LONDON (AP) — An inquiry investigating child sexual abuse in a wide range of religious organizations and settings in England on Thursday found “shocking failures” in how many religions handled abuse allegations, with victim-blaming and abuse of power by religious leaders often contributing to under-reporting.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse looked into child protection in 38 religious organizations in England and Wales, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, Methodists, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism and non-conformist Christian denominations. It took evidence from two weeks of public hearings held earlier this year.
It cited figures showing that from 2015 to 2020, of all known institutions where abuse had been reported, 11% took place within a religious organization or setting. Some 10% of suspects were employed by or linked to a religion.
But the inquiry said this is likely under-reported, and that evidence it has heard “leaves no doubt that the sexual abuse of children takes place in a broad range of religious settings.”
Some religious settings have no child protection policies in place, it found, and there is currently “either no or very limited oversight” of child protection in religious organizations.
“Religious believers can find it difficult to accept that members of their congregation or religious leaders could perpetrate abuse,” its report said. “As a result, some consider that it is not necessary to have specific child protection procedures or to adhere strictly to them.”
The report cited examples including four victims who were sexually abused when they were about 9 years old while they were taught the Quran by a teacher in a mosque. The teacher was convicted in 2017.
In another instance, the report said, a boy was abused by a prominent leader in an evangelical organization connected to the United Reformed Church at Sunday school camp and other places from 7 to 10 years old. The abuser was convicted in 2017, decades after the abuse took place.
Thursday’s report came after the inquiry’s earlier investigations into the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches that detailed widespread abuse.
The long-running inquiry, which has heard from thousands of victims, has also looked into allegations of abuse linked to British government institutions and lawmakers. Its final report is expected to be shown to Parliament next year.