“We must encourage people who are victims of sexual violence in the Church to contact INIRR!”

“We must encourage people who are victims of sexual violence in the Church to contact INIRR!”

Lorraine Angeneau, doctor of psychology, specialist in psycho-trauma within the inirr, underlines the requirements of welcoming people who are victims of sexual violence in the Church.

Gathered in plenary assembly in Lourdes, the bishops of France announced on Friday March 22 their intention to transform the independent body for recognition and reparation (inirr), established in 2021 for three renewable years, into a lasting system. The inirr is the structure responsible for welcoming and supporting victims of sexual violence in the Church, when they were minors, when there is no longer any legal recourse possible.

You joined inirr since its creation, first as a volunteer. For what tasks?

Lorraine Angeneau: The inirr is made up of referents, who listen to and support victims throughout their process and a college. This takes decisions on recognition and reparation, which can be financial, but also memorial or symbolic, depending on people's expectations and drawing inspiration from the principles of restorative justice. It was this second structure that I joined when the body was launched, as a clinical psychologist and following a doctorate on the reconstruction of people.

The inirr protocol is built on scientific criteria, promoting restorative effects. We have also developed criteria to measure the consequences of the violence suffered by victims from a psychological, psychiatric and somatic point of view. They are particularly severe in the case of children who have suffered repeated attacks and suffer from what has recently been recognized as “complex trauma”.

Breaking the silence can reactivate the trauma, and sometimes greatly upsets people. This could not have been completely anticipated when the repair instance was created, and we had to adjust the approach. As such, I joined the permanent team as an expert in psycho-trauma, to train the team and best support traumatized people.

What can be the consequences of complex trauma?

They are multiple because complex trauma is an accumulation of difficult experiences, with significant after-effects. People suffering from complex trauma perceive danger and react to it constantly. They can suffer from addictions, phobias, depression, difficulty regulating their emotions, depersonalization… However, the eighteen regional psycho-trauma centers in France cannot yet accommodate all people suffering from complex trauma. . On the one hand because they are already saturated, on the other hand because supporting complex trauma in an elderly person takes time. It's the double punishment, suffering attacks and lasting suffering.

The president of the Conference of Bishops of France announced, Friday March 22, the extension of the mandate of Marie Derain de Vaucresson at the head of inirr until June 2026. Mgr de Moulins-Beaufort also evokes the need to transform the 'inirr into a lasting system…

We must remain available for people waiting for support (and people who are still hesitant to contact us), otherwise this would represent additional mistreatment. Because, on the one hand, the memory of the trauma can resurface many years later. On the other hand, we note that the age of the victims is decreasing, which implies more recent violence and perpetrators still alive. For example, we are monitoring several dozen cases currently in judicial suspension: the INIRR cannot replace justice and can therefore only intervene in the event of statute of limitations, dismissal of proceedings or termination of public action (c i.e. in the event of the death of the accused). Victims must then wait for the legal decision before working with the inirr, sometimes for years, it is painful.

What message do you want to convey to the readers of Le Pèlerin?

Two messages. The first is that we are all surrounded by people who are victims without knowing it. They are sometimes our fathers, our daughters, our brothers (70% of minor victims are boys, in the Church). We must encourage people to dare to contact us, because they will be received in a professional, caring manner, in strict independence from the ecclesial institution. This support system is built around the victims and with the victims. My second message is a call to develop, in the Church and in society, immense benevolence as well as an effort of understanding towards people. Psycho-trauma manifests itself through atypical, delayed and unknown but significant reactions to the world of terror and horror experienced in childhood. We are not yet a society sufficiently informed about trauma and its consequences to detect it in a suffering child or adult who remains silent.

Maybe we don't want to see the suffering of these people?

Children reveal secrets through their behavior. Yet we do not want to see, we do not want to hear, and institutions protect themselves by rejecting anything that could call them into question. From this point of view, the Church has innovated by entrusting independent bodies (inirr and the CRR, editor's note) to welcome and support victims. Other institutions, National Education, institutions in the world of sport, civil society have not yet taken this risk.

What is Inirr?

The Inirr receives victims of sexual violence committed by members of the clergy during their minority. As of March 14, 2024, 1,408 victims contacted inirr. 868 went through the support process, 571 of them received a decision for financial compensation and/or restorative process. In March 2024, INIRR receives 15 to 20 referrals per month. [email protected] or write to 41 boulevard du Montparnasse, 75006 Paris.

The recognition and reparation commission (CRR) receives people who are victims of abuse committed by a member of a religious congregation. [email protected]; tel.: 09 73 88 25 71 or write to 226 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008 Paris.

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