Church sex attacks revealed by West Mercia Police
More than 20 sexual offences have been reported at places of worship in the region over the last three years.
Figures released by West Mercia Police, which covers Shropshire, Herefordshire, and Worcestershire, show that between 2013 and 2015, 10 sexual offences had been reported as having taken place in a church, six in a cemetery or graveyard, three in an abbey, two in a chapel and one in a mosque.
Offences reported included rape, rape of a female aged 13, 14 or 15, rape of a female child under 13, rape of a male aged 13, 14 or 15, sexual activity with a female aged 13, 14 or 15, sexual assault on a female, sexual assault on a male, sexual assault of a female aged 13 or over, sexual assault of a female child under 13, sexual assault on a male child under 13, causing or inciting sexual activity with a male child aged 13, engaging in sexual activity with a girl aged 13 to 15 and exposure.
Michael Davie, church warden at St Michael's Church in West Felton, labelled the figures – released after a Freedom of Information request – as "disturbing" but said safeguarding was a priority of the Church of England.
He said: "Matters like this have to be taken very seriously.
"The Diocese of Lichfield is the central body which deals with the safeguarding and protection of children and vulnerable adults, and they insist that anyone who takes a service or deals with children must be DBS checked, formerly CRB checks.
"The Diocese also asks that the deaneries finds two volunteers who can process checks for the whole deanery."
"I know these checks are also crucial for other organisations, not just churches and places of worship because unfortunately you get these type of offences happening anywhere.
"What our church emphasises is that we can overcome this by being fairly vigilant and taking the right precautions, which is what the public expects anywhere."
Mr Davie added: "We have these procedures in place to protect people and give everyone confidence."
Sally Smith, Diocesan advisor for the safeguarding of vulnerable adults at Lichfield, said: "The safety and security of children is of the utmost importance and guidelines and policies are part of the processes that have been adopted to ensure that all children taking part in activities in our churches may do so in a loving, caring and safe atmosphere.
"In order to ensure this we have a diocesan safeguarding policy and we recommend that every parish have a safeguarding policy."
Ms Smith said clergy or church officials who suspect or who receive allegations of child abuse must report the matter immediately to herself, the safeguarding helpline or their area bishop.
West Mercia Police chief superintendent Charles Hill said: "West Mercia Police takes all reports of rape and sexual offences very seriously, wherever and whenever these offences occur.
"Officers will always conduct a thorough and robust investigation, working hard to bring those responsible to justice, whilst also taking into account the wishes of the victim.
"We would urge anyone who has been a victim of any type of sexual assault to report this to police.
"Please be reassured that all victims will be treated in a caring and sensitive manner and supported by specially-trained officers, as well as dedicated independent sexual and violence advisors."
As well as reporting any sexual assault to the police, Mr Hill also advised victims to get in touch with the West Mercia Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (WMRSASC) which provides independent and confidential specialist support for those who have experienced any form of sexual violence or abuse.
For further information contact their main office on 01905 611655 or email email@example.com
Alternatively, contact The Glade, which offers a service to men, women and children who have experienced rape or sexual assault in the Shropshire, Telford, Herefordshire and Worcestershire areas. The 24-hour self-referral number is 0808 178 2058 or visit theglade.org.uk
Disturbing level of #Shropshire church sex attacks revealed
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