Only 33 per cent of professionals and members of faith-based organisations said they felt confident they could spot the indicators.
The survey asked more than 1,300 faith community members about their understanding of faith or belief linked child abuse.
The abuse in question was not just sexual but also physically and psychological.
It looked specifically at their ability to identify instances of this type of abuse and their ability to respond and deal with cases professionally.
The research was commissioned by the National Working Group on Child Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief and undertaken by Manchester Metropolitan University in partnership with the Victoria Climbié Foundation UK (VCF) and the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS).
Senior Lecturers in Abuse Studies and research lead Dr Lisa Oakley said: "There are relatively small numbers of recorded cases and this could be due to underreporting and a lack of recognition of such cases.
"The respondents reported wide variety of definitions and understandings of child abuse linked to faith or belief - from witchcraft and spirit possession to female genital mutilation."
The study found that only 25 per cent of people had received training on this issue.
It comes 16 years after the death of Victoria Climbié who was tortured by her guardians and taken to churches to try and remove demons.
In 2000 her great aunt Marie-Thérèse Kouao took the child to a church and the pastor said her injuries were due to demonic possession.
On a second occasion another pastor took no action, despite suspecting abuse, and instead prayed to free Victoria from demons.