Mail Online, Rob Cooper, 14 May 2011
Hundreds of witchcraft abuse cases are going unreported across the country each year, it has been revealed.
Officials believe child protection officers are only tipped off in the most extreme cases when a child’s life has been put in danger.
Just 38 cases have been reported in the last five years – and it is feared that they represent just the tip of the iceberg.
Hundreds of children may be left to starve, beaten and having chili rubbed into their eyes.
Youngsters born with physical and mental difficulties are most at risk from abuse.
Relatives often believe that the children are ‘possessed’ and the torture is carried out as a form of exorcism.
Extreme evangelical Christian churches – most prevalent in the Democratic Republic of Congo – have grown significantly in recent years and their influence is thought to have spread to groups in the UK.
A decade ago the death of Victoria Climbie suffered appalling injuries at the hands of her aunt and boyfriend who believed she was possessed by the devil, sparking huge public anger.
The eight-year-old had 128 injuries on her body in a case described by a pathologist as one of the worst ever child abuse cases.
She tied up, hit with bike chains and attacked with lighted cigarettes.
As officials try to combat the extreme beliefs, social services have been issued with a new set of guidelines to help them deal with youngsters from religious and ethnic minority backgrounds who could suffer abuse, The Times revealed.
The Metropolitan Police are working on their scheme to deal with religious-based child abuse to place extra emphasis on dealing with tackling witchcraft and abuse.
Witchcraft is most often found in the Democratic Republic of Congo and surrounding countries.
Romain Matondo, who works at the safeguarding children programme at the Congolese Family Centre, north London, said often it is not biological parents who are the abusers.
He told The Times: ‘At first maybe it is swearing and shouting at the child, what we would call emotional abuse.
‘But if there is church involvement, it sometimes means it doesn’t stop there, but becomes physical and very violent as the church tries to get rid of the evil spirit.’
He added that children can be slapped, starved or beaten with spoons all to get the spirit out.
A report yesterday revealed that it is the poorest children that are most at risk of beind told they are ‘possessed’ because relatives are more likely to be influenced by faith leaders.