Back in 2011, Tim Loughton, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, set up a round table meeting of ‘experts’.
The experts sat there and told him horrific tales of witchcraft, spirit possession, demons or the devil, the evil eye or djinn’s, dakini, kindoki, ritual or muti murders and use of fear of the supernatural as used to control and abuse children.
Tim did the only thing a Minister could do – he set up a working party to investigate these tales. The working party hired more experts:
Jeanette Pugh (until 24.7.2012) Alan Reiss (from 24.7.2012) (Chair, Department for Education),
Dr Joe Aldred (Churches Together in England),
Debbie Ariyo, Justin Bahunga and Teamirat Seyoum (Africans Unite Against Child Abuse – AFRUCA),
Thomas Bikebi and Romain Matondo (Congolese Family Centre),
Simon Bass and Bob Pull (Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service – CCPAS),
Mike Box (Home Office),
Dr Ash Chand and Naureen Khan (NSPCC),
Christine Christie (Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse – CAADA),
Mor Dioum and Stephanie Yorath (Victoria Climbié Foundation),
Andy Elvin (Children and Families Across Borders -CFAB),
DCI Sue Inwood and DS Terry Sharpe (Metropolitan Police Service),
Pastor Jean Bosco Kanyemesha (Peace International),
Reverend Nims Obunge (The Peace Alliance),
Michael Mackay (Association of Directors of Children’s Services – ADCS),
Elaine Ryan (London Safeguarding Children Board)
Rachael Takens-Milne (Trust for London).
Pretty impressive, huh? They talked and they talked, and meanwhile the problem got worse. Whilst they were talking there was a 100% increase in 2012, a 20% increase in 2013, and a 12% increase this year. Perhaps there is some good done by talking about it.
Anyway, they have finally released their report, and now the media have some glossy new words to play with – witchcraft, and devils and things like that. Brrrr.
What they were earnestly looking at was ‘faith based’ abuse. A very narrow definition of ‘faith based’ abuse.
This plan does not include in scope child abuse within culture or faith contexts in general, for example female genital mutilation or forced marriage. Nor does this plan consider child abuse in faith settings which are incidental to the abuse, for example, sexual abuse by paedophiles in a religious community.
Nope, the experts were concerned with:
Examples include children being dunked in a bath, swung around and smacked to “drive out the devil”.
Now I am not suggesting that children, or at least all children, should be dunked in a bath, swung around and smacked to ‘drive out the devil’, though it might improve some of them. Just that during the same ten year period which has been studied to produce these ‘horrific examples of faith based abuse‘ (actually 148 of them over ten years, or 14.8 per year) – some 400,000 children (according to the NSPCC) were hideously abused – presumably by Richard Dworkin worshipping, heathen, agnostic, barbarian, infidels of no faith whatsoever…
Which suggests to me that you are less at risk of being dunked in a bath and smacked to drive out the devil if your parents firmly believe in dakini, evil eyes, and shamans, and wouldn’t dream of going to bed before sticking a few more pins in the djinn on the mantlepiece.
Back in 2011, once again, the Metropolitan Police swung into action with ‘Operation Violet’ which gave indicators as to how ‘professionals’ could spot signs of ‘faith based’ child abuse which included:
A child reporting that they are or have been accused of being ‘evil’, and/or that they are having the ‘devil beaten out of them’.
Apart from producing some colourful headlines this morning – two years of study has now produced a new 36 page report detailing the training, cross-discipline co-operation, and supervision needed for a professional to recognise that when a child reports that they are ‘having the devil beaten out of them’, it might be an idea to tell someone…and you shouldn’t let ‘cultural sensitivities’ stand in your way.
Meanwhile, a cure for the ills of Rotherham appear as far away as ever.