‘It has felt like a house under siege’

 

My piece published in the Church Times, 1 June:

Abigail Frymann Rouch speaks to clergy victims of stalking, and asks whether enough is being done to support them

IT WAS trauma that brought the Revd Graham Sawyer into closer contact with one of his female parishioners: she witnessed her husband killing himself, in front of their children.

“I then exercised the pastoral care that would be expected of any priest,” he recalls. “Unfortunately, she became very dependent on me, and it became a sort of infatuated obsession. . . Her demands on me became impossible for me to meet, which gave her a pseudo-legitimacy to turn her obsession into hate.”

Mr Sawyer, the Vicar of St James’s, Briercliffe, in the diocese of Blackburn, says that the woman sent him about 500 emails, and phoned him “at all hours”. She spread false rumours about him in the parish, and his congregation almost halved. He went to the police, but was passed from one officer to another, despite being told that officers would issue a harassment warning. One officer suggested that he could be prosecuted for wasting police time.

He was signed off for six weeks with stress, and another priest took over the woman’s pastoral care.

Read the full article here.

Author: Abigail Frymann Rouch

Abigail Frymann Rouch is a religious and social affairs journalist. She has written for the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Independent, Channel4.com and Deutsche Welle. As a commentator she has appeared on Sky News, BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service, BBC World News, and regional radio. For nine years she was foreign editor, then online editor, of The Tablet.

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