British Victim of Clergy Abuse Speaks out

352 Lux Mag
November 19, 2010

19.11.2010 - (L-R)Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Lucy Duckworth, Joelle Casteix and Norbert Denef hold pictures of the time they were children during a protest action at Piazza Navona in Rome.

Lucy Duckworth, who protested against paedophile priests in Rome on Friday, was just five years old when she was first abused at her Sunday school in the quiet village of Oxted in Surrey.

Duckworth, 28, said she was abused at All Saints Church until she was 11 by a "paedophile ring" involving a Catholic priest, his helper and a Church of England vicar, who was later jailed for abuse of minors.

"They'd take me into a room and abuse me in front of a poor man with Down's Syndrome who was told to watch the door and make sure no-one came in," said Duckworth, a member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

"I can't tell you the psychological damage, I'm haunted by what happened every day," she told AFP.

The vicar, Guy Bennett, was sentenced to nine months in prison by the Old Bailey court in London in 1999 for indecently assaulting three 11-year-old girls between 1976 and 1988.

He denied four further offences and, when the prosecution said it would not be in the public interest to pursue them, they were simply left on file.

Duckworth said that Bennett had simply moved away from the area and was still working for the Church of England -- a common trend in cases of predator priests whose crimes have often been covered up by senior clergy.

"The police launched an investigation into the other priest who abused me and got detailed statements from a lot of victims at the Sunday school, but the case was dropped the minute he denied everything," she said.

A couple of years ago she decided the only way to try to heal and prevent other children from suffering the same abuse was to speak out about what happened to her, however painful it may be.

She became the English representative for US-based SNAP and campaigns along with victims from Europe and the United States for justice for people left scarred by the abuses of clergymen.

"It's not easy to speak out. I was forced to resign from my job as a teacher in a school... because they told me if I continued to talk in public about what happened to me, they would sack me," she said.

But Duckworth said she was too angry to listen to the advice of friends and family, who told her "to put it all behind me, because you can't change the past."

"Abuse victims are in serious danger of self-harm. The Church says they offer support, but I've had no such support. No phone calls from the Church. I pay for my own therapy," she said.

When Duckworth wrote to her local member of parliament about the abuse, she says she received a letter back saying: "The Church is above the law."

"How is that possible in today's society?" she asked.

Along with other SNAP victims and supporters, Duckworth travelled to Rome to call on the Vatican on Friday to reach out to people who have not yet spoken out and turn over files of child molesting clerics.

"The Church makes us feel like we're the ones that have committed a crime. It's going to be a long, hard battle to receive the recognition and apologies we deserve," she added. "But I'm not giving up."


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