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New report reveals shocking details of how sexual abuse took place in churches

The research report on child sexual abuse in religious institutions, based on accounts shared by survivors at its Truth Project, includes reports from survivors abused within the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, Methodists, and Islam and Judaism, with most abuse taking place within Anglican and Catholic churches.

The victims suffered the abuse between the 1940s and 2010s.

The report’s key findings show that those sexually abused in religious institutions were less likely to report the abuse at the time than those abused in other institutions. More than half did not report abuse because they felt ashamed and guilty. Half knew of others being abused by the same person. One fifth of the victims lost their faith as a result of the abuse. 

"The spiritual impact of the abuse upon victims and survivors is evident in these accounts of sexual abuse that occurred within religious contexts," the report says. "This can have a particularly damaging impact on victims and survivors, particularly where their religion provided the foundation to their morality, beliefs, social relationships and the way they lived their daily lives."

In religious contexts, more than six in 10 of the victims were male. This compares with just a third of the victims being male where abuse takes place in non-religious contexts. 

Most of those who suffered abuse believe other people knew what was going on but did nothing. Most of the abusers had an official religious title, just as priest, vicar or imam. 

If they did find someone to tell, victims often found that they were disbelieved, that their experience was minimised and little or no action was taken. 

Other members would also leap to the defence of the institution. "Some participants described how they were harassed, threatened and intimidated by others in the religious community after they disclosed the abuse they experienced," the report says.
 
"One participant described how such was the hold the perpetrator had upon him and his family that after his parents became aware of the abuse, the perpetrator came to the family home and physically exposed himself in front of the participant and his parents and then left. The participant’s parents never discussed the matter thereafter."
 
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