Source: IICSA, Ealing Abbey
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) published its report on St Benedict's School in Ealing yesterday.
IICSA said in a statement: 'During five days of public hearings in February 2019, the Inquiry heard evidence from those who had been sexually abused as children at St Benedict's School. The report describes the atmosphere at St Benedict's as "sadistic and predatory" during the 1970s, with a culture of excessive corporal punishment. In many cases, physical abuse was used as a platform for sexual gratification and a means by which to instigate sexual abuse.
The report considers the evidence heard by the Inquiry of extensive sexual abuse against children in Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's School and highlights the flawed responses to allegations, from both the Church and external institutions.
It considers how very senior figures at the school or abbey were perpetrators of abuse, with staff members warned to say nothing, leaving victims feeling they had nowhere to turn.
This led to a culture of abuse spanning over 30 years. Since 2003, four members of staff connected to St Benedict's have been convicted of multiple offences for the sexual abuse of over 20 children. Another teacher was convicted of offences relating to the possession of indecent images of children in 2016. The total scale of abuse can never be known, but it is likely to be much greater.
'I often wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn't been abused ... I feel like I am still in a black hole and just can't climb out of it. I don't think I can ever put down in words fully what [Soper] has done to me. He has damaged me for life and I am afraid that that damage will never go away.' - RC-A622, Pen Portraits, page 8
The Inquiry received evidence of at least 18 further allegations against the men convicted and eight other monks and teachers. This ranged from corporal punishment to grooming, fondling of genitalia, masturbation, and oral and anal rape.
The report found that whilst there were significant opportunities to stop abusers in the school, these were not acted upon. Instead, a culture of cover-up and denial at Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's meant the abuse went on for decades.
The leadership failure of Abbot Martin Shipperlee is also highlighted in the report. It found serious shortcomings in his response to allegations and handling of child protection concerns, concluding that any action he did take was often inadequate and ill-judged.
During the Inquiry's investigation into Ealing Abbey, Abbot Shipperlee resigned. He told the press: "As the IICSA hearings have shown, there has been a series of serious failings in safeguarding and some of those failings have been mine. Much has been achieved to correct this in recent years and I have confidence in the present structures and policies. However this does not take away from the seriousness of what went before. In order for the Abbey to look forward with confidence new leadership is now needed and so I have resigned as Abbot so that this may be possible."
The responses of external institutions are described as defective, resulting in children being left at risk of abuse or further abuse.
The Chair and Panel conclude that it remains to be seen whether Ealing Abbey proves itself capable of ensuring proper safeguarding of children at risk in future.
The report's publication comes before the Inquiry's final public hearing into the Roman Catholic Church, which will begin on the 28 October and will run for two weeks.
Professor Alexis Jay, Chair of the Inquiry, said: "For years, a culture of cover-up and denial meant children at Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's School suffered appalling sexual and physical abuse.
"A reluctance to properly respond to safeguarding concerns meant significant opportunities to stop abusers were missed. When action was taken, the responses of senior staff, headmasters and external institutions were often poorly judged or flawed. As a result, children were left at risk of abuse which could have been stopped decades earlier."'
In a statement Abbot Dominic said: "The Abbot of Ealing on behalf of the Monastic Community of Ealing apologises profusely for the events that have given rise to very serious criticisms outlined in the Enquiry of wrongs by past members of the Community.
Any abuse of children is wicked and deeply sinful. We accept the Inquiry's findings that actions were not taken that could have reduced serious risk and harm to the children in our care.
The children affected are in our daily prayers and we recognise the shame brought upon us. We also accept this.
Since 2012 which continuing to support the Benedictine ethos, St Benedict's school is now an entirely separate institution and the Monastic Community exercises no control in either the governance or management of the school.
Terrible lessons have been learnt about the causes and recognition of abuse and the actions that should have followed whenever any suspicions arose.
We recognise that these events have had appalling consequences on the victims and we have used our very best endeavours to ensure that this can never been repeated."
INDEPENDENT CONFIDENTIAL SUPPORT FOR SURVIVORS
Survive is an independent support service for survivors of sexual abuse.
Contact: 0808 145 1890 - free phone number form all UK phones.
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