LOUDfence shows solidarity with victims of sexual abuse

LOUDfence shows solidarity with victims of sexual abuse

Paper dove with LOUDfence image hangs from a yellow ribbon on railings around Rochester Cathedral
Today, Friday 8 October, representatives of Rochester Cathedral, the Diocese of Rochester, and the victim/survivor support group, Survivors Voices, tied ribbons to the railings around the Cathedral, as part of an installation to show solidarity with those affected by child sexual abuse.

Called LOUDfence, the installation is part of a Season of Safeguarding being marked by Rochester Cathedral and the Diocese of Rochester - which covers Church of England churches across Medway, north and west Kent, and the London Boroughs of Bromley and Bexley.

The Season runs from Safeguarding Sunday on 10 October until All Survivors' Day on 3 November. Its aim is to raise awareness of a number of safeguarding issues that have implications for everyone, and where people can access support. 
The ribbons tied to railings and fences as part of LOUDfence will represent the voices of those who wish to express their support for children and young people who have been subjected to injury by child sexual abuse and for those who are dealing with the consequences for themselves and others.

People are invited to come and attach a ribbon or message, to pause, to pray and to reflect.

Speaking at the simple ceremony to launch the LOUDfence, Jane Chevous, Co-founder of Survivors Voices, who has been working with the Cathedral and Diocese on the Season, said:

"I am a survivor of child abuse and as I was growing up, church was my safe space. And then as an adult, I was raped and repeatedly abused by two Anglican priests, and that trust was broken - my trust in the Church and trust in God. 

"It is right that we are outraged and distressed about abuse. But broken relationships can be repaired.  Trust can be restored, and trauma can be healed. The important thing is that we have the courage to speak and to meet survivors with compassion, generosity and support.

"So, I'm tying my ribbon in support of all survivors, especially today for survivors in Rochester and the Cathedral, and this week, thinking especially of our brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church in France.

"I believe you. I hear you. I will support you. Together we will end the silence and overcome the trauma of abuse."

Before tying his ribbon,  Archdeacon Andy Wooding-Jones, the Archdeacon of Rochester and Bishop's Lead for Safeguarding in the Diocese of Rochester, reflected on the story told by Jesus of the shepherd who leaves his flock to search for a lost sheep, saying that today was a moment to reflect on the times when the Church had failed to focus on victims and survivors of abuse:

"Jesus tells the story of a shepherd who has a hundred sheep. When he gets to the end of the day, he counts the sheep and realises he only has ninety-nine. Instead of being complacent and being happy with ninety-nine sheep, he goes out to look for the one who is lost.

"The shepherd takes risks, he takes time, he shows initiative to the find the one which is lost.

"As we think today about those who are victims and survivors of abuse, we recognise there have been moments where we have shown complacency and neglect. Where we have cared for the ninety-nine and not worried about the one. Today is a moment to say, those people are important and they deserve our attention time and our effort.

"And so as we tie our ribbons, we do it with regret and sorrow. We do it because we have got it wrong. But we also do it because we say now we want to care and we want to make a difference."

Alongside the LOUDfence, a set of films exploring what safeguarding means to individuals from a range of organisations and church roles, have been created. There will also be a series of events hosted by the Cathedral.

  • A Service of Lament will take place on 27 October at 5.30pm in the Cathedral to which all are welcome.
  • A reflective event later on in the Season for victims and survivors, and their supporters to attend if they wish, will be facilitated by Survivors Voices. For more details please email: connect@survivorsvoices.org

The Cathedral will be providing a safe and welcoming space. The Rev Canon Dr Gordon Giles, Canon Chancellor of Rochester Cathedral, and who led the LOUDfence launch said:
“With this LOUDfence, our message is that we are on the side of victims and survivors of abuse , we are here for you and we intend to make sure that things change in the Church.

"Safeguarding is for everyone, and to neglect it or see it as irrelevant is to neglect victims of abuse or see their plight as irrelevant.  To do so is simply wrong, whereas to become informed and aware of issues and the ways in which they present themselves around us all the time, is to truly act in accordance with Christ’s call to love our neighbour. 
“We have worn masks to protect others during the Coronavirus pandemic, yet we need to unmask the suffering, damage and neglect that is often inflicted behind the scenes in such differing ways to vulnerable adults and children.”

Aware that some of the issues that will be reflected upon may be a trigger for some, anyone affected is encouraged to contact the Diocese’s Safeguarding Team. Visit www.rochester.anglican.org/safeguarding for contact details.
In addition, Safe Spaces is an independent service supporting survivors of church-related abuse. It is free to access via telephone - 0300 303 1056 (answerphone available outside of opening times), email - safespaces@victimsupport.org, or web-chat via www.safespacesenglandandwales.org.uk/
A list of helplines offering support on a range of issues can be found on the Church of England’s website at: www.churchofengland.org/safeguarding/reporting-abuse-and-finding-support.

For more information and pictures, please contact Jennifer Ross, Communications Manager for the Diocese of Rochester: jennifer.ross@rochester.anglican.org / 07526 171 583

  • Survivors Voices was started in 2000 and champions survivors voices. They also focus on survivor-led research and policy work to address the need for survivor’s voices in academic research, public policy and practice, Survivor-led training and consultancy to help organisations develop and deliver trauma-informed and survivor-sensitive services, and Survivor-led creative projects, self-help and peer-led initiatives
  • The first UK LOUDfence was held in Cumbria on November 3rd 2020, by 'End clergy abuse' activist Antonia Sobocki. Survivors Voices has teamed up with Antonia and other activists and allies to support the spread of LOUDfence right across the UK.