May 30, 2019
By Maya Oppenheim
Children who suffer sexual abuse are significantly less likely to report it if it is being perpetrated in a religious institution, according to a major analysis of survivors’ experiences.
A study by the Truth Project, part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), drew upon the experiences of 183 individuals who were abused as children in religious institutions, or by clergy or church staff in other settings.
Almost half said they knew of someone else being abused at the time, but more than two-thirds said they had not reported it – a figure that dropped to 54 per cent among victims in non-religious settings.
Survivors said shame and guilt had prevented them from coming forward, and called for an end to the secrecy that often surrounds religious institutions, saying it enables abusers to operate with impunity.
One survivor, Lucy*, told the inquiry that the abuse she suffered after her family became involved with the Jesus Fellowship Church – formerly known as the Jesus Army – left her with serious mental health problems she is still coping with in her forties.
She said her parents were “brainwashed” by the church, which took all her toys from her when they joined – even her comfort blanket – and made her sleep in the same room with strange adults.
“They were big, big houses with multiple rooms and they would let anyone in off the street,” she told The Independent.
“There were no safeguarding checks on anyone. Nobody was questioned. They let very vulnerable, often mentally unwell people from the streets and criminals in our environment. It meant there was never a safe space.
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