On Wednesday the Metropolitan police revealed that they had received 27 reports of ritualised child abuse which had been carried out in the name of fighting witchcraft and, or, spirit possession. These allegations, which included a child being swung around and smacked in the head “to drive out the devil,” also included two allegations of rape.
Whilst there are almost certainly many more incidents of this kind which have taken place over the past years, and years, unreported to the police or social services, 27 reports is still a significant number of cases. Over the past decade there has been an increase in the number of ritualistic abuse cases each year, making for a worrying trend.
In 2010 15 year-old Kristy Bamu was tortured then drowned by his sister and her boyfriend, who believed that the teenager was practising witchcraft. In 2000, eight-year-old Victoria Climbié died after suffering repeated torture at the hands of her guardians, becoming another fatal victim of ritualistic abuse linked to beliefs of witchcraft. Home Office pathologist Dr Nathaniel Carey found 128 separate injuries and scars on Climbié’s body, many of which were cigarette burns, leading him to describe it as, “the worst case of child abuse I've encountered."
In another case Child B, who was brought to the UK in 2002, was cut with a knife and had chilli peppers rubbed in her eyes to beat the ”devil” out of her.
Today a meeting among police officers, teachers, childcare and social workers is taking place at London City Hall to discuss how best to reduce such incidents in the UK. A new training film will also be shown at the event.
Det Supt Terry Sharpe from the Metropolitan police has described abuse linked to beliefs of witchcraft and spirit possession as “a hidden crime” and that, “it is important that professionals are clear about the signs to look for.” Sharpe also added that, “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,” but clearly stated that, “Regardless of the beliefs of the abusers, child abuse is child abuse.”
This type of crime is believed to be particularly prevalent within certain African faith communities which exist here in the UK. Kevani Kanda, who was a victim of ritual abuse and presented the BBC documentary Branded a Witch, has explained the rise in reported incidents in London as the result of immigration. She said, “Globalisation means that paranoia over witchcraft and spirit possession is no longer confined to developing nations. Mass migration has made this a pervasive problem worldwide.”