Jayne Ozanne (who claimed to have reported this blog to the police last year for ‘hate’) claims to have been raped by a priest in the 1990s. She says she told a bishop about the assault last year, who advised her not to report the attack and to drop the allegations.
Who was this priest? Is he dead or is he still in active and paid ministry? More importantly, who was this bishop? Presumably, if the rape was reported last year, he (or she) is still a bishop. How could any responsible bishop in this new climate of fortified CofE Safeguarding possibly think it appropriate to advise a victim of rape not to report it and not to pursue it? What opportunity is there for justice without the (surely) necessary investigation and trial? If the man is guilty, where is the retribution? Without acknowledgment of sin, vice or crime, what hope is there for restoration? What about the possibility of this priest being a chronic bully and a serial rapist? Has a risk assessment been carried out on him? If not, why not? Aren’t his parishioners at risk? Isn’t this a question of some urgency? More importantly, has a risk assessment been carried out on this bishop? What other victims of ecclesiastical rape, paedophilia, bullying or any other abuse have been advised by this bishop to drop their allegations? Why the cover-up? Isn’t that another rather pressing question? Don’t we need to know?
Jayne Ozanne is a founding member of the Archbishops’ Council and a lay member of the General Synod. She recounted her haunting experience on Channel 4 News:
“I trusted him because he was a priest, and someone who I thought who really understood why this meant so much to me. I think that’s why I got myself into the situation that I did. But one night he decided that this was all too frustrating, he wanted more, and so he went further than I was anticipating, and to be honest it was too late before I realised what was really happening, and I was a bit shocked, which is a slight understatement. I do remember the tears rolling down – that’s the one thing out of the whole horrid incident I remember, and then not knowing who to talk to, or wanting to talk to about it. And for me the really difficult thing was I felt the most precious gift that I felt I could give my husband-to-be would have been my virginity, and that was taken from me by someone I had trusted. And the shame and the guilt of that is what kept me so quiet and silent for so many years. And having talked to other friends that’s exactly the same problem too. And we were in a culture where I think we believed that we encouraged the guys – it was our fault if we took them too far.
“And then out of the blue I got an email from this chap last year, apologising for mucking me around and for crossing boundaries. And that said to me he knew what the problem had been. I mean he didn’t use the word ‘rape’, but I suppose the question in my own mind and the thing that I’ve beaten myself up about was had he gone on to do this to other people, if he felt able to do that with me? Was this someone who’s a serial predator, or was it just a one-off really unfortunate situation? And so I did go and talk to the police about it, but I then began to understand how complicated reporting this sort of thing was – what I call how nuclear an option it is – you know, for me the biggest issue is that sadly, if you’re a priest, your livelihood, your house, everything is part of your job. And if you lose that, your wife and your children also suddenly start to suffer. And it’s very difficult therefore for someone like myself to think am I willing to put another woman in that situation, and so I must admit I think I did what many people did, I chose not to push this any further, and therefore that left me in this horrid in-between place of feeling guilty for not taking it further, but also feeling ashamed that I’d let this happen.
Cathy Newman probed: “And it wasn’t just the police that you raised it with – you raised this with the church, as well?” At this point Jayne Ozanne reveals something profoundly disquieting about the sheer (ongoing) delinquency of CofE Safeguarding:
“I did. I raise it anonymously to begin with. I rang a safeguarding officer who I thought would be in charge of his area, to ask what would happen. And I have to be honest, the response I got from that gentleman was atrocious, and in fact I said as much towards the end of the phone call, that it had taken me 20 years to get to a point of calling, and to be brushed off… I was originally told he was on the way to the gym, and could he ring me back, and, you know, it was an awful experience, and that didn’t give me any faith.
“I then spoke to another female safeguarding officer who came down and met with me. Then I got this email, and I shared that email with certain church authorities, including the bishop, who suggested that I should perhaps just let it go.
This is unbelievable; really quite incredible. Cathy Newman, somewhat aghast, begins to ask: “In writing? The bishop…”
Jayne Ozanne interjects:
“No, no, just advised me, I think because of my work as a campaigner for LGBT rights, you know, the question was: Jayne, you’ll put yourself in an awful… – I mean, this wasn’t said but this was how I took it to mean – you know, you’ll put yourself in a very difficult position. I know I was aware that Evangelicals might think: ‘Well, no wonder you’re gay if you’ve been raped’. There’s all sorts of other lines that people may say, but the bottom line is that this person should have been perhaps brought to justice, and I should have been supported and encouraged to bring out the truth.”
Well, the truth is now being brought out, thank God. And now a greater truth must surely be made known. It is very odd that Cathy Newman didn’t interrogate and probe as thoroughly as she did over the appalling child abuse meted out by John Smyth under the aegis of the Iwerne Trust (and her ongoing quest to implicate Justin Welby). Who is the accused priest, and who is this deficient bishop? It isn’t too late to bring the former to justice, and it isn’t too late to impress upon the latter that advising victims of sexual abuse to ‘keep quiet’ is beneficial neither to the victim nor the perpetrator; and neither is it conducive to transparency and the necessary administration of justice.
Jayne Ozanne recounted her “bad thing” again for Christian Today:
I was raped – by a priest. No matter that it happened over 25 years ago. It happened. I finally told someone – a bishop – last year, and was advised discreetly to drop the allegations. I’m sure it was with the best of intentions, but it was like a kick in the stomach, adding quite literally insult to injury.
…My trust in the institution had been utterly broken – if one man could carry his calling so lightly, why not another? Asking me to trust the Church to deal with this properly was like asking me to trust a tabloid newspaper to investigate its own journalists about alleged phone tapping. Impossible. The system is heavily weighted to protect its own.
Indeed it is, as we have see in the ongoing case of Matt Ineson who has outstanding (indeed, chronically overdue) CDMs and risk assessment requests against an archbishop and three bishops relating to his abuse as a child. But there appears to be no appetite to discover truth – perhaps because it’s ever so slightly inconvenient – and so the apparent cover-up continues, and the hurt festers.
“Jayne Ozanne’s interview on Channel 4, disclosing the abuse she suffered, made difficult listening,” writes Bishop Sarah Mullally, “but she clearly identified why the culture in the church must change.” Indeed she did, but how can church culture change unless bishops are prepared to confront bishops? “Extraordinary and powerful” is how Canon Rosie Harper described the interview. And indeed it was, but how much more extraordinary and powerful it would have been if we could have known the name at least of the offending bishop. How can the church’s culture of abuse change unless victims are prepared to name and shame offending clergy, as Matt Ineson has bravely done and is determined to see through to some kind of end?
Isn’t it a function of the media to shine a light into the darkness and expose hypocrisy? Oddly enough, in a subsequent report for Christian Today, Harry Farley also fails to ask the obvious questions: he simply states that Jayne Ozanne “claimed she was raped by a priest and told by a bishop to drop the claims”. Who allegedly raped? Who allegedly told her to drop it?
What sort of bishop advises a victim of clerical rape not to report the attack and to drop the allegations because they might damage your work as a campaigner for LGBT rights? What episcopal crassness is this, to suggest that a rapist priest must get off scot-free because the victim’s quest for minority rights might be damaged by the revelation? Isn’t that a form of manipulation? Isn’t it an abuse of power? Might not Jayne Ozanne’s quest for justice and the publicising of such allegations actually raise her profile as a campaigner and so enhance her pursuit of LGBT rights?
Ms Ozanne further writes:
On receiving an email from my abuser last year, I decided to take the bold step of talking to the police. My experience there was reassuringly good, but left me with yet another Church-related dilemma. Obviously, we would need to see whether there was enough evidence for a conviction, but if there was, the likelihood was that the protagonist would be sent to jail – losing his job, his home and his income. He is now married with children, and so the dilemma I faced was this – was I willing to put another woman through the trauma of losing her family home? The Church of England has few procedures to support abusers’ families (or the abused), and it is therefore the wife and children who often sadly pay the highest price!
It appears that the rapist is not being pursued in case he loses his job (and so his family loses their home). Surely this isn’t Jayne Ozanne’s call. Nor, indeed, is it the hush-hush bishop’s. Isn’t it now of great concern to the whole Church of England that somewhere in England a rapist priest is lurking in some parish? Doesn’t the hush-hush bishop at least need to inform the priest’s bishop (assuming they are not one and the same)? Why is Jayne Ozanne (or, indeed, anyone) more concerned that a priest might be defrocked for rape than Damian Green might be demoted or even deselected for allegedly having ‘extreme’ pornography on his PC? What is wrong with full disclosure and the transparent pursuit of justice? Why the Christian compassion for a rapist prelate but indifference and scorn for a perverted politician? A church which shields rapists is no better than one which harbours paedophiles; and a bishop that seeks to cover it all up is no better than a scurvy politician.
“The victim must be believed,” the Archbishop of Canterbury told us in cases of abuse. So Jayne Ozanne must be believed. If the Church of England can trash the distinguished reputation of Bishop George Bell over a single allegation of historical child abuse; and if it can throw former Archbishop George (Lord) Carey under a bus over his errors of judgment in dealing with one prolific abuser, don’t we need to know a name? Or are serving bishops somehow exempt from bothersome CDMs and embarrassing inquiries?