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The Met raises awareness of child abuse linked to religion

The Metropolitan Police Service have collaborated with the Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service to host an event tonight raising awareness of child abuse linked to faith or belief. The event at City Hall from 8pm will bring together representatives from education, social care, healthcare and faith organisations.

The Met have seen an increase in allegations relating to ritual child abuse which range from child neglect, common assault, ABH, administrating noxious substances to sexual assault offences. Some examples include dunking children to wash away evil spirits, parents removing children from school to take them out of the country for an exorcism ceremony and chilli peppers being rubbed in children's eyes to remove evil spirits.

"Abuse linked to belief is a horrific crime which is condemned by people of all cultures, communities and faiths....Families or carers genuinely believe that the victim has been completely taken over by the devil or an evil spirit, which is often supported by someone who within the community has portrayed themselves as an authority on faith and belief. Often in the perpetrators minds, any abuse is not going to affect the victim because he or she believes the child is effectively not there any more and the abuse is directed at whatever has possessed the child. The victim is often convinced that this is the truth and that the abuse is 'normal' behaviour.

"Regardless of the beliefs of the abusers, child abuse is child abuse. Our role is to safeguard children, not challenge beliefs. We investigate crimes against children, but our main aim is to prevent abuse in the first place. This is a hidden crime and we can only prevent it by working in partnership with the community. Project Violet aims to build trust with communities and emphasise that child protection is everyone's responsibility."

– Detective Superintendent Terry Sharpe, Met Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command