After some highly critical reports into the cover-up of appalling child sexual abuse in the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has now produced a new report into other faith organisations in England and Wales – notably Muslim and Orthodox Jewish faith groups, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It also covers a wide range of other faiths from the Methodists and Baptists to Buddhism and Sikh religions.
The report contains more horrific tales of abuse by people in charge of these organisations, their denial and cover up of what is happening, their failure to safeguard vulnerable children and the lack of measures to ensure proper inspection of the schools they run.
Worse of all after holding this inquiry the IICSA reveals that they don’t know the extent of the problem in these faith organisations because a number of them don’t want to co-operate with state institutions. Even police forces don’t keep records of how many recorded child sex abuse cases there have been in these faith organisations. And some of them even don’t carry out basic security checks on the people they employ to make sure they do not have criminal records.
Abuse at an Orthodox Jewish community
Examples of the horrific abuse stories include Todros Grynhaus, a prominent member of the Charedi Jewish community in Manchester and a Rabbi’s son. He sexually abused over 20 years two girls and a boy – one girl regularly between the age of seven and 15. Only when one of the girls went to Israel and told a rabbi there did the abuse become known and Grynghaus was offered counselling. Two years later when she was 18 she told prominent Jewish members of the Charedi community and was offered £5000 compensation and told not to go to the police or she would be regarded as a Moiser – what we know as a snitch – by informing on another Jew. When he faced charges Grynghaus fled the country on a forged passport and had to be extradited from Israel. Eventually the case did go to court and Grynghaus in 2015 was sentenced to 13 years in jail. But only after one of the rabbis was compelled by a judge to give evidence.
Abuse at a Muslim Madrassah school
Another example involved years of abuse at a Muslim madrassah school -held in a home- of a girl from the age of the age of eight to 11 by the 16 year old teenage son of the family ending in her rape. When she told of the case at the age of 14 she was abused as ” a tart” and a “slag” by the Muslim community who did not want the boy’s family disgraced. Eventually it did go to court and he went to prison for a year.
Four year old girl sexually abused at a Jehovah’s Witnesses Bible class
Another example involved the sexual abuse of two young girls by a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses during Bible classes. One of the girls was as young as four and the abuse continued until she was nine. Peter Stewart was a ministerial servant in Kingdom Hall responsible for the organisation. He was arrested in 1994 when another person accused him of sexual assault. The girl did not tell her mother for six years about the sexual abuse and only decided to tell her after he was released from prison for the first offence. By the time the police got around to arresting him, he had died. The mother pursued a civil claim against the Jehovah’s Witnesses and won the case – despite the organisation fighting the claim.
The report goes into detail about the failure of many faith organisations to protect and train people in safeguarding and take the issue seriously rather than try and cover it up. In the three cases above the organisations tried to cover up what had happened and not take responsibility.
Two immediate recommendations
The report makes two immediate recommendations . They are that all religious organisations should have a child protection policy and supporting procedures;
and that the government should legislate to amend the definition of full-time education to bring any setting that is the pupil’s primary place of education within the scope of a registered school, and provide Ofsted with sufficient powers to examine the quality of child protection when undertaking inspection of suspected unregistered schools.
It estimates that 250,000 children are given supplementary education by faith organisations and none of the schools need to be registered or inspected.
They also have some long term proposals that will appear in a further report. These include whether mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse should be introduced; whether criminal checks should be compulsory for all faith organisations; and whether child protection policies should be compulsory for every faith organisation.
Professor Alexis Jay, Chair of the Inquiry said:
“Religious organisations are defined by their moral purpose of teaching right from wrong and protection of the innocent and the vulnerable. However when we heard about shocking failures to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse across almost all major religions, it became clear many are operating in direct conflict with this mission.
“Blaming the victims, fears of reputational damage and discouraging external reporting are some of the barriers victims and survivors face, as well as clear indicators of religious organisations prioritising their own reputations above all else. For many, these barriers have been too difficult to overcome.”
“We have seen some examples of good practice, and it is our hope that with the recommendations from this report, all religious organisations across England and Wales will improve what they do to fulfil their moral responsibility to protect children from sexual abuse.”