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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse in the context of religious institutions

Institutional context and knowledge of the abuse

Participants described male-dominated, closed and insular religious institutions with considerable influence on the community and the lives of their congregants. They described self-governing institutions with little or no external contact or supervision. Many participants knew of someone else being sexually abused in the same institution. Some participants either knew or strongly believed that those within the institution knew about the abuse at the time and that other adults (including parents and other professionals) did not act as a result of the power and control of the religious institution and religious leaders. This power, by virtue of a perceived higher authority, and the lack of safeguarding awareness or practices, created conditions where perpetrators were easily able to abuse and where a range of strategies were used by religious leaders and others in the community to protect the institution. In this context participants reported how the reputation of the institution was seen as paramount and the needs of child victims were diminished or ignored.

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