Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Sarah J. Noonan

Second Advisor

Thomas L. Fish

Third Advisor

Randy Nelson


The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe the experiences of children enduring abuse due to their identification as enfant sorcerers and to expose the phenomenon of witch-hunts and abuse through the eyes and experiences of victims. I investigated how adult victims of child abuse survive and make meaning of their experience of cultural exclusion and violence committed against them due to superstitious cultural practices, such as witch-hunts and exorcism. Using narrative inquiry, I conducted in-depth interviews of 10 adults who survived childhood abuse. A central theme emerged: maltreatment of children initially occurred due to the loss of one or both parents. The loss of a parent led to the loss of home, security, family, relationships and culture. Once displaced, orphaned children added economic hardship on their surrogate families.

Orphaned Congolese children lost status in the eyes of the extended family and community. The families saw children as threats to their survival and an unwanted burden in times when it was a struggle simply to survive. Children were blamed for the unexplainable deaths and misfortunes plaguing their families. Children sought refuse in the streets to avoid abuse, exposing them to more abuse, including violence, insecurity, and injury. War, loss of nuclear family, home, and basic necessities destroyed the structures that in normal times provide the framework for a child’s healthy development. Members of Congolese community should work for children’s healthy development and well-being and ensure the safety of children once a death in the family occurs.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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