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Ritual abuse studies

Study of childhood ritual abuse in the UK

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Makeup of the Study:

The ritual abuse panic appears to have been triggered largely by the publishing of a book on Satanic ritual abuse in 1980. 1 (This book has been shown to be a fraud by three separate investigators). Although the panic started in the United States, American ritual abuse "experts" helped spread the hoax to the United Kingdom. Seminars given to police groups and social service agencies triggered many Multi-Victim, Multi-Offender (MVMO) cases (e.g. Bishop Auckland, Cleveland, Newcastle, Nottingham, Rochdale, Orkey and Pembroke). Some of these British MVMO cases resulted in dismissal of all charges or acquittals. But others sent probably innocent people to jail.

All but two of these children have since been returned home after no evidence of Satanic ritual abuse was found. Those two were from the "W" family in Orkney. They were placed in a foster home in 1991 at the ages of 4 and 7. They denied that they had been abused and no reliable evidence was found of either sexual assault or Satanic ritual abuse. They were refused any access to their mother, starting in 1992 and put up for adoption in 1996 against the wishes of their mother. Their 22-year-old sister, who was returned to her family of origin said she believed they would have been told their mother no longer wanted them. She said: "When I was taken and kept at a children's home, the social workers and care assistants constantly told me my mother no longer loved me and that my whole family had turned their backs on me. I was brainwashed into thinking I was alone and nobody wanted me."

The Health Secretary of the British government, Mrs. Virginia Bottomley, ordered a study of ritual abuse in 1991, after a number of children were taken into care in Rochdale and Orkney during a panic by social workers. Professor Jean La Fontaine headed a team at Manchester University which evaluated all known British ritual abuse cases. She issued her report in 1994. 2

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Results of the Study:

Mrs. Bottomley concluded that Christians in opposition to new religious movements had been "a powerful influence encouraging the identification of Satanic abuse".

The report defined ritual abuse as "sexual abuse where there have been allegations of ritual associated with the abuse, whether or not these allegations have been taken any further or tested in the courts". Satanic abuse was defined as "a ritual directed to worship of the Devil".

Results were:
bullet There were 967 cases alleging organized abuse and 86 cases of alleged ritual abuse during 1988 to 1991 incl. in England
bullet From this data, 8% of all sex abuse allegations involved ritual abuse.
bullet Cases occurred in small concentrations: of the 86 ritual abuse cases, 21 were in Nottinghamshire, 12 in London, 14 in the South East and 12 in the North West.
bullet Most cases involved "very poor people". Most were unemployed; only 3 had middle class occupations.
bullet Human sacrifice was alleged in 35 cases; none could be proved.
bullet The use of ceremonial robes was alleged in 28 cases, and corroborating in two.
bullet Interviews with children were poorly done; frequent, direct and aggressive questions were asked. (This technique has now been shown to implant "memories" in the minds of young children of abuse that never happened.)
bullet No evidence exists for Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) in England.
bullet 3 cases involving child molesters were found in which the perpetrators pretended to be Satanists in order to better control their child victims.
bullet Unfounded rumors of SRA had been spread on the basis of dubious information.
bullet Some Evangelical Christians, psychologists, childcare workers, and health-care professionals were held responsible for the myth.
bullet The SRA myth deflected care and concern away from the real plight of many abused children.

Some quotations from Prof. La Fontaine were:
bullet "I think the Evangelicals created the climate in which people could believe this sort of thing was happening."
bullet "People began thinking that perhaps it was something they hadn't seen because they hadn't looked and though they had better start looking. That argument is mistaken because we are not talking about a different kind of abuse. It is the same old sexual abuse."
bullet "In these cases, the children were worryingly disturbed. It was easy to make a mistake by assuming that, because the children were so damaged, what had happened to them must have been so much worse than normal sexual abuse".
bullet "The fact is that the small children didn't actually say these things [allegation of SRA]. They said bits and pieces that were picked up by the adults."
bullet "You can never say that something doesn't exist. All I can say is that there is no evidence in the cases I have examined."
bullet "What is defended as 'what children say' may be nothing of the sort"

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  1. Dr. Lawrence Pazder & Michelle Smith, Michelle Remembers, Pocket Books, (1980), ISBN 0-671-69433-2).
  2. Prof. J.S. Lafontaine, [Great Britain] Department of Health, "Extent & Nature of Organized Ritual Abuse" ISBN 011 11 321797 8; 1994-May. Available from Unipub, 4611-F Assembly Drive, Lanham MD 20706, for USF$ 11.49
  3. Daily Telegraph, London, England, Friday 1994-JUN-3

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Copyright 1996 & 2000 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2000-MAY-14
Author: B.A. Robinson

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