Harriet Arkell, Daily Mail, October 8, 2014
Detectives are reporting a massive rise in child abuse linked to witchcraft, they said today.
Scotland Yard has received 27 allegations of ritual child abuse this year alone–a dramatic increase on a decade ago, when just two such cases were reported to police in the whole of 2004.
Examples of the faith-based abuse include a child being dunked in a bath to ‘wash away evil spirits’, children being raped, and a pastor swinging a child around and banging its head to ‘drive out the devil’.
Now teachers, social workers and doctors are to be taught to spot the signs of the abuse in a drive to tackle the growing problem across Britain.
Last month police were called to a leisure centre in south London after residents reported a string of dawn ‘child exorcisms’ in which adults surrounded a toddler chanting ‘Get the demon out’.
A number of child killings have been linked to these beliefs, including the murder of Kristy Bamu, 15, who was tortured and drowned by his sister and her boyfriend in 2010; and the death of Victoria Climbie.
The number of cases of ritualistic or faith-based abuse of children reported to Scotland Yard has increased year-on-year over the past decade. But detectives believe the number of reports is just the tip of the iceberg, with many more such cases being kept secret among communities.
Police and child protection experts have now created a training film for all front-line professionals who work with children to teach them how to recognise the signs that a child may be suffering, or likely to suffer harm from witchcraft.
The DVD will be launched at a conference on the subject in London today, organised by the Met police and the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS), before being distributed to those in the force area who work with children who may be affected.
Detective Superintendent Terry Sharpe, head of the Met’s Project Violet which tackles faith-based child abuse, said: ‘Abuse linked to belief is a horrific crime which is condemned by people of all cultures, communities and faiths.
‘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.’
‘But regardless of the beliefs of the abusers, child abuse is child abuse and it is important that professional are clear about the signs to look for.’
At the event at City Hall, detectives will debate with teachers, social workers and healthcare professionals to discuss how to tackle what is now a growing problem in Britain.
In 2004 just two such cases were reported to Scotland Yard. By 2009 it had risen to seven, and by 2012 it had risen again to 19.
Among this year’s 27 reports of such abuse, cases included a child forced to drink unknown substances to ‘rid them of evil spirits’ and parents removing their children from school and taking them abroad to attend an ‘exorcism’ ceremony.
One case has already resulted in an arrest for rape, and another in a charge of rape being brought.
Previous cases dealt with by Scotland Yard include a child having chillies rubbed into its eyes to ‘remove an evil spirit’ and being cut with a knife for the same reason.
Simon Bass from the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service said: ‘We are not remotely surprised that the Metropolitan Police alone has already received 27 referrals of this type this year–or three a month.
‘We are pleased that the Metropolitan Police has undertaken such great work in this area, but we are convinced that this form of abuse is hidden, and that the statutory agencies across the UK are facing similar situations.’
Abuse survivor Kevani Kanda said: ‘Mass migration has made this a pervasive problem worldwide, and it is not confined to cities or areas where there are large migrant communities.
‘Belief-related abuse can result in significant physical and emotional harm, neglect, sexual abuse and even death.’