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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 Molest Issues".

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 dependency process."

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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 this report.

'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 abuse.

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 followed.

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 nosocomial abuse.

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 legislation.

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  1. Memory researchers have reached the consensus that people cannot remember events which happened before they are 24 months old.
  2. 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.

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Return to the OCRT home page, or the "Not So Spiritual" page, or the "Ritual Abuse Studies" page.