SAN DIEGO GRAND JURY REPORT ON CHILDHOOD RITUAL ABUSE
Makeup of the Study
The 1991-92 San Diego County, CA, Grand Jury conducted a study of all aspects
of child abuse, and issued a report "Child Sexual Abuse, Assault, and
The introduction to the report reads:
"Through expert testimony and case studies, the Jury obtained a wide range
of information in the area of child sexual abuse. This controversial and
highly complex subject has suffered from excessive, sometimes bordering on
hysterical, media attention, reporting of inaccurate or questionable
statistics, and the failure to define and identify child sexual abuse
accurately. Within the limits of the expert testimony received by the Jury,
and a study of cases brought to the Jury's attention, this report will
provide an overview of some child sexual abuse issues existing with the
Results of the Study
A portion of the report dealt with Satanic ritual abuse (SRA):
"In October, 1991, a Grand Juror was present at a meeting of the San
Diego Commission on Children and Youth when a report on ritual abuse was
adopted. This report, entitled Ritual Abuse Treatment, Intervention and
Safety Guidelines, was the result of a task force effort and made
numerous recommendations for handling ritual, and, of particular concern to
the Jury, satanic abuse. The following definition of "satanic" appears in
'Satanic - Satanists may infiltrate other types of cults, or remain separate.
Satanic cults may range from an extra-familial collection of methamphetamine
abuses who torture for excitement, to decades old, multi-national sects, with
established political systems, revenue mechanisms, etc., which indulge in
the deification of Satan. Numerous cults exist which have sophisticated
suppliers of sacrificial persons, from kidnapers through "breeders" (women
who bear children intended for sexual abuse and sacrifice).'
Within the week Jurors were present at a dependency proceeding where a
referee was presented a detention petition involving allegations of satanic
abuse. The referee followed the recommendations in the social study which
were almost verbatim from the recommendations made for handling these cases
in the Commission on Children and Youth report. The children name in
the petition were placed in confidential placement with no family contact
whatsoever. They were also placed with a therapist "well-versed" in ritual
Citizen complaints of social workers pursuing satanic ritual abuse cases
began to come to the Jury. Four families were from the same church
congregation; the other complaints were unrelated. In one case the County
Counsel filed a petition actually alleging that the child would be
sacrificed on his birthday. All of the cases tested rational credulity.
Each involved the same set of social workers, therapists, and detectives.
At this time, all cases with which the Jury is familiar have been
terminated. The emotional cost to the children and families cannot be
calculated. In at least two cases, lawsuits against the County have
Jurors contacted expert witnesses across the country. The ritual abuse
report was sent to various experts for evaluation.
Police detectives involved in these investigations, members of the task
force who wrote the report and an involved therapist were interviewed.
Jurors attended a conference workshop by another therapist who served on
the task force which prepared the report and was being used as a
recommended ritual abuse therapist. Witnesses were asked to provide a
factual information or evidence they had available which would substantiate
the existence of satanic ritual abuse in San Diego County or elsewhere. No
such information or evidence was provided. The Jury found that there is no
physical evidence of satanic ritual child abuse in San Diego County.
There is evidence and considerable professional testimony that the existence
of satanic ritual abuse is a contemporary myth perpetuated by a small number
of social workers, therapists, and law enforcement members who have
effected an influence which far belies their numbers. These "believers"
cannot be dissuaded by a lack of physical evidence.
The Jury had extensive contact with Ken Lanning, head of the FBI Behavioral
Sciences Investigation Unit. Mr. Lanning has spent ten years in nationwide
search for reliable evidence of satanic ritual abuse. He has found none. It is his position that if satanic
ritual abuse were occurring his unit would have found some concrete evidence
during their exhaustive search.
Mr. Lanning advised jurors that epidemic allegations of satanic abuse
frequently follow conferences where social workers and therapists are
exposed to a "survivor" or speaker on the subject. Jurors attended one of
these sessions at a national conference on child abuse held locally and
coordinated by the Center for Child Protection. "Survivors" told about
their abuse in detail. One "survivor" had memories of sexual abuse on the
day she was born (1). This same survivor reported memories of her mother's
attempts to abort her (1). Another "survivor" told a detailed story of
satanic ritual abuse which included a large number of prominent citizens
from her hometown (2).
Mr. Lanning also stated that the blurring of the diagnosis of dissociative
disorder and a resulting logically false conclusion is at least partially
responsible. This opinion was confirmed by other expert witnesses. The
DSM-III defines Multiple Personality Disorder under Dissociative Disorders.
Multiple Personality Disorder is an unusual condition with childhood abuse
(often sexual) as a predisposing factor. Therapists who have expanded the
parameters of the dissociative disorder diagnosis to include any form of
dissociation have fallen prey to the logical fallacy followed that all of
these patients also suffered severe childhood trauma. Proponents of this
theory believe that with a sympathetic therapist, if any dissociative
disorder is found, memories of childhood abuse will follow.
According to professional testimony, there is some evidence that many
patients who receive therapy from a therapist who ascribes to this theory,
will eventually "testify" to such memories. In fact, the "memories" may be
the product of the therapist. The therapy itself may be the abuse. John
Money, Ph.D. of Johns Hopkins University has labeled this abuse in therapy
as nosocomial abuse.
Grand Jurors viewed a Calvacade video circulated by a County official. This
video shows "therapy" being given to very young "victims". Professionals
advised that the type of therapy used in this video could be defined as
The alleged satanic abuse cases which have surfaced nationwide during the
past ten years share many common elements. No matter how incredible the
allegations, the "believers" believe them. No physical evidence is found.
The "believers" have complex theories to explain the absence of physical
findings and evidence. The "evidence" presented is the testimony of
children. The children testify to fantastic tales which can not be
confirmed. The children have spent a considerable time with therapists.
Most often, religious fundamentalism is an element. Frequently, a
"survivor" or someone who has "memories" of having been ritually abused as
a child is involved either as the therapist, the social worker, the
prosecutor, or the reporting party. 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.
Of particular interest is the information the Jury received about the
Little Rascals pre-school case in North Carolina. Eighty-five percent of
the percent of the children received therapy with three therapists in the
town; all of these children eventually reported satanic abuse. Fifteen
percent of the children were treated by different therapists in a
neighboring city; none of the children reported abuse of any kind after the
same period of time in therapy.
Experts have told the Jury that the first story a young child tells is most
likely the true one. Testimony given by very young children after a year in
therapy should be treated with great caution. Testimony given by children
after a year in therapy with therapists who are "believers" should be
treated with deep skepticism.
The Grand Jury is aware that the Department of Social Services has
reevaluated the investigative protocols on ritual and satanic abuse. The
social worker who investigated in this area has been reassigned and the
Ritual Abuse report is no longer being distributed by the Commission on
Children and Youth. This is as it should be.
[Bill] SB 1771 (Russell) is currently before the state legislature. If passed, it
will create a state-wide task force on ritualistic child abuse. By statute,
this task force will be made up of fourteen members chosen by two groups,
one of which is the Los Angeles County Commission for Women Task Force on
Ritual Abuse. Much of San Diego County's Report on Ritualistic
Abuse was borrowed from materials compiled by this group. The purpose of
this state task force is ostensibly to determine the extent of the problem of
ritualistic abuse. It would appear that the selection process makes this
task force less than objective. The Jury strongly urges the Board of
Supervisors and San Diego's Department of Social Services to oppose this
Memory researchers have reached the consensus that people cannot remember
events which happened before they are 24 months old.
Many SRA survivors have recovered "repressed memories" of SRA during
childhood. Often, public figures from their home town are included as
perpetrators, including judges, doctors, lawyers, police chiefs, mayor etc.