Would you speak up?

In 2000 Victoria Climbie was tortured and murdered by her great maternal aunt and her aunt’s boyfriend. She had suffered 128 injuries. She had been starved and beaten. Victoria had been dragged to a church to be exorcised of the evil spirits her great-aunt believed possessed her.

Victoria’s death resulted in a wholesale examination of the child protection system in England.

All professionals who came into contact with Victoria noted the signs of abuse, yet failed to protect her.

In 2010 a 15 year old boy, Kristy Bamu, was murdered by his sister and her partner because they believed he had been possessed by evil spirits. He was tortured and then drowned after he was accused of witchcraft.

Both had suffered horrific child abuse from their carers faith or belief.

Still, 15 years after Victoria’s tragic death and 5 years after Kristy’s, lessons are not being learned. Still, child abuse as a result of faith or belief is tip-toed around. Friends and professionals, worried about being seen as racist or culturally insensitive, don’t intervene as soon as they could. Concerns about discipline or behaviour of a carer are put to one side as issues of culture. There is only one Police force in England with a dedicated team dealing with child abuse as a result of faith or belief.

Recent research by Project Violent has shown there were up to 60 crimes in London in 2015 linked to faith. Numbers have doubled each year since 2013.

Could you spot faith or belief-based child abuse?

It’s not as simple as a child being accused outright of being evil or possessed. It’s the smaller signs which can be the indicator:

Are there signs of the child being :

  • burned
  • cut
  • stabbed
  • tied up
  • isolated from family or friends
  • refused medical attention
  • clean, given appropriate clothing or warmth

Are there signs of the child having :

  • sore eyes or genitals – has chilli powder or other substance been rubbed in?
  • lack of supervision
  • lack of food or water

This is not an exhaustive list. This sort of abuse, Project Violet research says, is under reported.

Don’t ignore the signs and allow another child to be a victim.


Join Kate and other child protection professionals in The Safeguarding Academy community.

Content Disclaimer

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Katherine T Young Ltd & Kate Young disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.

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