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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child protection in religious organisations and settings Investigation Report


C.8: Fear of external reporting and reputational damage

48. In many cases, concerns about external involvement are connected to a desire to protect the reputation of a religious organisation. Ms Hirst described how, within the Jesus Fellowship Church, “the reputation as a church was above all else”.[1] In Ms Rattu’s experience, religious institutions operate as “gatekeepers to hide the abuse, keep it under the carpet, so as to not affect the reputation and status of a family, an individual or a community”.[2] On this same point, Mr Humphreys noted that:

“the perceived reason for placing responsibility [for child sexual abuse] on victims and survivors is more – in my experience, more about the need of individuals to protect the reputation of the church or organisation and maybe even God himself. So to speak out on this issue, you are damaging the church, you are damaging God’s reputation.”[3]

49. We saw evidence of fear of discrimination operating as a barrier to disclosure and an obstacle to the effective handling of disclosures. Often, victims will be dissuaded from reporting their abuse for fear that doing so will bring their religious community into disrepute and fuel discrimination. Ms Akthar told us that, within the Muslim community, victims are often told to stay silent so as not to “put the Muslim community in a bad name … because of the fear of Islamophobia”.[4]

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