We obtained information from 11 other faith-based institutions about their claims processes. They are: Assemblies of God, Baptist Church, Gloriavale Christian Community, Lutheran Church, Methodist Church, Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, Presbyterian Church, Reformed Church, Seventh Day Adventists and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
We found that some had well-developed claims processes and others had none. Many institutions, at least initially, had no formal claims process and no overall policy to guide complaints about abuse in care. They responded to reports of abuses on an ad-hoc basis, which resulted in considerable variation in responses. Some would employ an independent lawyer to look into reports of abuse, and others would investigate themselves. In some cases, institutions undertook no internal investigation, depriving survivors of the ability to obtain any redress at all. Financial compensation ranged from $5,000 to $60,000. The Methodist Church offered the highest levels of compensation.
Some did not offer apologies. Those offering apologies did so in writing or in person. In one case, an institution declined to offer an unconditional apology, instead apologising “if the offending did occur”. These institutions did not routinely offer counselling. Few offered any form of non-monetary redress.
In some cases, they made group settlements. Presbyterian Support Central appointed a senior independent lawyer to investigate claims of abuse at Berhampore Children’s Home in Wellington. The lawyer didn’t believe any of the survivors, and nothing came of their claims. Later, in February 2007, Presbyterian Support Central reversed its position and offered the nine survivors $25,000 each and a meeting with the Presbyterian Support Central board. It also agreed to install a memorial at the site of the residence and hold a ceremony there.
Sometimes institutions used confidentiality clauses to prevent survivors from speaking out about the settlement or speaking critically about the institution that had harmed them. The inclusion of confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements has become less common in recent times, but such clauses can still be found.
Information provided to us by institutions shows they sometimes viewed survivors in a harsh light. Survivors have at times been described as only after the money, potential reputational risks and others have been discouraged from seeking financial compensation at all.
Next: Summary of findings