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Jean Vanier sexually abused at least six women, says report

by Heather Preston

An investigation into L'Arche founder, the late Jean Vanier has revealed he engaged in sexually abusive misconduct with at least six women across three decades.

On Saturday the leaders of L'Arche - a network of communities bringing people with and without disabilities together - published the results of an internal inquiry conducted to "understand more about L'Arche's history."

The investigation by independent U.K. consultancy GCPS, includes testimonies from six adult women alleging manipulative sexual conduct and emotional abuse.

The women each report that Vanier initiated sexual relations with them, usually in the context of spiritual accompaniment.

The incidents are said to have taken place between 1970 and 2005. 

None of the alleged victims were intellectually disabled.

The report also establishes Vanier's links to Pere Thomas Philippe, a censured Dominican priest and serial sexual abuser, thought to be a "spiritual father" to Vanier. 

The Inquiry says "[Vanier's] actions are indicative of a deep psychological and spiritual hold Jean Vanier had on these women and reveal his own adoption of some of Father Thomas Philippe's deviant theories and practices." 

The Canadian theologian died at a medical centre in Paris in May 2019, aged 90.

Vanier, who was a Catholic, founded L'Arche in 1964 in response to the treatment that people with learning disabilities faced in institutions.

L'Arche UK's National leader, Loren Treisman said the organisation was "shocked and saddened" by the news of "admired figure" Jean Vanier.

A statement reads: "We unreservedly condemn Jean Vanier's actions. They are in total contradiction to the values that he claimed and are contrary to the fundamental principles of our organisation, which affirm the unique value in every person. 

"We want to acknowledge and thank the victims for their courage and express our heartfelt regret for the trauma they had to endure. We are devastated that our founder abused his position of power and caused deep hurt to some of his victims."

"Ensuring the wellbeing and safety of our members has been and will continue to be, one of my personal priorities.  We have comprehensive safeguarding procedures in place to ensure our members with learning disabilities are protected from any abuse or harm within or beyond our communities."

L'Arche UK and L'Arche International will be publishing a summary of the GCPS inquiry online to ensure "full transparency". 

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