The Church of England made a statement about George Bell, the former Bishop of Chichester. Somebody accused him of sexual abuse, saying the attacks happened in the late 1940s and 50s, and the person first made the allegations in 1995. When the allegations were made, Bell had been dead for almost forty years. There is no question that, if a person seeks justice, it is better to make the accusations while the person is alive if possible. If not, then the accusations should be made as soon as possible.
The statment is here:
The statement is a disgrace. It assumes Bell was guilty of the accusations, something the Church cannot know, but it gets worse because it actually smears Bell.
Had it referred to the accuser as ‘the victim’ – and done so only once – it would have been a disgrace.
The word ‘victim’ begs the question of the accused’s guilt. How can a person be a victim if no wrong has been done to them? Begging the question in this way is unacceptable. Imagine if a barrister reffered to the defendent as ‘the murderer.’ The judge would immediately offer some sharp remainders about form. Yet the statement does not once refer to the accuser as the victim.
In only 716 words, it refers to the accuser as ‘the survivor’ eleven times.
If ‘victim’ presupposes guilt – and it certainly does – then what horror is being presupposed by ‘the survivor’?
I do not believe the Church’s statement was made in good faith.
A person might naturally, without malice, arrive at the word ‘victim.’ It comes to mind easily, and it takes a little more thought (but not much more) to see what it presupposes. But ‘the survivor’ is certainly not a natural way to describe a person making accusations which will never be proved. Somebody had to think their way to that formulation, and so must have known what they were doing.
(Another possible reason for that choice of description is that the statement was typed by some fruit-juice drinking, sandal-wearing vegetarian tree-hugging grievance merchant, who’d have you arrested for racism if you dared to say you disliked black coffee.)
That would explain the coinage, but the repetition – banging it into the minds of the reader – is pure malice in my opinion.
I think it’s possible that dark forces are at work, and somebody actually wanted to smear Bell. Who benefits from Bell’s post mortem disgrace?
I hope that somebody within the Church accepts a journalist’s coin and the whole lot gets exposed to the public. Including the identity of the accuser.