Two Thirds Of People Could Not Spot Child Abuse In Faith Setting

Two thirds of people could not identify child abuse linked with certain beliefs or faiths, according to research published on Wednesday.

The study identified shockingly low knowledge of abuse indicators within religious groups. Just 33 per cent of professionals or members of faith-based groups said they could clearly identify indicators of abuse linked to belief.

The research looked at abuse that is specifically linked to certain beliefs such as witchcraft.(Pixabay)

The survey of more than 1,300 professionals and members of faith-based organisations was commissioned by the government's National Working Group on Child Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief and is the largest of its type to have been carried out in the UK.

It looked at sexual, physical and psychological child abuse that is linked with particular beliefs or religious groups and found only 25 per cent of respondants had had appropriate training. 

The government's national action plan to tackle child abuse linked to faith or belief suggests examples could include witchcraft or belief in demons acting through children. It also highlighted concepts such as the evil eye in Islam and ritual murders of children for magical remedies.

It highlights this particular abuse is not relevant to churches in general but only to particular beliefs that result in abuse. 

The researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University called for more information on how to tackle abuse and spot indicators. They pointed to cases such as Kristy Bamu, a 15-year-old boy who was tortured and murdered after being accused of witchcraft, and the murder of Victoria Climbié, an eight-year-old girl who was tortured and murdered by her guardians. They said these instances have raised awareness of the need to develop child protection in this area.

Authors Dr Lisa Oakley and Dr Kathryn Kinmond, Senior Lecturers in Abuse Studies, said that the study is extremely timely and important in providing a foundation on which to build more effective identification of abuse cases, policy and intervention.

Dr Oakley said: "There are relatively small numbers of recorded cases and this could be due to underreporting and a lack of recognition of such cases.

"The respondents reported wide variety of definitions and understandings of child abuse linked to faith or belief – from witchcraft and spirit possession to female genital mutilation."

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