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Sheffield Children Safeguarding Partnership

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Faith abuse

Faith abuse refers to the belief that an evil force has entered a child and is controlling them, sometimes known as 'spirit possession'.

There is a range of language that is connected to such abuse which includes 'black magic', 'kindoki', 'ndoki', 'the evil eye', 'djinns', 'voodoo', 'obeah', 'demons', 'witch' and 'child sorcerers'. In all these cases, 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 defined here as attempting to expel evil spirits from a child.

Whilst the number of identified cases is small, the nature of the abuse can be particularly disturbing and the impact on the child is substantial and serious. The abuse may be carried out by the child's parents or carers or others in the family network, as well as by faith leaders.

Belief in spirits and possession are widespread and child abuse linked to faith may currently be increasing. The key feature in cases of abuse is not the beliefs of a family, but that the perpetrator of the abuse uses these beliefs as a justification for the abuse of the child.

Practitioners need to have an understanding of religious beliefs and cultural practices in order to help gain the trust of the child, the family and the community.

SCSP fact sheets:

SCSP city-wide policies and procedures:

National guidance:

    Other relevant information can be found on this website here: Information and resources or in the index on the left side of this page.

    If you are concerned about a child or young person, follow this link: Referring a safeguarding concern to Children’s Social Care


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