antonia gave Pope Francis a LOUDfence ribbon as well as a copy of Fr Skelton’s poem, ‘Sanctuary lost but reclaimed’. Antonia encouraged the clergy to consider holding a LOUDfence in their church.
After a hearty lunch, clips were shown from the film ‘Calvary’ to demonstrate good and bad faith interactions, as well as good and bad examples of boundaries. The clergy were then asked to consider what boundaries mean to them.
John and Ezra spoke about the impact of abuse on survivors. They also discussed common myths about survivors. For example, the myth that survivors of abuse will go on to become abusers themselves.
The day concluded with looking at how to support survivors and signpost them to appropriate help. For example, appreciating how difficult it is for survivors to share what has happened to them, and so to help them with this we should reassure them that it is okay to share their experiences. There was then a brief Q and A session before everyone headed home.
We are very thankful to MoMENtum for sharing their experiences and knowledge to help our clergy to feel more confident about supporting anyone who has experienced abuse. We are also thankful to Antonia for sharing her LOUDfence journey with us.