We Salute Church Abuse Survivor
Colleen Constable,CEO: SAIVP, Gauteng – The sexual violence survivor’s letter titled “Abuse: a survivor’s view” refers. It takes courage for survivors of gender-based violence and Church abuse to speak out, to break their silence. They become official whistleblowers who expose those who have violated the bodily integrity of another; those who disrespect the human dignity of others.
They expose those who forget that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. They expose the deceit, lies and cover-ups that go with abuse of power.
The Silence Breakers
Time magazine has recognised such abuse whistleblowers, naming as 2017 Person of the Year “The Silence Breakers”, women who have spoken up about sexual assault in the United States.
It is brave and courageous too for the anonymous letter writer to raise her voice against sexual violence in the Catholic Church. I salute her.
The vision of our organisation, the South African Institute for Violence Prevention (SAIVP), a registered NPO/PBO, is to “ensure a cohesive and peaceful South African society for all who live in it”.
I wish to offer our service and support to the anonymous survivor of sexual violence.
Within our broad portfolio of criminal justice and human rights (headed by an advocate of the High Court of South Africa) and our portfolio on governance, justice and peace-building (headed by a Harvard law graduate with particular studies in sexual violence, law and social justice), we’ll be in a position to advise her and try to arrange for the required support to assist her regarding unresolved issues or concerns she may have.
We have also launched our “Masikhulume — Let’s Talk” campaign, a peace initiative aiming to promote a culture of non-violence, respect, human rights, love and ubuntu.
The programme includes discussion groups with women, other vulnerable groups, men, clergy and those affected by violence in general.
A Victim’s Rights
First, it is appropriate for your correspondent to know that she has the right to lay a criminal charge against the alleged perpetrator priest.
She holds the decision-making power to bring the alleged perpetrator priest to justice.
She holds the power to reclaim her rights and ensure that the alleged perpetrator priest is properly investigated by an independent authority and brought before a court of law.
Second, she has the right to institute a civil claim against the alleged perpetrator priest and, possibly, the Church.
Third, she has the right to receive psychological support to facilitate healing and assist her to reclaim her life.
She and all survivors of sexual abuse are welcome to contact our organisation for any support or service they may require.
Committed to Eradication
We are committed to the eradication of gender-based violence within all sectors of society, including the faith-based sector. The Catholic Church is not excluded from our work.
Lastly, the Church in South Africa should open itself up towards anonymous complaints against it. The acceptance of a culture of whistleblowing as a policy approach to root out evil or wrongdoing in the Church is a modern system of information management and risk management. Such contributions are very resourceful when the data is carefully reflected upon.
In today’s world of highly educated individuals, there would surely be someone within the congregation who could assist the Church leadership with an analysis of such contributions. Such action is part of a pro-active approach to prevent gender-based violence and put alternative strategies in place.