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Child sex abuse victims tell of being 'fobbed off with a cup of tea and biscuits' after complaining of assaults and mistreatment at religious institutions

Website: Daily Mail
Date: 30/05/2019
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Truth Project spoke to 183 survivors of sexual abuse via religious institutions
More than half said they did not report abuse and felt 'shame and guilt'
One said they were offered 'tea and biscuits' when they disclosed attack
Victims want end to secrecy around institutions to help others come forward

Survivors of child sex abuse in religious institutions have revealed 'shame and guilt' prevented them from reporting their horrific ordeals.

A new report found those abused in such institutions were also less likely to come forward than survivors of abuse in other settings.

The Truth Project spoke to 183 people abused via religion as children as part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and more than half said they felt 'embarrassment and guilt' over what happened to them.

Many also called for an end to the 'secrecy' around these institutions with one victim claiming they were 'fobbed off with tea and biscuits' after coming forward about the abuse.

The report also found that victims in almost half of cases (48 per cent) knew of someone else being abused at the time.

More than two thirds (68 per cent) said they had not reported their abuse at the time, while this figure was lower (54 per cent) for people abused in non-religious settings.

Survivors said secrecy in religious organisations and an assumption around the morality of perpetrators must change, to stop abuse happening in future.

The report said: 'Culturally, participants stated that the secrecy that comes from the sanctity of religious institutions and the assumption of the automatic morality of those involved in them had to be addressed.

'Politically and professionally, it was suggested that victims and survivors needed to be at the centre of all concerns, actions and support relating to sexual abuse.

'Religious institutions and their leaders needed to take responsibility for abuse that has happened, come together to effect required change and ensure child protection policies and procedures were fully implemented in the best interests of the child.'

The report said survivors from 'particularly closed religious communities' had described how inquiries by outside bodies had been hindered by community members and leaders.

One survivor told how they had been 'pretty much fobbed off with a cup of tea and biscuits' after disclosing their abuse, while another said they had been blanked - 'no return call, no missed calls, no messages, no letters, nothing' - when they tried to follow up their report with the institution.

More than half of survivors - all of whom shared their experiences in person, in writing or on the phone between June 2016 and November 2018 - said they had engaged with the Truth Project because they wanted change to prevent abuse happening to someone else.

More than two thirds (36 per cent) of survivors said there needs to be an increased awareness within communities, and for parents and children, around abuse to prevent it happening in future.

Less than a fifth (18 per cent) of those abused said they had lost their faith as a result of the abuse, with one survivor even telling how he went on to become a priest.

He said: 'I do (enjoy being a priest) because I can do something about the institution from the inside out and I love God. (The abuse) was about (the perpetrator), not about God.'

Dr Sophia King, principal researcher, said: 'This report examines their accounts in order to paint a clear picture of abuse in religious settings. It is clear that feelings of shame and embarrassment created a huge barrier to children disclosing abuse, as did the power and authority bestowed upon their abusers.'

Most participants reported sexual abuse by individuals from Anglican and Catholic Churches in England and Wales, but abuse within other Christian denominations and other religions - including the Jehovah's Witnesses, Islam and Judaism - was also reported and is included in the analysis.

Earlier this month the IICSA announced its 14th strand of investigations, which will review the current child protection policies, practices and procedures in religious institutions in England and Wales.

A preliminary hearing will take place in July and public hearings are expected to begin next year.

It comes after orthodox evangelical church the Jesus Fellowship Church - formerly the Jesus Army - closed down following cases of historic sex abuse.

So far six men from the church have been sentenced for indecent and sexual assault against 11 victims between the 1970s and 1990s.

Northamptonshire Police continues to investigate and said so far it has received about 200 complaints.

The JFC said it was 'appalled' by the abuse and apologised to anyone affected by it, while the leadership team said members voted to revoke its constitution last weekend.

At its peak in the early 2000s, the Jesus Army had about 2,500 members with hundreds living together in large houses.