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Greater awareness needed of faith/belief-based child abuse

Victoria Climbie Foundation study finds training and resources needed for professionals on faith or belief-based child abuse

Published on 30th November 2016

Just one third of professionals and members of community and faith-based organisations are confident they could identify indicators of faith or belief linked child abuse, according to research.

A new study published by Manchester Metropolitan University in partnership with the Victoria Climbié Foundation UK and the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service questioned over 1,300 professionals and members of community and faith-based organisations on their understanding of faith or belief linked child abuse.

The research was conducted after high profile cases such as the death of eight-year old Victoria Climbie who was tortured by her guardians in 2000 and Kristy Bamu, a 15-year-old boy who was tortured and murdered after being accused of witchcraft, have raised awareness of the need to develop child protection in this area.

Senior Lecturer in Abuse Studies and research lead Dr Kathryn Kinmond said: “Professionals and faith communities are keen to engage with the issue of child abuse linked to faith or belief and recognise and work with child protection agencies to prevent it.

“This study shows that raising awareness of faith or belief linked child abuse is crucial.”

The research found that:

  • 61% of respondents were confident they could define child abuse linked to faith or belief
  • Only 33% were confident they could identify indicators of this form of abuse
  • Just over half of respondents were confident that they would know how to respond professionally.
  • Only 25% had received training on this issue
  • Many had a limited experience working on abuse cases
  • Only 12% of respondents said that they were familiar with the National Action Plan on the issue
  • 77% did not know if their Local Safeguarding Children’s Board included policy and procedure on this form of child abuse.

The results show the need of frontline professionals to be properly prepared and equipped to respond and deal with cases. They also suggest that there is a clear call for specialised and targeted training in this area.

Dr Kinmond, along with Dr Lisa Oakley, a fellow Senior Lecturer in Abuse Studies and research lead, said that the study is extremely timely and important in providing a foundation on which to build more effective identification of abuse cases, policy and intervention.

Dr Oakley said: “There are relatively small numbers of recorded cases and this could be due to underreporting and a lack of recognition of such cases. The respondents reported wide variety of definitions and understandings of child abuse linked to faith or belief – from witchcraft and spirit possession to female genital mutilation.”

Understanding how to deal with faith or belief linked child abuse was seen as essential. There was a call for information on procedure to become more readily available. The research concluded that frontline professionals need to be properly equipped. Among respondents, there were multiple requests for a toolkit and resources that enable the early identification of this form of abuse and detail the effective response and intervention.

Research available here.

 

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