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Stolen Childhoods: Surviving Following a Childhood in a Cult

View profile for Malcolm Underhill
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If you are in immediate danger, please call 999.

Child abuse linked to exorcism and witchcraft accusations is on the rise in Britain.

According to figures obtained by the BBC, The Metropolitan Police said there were 60 crimes linked to faith in London in 2015. It saw reports double from 23 in 2013 to 46 in 2014.


Half of UK police forces do not record such cases and many local authorities are also unable to provide figures so it is likely that the actual figure is much higher.

Child abuse in religious sects and cults is not a new phenomenon, for example the remains of 42 children sacrificed to Tlaloc (a God of rain in pre-Columbian culture) in the offerings of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan. In every case the children, mostly males aged around six, were suffering from serious cavities, abscesses or bone infections that would have been painful enough to make them cry continually. Tlaloc required the tears of the young to wet the earth. If children did not cry enough during the sacrifice, the priests would sometimes tear off their nails before killing them.

Cults in today’s society

Due to the opportunity to control members lives completely, paedophiles are often found in positions of leadership in religious sects or cults.  Members themselves, after seeing such practices normalised and even encouraged, can become abusers themselves. 

At present, there are an estimated 500 cults currently operating in the UK, according to the Cult Information Centre (CIC).

Cults can roughly be divided into religious organisations and those that operate under the guise of "self-improvement", which often target educated professionals.  It is a myth to think of cult members as easily-led, gullible and poor.  Due to their need for funds, cults market to those with money who are disillusioned with the world, or want to make it better in some way.

Today, terrorist organisations operate in the same way cults and religious sects do, using radicalisation to recruit new members.  Last year, a 30-year-old woman was arrested at Birmingham airport on suspicion of trying to flee to Syria to join Islamic State terrorists. She had her three children with her.

The effects of growing up in a cult

It is not only physical and sexual abuse that children experience growing up in a cult or religious sect may experience , it is the harrowing mental abuse and brainwashing.  Most are made to fear the outside world, as that is how the leader maintains control over the group.  A ‘them and us’ mentality is a prevalent theme in all cults.

Despite cultivating a fear of outsiders, children in cults are often used to earn income, either through begging or prostitution.

Taking control of your life

Leaving a cult or religious sect is an incredibly brave move.  Victims have to rebuild their lives from scratch, often without the support of family and friends, who are almost always forced to cut contact with members who leave the organisation (for how else can control be maintained).

If you have suffered from sexual, physical and/or mental abuse, you can claim compensation.  Many cults have significant assets and funds, derived from brainwashing their members to part with their money.  If you or your family tried to contact the authorities for help and were ignored, or inadequate support and protection, you can bring a claim against them for negligence.

With strong support and hope for the future, you can move on from a childhood stolen by a religious sect or cult.  Many others have.  You can to.

Compensation for victims of abuse

At IBB Claims, our personal injury team, led by Malcolm Underhill, has the expertise and knowledge to advise and represent you if you wish to make a claim following abuse suffered whilst in a cult or religious sect. To talk about how our experienced and compassionate abuse lawyers might be able to help, please phone us on 0333 123 9099, email us at or fill in our contact form.  Any discussions you have with us will be in the strictest of confidence.

You can also contact the Cult Information Centre (CIC) on 0845 4500 868 for help.

The information contained within our Blog Articles is provided as general information only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice or seek to be an exhaustive statement of the law and should not be relied on or treated as a substitute for specific advice relevant to particular circumstances. For further details, please see our terms of use policy.