"All the trainees already had some skills and/or experience, so we were able to build on those in an in-depth way." said Block. "None of them ever wanted to use their skills, but they recognized that as an unlikely scenario, given the disclosures of the past few years."
"When a victim lodges a complaint of sexual abuse against a church leader, he/she should be offered an advocate immediately," declared one of the participants.
"And the church should pay for those services, as well as substantial counselling, once the complaint is investigated and substantiated," said another.
In the experience of the participants, victim/survivors are only likely to want legal interventions if they are not heard and respected at the congregational/conference level. Nonetheless, trainees felt the need for a better understanding of the justice system's approach to these matters. "It's a totally different approach," declared Wanda Derksen Bergen~, who has been involved with several groups of survivors. "It's an adversarial approach as opposed to a peace and justice approach". "We need to re-train some lawyers," affirmed Block.
Despite the gloominess of the subject, the potential advocates managed some lighthearted moments, especially during the role plays. Then two participants described denominational refusal to supply them with the relevant policy documents, "as if by not sharing them they could make the whole matter go away". Participants left the workshop with a clearer understanding of the roles of counsellors and advocates, and a recognition of the time and the emotional resources that would be necessary for effective support of a survivor. They also took away the newly revised manual on advocacy, also available from Voices for Non-Violence, 134 Plaza Dr., Winnipeg, Man., R3T 5K9.
Donna Stewart, Women's Concerns Committee
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