The group calls for an investigation into violence and the sexual exploitation of children in religious communities

The group calls for an investigation into violence and the sexual exploitation of children in religious communities

When Nelli * was a child, he often hid at home under a pile of dirty clothes.

This was his secret place, he told Yle. He went there whenever his father or mother began to behave in a threatening manner.

He said a lot of this happened as he grew up. Her parents beat and beat their children for very few reasons: a glass of milk spilling, accelerating play, or if any of the children cried.

The beating didn’t end there, as Dad also used Nelli sexually for years.

This included inappropriate contact as well as sexual commentary, which continued regularly throughout his childhood until he was a teenager.

Nelli has not made any criminal reports of those painful childhood events, but Yle has seen a medical record that points to the violence she experienced as a child – as well as her religious background. He grew up in a family in the conservative Lestadian Lutheran Church.

He said that although more than a decade has passed since the end of the beating, the events left deep emotional and psychological scars that he still carries with him into adulthood.

* Nelli told Yle about her experiences anonymously because she wanted to protect the identity of her siblings. His real name and background are known to Yle.

An independent commission is needed to solve the problem

Violence against children in religious communities has not been extensively studied in Finland, and no cases of abuse have been recorded on the basis of religious background.

It is not known, therefore, whether such cases occur more frequently, less frequently, or to the same extent in religious communities as in other parts of society.

According to the authorities, the matter needs to be thoroughly investigated Joni ValkilaExecutive Director for Religious Victims (Support for victims of religions Finnish or UUT) group.

The organization supports representatives of religious communities in need and their relatives.

The sexual exploitation of children in Nelli’s former religious community, the conservative Lestadian revival movement, has received widespread media attention over the past decade. The table setting began with a 2011 study of cases and suspicions of pedophilia and incest within the community. The study was conducted by a child welfare researcher Johanna Hurtig From the University of Tampere.

At the same time, Valkila said he believed that such abuse also took place in many other religious communities, noting that sexual abuse had been reported in many parts of the world, including the Catholic Church and Jehovah’s Witness communities.

An inquiry A report released last October found that priests in the French Catholic Church had sexually abused approximately 216,000 children since 1950.

In Australia an investigation The national broadcaster ABC revealed that members of Jehovah’s Witnesses had been concealing the sexual exploitation of children for decades.

"There is no reason to assume that this problem will not spread more widely in Finnish religious communities as well." Valkila said.

The spiral of beatings and apologies

Usually, sexual abuse is usually a hidden crime. However, Varkila believes that there is an even greater risk in religious communities that cases of exploitation will be suppressed or ignored.

He added that this may be due to factors such as the close nature of religious communities, loyalty to the community and a strong culture of forgiveness. People often feel that the reputation of the church must be preserved at all costs, Varkila said, and all suspected cases of sexual abuse can be resolved within the church and between families.

"The perpetrator apologizes for the act, it is forgiven, and then it may be thought that the matter has been resolved, even though it should be brought to the attention of the authorities. This can lead to a recurrence of the crime or even the beating of new victims," he said.

Valkila stated that child sexual abuse in religious and secular organizations in Australia has been thoroughly studied from 2012, the Royal Commission on Institutional Activities Related to the Sexual Exploitation of Children.

The problem is also processed In the United Kingdom, through an independent study on the sexual exploitation of children, and in Germany, including through the establishment independent commission.

Valkila said that a similar commission should be established in Finland in order to make religious communities face a latent problem.

"Society has a special responsibility to protect children from violence. The work would require some resources, but in the end it is cheaper to tackle this problem than to pay for the treatment of victims of exploitation and disability benefits," he said.

Yle’s interviewee Nelli also said she needed therapy to cope with the aftermath of her experiences.

“I experience a constant, bitter feeling of inferiority”

He said that in his childhood home, the act of forgiveness, which is strongly associated with the Lestadian religion, was widely used, especially in situations where there had been violence or assault. The parent apologized to the child, the act was forgiven and the same violence was repeated later, Nelli recalls.

However, his father never apologized for the sexual abuse, he said.

Nelli added that at least part of her family’s religious community outside the home knew her situation to some degree, but the abuse and exploitation continued for years.

He resigned from the conservative Lestadia revival movement years ago, Nelli told Yle.

However, building a new life after leaving home and a religious community was very challenging. He also started therapy soon after he left. But it wasn’t until he drifted – and managed to escape – into a violent relationship that he began to fully understand the abuse he endured as he grew up.

"The therapist asked me why I had let someone treat me so badly in a relationship, and then it all started to come out." he recalled.

Although Nelli now has a good family life, the past still represents a dark shadow in her life. She is still going to the therapist.

"I have terribly low self-esteem and a lot of trouble dealing with emotions. I experience a constant, gnawing sense of inferiority," he said.

The story continues after the picture.

Nelli said she has great challenges in trusting people and can’t fall asleep in public transport like trains or buses because she’s always as careful about her environment as she had to be as a child.Henrietta Hassinen / General

Nelli also said that she wanted more attention to be paid to the exploitation of children in religious communities in Finland.

In his experience, and especially in large families, money is often tight and parents have a lot of worries.

"It is often said that children are a gift from God. The harsh fact, however, is that pregnancy is no longer a gift when the burden is so great that it cannot be carried." he said, adding that such factors were also parts of his childhood home that created a violent environment.

He added that he hoped that schools, for example, would invest more in reviewing the well-being of children from large families. He also noted that, of course, not all large families have problems.

"There are people in my circle of friends who have had a good childhood," he said.

Yle also approached Matti Taskila for comments from the Central Committee of Conservative Lestadian Congregations (SRK), but said it was not possible to take a detailed position on the individual. However, he said he hoped Nelli would get all the help he needed.

He also said he did not want to generalize, based on Nelli’s case, that this was happening more widely within the religious movement.

Finland “far behind” other countries

The Finnish Public Health Authority, THL, and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health jointly prepare plan of action (in Finnish) to address the exploitation of children, which has been extended to religious communities.

However, according to a ministry expert Marjo MaljaThere are currently no plans to investigate the extent of child abuse in Finnish religious communities, although plans are still at an early stage.

"That’s conceivable, but I can’t say for sure. This is certainly a good thing to discuss in our steering group," Malja said, adding that so far the two organizations have gathered information on the subject and considered the goals of the plan.

One of these goals, according to Malja, was to encourage religious communities to develop clear guidelines on what to do when cases of child abuse are reported or detected.

The ministry also requested an audit of the collected international data on violence against children in religious communities. That study was done by Tiina Murdoch Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences.

He said the review and other studies confirmed some of the same things that Joni Valkila, who supported religious victims, raised, including the fact that child abuse is not the only issue in one religious community, but is likely to occur in many.

He added that Finland is clearly lagging behind other nations in dealing with this sensitive issue.

"Of course, the matter should also be studied in Finland," Murdoch said.

Nelli said she accepted the trauma caused by her childhood experiences that will follow her for the rest of her life, but the experiences have also given her a lot of appreciation for ordinary life.

"I think everyday life is definitely much brighter than many others. My background is responsible for" Nelli decided.

If you have been a victim of sexual abuse, you can contact us Victim support Finland (Riku) it Mental Health Finland (Mind). The Finnish branch The Save the Children International can also provide help and advice, while the National Relief Society Finnish Dolphins helping adults who have been abused as children, among other things.

Source: The Nordic Page

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