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child ritual abuse scare

A typical child ritual abuse scenario

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A typical scenario in a day care, preschool or church school:

The following sequence of events is typical of the  large scale, multi-victim multi-offender (MVMO) ritual abuse cases during the 1980s and early 1990s. Of course, each case does not necessarily go through all of the steps:

  1. A parent will suspect that her child, a student at a day care, has been sexually abused and complains to the police or child protective service. In some cases, the parent will have previously suffered from serious psychiatric problems.
  2. A local group dedicated to fighting child abuse or the local police force becomes interested in the case; suspicions are raised that more than one employee of the day care and more than one child may be involved.
  3. A meeting is held for parents of children in the day care; a check list of symptoms of child sexual abuse is circulated; a local panic builds up
  4. Parents repeatedly grill their children in an effort to have them disclose memories of abuse. They are untrained in child interview techniques. As a result, their children sometimes invent stories to satisfy the prolonged and manipulative questioning.
  5. Parents create a telephone network to share the latest rumors.
  6. Hysteria builds in the community.
  7. Cross-germination of ideas occurs among the parents. One child will disclose an abusive event; within a week most of the parents learn of it and are grilling their children to see if the same abuse happened to them.
  8. Many children in the day care are interviewed repeatedly by professional social workers or child psychologists. Sometimes, the interviewers are themselves survivors of childhood abuse. They use direct, repeated questions. They may engage in manipulation, rewards and threats, and play "lets pretend" games.
  9. In an effort to give the parents and interviewers the kinds of answers that they want, children start to make up stories based upon their fears, concerns, nightmares, and, above all, the suggestions of the therapists.
  10. The police ignore those children's stories that are crazy, bizarre and physically impossible. Descriptions of events that could have happened are assumed to be true. The accused are charged with the latter crimes only.
  11. A number of workers at the day care are arrested. Charges total many dozens, sometimes over 100 incidents of child abuse involving dozens or hundreds of children.
  12. The accused are given polygraph (lie detector) tests and personality profile evaluations. They are shown to be probably innocent. (Well conducted polygraph tests are about 85% accurate).
  13. In spite of every effort, no physical evidence is found to support the children's stories.
  14. Evidence which would have to be present if the children's stories are true is missing.
  15. Some defendants, particularly if poor or developmentally handicapped are manipulated into giving "Alford pleas" i.e. they maintain their innocence but acknowledge that if they were tried, then the jury would probably convict them. These are simplistically described in the media as guilty pleas.
  16. The DA's office is placed under tremendous pressure by the public to solve the case and lock up the perpetrators.
  17. Children are carefully coached in what to say on the stand. By now, the children have converted their fantasies and made-up stories into actual memories of events that never happened.
  18. At some trials, a medical expert will testify that anal "wink" and "dilation" test results show that the child has been sodomized. Small irregularities in the shape of a hymen shows that vaginal penetration has happened. Positive lab analyses sometimes show that a few of the children are infected by a sexually transmitted disease.
  19. The jury wants to believe the children. The medical evidence tilts the balance and they vote to convict.
  20. The defendants are found guilty and receive immense jail sentences, sometimes hundreds of years each.
  21. the children are left with memories of horrendous abuse. Some grow up to become dysfunctional adults because of the memories.

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Mistakes often made during MVMO ritual abuse cases:

The decision of the jury depends largely on the believability of the children. Carefully designed studies have shown that children can be easily prompted by interviewers to disclose stories of abuse that never happened.

A report issued by a California Grand Jury found that:

"Criminal trial juries find it hard to believe that children can tell such incredible stories if nothing has happened to them. They find themselves faced with either believing the children are lying or the perpetrator is guilty. In some cases they have chosen to believe the children. Another option is to choose to believe that the child's narrative memory has been contaminated by the therapy." 1

Most or all of the medical "evidence" presented at trial was meaningless:

bullet For years, medical "experts" have used the results of anal winking and dilation tests as proof of sexual abuse. These opinions have been totally discredited in recent years by studies which show that almost 2/3 of unabused children will show anal winking, and that half show anal dilation. 2 Unfortunately, these data were only published in 1989; too late to affect most of the MVMO trials.
bullet Hymen irregularities can be present since birth or be caused by accidents or sexual penetration. They are present in both abused and unabused girls. Again, this was not known when most of the cases were brought to trial.
bullet Tests for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) often showed false positive results. One commonly used test detected benign bacteria that are frequently found in children's throats and falsely identified them as gonorrhea. According to a 1988 statement by the Centers for Disease Control, more than a third of the samples of children's throat cultures which were reported as having tested positive for the STD were in fact free of gonorrhea. 3

In a class of, say, 30 unabused children, 20 might have failed the anal winking/dilation test, many of the girls would have had hymen irregularities, and over 20 might fail a STD test. So there would false positive test results from many children's made available to convict the "perpetrator" of criminal acts that never happened.

Another contributor to incorrect verdicts are the belief systems of many of the investigators in the District Attorney office. They are often faced with a wide variety of disclosures from the children: some physically impossible; others proven false by physical evidence; some conceivable; and some completely bizarre. They recognize that many of allegations are clearly false, but seem to suspend all judgment and skepticism towards the allegations that could have happened. Many appeared unable to learn from previous MVMO groundless panics in other communities.

A final factor is the "believe the children" mindset of much of the public. A generation ago, incest and sexual abuse of children were believed to be extremely rare. Many feminists and women's organizations later promoted the concept that such abuse is extremely widespread. A common estimate cited is that one out of every four children is sexually abused before the age of 18. Some sources say one in three. (These numbers are based upon studies of adults and include all forms of sexual abuse, from an obscene phone call or a date making a pass to actual child rape.) In promoting their beliefs, many feminists urged that children should always be believed whenever they disclose abuse. They regard any skepticism of child disclosures as an accusation that the child is intentionally lying. The third possibility is discounted: that the interview process itself can cause a child to make up stories to satisfy the interviewer, and that these stories gradually become implanted in their memory.

It is only in recent years that studies have shown how easy it is for an interviewer to coax disclosures from children of events that never happened. All that is required is to repetitively ask the same question, and/or to ask direct questions of the child. Unfortunately, this was also not discovered and widely publicized until after many of the cases went to court.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. 1991-92 San Diego County Grand Jury, Report #8 "CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE, ASSAULT, AND MOLEST ISSUES" (San Diego County, CA). See:
  2. J. McCann, L. Voris, M. Simon, R Wells, "Perianal Findings in Prepubertal Children Selected for Nonabuse: a Descriptive Study.", Child Abuse & Neglect, 13(2), P. 179-193 (1989). 267 children, aged 2 months to 11 years were examined. Anal irregularities of types used to "prove" sexual abuse were found in large percentages of children who had never been abused.
  3. W.L. Whittington et al., "Incorrect Identification of Neisseria Gonorrhoeae from Infants and Children", Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, 7 #1 (1988), P. 3 - 10. (As quoted in Debbie Nathan & Michael Snedecker, "Satan's Silence", Basic Books, New York, NY (1995), Page 195.

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Copyright 1995 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2007-DEC-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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