Children abused by religious figures less likely to report crimes because of

Children abused by religious figures are less likely to report crimes because of the belief that community leaders have “automatic morality”, a government report has found.Child sex abuse survivors have told of their shame, guilt and embarrassment which prevented them from reporting their ordeals, amid calls for an end to the secrecy of religious institutions which they claim enabled abuse.An official report has now revealed that victims of sexual abuse in religious institutions were less likely to report the crimes at the time than those who had been abused in other institutions such as children’s homes, schools, secure care units and foster care.The Truth Project, which runs alongside the government’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), invites survivors to share their experiences and make reccomendations for change. Its findings were published today in the first survey of its kind comparing the experiences of abuse among religious institutions.The report collated responses from 183 people who were sexually abused as children in religious institutions or by clergy or church staff in other settings and found that they were far less likely to report abuse than those whose abuse was linked to other institutions. Researchers found that those abused in religious institutions were less likely to report the abuse at the time (69%) than survivors (54%) in other institutions. “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.” “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. Anyone who wants to get in touch with the Truth Project can visit, call 0800 917 1000 or email [email protected] They also found that victims in almost half of cases (48%) knew of someone else being abused at the time. 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.Most participants reported sexual abuse by individuals from Anglican and Catholic Churches in England and Wales. However 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.The report said survivors from “particularly closed religious communities” had described how inquiries by outside bodies had been hindered by community members and leaders.They insisted that secrecy in religious organisations and an assumption around the morality of perpetrators needs to change in order to prevent abuse happening in future.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.The report concluded: “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. “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.”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.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.”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.Bishop of Bath and Wells, Peter Hancock, the Church’s lead safeguarding bishop, said: “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. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? 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