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Faith abuse

Faith abuse is abuse of a child, linked to faith or belief. It is not about challenging people’s beliefs, but where these beliefs lead to abuse, this should never be tolerated. This includes: belief in concepts of witchcraft and spirit possession, demons or the devil acting through children or leading them astray (traditionally seen in some Christian beliefs), the evil eye or djinns (traditionally known in some Islamic faith contexts) and dakini (in the Hindu context); ritual or multi murders where the killing of children is believed to bring supernatural benefits or the use of their body parts is believed to produce potent magical remedies; and use of belief in magic or witchcraft to create fear in children to make them more compliant when they are being trafficked for domestic slavery or sexual exploitation. This is not an exhaustive list and there will be other examples where children have been harmed when adults think that their actions have brought bad fortune, such as telephoning a wrong number which is believed by some to allow malevolent spirits to enter the home.

Potential School Support

Following confirmation or disclosure of faith abuse by a child/young person/family member to an adult in school, the following actions should be considered:

  • Standard child safeguarding procedures apply and must always be followed in all cases where abuse or neglect is suspected including those that may be related to particular belief systems
  • A MASH referral may be necessary in order to safeguard the child/young person (see below for contact details)
  • An Early Help assessment may be appropriate for some children and young people in order to meet need
  • School staff may find it helpful to read about signs of Faith abuse, (see list of contacts below)

Involving other agencies and signposting

Solihull Childrens Services:

MASH:  (0121) 788 4333

Out of Hours (EDT) (0121) 605 6060

Solihull LSCB website below contains information for professionals about training opportunities, multi-agency procedures and referral forms

The Congolese Family Centre (CFC) successfully developed a youth forum which has been active in promoting young people’s awareness and understanding of children’s rights, particularly relating to abuse linked to spirit possession and witchcraft. Alongside its parenting workshops, this has contributed to the creation of a network of families and young people speaking out against abusive practices.

Contact CFC on: tel. 0208 245 7026, email contact@congolesefamilycentre.org

CCPAS (The Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service) is an independent Christian charity which provides a comprehensive safeguarding service to churches and other faith groups. CCPAS also advise a wide variety of statutory agencies and non-faith organisations, including central government, Local Safeguarding Children Boards, Children’s Social Care, Adult Social Services, the Police, the Probation Service, Health Services and voluntary bodies.

Contact CCPAS on: tel. 0845 120 4550, email info@ccpas.co.uk

Recognising that language can be a barrier to keeping children safe, especially for families that are new to the UK, the NSPCC worked with members of the Black African Francophone community to produce a resource to give adults in that community information in their own language on what to do if they are worried about a child. This resource was distributed nationally to community organisations and other professionals working with those groups. The NSPCC has also supported community initiatives to tackle faith-based child abuse through awareness-raising workshops, distributing information resources, and hosting and participating in events to share knowledge and expertise in child protection.

VCF – The Victoria Climbié Foundation emerged from the tragic death of Victoria Climbié, the result of ritual abuse by her guardian in this country and the systematic failure of statutory bodies to prevent this abuse.

In 2012, VCF worked alongside the Metropolitan Police to protect and support family victims and witnesses during the investigation into the death of Kristy Bamu, the most recent case of reported ritual abuse in this country.

Contact VCF on: tel. 020 8619 1191, email enquiries@vcf-uk.org

The Metropolitan Police’s Project Violet was set up to tackle violence against children linked to a belief in witchcraft or spirit possession in London. The remit of the project has been expanded to include any violence linked to a faith or belief and the team provide information and support to the Metropolitan Police and other UK police services on prevention and partnership initiatives.

Contact the Metropolitan Police SCD5 Partnership Team (Project Violet) on: tel. 0207 161 3822 / 3848 / 3813 or email violet@met.police.uk.

Children and Families Across Borders (CFAB) is a charity which identifies and protects children who have been separated from family members as a consequence of trafficking, abduction, migration, divorce, conflict and asylum, as well as other vulnerable individuals in often desperate circumstances. CFAB is the UK branch of the International Social Service network.

Contact CFAB on: tel. 020 7735 8941, email info@cfab.uk.net

Members of the Working Group on Child Abuse linked to Faith and Belief which produced an action plan agreed media lines for use by any of its members who were interviewed following the Kristy Bamu trial. The Working Group wanted to make sure that they conveyed a consistent message about faith-based child abuse. By doing so, they hoped to counter any public misconceptions and inform balanced media coverage.

Contact the Working Group Secretariat at the Department for Education on: 0370 000 2288, or visit the website www.education.gov.uk/help/contactus/dfe.

Updates and changes

Updated

These pages are updated regularly and should be used as the main source of information.  Printed versions should be used with care as they can become out of date.