A mum-of-three traumatised by a vicar’s sexual advances when she was a schoolgirl has told of her relief after he was banned from ministry for life.
Anne Smith, 40, has broken her silence more than 20 years after a string of ‘sexual incidents’ incited by Simon Sayers in the mid-1990s.
The married father-of-two, 60, was once rector of the Warblington-with-Emsworth parish but was ejected from the church for life this month.
It happened after he admitted having an ‘intimate sexual relationship’ with a married parishioner who turned to him for help in 2010.
Sayers was already serving a five-year ban enforced in 2016 after the church learned of his vile behaviour toward Ms Smith a year previously, in February.
“I’m happy – I’m hoping his life is messed up as much as he messed mine up,” said Ms Smith, of Sayers’ lifetime ban.
“I have suffered and there was a horrible feeling of suppressing that pain for 20 years.
“I now feel like I’m not lying to myself and I’m not holding anything back. It’s out there.’
The incidents, which took place when Sayers was curate of Ms Smith’s North London church, began with him slyly stroking her back.
But over months, they escalated to him asking her to sit on his lap and driving her to ‘quiet streets’ where ‘sexual touching’ would occur.
Ms Smith broke down in 2016 after the reported behaviour was splashed across the national press, but it ultimately meant a weight was lifted.
“I couldn’t deal with it but it came to the point where I felt comfortable talking to someone.”
She added: ‘It’s a lot just to speak about now, but what I wanted has happened.”
Ms Smith said the incidents made her ‘feel special’ at the time but they have left mental scars after years of reflection.
She has called community figures who backed Sayers after both incidents ‘deluded’ and has urged anyone who has experienced similar trauma at any point in their life to come forward – a message echoed by the Diocese of Portsmouth.
A spokesman for the organisation praised Anne’s ‘brave testimony’ that led to Sayers being banned.
“Our bishop has since apologised to her on behalf of the Church of England, emphasising that Simon had abused his position of trust,” he said.
“With regard to Anne’s mental health issues, we understand that it would have been hard for her to revisit those difficult memories from 1995.
“We appreciate that she may still experience ongoing distress, but it’s good to hear she is content the formal disciplinary matter has been resolved.”