/* */ Rosa Rubicondior: Religious Hypocrisy News - Child Abuse Widespread in Most UK Religions

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Religious Hypocrisy News - Child Abuse Widespread in Most UK Religions

Inquiry report finds child sexual abuse in most major UK religions | IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

As though to prove my point that religions provide excuses for people who need excuses, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has concluded that child sexual abuse was fequent in most major uK religions, and that the normal response to allegations was to defend the organization at the expense of their victims.

In a report released yesterday, they say:
Child sexual abuse has been found in most major UK religions… with some found to have no child protection policies in place at all.

The ‘Child protection in religious organisations and settings’ report examined evidence received from 38 religious organisations with a presence in England and Wales, with the figures provided to the Inquiry about known prevalence of child sexual abuse unlikely to reflect the full picture.

Religious organisations play a central and even dominant role in the lives of millions of children in England and Wales. The report highlights the blatant hypocrisy and moral failing of religions purporting to teach right from wrong and yet failing to prevent or respond to child sexual abuse.
The committee has already reported on the widespread child abuse in the UK Catholic and Anglican churches; this report concerns the smaller religions such as Jehovah Witnesses, Judaism, Islam, Petecostals, etc. Altogether, 38 different religious organisations are included in the report.

In announcing the report's publication, the IICSA say:
The ‘Child protection in religious organisations and settings’ report examined evidence received from 38 religious organisations with a presence in England and Wales, with the figures provided to the Inquiry about known prevalence of child sexual abuse unlikely to reflect the full picture. Religious organisations play a central and even dominant role in the lives of millions of children in England and Wales. The report highlights the blatant hypocrisy and moral failing of religions purporting to teach right from wrong and yet failing to prevent or respond to child sexual abuse. [my emphasis] Throughout the investigation, the Inquiry heard of shocking failings across a number of religious organisations, and cases of child sexual abuse perpetrated by their followers.
  • PR-A10 was sexually assaulted by a church volunteer when she was 12 years old. PR-A10 disclosed the abuse to her mother, who reported it to the police. After being made aware of the allegations, a church minister told her mother that the abuser was “valued” and must be considered “innocent until proven guilty”.
Religious organisations are defined by their moral purpose of teaching right from wrong and protection of the innocent and the vulnerable. However when we heard about shocking failures to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse across almost all major religions, it became clear many are operating in direct conflict with this mission.

Blaming the victims, fears of reputational damage and discouraging external reporting are some of the barriers victims and survivors face, as well as clear indicators of religious organisations prioritising their own reputations above all else. For many, these barriers have been too difficult to overcome.

We have seen some examples of good practice, and it is our hope that with the recommendations from this report, all religious organisations across England and Wales will improve what they do to fulfil their moral responsibility to protect children from sexual abuse.

Professor Alexis Jay
Chair of the Inquiry
  • PR-A22, PR-A23, PR-A24 and PR-A25 were all sexually abused when they were approximately nine years old whilst they were being taught the Qur’an by a teacher in a mosque. In 2017, the perpetrator was convicted and sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment.
The report finds that organisational and cultural barriers to reporting child sexual abuse within religious organisations and settings are numerous, varied and difficult to overcome. These include victim-blaming, an absence of discussion around sex and sexuality, and discouraging external reporting, thus prioritising the organisation’s reputation above the needs of victims of sexual abuse.

[…]

Whilst the Inquiry found that some organisations do have effective policies implemented, in some settings not even basic child protection procedures are in place, despite serving large congregations.

The report highlights that an estimated 250,000 children in England and Wales receive ‘supplementary schooling’ or ‘out-of-school provision’ from a faith organisation. However, there is no reliable information on how many settings there are, how many children attend them and for how many hours, what activities are provided and who runs them. As there is no requirement for such schools to be registered with any state body, they have no supervision or oversight in respect of child protection.
As well as recommending that all religious organisations should have effective child-protection policies and supporting procedures in place, the committee has recommended that the government should legislate to amend the definition of full-time education to bring any setting that is the pupil’s primary place of education within the scope of a registered school, and provide Ofsted with sufficient powers to examine the quality of child protection when undertaking inspection of suspected unregistered schools. This would allow inspections and bring unregistered faith-based education establishments under the same regulatory framework as all other schools.

In the Executive Summary to the report, the IICSA outline the methods religions use or customs they take advantage of to inhibit cases of abuse being reported to the law enforcement and child protection agencies.
Barriers to reporting

Within some religious organisations and settings there are significant barriers to the effective reporting of allegations of child sexual abuse. These barriers may be linked to the organisation itself or to the wider community to which it relates. These include:
  • victim-blaming, shame and honour: in some communities, ideas of sexual ‘purity’ and social and familial standing can make abuse markedly harder to report;
  • discussion of sex and sexuality: in some communities, matters relating to sex are not discussed openly, or children are not taught about sex or sexual relationships; in certain languages, there are no words for rape, sexual abuse or genitalia;
  • abuse of power by religious leaders: children are often taught to show deference and respect to religious figures, who are typically regarded as innately trustworthy; this trust can be exploited to perpetrate abuse;
  • gender disparity: within many of the religious organisations examined, there was a preponderance of men occupying both positions of spiritual and religious leadership and senior lay positions;
  • mistrust of external agencies: some religious organisations harbour mistrust about the involvement of government bodies in their affairs, which may emanate from concerns about religious persecution or discrimination, a view that such involvement is contrary to religious teachings or a view that government bodies are insensitive to religious practices and beliefs; and
  • forgiveness: the concept of forgiveness can be misused, both to put pressure on victims not to report their abuse and to justify failures by religious leaders to take appropriate action where allegations have been made.
These barriers to reporting and how abusers exploit them is described in greater detail in Part C of the report. Amongst the most powerful control and coercion techniques is the use of religious texts and beliefs. Abusers are clearly using their religious texts, not as a source of morals but a source of excuses, and have studied them carefully with that purpose in mind, abusing the 'authority' of the putative authors.

For example:
  • A victim of rape by a number of different men was told it was allowed in scriptural texts she was not allowed to question. The abusers used their 'moral authority' and 'sacred text' as their excuse.
  • A young woman who was abused by her Qur'anic teacher and her own father was quoted Qur'anic verses to justify it.
  • A Sikh baba (holy man) who had been engaged by the family to treat a young woman for an illness, claimed the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, had come to him in a dream. He then gave her some 'holy water' and said he needed to massage her to help the water take effect. He quoted a term of reverence from Sikhism whilst touching her breasts and fondling her genitalia.
  • John Wilson, a pastor of the Assemblies of God Pentecostal church in Keighley, claimed to be carrying out 'internal ministry' as he sexually abused his victim.
  • Belief in spiritual possession or witchcraft was used to abuse a woman who revealed that she had been abused as an adult. She was told she had had 'black magic' done to her and evil spirits were causing her attraction to another woman. She was told she must have intercourse with a man while the Imam watched. Faith healers and exorcists often insist that the 'healing' ceremony take place in private to isolate the victim and exploit their position of trust.
  • Belief in spirits, possession, djinns (Islam) and dakinis (Hinduism) are to be found in all faiths, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Paganism which all have rituals related to magic and witchcraft are frequently used as excuses to abuse while the shame and guilt of being possessed or under the control of magic are powerful barriers to reporting. The report estimated that these forms of abuse may be hugely under-reported.
The report also identifies abuse of power by religious leaders as barrier to reporting abuse:
Religious leaders in all faiths have significant power. Children are often taught to show deference and respect to religious figures and, as explained by Ms Patel, “to regard them as innately trustworthy, authoritative, moral, and innately deserving of their status as spiritual and moral leaders”.[1] Both parents and children defer to religious leaders, and may be disempowered from asking questions of or criticising them.
Religious organisations will often use the excuse of dealing with the matter internally to avoid reporting allegations of abuse, even when they are made. In this way they defend the organisation at the expense of the victim, often leave the victim with the stigma of having made a 'false accusation'. for example:
  • Jehovah's Witnesses have a policy which says they should contact the police if made aware of sexual abuse, however, they also have a policy, justified by 'scripture', which requires there to be two witnesses to the abuse before it is regarded as a valid accusation. There are rarely two witnesses to sexual abuse which almost always occur in private when the victim is alone with the abuser. Additionally, elders are required to seek the guidance of the church's Legal Department and Service Department of the Central Branch Office before going to the authorities.
  • In 2011, the Jewish organisation, Agudath Israel of America, which has world-wide influence, issued a ruling:
    "[That] reiterated… that before any reports of child abuse are made to the police, they must, in the first instance, be reported to a rabbi who would decide whether ‘raglayim ledavar’ (lit. ‘Legs to the matter’) applied, i.e., whether there was a prima facia [sic] case to be made”.[3]
  • The Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School in Hackney, a Jewish girls' school, has a child protection policy which stipulates that the authorities can only be informed of allegations of abuse “after consultation with the Rabbinate of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations”.[4a,4b]
  • Some Jewish Charedi communities have the concept of mesirah (no snitching), where it is believed to be forbidden under Halacha (the strict rabbinical code that governs Charedi communities) for one Jew to report another to a non-rabbinical authority. The result of breaking this code would be to be labelled a moser (snitch).

    Although the Rabbinate has attempted to close this loophole, their position is that there are "certain circumstances which it is right and proper to contact the social service and/or the police”.[11a,11b]. This still leaves the ambiguity in the meaning of 'certain circumstances', which are not spelled out. Presumably, rabbinical 'guidance' would be needed to determine whether the allegation met that criterion.
Religious minorities often exist as insular communities which distrust outsiders, including the police and child-protection agencies, so often prefer to handle disputes, including allegations of sexual abuse of children by internal, faith-based means. These attempts usually include a reference to religious authority figures within the community, who will often see defending the community and the faith as their first priority. Victims who go outside the community seeking redress, risk alienation and ostracism. Abusers, who are often close associates of these authority figures, or even the authority figures themselves, thrive in these closed, insular cultures, while their victims are left isolated and powerless to prevent the abuse continuing.

What comes across most strongly in this and the previous reports on Anglican and Catholic Churches is that, for the abusers, religions are providing them with both the opportunity and the excuse for their predatory behaviour.

Religion provides excuses for people who need excuses!


Thank you for sharing!









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