More good news from down under! The Hope of Survivors has just been incorporated as a nonprofit in Australia. THOS began conducting programs in Australia seven years ago. Now, as an approved nonprofit organization, they can accept donations in that country and broaden their outreach. Along with the Safe Church Project of Australia’s National Council of Churches, this is good news for Australian survivors and churchgoers.
The Hope of Survivors played a critical role in my healing. I learned about their Hope & Healing conference in the summer of 2011 and signed up immediately, eager to meet other survivors for the first time. But when I got there, I realized I was still in too much pain to meet anyone. For most of the day, I sat in the back of the room, silently wiping tears. Talking with my husband afterward, I couldn’t remember most of what I had heard. But I did remember this: every speaker repeated the same beautiful words: “This was not your fault.” I drank in those words as if they were rain on parched earth.
Hope & Healing doesn’t happen every year, but it happened again in 2012. What a difference a year makes! Instead of weeping in the back row, I was able to listen, ask questions, and engage with other survivors, including the four women whose testimony sent Patrick Edouard to prison. I remember far more of what I heard that day. But more important, I could clearly see how much I had healed in a year. The difference was nothing short of a miracle.
It’s hard for most survivors to travel to these meetings. Thankfully, THOS is just a phone call away. If you’d like to talk with a trained volunteer counselor who can help you understand your experience, you can find THOS phone numbers here. Besides Australia and the U.S., THOS also operates in Canada and Romania. In the U.S., survivors can ask for a Spanish-speaking counselor.
I’m off to Seattle on Sunday for the FaithTrust Institute’s “Responding to Clergy Misconduct” training. The training is meant for “judicatory or organizational leaders (clergy and laity) who are responsible for responding to complaints of clergy misconduct.” I’m not in that group, but FTI generously allowed me to sign up anyway. I’ll share my insights as a survivor of a less-than-ideal church response, and I’ll look to the insights of my fellow trainees who are doing this painful and difficult task. This training will equip me for the next phase of my work. I’ll be teaming up with fellow survivor Erik Campano to reach out to recent survivors from the Episcopal Church. Church leaders are now studying how the 2009 revisions to Title IV (the canon that addresses clergy discipline) has affected the clergy who receive complaints. Erik and I will find out how the new canon has affected complainants. We’ll share what we learn with the church, and I’ll share it with readers here. If you’d like to stay informed, click the “Follow” button on the right.