NSS to hold event on tackling abuse in religious communities

The National Secular Society will bring together safeguarding experts to discuss how to keep people safe from abuse in religious communities.

The event, which will take place at Manchester Art Gallery on March 17th, will aim to highlight the current threats to safeguarding in a variety of religious settings, and what institutions and authorities need to do to protect people in all communities from abuse.

They will also discuss how to ensure perpetrators and enablers of abuse are held to account, and abuse victims and survivors get justice.

Because they offer people in positions of trust and authority easy access to children and vulnerable adults, religious communities are frequent targets of abusers. Moreover, unscrupulous religious institutions are often well-placed and strongly motivated to cover up incidents of abuse and exploitation.

The government is exploring how to make religious settings safer, following recommendations from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) which published its final report last year.

Panellists will include NSS vice president and lawyer Richard Scorer, who has represented hundreds of victims of clerical sex abuse. He has also written extensively about abuse in religious settings.

He will be joined by Yehudis Fletcher, co-founder of Nahamu – a think tank countering extremism and harm in the Jewish community. She has been battling violence against women and girls for the past decade.

Finally, Jordan Alexander will join from Palm Cove Society, which supports survivors of trafficking and slavery and individuals fleeing domestic abuse and forced marriage. He has over 20 years’ experience in safeguarding, having worked as a Detective Sergeant in multiple police forces across the UK.

Attendees will have the opportunity to put questions to the panellists, and the discussion will be followed by a drinks reception

Event ‘can help us protect children and vulnerable adults’

NSS chief executive Stephen Evans said: “Many religious organisations are an important source of support and solace for their communities. But sadly, they are also prime targets for predators and abusers who want to take advantage of positions of trust within these communities.

“This event will inform safeguarding professionals, campaigners, members of religious communities, and other members of the public on how abusers exploit religious settings. We hope this knowledge will facilitate collective efforts to combat abuse and protect children and vulnerable adults from harm.”

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