Faith-based child abuse is increasing
Police in London have investigated almost 30 cases of child abuse linked to witchcraft and spirit possession in the past year.
According to this report, the investigations range from allegations of children having chilli peppers rubbed in their eyes to rid them of evil spirits to youngsters who were swung around by preachers and had their heads banged in order to drive out the devil.
Other cases reported to the Metropolitan Police include claims that children had been dunked in baths to wash away spirits and were forced to drink noxious liquids to cleanse them in exorcism ceremonies.
But there have also been allegations of ritual sexual abuse with two children claiming they were raped in attacks linked to witchcraft.
In total the Metropolitan Police investigated 27 allegations in the last year, slightly up on previous years, but it is thought to be the tip of the iceberg with many more cases not being reported to the authorities.
A new training film for all front line professionals who work with children has now been produced in order to help the likes of teachers and social workers spot the signs that a child is being abused in the name of witchcraft.
The film will be released at an event being hosted by the Metropolitan Police and the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service.
Police believe much of the abuse is a hidden crime kept within families and within faith communities, particular those from Africa.
Detective Superintendent Terry Sharpe, from the Met’s Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command, said it was important to remember that regardless of cultural and religious sensitivities, child abuse was child abuse.
Abuse linked to belief is a horrific crime which is condemned by people of all cultures, communities and faiths. A number of high-profile investigations brought the issue of ritual abuse and witchcraft into the headlines but it is important that professionals are clear about the signs to look for.
Families or carers genuinely believe that the victim has been completely taken over by the devil or an evil spirit, which is often supported by someone who within the community has portrayed themselves as an authority on faith and belief.
Often in the perpetrators’ minds, any abuse is not going to affect the victim because he or she believes the child is effectively not there anymore and the abuse is directed at whatever has possessed the child.
The victim is often convinced that this is the truth and that the abuse is ‘normal’ behaviour.
And he emphasised:
Regardless of the beliefs of the abusers, child abuse is child abuse. Our role is to safeguard children, not challenge beliefs. We investigate crimes against children, but our main aim is to prevent abuse in the first place. This is a hidden crime and we can only prevent it by working in partnership with the community.
Kevani Kanda, above, who was a victim of ritual abuse and went on to present a BBC documentary last year about the issue entitled, “Branded a Witch” (scroll down), said:
As a survivor of ritual abuse I have witnessed at first hand the harm which belief-related abuse can result in.
Globalisation means that paranoia over witchcraft and spirit possession is no longer confined to developing nations. Mass migration has made this a pervasive problem worldwide.
In her highly personal film, Kevani revealed that the practice was worsening. In countries such as Congo, where she was born, any illness or hardship a family is facing can be blamed on a child being possessed and pastors will point them out in order to receive payment for delivering them from demons.
Kevani witnessed one of these “deliverances”, in which a five-year-old boy is beaten, starved, made to drink hot palm oil and swung by his ankles. And she met two children who were set on fire by their aunt.
It is not confined to cities or areas where there are large migrant communities. Belief-related abuse can result in significant physical, emotional harm, neglect, sexual abuse and even death.
Project Violet was set up by the Met in 2000 to investigate child abuse cases linked to witchcraft after eight-year-old Victoria Climbié, was murdered in Haringey by her great-aunt Marie-Therese Kouao and her boyfriend Carl Manning.
In 2012 Magalie Bamu, 29, and his partner Eric Bikubi, 28, were jailed for life after torturing and murdering 15-year-old Kristy Bamu, who they claimed was possessed.
Hat tip: Marcus Robinson.