Swiss Evangelical Reformed Church plans study into sexual abuse

Swissinfo [Bern, Switzerland]

April 28, 2024

The Swiss Evangelical Reformed Church intends to conduct a study on sexual abuse, and it submitted an application to the church parliament this week, said President Rita Famos in an interview on Sunday. 

“The investigation should reveal the locations and frequency of abuse,” said Famos, president of the Swiss Evangelical Reformed Church, in an interview with the Sunday newspaper, the NZZ am Sonntag, which was first published online. 

The study is not only intended to uncover issues within the church. The Reformed Church hopes “the findings will also spur action against sexual abuse in other institutions,” Famos explained. It is also about addressing abuse in families, sports organisations and schools. “It is not acceptable to sit back and point the finger at scapegoats such as the Catholic Church,” continued Famos. 

Abuse is a societal issue. The Swiss Evangelical Reformed Church aims to contribute to identifying perpetrator profiles and contexts of offenses. “So that perpetrators cannot simply walk away,” said the president. 

A separate survey will focus on those affected within the Reformed Church. “We aim to understand where and how the assaults occurred, and what factors prevented the offenses from being uncovered,” stated Famos. 

Long-term neglect: turning a blind eye  

“In the Reformed Church, we long had the feeling that the issue did not affect us more than the rest of society,” said the president. The study conducted by the German Reformed Church has opened the eyes of the Swiss Evangelical Reformed Church. The study on sexual violence, published in January, documented at least 1,259 accused persons over the past decades. 

Since the beginning of the year, Famos has been hearing stories from those affected almost every week. “These are serious cases: we’re talking about rape and coercion,” she said. Those affected share their experiences to highlight that the Reformed Church also faces issues with assaults. 

Results at the end of 2027 

Unlike the Catholic Church in Switzerland and the Protestant Church in Germany, the Swiss Evangelical Reformed Church opts for conducting a survey instead of scrutinising files. Famos attributed this decision to the federalist structure of the church. She explained that analysing files would be much more complex compared to the process for the Catholics. 

+Sweeping study finds 1,000 cases of sexual abuse in Swiss Catholic Church since 1950

The study is expected to cost CHF1.6 million ($1.76 million), as revealed in the interview. The results should be available by the end of 2027. The church parliament, the synod, will decide on the proposal in June.