The Salvation Army is a world-wide church and social justice charity. It pledges to support and empower the vulnerable and marginalised. However, in recent news Lucy Taylor, (given a false name for legal reasons), has reported an abuse complaint that was not taken seriously.
She said that in the 1970s, four men who were members of the Salvation Army sexually assaulted her for eight years, until she finally decided to flee the organisation because she could not cope any longer with the abuse. She stated she was groomed at the age of 10, and was first assaulted at the age of 12.
As an only child with no father, when one of her abusers first began showing her attention, she claims she liked it, because she saw him as a father-figure. He would talk to her and pay her attention, which she enjoyed, so when he began offering her lifts home at the age of 11, she accepted.
However at the age of 12, on one journey home she was seated between him and another man (who would also later assault her). She said the drive home was 1hr 20mins, and on this occasion he started touching her breast and had his arm around her the entire way, but she decided not to say anything because she did not want to make it worse.
From then on, every lift got progressively worse, and began happening with three other men too. She believes they may have been testing her, to see what they could get away with, which is why as an adult-version of herself she states she feels much blame, and questions what if she had said no?
However, at such a young age, Taylor understands that her silence was driven by fear. She described the fear of being accused of lying, as they regularly parked in alleyways near her house to molest her before she went home, and also the fear of not being able to attend the Salvation Army anymore, where all her friends and family were. As a result, she began to justify it by the fact these men were ‘nice’ to her – talking to and paying her attention. She claimed the abuse stopped at 20, when she fled the Salvation Army to escape.
Taylor later described suffering with anorexia up until her 40s as she tried to gain control. She is now married for the second time, with four children and one grandchild, however states that during sex she has been told she just lies there and does nothing.
She said her traumas were triggered once again when she saw one of the alleged abusers in a Salvation Army band, where she was overcome with memories and spent the entire evening in tears. As a result she decided to contact her old branch. However, here she states she was confronted with deaf ears, as the head reportedly told her that promiscuity was rife in the 1970s, and acted like he thought she was confessing to being “naughty”.
Taylor then went to UK headquarters in London, where she was offered counselling but declined it as it was run by the Salvation Army itself. In a final bid for help, she turned to the police who arrested two of the suspected men, but were released shortly after. The files have now reportedly been destroyed because no further action was taken.
Taylor has stated she wants a letter of apology from the Salvation Army for not taking her complaint seriously. She also wants the two men she believes remain as members to be excluded from the group, saying: “I had to take my uniform off and I did nothing wrong.” She also wants the inquiry to be reopened as she believes she was not the only victim.
The Salvation Army has been targeted by a number of different sexual abuse claims over the past decade. Last month, the Australian branch said it was “profoundly sorry” as an investigation revealed abuse by members at four boys’ homes in the 1960s and 1970s. There have also been previous cases where staff and volunteers have been convicted of offences linking to child abuse. For example, James Ernest Summers, a volunteer who was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the rape of three girls under the age of 10.
With many high-profile cases coming to light in recent news like Saville and Harris, many victims have been finding the strength to come forward. There is currently an ongoing investigation, looking into how complaints were dealt with, and often ignored regarding public bodies, over the past several decades. If you have been subjected to sexual abuse or any form of criminal injury, contact us now.