Friday, June 14, 2024

Zollner: New tool to support nuns against abuse

A new programme from the Anthropology Institute at Rome's Gregorian University aims to support women religious worldwide in the fight against abuse

"The tool is intended to show which possibilities and necessities there are to defend oneself against abuse, which institutions exist that can help and which steps must also be taken in a religious community or in a local church so that women religious can live and work safely and with their dignity respected," said the Jesuit Hans Zollner in an interview with "Domradio" (Thursday). The prevention expert is the head of the centre.

The programme is what is known as "blended learning": a certain part of the content is offered online, while face-to-face events also take place on site. 

The programme is made available to institutions and communities. The aim is to recognise, report and prevent sexualised violence. 

"All those who take part in such programmes are also supported and, under certain circumstances, accompanied if they come across personally difficult issues or if they feel they need to talk to someone," says Zollner.

Religious women particularly at risk

When developing the programme, the focus was on the abuse "that women religious suffer and the abuse that women religious may also commit against each other," explained Zollner. 

In the past and to this day, women religious have been treated like servants in many places, especially by clergy. They are still particularly at risk in many parts of the world - "in the areas of labour, sexuality and the exercise of spiritual power". 

The programme is also intended to provide women religious with a tool to help them recognise what forms of grooming exist. The term refers to the initiation of abuse.

According to Zollner, there is still a lot of work to be done in recognising and combating abuse against women religious. 

The Jesuit emphasised that it is not only about raising awareness and self-confidence to report abuse, but also about providing victims with a level of security that makes it possible to report such crimes. 

"We hope that the programme will also help to ensure that women and all vulnerable people in need of protection can live safely and with respect in all parts of the world and in all institutions."