Survivors Bill Of Rights

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I believe that one of the most important factors in the healing of survivors is to connect with others who have similar experiences. It is also the biggest way in which we can counteract the isolation that victims have been, and are still being, subjected to. I hope this page will be one means by which this may happen. If you find something here particularly helpful, I welcome you letting me know. If you are a survivor of church-related sexual abuse, or know someone who is, I hope you will find this site to be a place of healing, support, encouragement and information.

Survivors Bill of Rights

1. We have a right to tell our stories.

2. We have a right to be heard by the Church and society.

3. We have a right to expect the Church to act to protect us and the rest of society from abusers within its ranks.

4. We have a right to expect that the Church will advocate on our behalf to the offender.

5. We have a right to expect that any demand for our forgiveness of the perpetrator is not made until the perpetrator or his/her agent has met the requirements set out in the section about Forgiveness

6. We have a right to feel disillusioned, hurt and betrayed by the unethical behavour of the Church's representatives.

7. We have a right to develop a different perspective on our faith because of our pain.

8. We have a right to seek and work for the protection of others.


Apologies can be extremely healing for victims. Indeed, many victims have felt forced into civil litigation by churches which have failed to require an apology from the perpetrator. An apology, at its best, can serve both to acknowledge the damage to the victim, and convey to the victim that the perpetrator understands fully what he or she has done.

I believe that an ideal apology follows the criteria below:

Prior notice given by the perpetrator as to exactly what he or she intends to say, where the apology is made in person.

Addressing of the detail of the offence.

Description of its impact (so as to assure the victim that their pain is acknowledged).

Assurance of (and arrangements for) restitution, after enquiring of the victim what restitution is needed. Note:

Restitution should not necessarily be limited to what the victim asks for, since most victims are unable to make just claims for themselves. At the least, restitution should pay for counselling costs for the victim, with the therapist at the choice of the victim, and to continue for as long as victim and therapist consider necessary.

If the perpetrator claims he or she has received counselling, the victim should be told of the qualifications of the counsellor and the period of time the counselling covered.

Such apology should be endorsed, in written form, by the Church body responsible for the perpetrator
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a diagnosable psychological and physiological reaction, often lasting for years, to an event causing extreme stress. Mollie Brown ("From Victim to Survivor: The Treatment of Adults who have been Sexually Abused as Children") lists the following criteria for the disorder:

1. The person has experienced an event that is outside the range of usual human experience and that would be markedly distressing to almost anyone.

2. The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in at least one of the following ways: a) recurrent and intrusive recollections of the event; b) recurrent distressing dreams of the event; c) sudden acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring...; d) intense psychological distress at exposure to events that symbolise or represent an aspect of the traumatic event, including anniversaries of the trauma.

3. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma or numbing of general indicated by the following: a) efforts to avoid thoughts or feelings of the trauma; b) efforts to avoid activities or situations that arouse recollections of the trauma; c) inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma....; d) markedly diminished interest in significant activities....; e) feeling of detachment or estrangement from others; f) restricted sense of affect; g) sense of foreshortened future...

4. Persistent symptoms of increased indicated by at least two of the following: a) difficulty in falling asleep; b) irritability or outbursts of anger; c) difficulty concentrating; d) hyper-vigilance; e) exaggerated startle response; f) physiologic reactivity upon exposure to events which symbolise or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.

(Quoted from "When Ministers Sin", Ormerod, Neil and Thea. p.13)

If you feel you fit these criteria, or a significant number of them, I recommend you access some of the PTSD links listed on the links page for more information.

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