IICSA Report: child abuse in religious communities

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has published a research report on child sexual abuse in religious institutions, based on accounts shared by survivors at its Truth Project. The Press Release is reproduced below, together with the Statement from the Church of England.


Shame and guilt stop survivors reporting child sexual abuse in religious institutions

30 May 2019

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has published a research report on child sexual abuse in religious institutions, based on accounts shared by survivors at its Truth Project.

The report includes data on religions with a significant presence in England and Wales, including the Anglican and Catholic Churches, Christian faith communities such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists and Methodists, and Islam and Judaism.

The report’s key findings include:

  • Those sexually abused in religious institutions were less likely to report the abuse at the time (69 per cent) than survivors (54 per cent) in the same institution.
  • Over half of survivors did not report the abuse due to feelings of shame (37 per cent) and guilt (18 per cent).
  • Half of victims (48 per cent) knew of others being abused by the same perpetrator.
  • One fifth (18 percent) of survivors reported a loss of faith as a consequence of the abuse.

The report also examines institutional failures, with most participants firmly believing others were aware of the perpetrator’s behaviour but did nothing. Sexual abuse was most frequently perpetrated by an individual with an official religious title, such as priest, vicar, imam or elder.

At the Truth Project, survivors are invited to make recommendations for change. Participants told the Inquiry that it needs to address the secrecy that comes from the sanctity of religious institutions and the assumption that religious figures are automatically moral.

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.”

Angharad, who was sexually abused as a child by a Church of England chaplain says:

“The Truth Project was a major turning point for me. It was almost like being granted freedom to talk openly without being criticised or judged. As a survivor, my experience is unique, and I believe that by talking out I may be able to help others in a similar situation. I would encourage all others to do the same.”

The Inquiry is also publishing a further 60 anonymous accounts shared with its Truth Project, which has now welcomed more than 3,000 participants.

Meanwhile, a new investigation into safeguarding in religion was launched earlier this month.


Statement on IICSA Truth Project report

30/05/2019

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has recently published a research report on child sexual abuse in religious institutions, including the Anglican Church.  It is based on accounts shared by survivors at its Truth Project, and its conclusions and findings are disturbing and in many places shocking.

One of the report’s key findings includes that those sexually abused in religious institutions were less likely to report the abuse at the time (69 per cent) than survivors (54 per cent) in other institutions. We would urge anyone who wants to report abuse and find support to come forward and we promise they will be heard.

IICSA continues to shine a light on the safeguarding practices of religious institutions, including the Church of England, and we are working constructively with the Inquiry as we approach our wider Church hearing on July 1.  We commend those survivors who have had the courage to come forward to share their experiences to the Inquiry and in particular to the Truth Project, knowing how difficult this would have been.

We welcomed the findings and recommendations published by IICSA this month, on the Peter Ball and Chichester Diocese case studies. This states that the Church of England should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors but it failed to do this. It is absolutely right that the Church at all levels should learn lessons from the issues raised in both these reports and also strengthen our resolve to make the Church a safe place for all.

Bishop of Bath and Wells, Peter Hancock, the Church’s lead safeguarding bishop


Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "IICSA Report: child abuse in religious communities" in Law & Religion UK, 30 May 2019, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2019/05/30/iicsa-report-child-abuse-in-religious-communities/

3 thoughts on “IICSA Report: child abuse in religious communities

  1. I realise that this isn’t the fault of this blog, which is only reproducing the press release, but what does the following sentence actually mean? “Those sexually abused in religious institutions were less likely to report the abuse at the time (69 per cent) than survivors (54 per cent) in the same institution.” I looked in vain for a reference to 69% in the actual report in my attempt to understand what this meant. I gave up, and posted this comment.

    • Thanks for your comment. I looked through the document and the only statement which came close to the press release was the following:

      6.1.1 Quantitative information
      Disclosing sexual abuse can be very challenging; some children may not report it for many years or even
      at all. Quantitative analysis showed that fewer participants who had been abused in a religious context
      told someone about the abuse at the time it was happening than those in other contexts; 68 per cent
      shared that they did not tell anyone at the time. In comparison, 54 per cent of participants who were
      abused in other contexts did not disclose the abuse at the time.

      However, even if the “69 per cent” was a typo, the difference wording of “in the same institution” and “in other contexts” is nevertheless confusing.

  2. Pingback: More answers to readers’ queries and comments – End May/June | Law & Religion UK

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