Abuse linked to spiritual or religious beliefs

This page provides advice to practitioners and managers to help them identify and deal with abuse that may be linked to a belief in spirit possession.

Abuse linked to spiritual or religious beliefs

The belief in ‘possession’ and ‘witchcraft’ is widespread. It is not confined to new immigrants, particular countries, culture or religions.

Whilst the number of known cases of child abuse linked to ‘possession’ or ‘witchcraft’ or other spiritual beliefs is small, children involved can suffer considerable harm.

A parent or carer who views a child as being ‘possessed’ or a parent who is involved in ‘witchcraft’ can abuse a child in many different ways, including attempts exorcise the child which can involve severe abuse.

Staff in all agencies should be alert to indicators of child abuse linked to spiritual or religious beliefs and refer to children’s social care.

See also the Department for Education's website for more guidance on safeguarding children from abuse linked to a belief in spirit possession.

You can also download the DfE's non-statutory guidance from the MORE INFORMATION menu to the right of this page.

More information