PARENTS should not be allowed to remove children from age-appropriate sex-education classes on religious grounds, a survivor of child sexual abuse in a church context has said. A lack of sex education when he was a boy had prevented his understanding that what was happening to him was wrong, he said.
On Tuesday, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) published a further 80 experiences of abuse which had been disclosed through its Truth Project. It was launched in 2016 to help the Inquiry with its investigations.
One survivor, Paraic, told the project that as a child, shortly after the Second World War, he had been repeatedly raped by a Sunday-school teacher who had told him that the abuse was “God’s work”. When he had told another teacher about the abuse, he had been caned, he said. He had attempted to take his own life at school.
As an adult, he had suffered PTSD, had become homeless, gambled, and shoplifted. He was later admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Paraic has since made a recovery and has been able to tell his family about the abuse.
The Truth Project reports: “Paraic feels very strongly that all children should receive sex education appropriate to their age and parents should not be allowed to remove children from this on religious grounds. He comments that because he had not had any sex education by the age of 11, it was very difficult for him to recognise for sure ‘that what was happening was wrong’.”
Another survivor, Camila, said that, when she reported, aged eight, that she had been raped by a man who was connected to the family and who attended their church, her mother had punished her. Later, when Camila’s family met the perpetrator and his family, the latter accused Camila of lying, she said, while the church pastor told her mother that she should “let sleeping dogs lie”.
In a subsequent meeting organised by the church, Camila said that she was again accused of lying by his family and threatened with legal action, during which church officers told her to apologise to the abuser’s mother. Camila attempted to take her own life afterwards.
Her abuser was convicted of the abuse after she disclosed it to the police at about the time of the Jimmy Savile scandal. The Truth Project reports: “Camila has suffered with mental and physical issues because of the abuse. She has had therapy and still maintains religious faith, even though she feels that being so let down by her church has played a big part in her problems.
“She feels that the churches should be compelled to act on allegations of child sexual abuse, with consequences if they fail to do this. They should also show concern for victims and survivors, rather than their own reputations.”
The quarterly report from IICSA, published today, states that, since the Truth Project started, more than 4700 accounts have been received, including 3476 face-to-face accounts. Even though the current lockdown has prevented one-to-one sessions, this figure has risen by 168 this quarter.
The report also states that more than 26,600 people have contacted IICSA since its inception in 2015. The Inquiry has completed 248 days of public and preliminary hearings, heard 513 witnesses, including core participants, and processed more than 2.4 million pages of evidence.
Last week, the Inquiry informed core participants that the publication of the final report of the Anglican investigation would be delayed to early autumn owing to the coronavirus lockdown. It was originally due to be published this summer (News, 19 July 2019). Public hearings for the investigation of Child Protection in Religious Organisations and Settings, which were suspended last month owing to Covid-19, are to resume by video conference on 11 May.