Content warning: this news item relates to a live safeguarding investigation. Please take care when reading.
A statement issued by the Church of England National Safeguarding Team (NST) has announced the conclusion of its internal investigation into Mike Pilavachi.
The investigation which was conducted by the NST, and the diocese of St Albans, concluded that the concerns raised, which are being described as ‘an abuse of power relating to his ministry, and spiritual abuse’, are substantiated.
The statement also announced that Soul Survivor Watford has commissioned its own independent review to be led by Fiona Scolding KC, with a full report to be published at the end.
'Encouraging and disappointing'
Commenting on the outcome of the investigation, Justin Humphreys, joint-CEO at Thirtyone:eight said ‘It is both encouraging and disappointing to hear the conclusions of the NST investigation. It is encouraging that the investigation has been able to draw clear conclusions that substantiate the accounts given by victims, survivors and others. This validation is one of the most important outcomes in this process so far.
However, it is disappointing to discover that the abusive behaviours in question had been an embedded pattern for so long and went unchallenged despite being reported. This speaks to culture and has become too familiar in too many places where a charismatic individual is able to fly beneath the radar of expectations and accountability that exists for the rest of us.
We should be grateful to those victims and survivors who have found the courage to share their accounts. We should never underestimate what this may have cost them. I pay tribute to their bravery and lament with them for the damage that has been caused by the behaviour of Mike Pilavachi and those that enabled him to continue for so long.'
In response to the statement by the NST, Soul Survivor Watford published it’s own statement in which they said they were ‘deeply sorry to all those people who have been victims of spiritual, emotional and psychological abuse, physical wrestling and massage under Mike’s leadership’.
Humphreys observes ‘Accountability must now follow for justice to be seen for all the known and unknown victims in this situation. This may be the only thing that can begin to restore confidence in the Church and the degree to which it is serious about being a safe place.
It is time that safeguarding becomes far more than the mechanisms of policy, procedure, vetting and training, as important as all those things are, and is embraced by all of us as the need to focus on the creation and maintenance of safer, healthier cultures, which encourage and support physical, spiritual and psychological safety for all.'
We would encourage everyone who wants to speak to someone about any concerns or wants to seek help, support and advice to do so.
There are several sources of support that are available:
- A list of sources of support are provided on the Church of England National Safeguarding Team website.
- You can also contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Team on [email protected].
- Contact the Safe Spaces helpline on 0300 303 1056
- Our own independent Safeguarding Helpline is open on 0303 003 11 11, Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm, to listen to any concerns and to offer help and guidance.
More support and advice about how to respond well to safeguarding concerns can also be found on our website at thirtyoneeight.org/Help and Resources.
You may also be interested to read our blog on What to do when you learn of safeguarding concerns about a leader