The head of Australia’s Anglican Church said he was “deeply ashamed” after a government report found nearly 1,100 people had filed child sexual assault claims against the church over a 35-year period.
The interim report, published on Friday by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, said 1,082 people lodged complaints between 1980 and 2015 that identified 569 Anglican clergy, teachers and volunteers as alleged abusers. There were an additional 133 alleged cases of abuse reported by people whose roles within the church were unknown.
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The report also found that most children were approximately 11 years old at the time of the first alleged incident of child abuse, and on average it took 29 years for each incident to be reported.
Archbishop Philip Freier, the church’s primate, said Anglicans have been “shocked and dismayed” at the findings of the report.
“We are deeply ashamed of the many ways in which we have let down survivors, both in the way we have acted and the way we have failed to act,” Freier said in a statement.
“I wish to express my personal sense of shame and sorrow at the way survivors’ voices were often silenced and the apparent interests of the Church put first,” he added.
Anne Hywood, the general secretary of the Anglican Church of Australia, told the royal commission on Friday that the church acknowledged it “allowed harm to continue”.
She also reiterated a 2004 apology to abuse victims, saying the church “apologises unreservedly” and is committed to taking action.
Anglican bishop resigns
On Thursday, Greg Thompson, the Anglican Bishop of Newcastle, announced his resignation months after he testified he was not safe in his community due to his work to address child sexual abuse.
Thompson, who was sexually molested as a teenager by a bishop, said he was quitting to focus on his health.
In November, he told the royal commission that people of power provided protection during decades of abuse by clergy and lay people in the diocese. He also said he felt there were consequences if he did not follow what some within the diocese wanted him to do.
The royal commission is also investigating abuse allegations against other religious institutions.
Last month, it was told the Australian Catholic Church paid $212 million in compensation to thousands of victims since 1980.
The inquiry also heard that about seven percent of Catholic priests in Australia were accused of sexually abusing children between 1950 and 2010.
Church sexual abuse was put into the spotlight in 2002 when it was revealed that US Catholic bishops in the Boston area helped protect alleged abusers by moving them from parish to parish.
Similar scandals have since been revealed worldwide.