Almost 1,200 victims of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic Church in France have asked compensation from the independent body created by the institution to manage the complaints, according to the first annual report, presented this Thursday in Paris.
The Independent National Instance for Recognition and Reparation (INIRR) was created last year by the French Episcopal Conference following the publication, in 2021, of a report on sexual violence committed by members of the Catholic Church since 1950 in France, which documented up to 330,000 victims of this type of abuse.
In 2022, INIRR received 1133 complaints, a number that, with data updated on March 1 of this year, brings the total number of cases to 1186, 404 of which are already being attended to by its services.
Of these, 201 cases were analyzed by the so-called INIRR College, which assesses economic compensation, and, so far, 190 victims have received compensation, of an average of 37,000 euros.
A total of 40 people received the maximum possible compensation, which is 60 thousand euros.
Of the cases reported to INIRR, around 58% were acts of sexual violence that lasted for more than a year and 21% lasted for more than five years, most of them being violations. These were especially aimed at children aged between 11 and 15 years (54% of cases) and between six and ten years (40% of cases).
“We know that the abuse suffered during childhood is extremely serious and that its effects last for years”, recognized the president of the institution, Marie Derain de Vaucresson, who admitted that, for years, the Catholic Church had wanted to hide these facts. .
The victims, whose current average age is 61 years, are mostly men (68%), but the head of INIRR recognizes that the number of women is higher than expected, currently representing around 32%.
“A child who is raped never forgets”
By contacting the organization mainly by telephone or email, the victims receive close and individualized follow-up by the reference figure, who helps them through interviews to clarify their memories and classify the violence suffered.
However, money is not always enough and, in the case of Stephan, who prefers not to use his real name, the reparation was the recognition and consolation for his suffering: the target of sexual abuse at the age of 13, during a confession, he carried for years he blamed that episode, which led him to develop morbid obesity, due to which he had to undergo heart surgery.
“We think that the child who is raped forgets, but no. The child who is raped never forgets and suffers from trauma for the rest of his life”, underlined this victim, who, after her process with the INIRR, said she felt free and grateful.
“Reparation involves financial reparation, but it cannot replace civil justice”, stressed François, the fictitious name of another of the victims.
He defined his experience with INIRR as “a revelation” that allowed him to express himself and witness what he had suffered and insisted on this need for recognition, especially by the Catholic Church.
“The most important thing is that this institution exists, created to be a forum for listening, with competent people, who can understand what we live and recognize what we live”, he concluded.