Surge in child abuse linked to witchcraft beliefs

Victoria Climbie's carers thought she was possessed

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The number of children in England abused due to a belief in witchcraft has risen by a third in the last three years, new data suggests.

Since 2016, the abuse of children for reasons of faith or belief - including the assumption a child is possessed by the Devil - has increased by a total of 34 per cent.

There were 1,460 faith-based abuse cases recorded in 2016/17, rising to 1,950 cases in 2018/19.

The figures were published by the Local Government Association (LGA) and are based on safeguarding assessment data from local authorities passed to the Department of Education.

Meanwhile, the number of girls identified by social workers as either having had or being at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) reached a high of 1,000 cases this year - an increase of 6 per cent on 2017/18.

A belief in witchcraft and the perpetuation of FGM can sometimes be linked, although experts say this is not true in the majority of mutilation cases.

In March this year, a Ugandan woman became the first person to be convicted of FGM for the mutilation of her three-year-old daughter at their family home in east London.

When her home was raided police found evidence of spells apparently intended to thwart the investigation.

In 2012, a national action plan was launched to tackle faith or belief-based child abuse.

It followed the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie, who was tortured to death in 2000 by her great aunt and her partner, after a Christian pastor convinced them she was possessed.

Anita Lower, the LGA's lead on FGM and chair of the National FGM Centre's advisory board, said the new figures were "extremely worrying".

"Children's services departments need to have the funding to address the huge demand for help from children and their families and maximise the effectiveness of prevention and intervention work," she added.

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