Witchcraft and other faith-based child abuse

An Early year’s safeguarding guide.



Witchcraft and other faith-based child abuse – an Early year’s safeguarding guide.

Child abuse linked to a faith or belief, which includes witchcraft occurs across the country.

In these cases a parent or carer has come to view a child as ‘different’ and they may have attributed this difference to the child being possessed. The term ‘belief in spirit possession’ is the belief that an evil force has entered a child and is controlling him or her. Sometimes the term ‘witch’ is used and is the belief that a child is able to use an evil force to harm others.

Genuine beliefs can be held by families, carers, religious leaders, congregations, and the children themselves that evil forces are at work. Families and children can be deeply worried by the evil that they believe is threatening them, and abuse often occurs when an attempt is made to ‘exorcise’, or ‘deliver’ the child. Exorcism is the attempt to expel evil spirits from a child.

Witchcraft and other faith-based child abuse can have extremely negative impact on a child.

So, we have a duty to protect those in our care.

In this video we will go over some of the signs and indicators of abuse and what we can do to protect our children.

But first, welcome to the channel.

Intro Video

Welcome to the channel, open a nursery with myself Curtly Ania, where I support you in opening, running and growing your own childcare business.

On this channel I post lots of videos all around the topic of childcare from County Lines in the Early years to what is safeguarding.  So, if this is your first time here after you’ve watched this one check out my other videos and subscribe.

In today’s video we are discussing Witchcraft and other faith-based child abuse and why you should be aware of this.

So, what does this involve?

Witchcraft and other faith-based child is described by the government as the Belief in concepts of:

  • witchcraft and spirit possession, demons or the devil acting through children or leading them astray
  • the evil eye or djinns and dakini
  • ritual or muti murders where the killing of children is believed to bring supernatural benefits or the use of their body parts is believed to produce potent magical remedies
  • use of belief in magic or witchcraft to create fear in children to make them more compliant when they are being trafficked for domestic slavery or sexual exploitation.
  • children treated as a scapegoat for perceived failure, e.g. bringing misfortune or bad spirits into the home

Children involved can suffer damage to their physical and mental health, their capacity to learn, their ability to form relationships and to their self-esteem.

Unfortunately, children are sometimes seen as reasons why negative things happen to adults and are then treated negatively because of this.

Children may be identified as ‘different’ or disobedient due to natural occurrences like bed wetting, nightmares or illnesses with attempts by parents and the community to exorcise the child or doing rituals that can include but are not limited to: beating, burning, starvation, cutting or stabbing and or isolation within the household to ‘fix’ the problem.

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.

Child abuse linked to faith or belief is not limited to one faith, nationality or ethnic community, but there can be increased risk if:

  • there is belief about witchcraft or similar in the local community and/or an influential person who promotes abuse as a solution;
  • children are perceived to be ‘different’ by the family, e.g children with SEND or who are gifted and talented/higher attaining;
  • children have ongoing ill health or were born following a difficult pregnancy;
  • children live with extended family, carers or, in particular, are in private foster placements Children who are exposed to abuse linked to faith and belief are also more vulnerable to sexual abuse or sexually abusive practices, such as during an exorcism or deliverance.

Some things you should be looking out for include:

  • Physical indicators like bruising, burns, cuts, sore eyes or genitals where chilli peppers have been rubbed onto them
  • Signs of neglect, e.g. lack of medical care, nourishment, supervision, good hygiene
  • Child being spoken about negatively being described as ‘evil’ or ‘having the devil beaten out of them’, or using certain terms, such as djinn, kindoki, ndoki, black magic, Obeah, juju or voodoo
  • Emotional harm, e.g. fear of being abandoned, being kept in isolation from the family
  • Language that is stigmatising the Child e.g. a child being labelled as a witch or told they are possessed
  • Behaviour changes, e.g. becoming more withdrawn, confused or isolated
  • A deteriorating appearance or wearing special items to ‘protect them’
  • Changes to school attendance

What should you do if you suspect a child could be experiencing this type of abuse?

Well, it is important that we understand the families you work with and build strong relationships with parents, carers and the wider community.

Working with the family, when they have any concerns about their child can prevent them taking things to the extreme and help with any misunderstanding as to why their child may be behaving a certain way.

If you have concerns about a child, it is important that you dismiss any personal worries about upsetting a family or disrespecting a certain culture. Instead, ask yourself: “Is this harming the child or likely to cause harm to them?”  If yes, then it’s important for you to report any concerns.

Follow your settings safeguarding procedures and report to your designated safeguarding lead.

It’s important not to discriminate but if you can, you can find out:

  • The details of the faith leader and faith community which the family and child adhere to;
  • The exact address of the premises where worship or meetings take place;
  • Further information about the beliefs of the adherents and whether they are aligned to a larger organisation in the UK or abroad (websites are particularly revealing in terms of statements of faith and organisational structures).

Though most of this information gathering would be done by your local authorities safeguarding children’s board or partnership.

If there are any fears that the parent may take the child out of the country then this also needs to be reported and taken seriously.

There are some challenges when it comes to supporting families on this matter.

These include:

  • Language barriers
  • Misunderstanding around scale/prevalence of abuse
  • Wider community influences beyond the immediate family
  • The voice of the child or young person not always acknowledged
  • Parental lack of safeguarding knowledge
  • The abuse not taken seriously by practitioners as concepts (e.g. spirits) are seen to be ‘made up’

But, as long as we understand these challenges and understand Witchcraft and other faith based abused, we can better support the children in our care and prevent any of our children falling victim to this type of abuse.

If you want more support with your safeguarding practices check out the playlist that’s on the screen now.  Plus get access to a range of safeguarding documents to support your practice including a safeguarding reporting form, by clicking the link on the screen here.

I hope you’ve found this useful, if you have don’t forget to like and subscribe.  God bless.


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