Inquiry finds “shocking” evidence of abuse across religious institutions

September 2nd, 2021

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has published “shocking” failings in the safeguarding of children across a number of religious institutions.  The report labels the actions of these institutions as “blatant hypocrisy”.  The Inquiry found that of all the abuse that had reportedly taken place within institutional settings between 2015 and 2020, religious organisations counted for 11% (443 cases) of the total.  The Inquiry, which had looked at 38 religious organisations across England and Wales, also noted that of the total there was likely to have been significant under reporting, stating that there was no way of knowing the true scale of abuse that had taken place.

In one case reported by the Inquiry, four children were sexually abused by a teacher at a mosque at the age of about nine whilst in Quran classes.  The perpetrator was convicted in 2017 and sentenced to 13 years in jail.  In another case a 10-year-old girl was abused by a church volunteer, but upon her mother disclosing the abuse to the church minister, she was disgracefully told that the abuser was “valued” and considered “innocent until proven guilty”. It later transpired the abuser had been sacked from his job with the police following charges of sexual activity with a minor.  Another case involved a seven year old boy, whose mother had recently died, who was abused by a Sunday School teacher during a religious camp.  The child was warned not to tell anyone because “no one in the church would believe him”.  In another case a girl was abused between the ages of four and nine by a “ministerial servant” of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  The victim in this case later brought a civil claim against the church which was, incredibly, defendant by the Jehovah’s Witnesses despite there already being a separate criminal conviction against the perpetrator.

The chair of the Inquiry, Prof Alexis Jay said of the findings: “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.”

David Hawkins, a specialist in Child Abuse law at Verisona Law said “Whilst the report has highlighted some distressing stories of abuse within the many different religious institutions in England and Wales, it sadly comes as no surprise. Some religious organisations seem more motivated by victim blaming and saving reputational damage than actually taking steps to safeguard the most vulnerable, which surely must go against their own teachings.”

The Abuse Team at Verisona Law has a deserved reputation as one of the country’s best known specialists in all aspects of child abuse law.  If you or a loved one has been affected by any of the issues, please contact our experienced award winning team who will be able to advise you as to your legal rights in complete confidence.