Child Abuse linked to faith or belief including Witchcraft (CALFBW) One Minute Guide
What is Child Abuse linked to faith or belief? (CALFBW)
Child Abuse linked to faith or belief (CALFB) occurs when a parent or carer attributes a child’s behaviours or differences to that child having been possessed. The adult then takes steps to attempt to exorcise the child.
Children may be viewed as “different” if they exhibit disobedience, if they bed wet, have nightmares or become unwell and attempts to exorcise the child may include but are not limited to: beating, burning, starvation, cutting or stabbing and or isolation within the household.
Children with a disability may also be viewed as different, and various degrees of disability have previously been interpreted as ‘possession’, from a stammer to epilepsy, autism or a life limiting illness.
Witchcraft is known by many terms; black magic, kindoki, ndoki, the evil eye, djinns, voodoo, obeah or child sorcerers. All link to a genuine belief held by the family or carers (and in some cases, even the children themselves) that a child is able to use an evil force to harm others.
While these beliefs are not confined to any particular countries, cultures or religions, one message is clear; child abuse is never acceptable in any community or culture, under any circumstances.
What should professionals do if they suspect CALFBW?
All agencies should be alert to the indicators and should be able to identify children at risk of this type of abuse and intervene to prevent it. Should a professional suspect CALFB, a referral to Children’s Social Care should be made and the Referrals Procedure must be followed.
In view of the nature of the risks, a full health assessment of the child should take place to establish the overall health of the child, the medical history and current circumstances.
Any suggestions that the parent or carers will take the child out of the country must be taken seriously and legal advice sought regarding possible prevention. The child must be seen and spoken to on his or her own. The child’s sleeping and living arrangements must be inspected. In assessing the risks to the child, the siblings or any other children in the household must also be considered as they may have witnessed or been forced to participate in abusive or frightening activities.
Good Practice Guidance
National Action Plan to Tackle Child Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief (2012) – information for those who work with children on a plan to help prevent child abuse arising from religion or superstition.
In a video Mardoche Yembi offers advice to professionals about how to work with children who have been accused of witchcraft – youtu.be/38bKOfS1z6s
Where can I find more information?…
What is Witchcraft Abuse? – AFRUCA working in the UK BME communities to protect and safeguard children from abuse and harm
Child protection in religious organisations and settings – Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
vcf-uk.org (Victoria Climbe Foundation )