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LANNING'S GUIDE TO ALLEGATIONS OF CHILDHOOD RITUAL ABUSE, PART 5

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MULTlDlMENSlONAL CHILD SEX RINGS:

Sometime in early 1983 I was first contacted by a law enforcement agency for guidance in what was then thought to be an unusual case. The exact date of the contact is unknown because its significance was not recognized at the time. In the months and years that followed, I received more and more inquiries about "these kinds of cases". The requests for assistance came (and continue to come) from all over the United States. Many of the aspects of these cases varied, but there were also some commonalties. Early on, however, one particularly difficult and potentially significant issue began to emerge.

These cases involved and continue to involve unsubstantiated allegations of bizarre activity that are difficult either to prove or disprove. Many of the unsubstantiated allegations, however, do not seem to have occurred or even be possible. These cases seem to call into question the credibility of victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation. These are the most polarizing, frustrating, and baffling cases I have encountered in more than 18 years of studying the criminal aspects of deviant sexual behavior. I privately sought answers, but said nothing publicly about those cases until 1985.

In October 1984 the problems in investigating and prosecuting one of these cases in Jordan, Minnesota became publicly known. In February 1985, at the FBI Academy, the FBI sponsored and I coordinated the first national seminar held to study "these kinds of cases". Later in 1985, similar conferences sponsored by other organizations were held in Washington, D.C.; Sacramento, California; and Chicago, Illinois. These cases have also been discussed at many recent regional and national conferences dealing with the sexual victimization of children and Multiple Personality Disorder. Few answers have come from these conferences. I continue to be contacted on these cases on a regular basis. Inquiries have been received from law enforcement officers, prosecutors, therapists, victims, families of victims, and the media from all over the United States and now foreign countries. I do not claim to understand completely all the dynamics of these cases. I continue to keep an open mind and to search for answers to the questions and solutions to the problems they pose. This discussion is based on my analysis of the several hundred of "these kinds of cases" on which I have consulted since 1983.

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bulleta. DYNAMICS OF CASES
What are "these kinds of cases"? (Note 1) They were and continue to be difficult to define. They all involve allegations of what sounds like child sexual abuse, but with a combination of some atypical dynamics. These cases seem to have the following four dynamics in common: multiple young victims, multiple offenders, fear as the controlling tactic, and bizarre or ritualistic activity.
  1. MULTIPLE YOUNG VICTIMS
    In almost all the cases the sexual abuse was alleged to have taken place or at least begun when the victims were between the ages of birth and six. (Note 2) This very young age may be an important key to understanding these cases. In addition the victims all described multiple children being abused. The numbers ranged from three or four to as many as several hundred victims. (Note 3)
  2. MULTIPLE OFFENDERS
    In almost all the cases the victims reported numerous offenders. The numbers ranged from two or three all the way up to dozens of offenders. In one recent case the victims alleged 400-500 offenders were involved. Interestingly many of the offenders (perhaps as many as 40-50 percent) were reported to be females. (Note 4) The multiple offenders were often family members and were described as being part of a cult, occult, or satanic group.
  3. FEAR AS CONTROLLING TACTIC Child molesters in general are able to maintain control and ensure the secrecy of their victims in a variety of ways. These include attention and affection, coercion, blackmail, embarrassment, threats, and violence. In almost all of these cases I have studied, the victims described being frightened and reported threats against themselves, their families, their friends, and even their pets. (Note 5) They reported witnessing acts of violence perpetrated to reinforce this fear. It is my belief that this fear and the traumatic memory of the events may be another key to understanding many of these cases.
  4. BIZARRE OR RITUALISTIC ACTIVITY This is the most difficult dynamic of these cases to describe. "Bizarre" is a relative term. Is the use of urine or feces in sexual activity bizarre, or is it a well-documented aspect of sexual deviancy, or is it part of established satanic rituals? As previously discussed, the ritualistic aspect is even more difficult to define. How do you distinguish acts performed in a precise manner to enhance or allow sexual arousal from those acts that fulfill spiritual needs or comply with "religious" ceremonies? Victims in these cases report ceremonies, chanting, robes and costumes, drugs, use of urine and feces, animal sacrifice, torture, abduction, mutilation, murder, and even cannibalism and vampirism. All things considered, the word "bizarre" is probably preferable to the word "ritual" to describe this activity.

When I was contacted on these cases, it was very common for a prosecutor or investigator to say that the alleged victims have been evaluated by an "expert" who will stake his or her professional reputation on the fact that the victims are telling the "truth". When asked how many cases this expert had previously evaluated involving these four dynamics, the answer was always the same: none! The experts usually had only dealt with one-on-one intrafamilial sexual abuse cases. Recently an even more disturbing trend has developed. More and more of the victims have been identified or evaluated by experts who have been trained to identify and specialize in satanic ritual abuse.

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bulletb. CHARACTERISTICS OF MULTIDIMENSIONAL CHILD SEX RINGS
As previously stated, a major problem in communicating, training, and researching in this area is the term used to define "these kinds of cases". Many refer to them as "ritual, ritualistic, or ritualized abuse of children cases" or "satanic ritual abuse (SRA) cases". Such words carry specialized meanings for many people and might imply that all these cases are connected to occult or satanic activity. If ritual abuse is not necessarily occult or satanic, but is "merely" severe, repeated, prolonged abuse, why use a term that, in the minds of so many, implies such specific motivation?

Others refer to these cases as "multioffender/multivictim cases". The problem with this term is that most multiple offender and victim cases do not involve the four dynamics discussed above.

For want of a better term, I have decided to refer to "these kinds of cases" as "multidimensional child sex rings". Right now I seem to be the only one using this term. I am, however, not sure if this is truly a distinct kind of child sex ring case or just a case not properly handled. Following are the general characteristics of these multidimensional child sex ring cases as contrasted with more common historical child sex ring cases [see my monograph "Child Sex Rings: A Behavioral Analysis"] (1989) for a discussion of the characteristics of historical child sex ring cases].

  1. FEMALE OFFENDERS
    As many as 40-50 percent of the offenders in these cases are reported to be women. (Note 4) This is in marked contrast to historical child sex rings in which almost all the offenders are men.
  2. SITUATIONAL MOLESTERS
    The offenders appear to be sexually interacting with the child victims for reasons other than a true sexual preference for children. The children are substitute victims, and the abusive activity may have little to do with pedophilia [see my monograph Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis (1987) for a further explanation about types of molesters].
  3. MALE AND FEMALE VICTIMS
    Both boys and girls appear to be targeted, but with an apparent preference for girls. Almost all the adult survivors are female, but day care cases frequently involve male as well as female victims. The most striking characteristic of the victims, however, is their young age (generally birth to six years old when the abuse began). (Note 2)
  4. MULTIDIMENSIONAL MOTIVATION
    Sexual gratification appears to be only part of the motivation for the "sexual" activity. Many people today argue that the motivation is "spiritual" - possibly part of an occult ceremony. It is my opinion that the motivation may have more to do with anger, hostility, rage and resentment carried out against weak and vulnerable victims. Much of the ritualistic abuse of children may not be sexual in nature. Some of the activity may, in fact, be physical abuse directed at sexually-significant body parts (penis, anus, nipples). This may also partially explain the large percentage of female offenders. Physical abuse of children by females is well- documented. (Note 6)
  5. PORNOGRAPHY AND PARAPHERNALIA Although many of the victims of multidimensional child sex rings claim that pictures and videotapes of the activity were made, no such visual record has been found by law enforcement. In recent years, American law enforcement has seized large amounts of child pornography portraying children in a wide variety of sexual activity and perversions. None of it, however, portrays the kind of bizarre and/or ritualistic activity described by these victims. Perhaps these offenders use and store their pornography and paraphernalia in ways different from preferential child molesters (pedophiles). This is an area needing additional research and investigation. (Note 6)
  6. CONTROL THROUGH FEAR Control through fear may be the overriding characteristic of these cases. Control is maintained by frightening the children. A very young child might not be able to understand the significance of much of the sexual activity but certainly understands fear. The stories that the victims tell may be their perceived versions of severe traumatic memories. They may be the victims of a severely traumatized childhood in which being sexually abused was just one of the many negative events affecting their lives.

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bulletc. SCENARIOS
Multidimensional child sex rings typically emerge from one of four scenarios: adult survivors, day care cases, family/isolated neighborhood cases, and custody/visitation disputes.
  1. ADULT SURVIVORS
    In adult survivor cases, adults of almost any age - nearly always women - are suffering the consequences of a variety of personal problems and failures in their lives (e.g., promiscuity, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, failed relationships, self- mutilation, unemployment). As a result of some precipitating stress or crisis, they often seek therapy. They are frequently hypnotized, intentionally or unintentionally, as part of the therapy and are often diagnosed as suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder. Gradually, during the therapy, the adults reveal previously unrecalled memories of early childhood victimization that includes multiple victims and offenders, fear as the controlling tactic, and bizarre or ritualistic activity. Adult survivors may also claim that "cues" from certain events in their recent life "triggered" the previously repressed memories. (Note 7)

    The multiple offenders are often described as members of a cult or satanic group. Parents, family members, clergy, civic leaders, police officers (or individuals wearing police uniforms), and other prominent members of society are frequently described as present at and participating in the exploitation. The alleged bizarre activity often includes insertion of foreign objects, witnessing mutilations, and sexual acts and murders being filmed or photographed. The offenders may allegedly still be harassing or threatening the victims. They report being particularly frightened on certain dates and by certain situations. In several of these cases, women (called "breeders") claim to have had babies that were turned over for human sacrifice. This type of case is probably best typified by books like Michelle Remembers (Note 8) (Smith & Pazder, 1980), Satan's Underground (Note 9) (Stratford, 1988), and Satan's Children (Mayer, 1991).

    If and when therapists come to believe the patient or decide the law requires it, the police or FBI are sometimes contacted to conduct an investigation. The therapists may also fear for their safety because they now know the "secret". The therapists will frequently tell law enforcement that they will stake their professional reputation on the fact that their patient is telling the truth. Some adult survivors go directly to law enforcement. They may also go from place to place in an effort to find therapists or investigators who will listen to and believe them. Their ability to provide verifiable details varies and many were raised in apparently religious homes. A few adult survivors are now reporting participation in specific murders or child abductions that are known to have taken place.

  2. DAY CARE CASES
    In day care cases children currently or formerly attending a day care center gradually describe their victimization at the center and at other locations to which they were taken by the day care staff. The cases include multiple victims and offenders, fear, and bizarre or ritualistic activity, with a particularly high number of female offenders. Descriptions of strange games, insertion of foreign objects, killing of animals, photographing of activities, and wearing of costumes are common. The accounts of the young children, however, do not seem to be quite as "bizarre" as those of the adult survivors, with fewer accounts of human sacrifice.
  3. FAMILY/ISOLATED NEIGHBORHOOD CASES
    In family/isolated neighborhood cases, children describe their victimization within their family or extended family. The group is often defined by geographic boundary, such as a cul-de-sac, apartment building, or isolated rural setting. Such accounts are most common in rural or suburban communities with high concentrations of religiously conservative people. The stories are similar to those told of the day care setting, but with more male offenders. The basic dynamics remain the same, but victims tend to be more than six years of age, and the scenario may also involve a custody or visitation dispute.
  4. CUSTODY/VISITATION DISPUTE
    In custody/visitation dispute cases, the allegations emanate from a custody or visitation dispute over at least one child under the age of seven. The four dynamics described above make these cases extremely difficult to handle. When complicated by the strong emotions of this scenario, the cases can be overwhelming. This is especially true if the disclosing child victims have been taken into the "underground" by a parent during the custody or visitation dispute. Some of these parents or relatives may even provide authorities with diaries or tapes of their interviews with the children. An accurate evaluation and assessment of a young child held in isolation in this underground while being "debriefed" by a parent or someone else is almost impossible. However well- intentioned, these self-appointed investigators severely damage any chance to validate these cases objectively.

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bulletd. WHY ARE VICTIMS ALLEGING THINGS THAT DO NOT SEEM TO BE TRUE?
Some of what the victims in these cases allege is physically impossible (victim cut up and put back together, offender took the building apart and then rebuilt it); some is possible but improbable (human sacrifice, cannibalism, vampirism ); some is possible and probable (child pornography, clever manipulation of victims); and some is corroborated (medical evidence of vaginal or anal trauma, offender confessions).

The most significant crimes being alleged that do not seem to be true are the human sacrifice and cannibalism by organized satanic cults. In none of the multidimensional child sex ring cases of which I am aware have bodies of the murder victims been found - in spite of major excavations where the abuse victims claim the bodies were located. The alleged explanations for this include: the offenders moved the bodies after the children left, (Note 10) the bodies were burned in portable high-temperature ovens, the bodies were put in double- decker graves under legitimately buried bodies, a mortician member of the cult disposed of the bodies in a crematorium, the offenders ate the bodies, the offenders used corpses and aborted fetuses, or the power of Satan caused the bodies to disappear.

Not only are no bodies found, but also, more importantly, there is no physical evidence that a murder took place. Many of those not in law enforcement do not understand that, while it is possible to get rid of a body, it is even more difficult to get rid of the physical evidence that a murder took place, especially a human sacrifice involving sex, blood, and mutilation. Such activity would leave behind trace evidence that could be found using modern crime scene processing techniques in spite of extraordinary efforts to clean it up.

The victims of these human sacrifices and murders are alleged to be abducted missing children, runaway and throwaway children, derelicts, and the babies of breeder women. It is interesting to note that many of those espousing these theories are using the long- since-discredited numbers and rhetoric of the missing children hysteria in the early 1980s. Yet "Stranger-Abduction Homicides of Children", a January 1989 Juvenile Justice Bulletin, published by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the U.S. Department of Justice, reports that researchers now estimate that the number of children kidnapped and murdered by nonfamily members is between 52 and 158 a year and that adolescents 14 to 17 years old account for nearly two-thirds of these victims. These figures are also consistent with the 1990 National Incident Studies previously mentioned.

We live in a very violent society, and yet we have "only" about 23,000 murders a year. Those who accept these stories of mass human sacrifice would have us believe that the satanists and other occult practitioners are murdering more than twice as many people every year in this country as all the other murderers combined. (Note 11)

In addition, in none of the cases of which I am aware has any evidence of a well-organized satanic cult been found. Many of those who accept the stories of organized ritual abuse of children and human sacrifice will tell you that the best evidence they now have is the consistency of stories from all over America. It sounds like a powerful argument. It is interesting to note that, without having met each other, the hundreds of people who claim to have been abducted by aliens from outer space also tell stories and give descriptions of the aliens that are similar to each other. This is not to imply that allegations of child abuse are in the same category as allegations of abduction by aliens from outer space. It is intended only to illustrate that individuals who never met each other can sometimes describe similar events without necessarily having experienced them.

The large number of people telling the same story is, in fact, the biggest reason to doubt these stories. It is simply too difficult for that many people to commit so many horrendous crimes as part of an organized conspiracy. Two or three people murder a couple of children in a few communities as part of a ritual, and nobody finds out? Possible. Thousands of people do the same thing to tens of thousands of victims over many years? Not likely. Hundreds of communities all over America are run by mayors, police departments, and community leaders who are practicing satanists and who regularly murder and eat people? Not likely. In addition, these community leaders and high-ranking officials also supposedly commit these complex crimes leaving no evidence, and at the same time function as leaders and managers while heavily involved in using illegal drugs. Probably the closest documented example of this type of alleged activity in American history is the Ku Klux Klan, which ironically used Christianity, not satanism, to rationalize its activity but which, as might be expected, was eventually infiltrated by informants and betrayed by its members.

As stated, initially I was inclined to believe the allegations of the victims. But as the cases poured in and the months and years went by, I became more concerned about the lack of physical evidence and corroboration for many of the more serious allegations. With increasing frequency I began to ask the question: "Why are victims alleging things that do not seem to be true?" Many possible answers were considered.

The first possible answer is obvious: clever offenders. The allegations may not seem to be true but they are true. The criminal justice system lacks the knowledge, skill, and motivation to get to the bottom of this crime conspiracy. The perpetrators of this crime conspiracy are clever, cunning individuals using sophisticated mind control and brainwashing techniques to control their victims. Law enforcement does not know how to investigate these cases.

It is technically possible that these allegations of an organized conspiracy involving taking over day care centers, abduction, cannibalism, murder, and human sacrifice might be true. But if they are true, they constitute one of the greatest crime conspiracies in history.

Many people do not understand how difficult it is to commit a conspiracy crime involving numerous co-conspirators. One clever and cunning individual has a good chance of getting away with a well- planned interpersonal crime. Bring one partner into the crime and the odds of getting away with it drop considerably. The more people involved in the crime, the harder it is to get away with it. Why? Human nature is the answer. People get angry and jealous. They come to resent the fact that another conspirator is getting "more" than they. They get in trouble and want to make a deal for themselves by informing on others.

If a group of individuals degenerate to the point of engaging in human sacrifice, murder, and cannibalism, that would most likely be the beginning of the end for such a group. The odds are that someone in the group would have a problem with such acts and be unable to maintain the secret.

The appeal of the satanic conspiracy theory is twofold:

  1. First, it is a simple explanation for a complex problem. Nothing is more simple than "the devil made them do it". If we do not understand something, we make it the work of some supernatural force. During the Middle Ages, serial killers were thought to be vampires and werewolves, and child sexual abuse was the work of demons taking the form of parents and clergy. Even today, especially for those raised to religiously believe so, satanism offers an explanation as to why "good" people do bad things. It may also help to "explain" unusual, bizarre, and compulsive sexual urges and behavior.
  2. Second, the conspiracy theory is a popular one. We find it difficult to believe that one bizarre individual could commit a crime we find so offensive. Conspiracy theories about soldiers missing in action (MIAs), abductions by UFOs, Elvis Presley sightings, and the assassination of prominent public figures are the focus of much attention in this country. These conspiracy theories and allegations of ritual abuse have the following in common (Note 12):
    1. self-proclaimed experts,
    2. tabloid media interest,
    3. belief the government is involved in a cover-up, and
    4. emotionally involved direct and indirect victim/witnesses.

On a recent television program commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of Jack the Ripper, almost fifty percent of the viewing audience who called the polling telephone numbers indicated that they thought the murders were committed as part of a conspiracy involving the British Royal Family. The five experts on the program, however, unanimously agreed the crimes were the work of one disorganized but lucky individual who was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. In many ways, the murders of Jack the Ripper are similar to those allegedly committed by satanists today.

If your child's molestation was perpetrated by a sophisticated satanic cult, there is nothing you could have done to prevent it and therefore no reason to feel any guilt. I have been present when parents who believe their children were ritually abused at day care centers have told others that the cults had sensors in the road, lookouts in the air, and informers everywhere; therefore, the usually recommended advice of unannounced visits to the day care center would be impossible.

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OCRT Notes

  1. We call "these kinds of cases" MVMO (Multi-Victim, Multi-Offender) cases, and deal only with those cases involving bizarre or "Satanic" behaviour. We believe that all of those that we have examined to date are hoaxes. There are many MVMO cases that we have not studied, involving child molesters and non-bizarre and non-ritual sexual abuse of children; they appear to mostly involve real abuse.
  2. Children under the age of 6 are most susceptible to manipulative interview techniques; through the use of repeated and direct questioning, they can often be persuaded to disclose whatever the interviewer wants to hear. Older children are more resistant to such manipulation. At the core of all the MVMO cases we have studied is a zealous CPS or police investigator.
  3. Once a single child has been induced to disclose bizarre abuse, a CPS or police investigator can usually influence other children in the same day care / preschool / baby-sitting service to disclose similar stories.
  4. If MVMO cases are unfounded, then this would be expected, since most baby-sitting services, preschools and day care centers are the sites of the alleged MVMO abuse, and are staffed mainly by women.
  5. Studies have shown that threats during abuse by non-familial adults increases the chances that a child will disclose abuse without prompting. It would be essentially impossible to threaten dozens of children at a center without at least one of them disclosing the abuse. Yet in the MVMO cases we have studied, disclosures only appeared after extensive prompting by parents and investigators. We have concluded that the abuse and threatening did not actually happen.
  6. An alternative explanation is that the MVMO cases are mostly hoaxes.
  7. An alternative explanation is that many of the recovered memories are in fact of events that never happened, but are the unintended byproduct of recovered memory therapy.
  8. Michelle Remembers has been shown to be a hoax by three independent investigators. The abusive events described in the book are based on jazzed up versions of African native rituals.
  9. Satan's Underground has been shown to be a hoax by Evangelical Christian investigators.
  10. Bodies can be dug up and moved, but the filled-in pits remain and can be easily identified afterwards. A likely explanation is that the murders never happened and that the memories of the burials are false memories.
  11. And without any bodies or other evidence having been found, and no individual leaving the "cult" and turning state's evidence.
  12. Lack of hard evidence is another common factor.

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