Factors contributing to the scare during the 1980s and early 1990s:
There have been many accusations of sexual touching and sexual abuse of children at a small
percentage of day care centers, pre-schools and church Sunday schools. These almost always
involve a single male perpetrator abusing one or a few children. Some of these have
been proven beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.
We deal here with a different topic: the many dozens of accusations of
large scale ritual abuse, as far back as the early 1980's and continuing to the
mid 1990's, when the first draft of this essay was written. Most occurred in the United States, although a few have surfaced in Canada,
Europe and elsewhere.
Circa 1980, several trends combined to increase parents' anxiety over the safety of their children
in daycare, church school, and preschool centers:
The percentage of mothers who worked outside the home increased. This
caused an increase in the number of children in daycare, and the guilt that
parents often felt when they left their children in the care of relative
The federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act was
passed. It intended to help states combat child abuse. But it had a very undesirable
side-effect: it gave states a strong economic incentive to search out
instances of child abuse in their area. It also gave immunity from
prosecution to child protection officers, even if they conducted improper
investigations. Investigators detected widespread abuse where none had
Michelle Smith's book "Michelle Remembers" was published in
1980. It triggered a North American Satanic panic. Although presented as
an documentary exposing Satanic Ritual Abuse, it was in fact a
fantasy novel. Many of the
public, particularly feminists, conservative Christians and law
enforcement officers initially bought into the beliefs expressed in the
book that ritual abuse was a widespread evil and an immediate danger to children. As of later 2001, the book
is out of print. However, used copies can still be purchased from
Amazon.com market place.
Although the vast majority of child molesters are not gay, there was a
widespread belief that children were at high risk for abuse by gay males.
Homosexuals were coming out of the closet in large numbers during the
1970's and the drive for equal rights for gays and lesbians were
intensifying the public's awareness (and fear) of sexual minorities.
Back in the 1970's, "psychiatric textbooks estimated the rate of
father-daughter incest at one to two for every million women in the United
States." 1 Incest and sexual abuse of children had
been a very low-profile topic. It was brought to the foreground by
feminists during the 1970s. They claimed that massive numbers of children
were being abused. Catherine MacKinnon estimated that 4.5% of all women
were molested by their fathers during childhood. If other family members
and friends are considered, the figure rose to 40%. Judith Herman's book
Father-Daughter Incest (1980) estimated that victims of incest
numbered in the millions. Parents feared for their children's safety, when in
the presence of their fathers, male relatives, friends of the family and day
care workers.It was only later that more reliable estimates
became available. It is now generally accepted that about 1% of young girls are
sexually molested by their fathers, and 1% by their step-fathers.
Also in the 1980's an estimate was widely circulated that one in
four children have been sexually assaulted. Since then, the number
quoted has varied from one in four to one in three. These data are
derived from a single study that asked adults whether they had an
unwanted sexual advance when they were under the age of 18? If one
considers that most youth start dating in their early teens, that many
youths are not the best communicators, that the average youth becomes
sexually active at the age of 16, there is immense opportunity among
teenagers for an unwanted sexual advance in the form of a stolen kiss,
an inappropriate hug, etc. Unfortunately, this one in four ratio is often quoted
in a context that implies that one in four children have been raped. That is
irresponsible reporting which needlessly adds to the fear that parents
The scare itself:
The end result of these trends was to increase anxiety about the safety of
children in day care centers, by parents, child protection services and law
enforcement. When three other factors were added:
Improper interview techniques that were guaranteed to create false
disclosures of abuse that never happened, and
Invalid medical examination procedures intended to detect abuse, and
Laboratory STD tests that gave false positives,
then the stage was set for the detection of numerous MVMO abuse cases where no abuse
had actually happened.
We have analyzed three dozen court trials
involving Multi-Victim/Multi-Offender (MVMO) sexual and ritual abuse of very young
children. Charges in most cases involved massive sadistic sexual abuse of children,
usually involving incredibly vicious forms of assault and dozens (sometimes hundreds) of
victims in each case.
We have concluded from a study of these MVMO cases that:
Sexual touching was perpetrated by a single woman in a Florida case, called Country Walk.
However, she perceived it as part of her culture and did not regard it as
Sexual abuse by single individuals conceivably could have happened in a few of the other
No sadistic, ritual abuse has happened in any of the cases studied.
No abuse by a conspiracy of adults has occurred.
Many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children were emotionally damaged - not by
sexual or ritual abuse but by the accidental implantation of false memories by therapists and
Hundreds of adults were sentenced to long prison terms for crimes that they did not
commit - in fact, for crimes that never happened.
Most of the adults who were incarcerated have now been released.
There is one little known, possible exception to the above conclusion. This was a series of
trials in Prescott, ON, Canada. This is a small town about 50 miles northeast
of Kingston ON. Kingston is located where Lake Ontario feeds into the St. Lawrence
River. The Prescott case may have involved actual instances of massive,
coordinated sexual and ritual abuse of children on a scale that has never before occurred
in North America. Or, it may have been the worst miscarriage of justice in North America
involving this form of crime, resulting in jailing almost 100 adults for crimes
that never happened. We have insufficient evidence at this time to reach a conclusion,
but tend towards the latter explanation.
"Sex, Lies, and Audiotapes; Rael Jean Isaac explains why we've
been so willing to believe fantastic tales of sexual abuse," Independent
Women's Forum, The Women's Quarterly, 2001-Summer.