The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has identified “egregious failings” by religious organizations in the areas of child protection and safeguarding.
In its latest report, IICSA said there was “no doubt that the sexual abuse of children takes place in a broad range of religious settings”.
In some of the religious organizations it reviewed, the inquiry uncovered “significant barriers” to the effective reporting of child sexual abuse allegations.
Among these were “victim-blaming”, the abuse of power by religious leaders, and a reluctance to discuss matters relating to sex.
“The concept of forgiveness can be misused, both to put pressure on victims not to report their abuse and to justify failures by religious leaders to take appropriate action where allegations have been made,” it added.
The inquiry also identified failures in responding to allegations of abuse, with one church minister telling the mother of a 12-year-old girl abused by a volunteer that the abuser was “valued” and must be considered “innocent until proven guilty”.
It later became known that the abuser had lost a previous job with the police following charges of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.
The inquiry said that “very few” of the religious organizations looked at were found to have arrangements in place for professional counseling or therapy for victims.
While some religious organizations had “effective systems” in place for responding to allegations, others had procedures that “are ill-defined or are not communicated and followed”.
“What marks religious organizations out from other institutions is the explicit purpose they have in teaching right from wrong; the moral turpitude of any failing by them in the prevention of, or response to, child sexual abuse is therefore heightened,” the report said.