The police in India said Tuesday they are investigating four Christian priests for allegedly raping and blackmailing a woman in a cycle of abuse and threats that went on for almost 20 years.
According to the unnamed woman, her ordeal began while she was still a minor in the 1990s when an Orthodox priest at a church in the southern state of Kerala forced her into sex.
Police said she confessed to a second priest, who allegedly blackmailed her into having sex with him.
“We filed a case on Monday based on her complaint. We have now started our investigation,” local police official S. Sreejith told AFP.
Her alleged suffering only came to light after an audio clip of her husband complaining to a church official went viral on social media.
This comes as the Christian community in India, as elsewhere around the world, is grappling with sexual abuse allegations.
Last year, a pastor accused of raping two women on the pretext of driving out evil spirits was arrested in eastern India, and in 2016, an Indian priest was sentenced to 40 years in prison for raping a 12-year-old girl.
Christianity is India’s third-biggest religion according to the 2011 census, with approximately 28 million followers or 2.3 percent of the population.
Sexual violence is rife in the Asian country, with nearly 40,000 rape cases reported in 2016.