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Evil, child abuse and the caring professions

Humphrey, Caroline


Caroline Humphrey


The aim of this paper is to explore the ways in which the concept of evil has been invoked in relation to child abuse. First, the scene is set by juxtaposing professional discourses which have eschewed the concept of evil and public opinion which is affronted by the evil of child abuse. Second, I will discuss the work of some therapists in the USA whose work with perpetrators and survivors has led them to frame the causes and consequences of child abuse in terms of moral evil. Third, I will draw upon case studies of Satanic abuse and spirit possession in the UK to illustrate that some social workers and religious communities have interpreted child abuse as an outcome of or as an antidote to metaphysical evil. Finally, there is a critical appraisal of the merits of referencing moral and metaphysical evil in the discourses of caring professionals, with a suggestion that a mythical–metaphorical conception of evil could be a more flexible and fruitful resource for therapeutic work.


Humphrey, C. (2015). Evil, child abuse and the caring professions. Journal of religion and health, 54(5), 1660-1671.

Acceptance Date Feb 6, 2014
Online Publication Date Jun 8, 2014
Publication Date Oct 25, 2015
Deposit Date Apr 22, 2015
Publicly Available Date Apr 22, 2015
Journal Journal of religion and health
Print ISSN 0022-4197
Electronic ISSN 1573-6571
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 54
Issue 5
Pages 1660-1671
Keywords Evil; Child abuse; Caring professions
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information The final publication is available at Springer via


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