Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

Kit teaches abuse survivor care

A recently released toolkit for Aotearoa New Zealand churches offers a first responder’s guide to accompanying survivors of sexual abuse.

Taonga News  |  03 May 2024  |

A new toolkit edited by Dr Emily Colgan and Dr Caroline Blyth aims to enable church leaders and volunteers to care well for people making disclosures of sexual, physical, psychological or spiritual abuse.

The Accompanying Survivors of Sexual Abuse Toolkit was compiled by authors Caroline Blyth, Miryam Clough, Emily Colgan, Rocío Figueroa, Lisa Spriggens, David Tombs and George Zachariah and presents a series of group work sessions.

The Toolkit’s workshops are delivered by two or more facilitators, either as a two-day workshop or as a short course with sessions over a number of weeks.

Clergy and lay leaders taking part learn the baseline skills to recognise and acknowledge with empathy the experience of sexual harm survivors. Next, it sets out appropriate ways to respond to survivors’ disclosures of sexual harm in order to help determine what they need in that immediate moment, then refer them to services that offer professional support and care.

Archbishop Philip Richardson has endorsed the Toolkit, which he says contains extremely useful material which the church needs to enhance the professional development all church leaders – both lay and ordained – that will help ensure the safety of everyone in our churches, but particularly children and vulnerable adults.

“At its heart, this resource is a commitment to a culture where the flourishing of every individual, according to their gifts, is encouraged and any form of harm is not tolerated.”

The Toolkit's opening chapter, ‘Setting the scene’ guides course facilitators on how to prepare the best environment and expectations that enable people to discuss the issues. These include:

- How to make a safe space for people to air issues on the subject of sexual harm
- The challenges of terminology: how words describe the impact of sexual harm
- Understanding what abuse statistics do and don’t tell us
- Understanding how both society and the church can unknowingly perpetuate sexual harm

Chapter two sets out key ways to better understand and support survivors of sexual harm

- The impact of trauma
- Common psychological responses to sexual harm/historic events of sexual harm
- How to respond appropriately to disclosures
- How to support survivors
- What to avoid
- ‘Witnessing’ and what church communities can do

In the latter section of the toolkit, four Bible studies look at stories of sexual harm as ways into a conversation about preventing sexual harm and supporting survivors. The four stories are:

The Rape of Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-22),
The Ten Concubines (in 2 Samuel: 15–20),
The Stripping of Jesus (Matthew 27:26–31) and
The Household Codes (1 Peter 3:1–7).

The final chapter goes into more detail on how on church communities can learn to understand and support survivors of sexual harm.

Auckland-based Vicar of St Luke’s Mt Albert, Rev Clare Barrie endorsed the toolkit as it launched. 

“Our communities include survivors of sexual harm.
But at times, the responses they’ve encountered in our churches have only deepened their trauma and suffering.
We need to do better.”

“The wealth of practical, pastoral, and theological resources made available here are a great gift and will equip ministers to support survivors in their courageous journeys towards reclaiming their lives.”

The Accompanying Survivors of Sexual Abuse Toolkit is free to download from The Shiloh Project website here: