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UK News

Abuse campaigner welcomes Welby saying clergy will be investigated for not disclosing Smyth abuse

by Donna Birrell

Theologian and survivor advocate, Andrew Graystone, has told Premier that victims expect "to see a large number of clergy and lay people being taken to task for why they failed to act" when they were aware of abuse by John Smyth at Christian holiday camps in the 1970s.  

Speaking after the Archbishop of Canterbury issued a statement apologising to victims, Andrew Graystone said while he welcomed the apology, it was "pretty shocking" that it had taken four years for Justin Welby to meet with survivors :

"But the Archbishop apologised for that and my sense was that when he met with the victims of John Smyth for the first time, the seriousness of what had happened dawned on him in a new way. I'm not saying that he hadn't been aware of it at all before, but he seemed to come away with a sense of how awful and how extensive John Smyth's abuse had been."

In his statement, the Archbishop said the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England would investigate every member of the clergy or others who knew and failed to disclose the abuse.

That's something Andrew Graystone welcomes :

"The more important thing that he said was that he is going to hold accountable all those people, clergy and lay people who knew about John Smyth over many, many years, more than three decades, and yet didn't act. So, we're expecting to see a large number of clergy and lay people being taken to task for why they failed to act. One of the great problems for victims of abuse in the church is what's sometimes called 'bystander syndrome', that there are many people who see what happens and know that it's wrong, but feel it's someone else's job to deal with it. And Archbishop Welby has made it very clear that that's unacceptable. Those who did know about it will have to face the consequences."

An independent review into the John Smyth case is underway and Andrew Graystone says that will be an important milestone for survivors:

"There are staging points for survivors of abuse in trying to find their way forward. Coming to terms with having been abused is one of them, disclosing your abuse is another, having somebody apologise and ask for forgiveness is another staging point. But I think until the review is complete and the information is out - and my own book about John Smyth is coming out this summer - until all of that has happened it will be hard for some of the survivors to fully move on."

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