Bishop Bell’s victim praised for speaking about historic abuse

George Bell (centre holding a piece of paper)

George Bell (centre holding a piece of paper)

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The alleged victim of former Chichester Bishop George Bell has been praised for speaking out about the sexual abuse she suffered as a young child.

In an interview with The Argus, the woman told how she was ‘repeatedly molested’ over a period of four years.

In response, current Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner has again apologised for what he called ‘the church’s shame’ and the ‘damage done’.

Bishop Bell was head of the Anglican Church in Sussex from 1929 until his death, and until recent allegations emerged he was hailed as a peacemaker following the Second World War.

In October last year there was huge shock when current Bishop Dr Warner apologised for ‘allegations of sexual offences against an individual who was at the time a young child.’

In a statement issued by the Diocese of Chichester today (Wednesday, January 3), Dr Warner said: “It is testimony to her courage and integrity that the survivor who brought the allegations against George Bell has been prompted to speak out.

“My hope is that the telling of her story will contribute to her sense of being heard by those within and beyond the Church who are willing to listen with an open mind and respond with compassion and clarity.

“The presence of strident voices in the public arena which have sought to undermine the survivor’s claims has added in this case to the suffering of the survivor and her family.

“To that extent it is not surprising that she felt it necessary to take the courageous decision to speak out in public and reveal the personal details which the Church could not.

“Words of apology written in a letter can never be enough to express the Church’s shame or our recognition of damage done.

“However, the apology that I made on behalf of the Diocese of Chichester is genuine and a sincere expression that lessons are being learnt about how we respond to accusations of abuse.

“In some responses to the George Bell case, and to the original statements from the Church nationally and locally in the diocese of Chichester, we have witnessed shocking ignorance of the suffering felt at many different levels by victims of abuse.”

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