By some oversight, or a lack of careers guidance, I have never become a world leader. I regret not having been able to pass a law forcing journalists to provide a link to the research findings they are reporting. I know that The Search for Truth is a minority interest, but what stops them from linking their scribbles to the original research?
It is hardly fitting, on a day of rest, to be told that in the United Kingdom a large number of child abuse cases are due to the perpetrators believing in demon possession and witchcraft. The Daily Telegraph, normally a newspaper of record, reported:
Figures released by the Department for Education show that 1,460 cases in England included concerns about abuse which was “linked to faith and belief” during the year to March 2017.
The guidance states that such abuse includes the belief that children are witches or possessed by a spirit, demon or the devil, as well as “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”.
In other cases, the guidance said, magic or witchcraft is used “to create fear in children to make them more compliant when they are being trafficked for domestic slavery or sexual exploitation”.
Examples include the superstition that calling a wrong number can bring malevolent spirits into the home.
Children can also be scapegoated for misfortune which has befallen other members of the family, such as unemployment or poverty.
The guidance came about following concerns raised about belief in witchcraft among “migrant African communities in England”, the document said.
Full newspaper article here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/11/24/belief-witchcraft-demonic-possession-linked-1500-child-abuse/
Intrigued, I searched for the relevant report, said to be from the UK Department of Education, but my searches failed to come up with any government report. Perhaps it is being held back till an official launching party later next week. Even more likely, it is filed somewhere obscure. Perhaps no-one knows.
Many newspapers, in their various ways, covered the story, but the statistics and the source were not available. Perhaps it was felt that mere citizens should enquire no further, and the agreed summary was all we should see. There were previous reports and guidance from about 2012 onwards. As to this year’s findings, as far as I could find, silence.
You can get the flavour by looking at an Action Plan launched in August 2012.
The practice of torturing children on the basis of a religious delusion has been given an acronym:
Child abuse linked to faith or belief (CALFB) is not a recent phenomenon; nor specific to any given culture or faith.
The figures for which cultures or faiths do this sort of thing are not given.
On a more general note, a charity, NSPCC, says that there were 58,000 children identified as needing protection from abuse in the UK in 2016
Not only are there problems in getting good data from families, but some of the definitions, such as for emotional abuse, are elastic. The charity wants money, so cannot be considered dispassionate in these matters. However, they set out their referral routes and data sources carefully.
There were 61 child homicides across the UK in 2015/16, fewer than 6 in a million children up to age 17. This is good news, and the trend is downwards. There may be some under-recording when the cause of death cannot be proved, and this covers another 60 cases. Again, the trend is downwards.
However, cases of cruelty and neglect have increased. Also, based on a 2009 survey, 18.6 per cent of 11 to 17 year olds say they have experienced some type of severe maltreatment, so either they have been missed in the other data, or they are reporting severity in an exaggerated manner. Severe maltreatment would probably leave them incapable.
As regards the general category of perpetrators, hell seems to be siblings, peers and the community. Unfortunately, the table does not distinguish between parents and guardians. Perhaps it is no longer recorded as a distinction.
In fact, in a later, un-numbered table we get some figures, which go against the predicted direction of more violence being perpetrated by genetically unrelated persons.
The Police have some guidance:
As one might expect by now, all this is a story half-told. Seeing the detail of the child abuse cases, and looking at the genetic, cultural and religious background of the perpetrators would allow us to see if the abuse is indeed, as suggested, to be found in equal proportions in all religions and genetic groups. The actual exemplars are mostly African, which might be a coincidence, but absent proper data, one cannot be sure. In the wider picture, witchcraft is a minor aspect of child abuse, though it makes the heart sink because it appears to be a migration related problem, and why add problems to an already difficult area?
Of course, we could try an oblique approach. What sort of people believe that a child has been possessed by the devil? What sort of people believe that a possessed child is to be treated by being tortured with a pair of pliers? What sort of person is generally prone to superstition?
Superstition and other credulities have been studied, and the initial research suggested that people who have difficulties computing probabilities in a game of chance are also prone to misunderstanding coincidences in real life, hence prone to superstitions. This lovely study stood as an explanation for a long time, until another researcher took the obvious step (in retrospect) of checking how bright the subject were, and found that their scholastic attainments explained both their miscalculation of chance games and their miscalculation of chance events in life. Intelligence strikes again. Get the whole, very interesting, story here.
I think that it will be found that child abuse “linked to faith or belief” is in fact based on low ability, and while no group has a monopoly of low ability, it would be salutary to see the backgrounds of the miscreants.
In fact, a paper on this very subject, looking at child abuse between 1992 and 2000, a period before the highest mass immigration, finds that:
The individual, family and abuse characteristics of 700 children and young people referred to nine UK services over a nine-year period between 1992 and 2000 as a result of their sexually abusive behaviours were examined. The most common age at referral was 15 years, though a third of all referrals related to children aged 13 or under. Thirty-eight per cent of the sample were identified as learning disabled. Surprisingly high rates of sexual and non-sexual victimisation were present in the backgrounds of the children and young people referred. A wide range of abusive behaviours was perpetrated with just over half of the sample having penetrated or having attempted to penetrate another individual. Victims were usually known to the abuser but in 75 per cent of cases were not related. Fifty-one per cent of the sample abused females only, though 49 per cent had at least one male victim. The implications for policy and practice with children and young people with harmful sexual behaviours are discussed.
97% of abusers were male. At that time ethnicity was not routinely noted, but among those where race was recorded, 1% were Black. 3% Asian, 3% mixed race. This under-recording may be because the behaviour is less prevalent, or was far less reported in those communities.
The authors say:
In 38 per cent (n = 241) of cases where information about disability status was noted, the young person was identiﬁed as having a learning disability. In a further 62 per cent (n = 392) of cases, the young person had no cognitive impairment. This ﬁgure is signiﬁcant given the prevalence of learning disability within the general population in England, which is estimated to be approximately two per cent (Emerson and Hatton, 2008).
Full paper here:
So, the over-representation of learning disabled persons is 19 fold. Two thirds of abusers were recorded as having had trauma and sex abuse. Genetic confounding is relevant, but is not discussed, even though by 2013 it might have been mentioned as a possible issue.
In sum, without being able to see the data on witchcraft, it seems very likely there is a common theme of low ability. Looking after children requires many skills, and very low ability is implicated as a cause of child abuse.