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Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA)

SRA History (Part 1)



bullet "Never attribute to Devil-worshipping conspiracies what opportunism, emotional instability, and religious bigotry are sufficient to explain." Shawn Carlson, Ph.D
bullet "...secret societies like Freemasonry, the Illuminati, the Golden Dawn, Rosicrucianism, the Khabbalah, and Jesuits are all involved in plans by which they intend to control the general populace....Through SRA they have been able to apply Mind Control practices with will eventually be used in a broad spectrum by the various organizations and political machines of the world in order to bring about the goals of the Illuminist or Enlightened New World Order." 1
bullet "I have observed that there were neither witches nor bewitched in a village until they were talked and written about." Alonso de Salazar. 2
bullet "Trouble is, the satan-chasers' incredible claims are distinguished by an utter lack of evidence, except for the rantings elicited from 'victims' by dubious psychotherapists and church counselors." Mark Sauer, from a movie review of "By Satan Possessed." 3
bullet "When anyone deviates from reality, people get harmed." (That is this website's motto). 

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Many in the social worker, therapist, conservative Christian and police communities experienced a "Satanic Panic," starting about 1980. They, and much of the  rest of the public, believed that a widespread, underground, secret network of Satanic cults were kidnapping, sexually and physically abusing infants and children, murdering them, and sometimes even eating them.  In the United States and Canada, the scare reached a peak in the very early 1990's. It spread from the U.S. to other English speaking countries, particularly Canada, Britain, and Australia. The panic gradually declined because of the lack of hard evidence. Almost all mental health professionals, police officers, etc now believe that SRA was primarily based on:

bullet False memories by adults of childhood ritual abuse, induced by faulty recovered memory therapy -- a suggestive counseling method that became popular in the 1980s and is now largely discredited.
bullet Memories of non-existent abuse that were implanted in young children as a result of suggestive child investigative techniques. These interview techniques have since been replaced by methods that are much less likely to produce false disclosures by children.
bullet Stories from 19th century anti-Roman Catholic novels which were presented as documentaries.
bullet The anti-semitic blood libel myths which have been in circulation from the 12th century CE to the present time.

Damian Thomson of The Daily Telegraph, a UK newspaper, wrote:

"As Prof[essor Jean] La Fontaine points out, paedophilia is the most potent representation of evil in modern society; it is not surprising that it should become conflated with older folk devils, or that groups with a distrust of the Establishment - fundamentalists, feminists, social workers - should prove receptive to such a myth." 4

By the year 2002, SRA lives on mainly in court cases, in an inverted form. Victims of experimental, suggestive counseling techniques started suing their therapists for having induced false memories of SRA. Multi-million dollar settlements have been reached in some cases.

The concept of Multiple Personality Disorder (now called Dissociative Identity Disorder) has been associated with from Recovered Memory Therapy and SRA. It asserts that some people's minds consist of a number of separate personalities. Belief in MPD/DID is also in decline and largely disappeared by the year 2010. Most therapists now believe that MPD/DID is an iatrogenic disorder -- one that does not appear in nature and has to be artificially generated by the interaction of a therapist and patient. Normally, if the patient is separated from a MPD/DID therapist and support groups, the alters (alternative personalities) fade and finally disappear.

There remain a few individuals and groups who still attempt to raise public awareness of SRA through seminars, web pages, articles, books, etc. They often teach that many benign, gentle religious groups are abusing, mutilating, programming, and killing children and adults. SRA is thus a religious tolerance concern, because so much hatred and misinformation is directed by the SRA movement at small religious groups.

Often forgotten are the victims of this panic: 

bullet Thousands of young children (now approaching middle age) were convinced, by dangerous interview techniques, that they were subjected to sexual torture. The children involved in the McMartin Preschool case alone numbered in the hundreds. There were dozens of other multi-victim, multi-offender (MVMO) hoaxes.
bullet Hundreds of adults who were convicted of crimes and jailed for which they were innocent; in most cases, they were imprisoned for crimes that never happened. Most have now been released.
bullet An unknown number of adults who were victimized by Recovered Memory Therapy and Multiple Personality Disorder, who came to believe that they were Satanic abuse survivors, became emotionally and mentally disabled, and in some cases, committed suicide.
bullet Followers of many benign faith groups who were targeted by the SRA movement and labeled as child abuse perpetrators.

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Start of the SRA movement, early 1980's:

Belief in Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) had been present at a low level for decades in many Christian countries -- particularly among conservative Christians. The latter generally believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. They often attribute mental illness to indwelling demons. Many passages in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) describe Satan as a living, all-evil quasi-deity. Conservative Christians thus generally believe in the existence of Satan, and demon possession. Since God founded the church to spread Christian belief, it appeared logical to some that Satan would have a corresponding organization of individuals dedicated to performing evil.

Belief in SRA burst into prominence in North American in 1980 with the first major SRA survivor book, called Michelle Remembers. 5 It described horrendous sexual and physical abuse allegedly suffered by the co-author, Michelle Smith, as a child over a 5 year interval. She described perpetrators as Satanists who felt that the pain inflicted upon their victims increased their black magical powers. The group also allegedly engaged in human sacrifice and cannibalism. "Michelle" was presented as a documentary -- a record of real events. It was followed by a number of copy-cat books. "...there has been no verification of these events, and it has been discovered that the alleged victim was attending school regularly, and was even photographed for the school yearbook, at a time when she was supposedly locked in a basement for months." 6

There were no documented cases of SRA survivors prior to 1980. However, many such cases followed the publication of Michelle Remembers in that year. Court cases in the early 1980s revealed abuse which were precisely like (or almost identical to) Michelle's. Investigations by the Wiccan Information Network concluded that the book is a hoax. 7 This was confirmed by a separate investigation conducted by the authors of the book Satan's Silence. 8 The rituals described by the co-author Dr. Lawrence Pazder (1936 - 2004) appeared to be linked to his earlier studies of African native religions. 

A number of other survivor books were later published by conservative Christian authors. The most influential were Satan's Underground 9 and He Came to Set the Captives Free. 10 These have since been analyzed by Evangelical groups who also concluded that they were frauds.

A industry developed to promote SRA awareness. Many Evangelical or Fundamentalist Christians joined the seminar/lecture/book circuit to promote the "Satanic Panic". The most influential among these was Mike Warnke. He "maintained that satanists carried out 2 million human sacrifices a year in the US alone. After telling the tragic story of a little boy named Jeffy, Warnke would hand out envelopes to collect money "for all the children like Jeffy", which brought in about $800,000 in 1991. 11 These authors and speakers often define the term Satanism to include many benign religious faiths, such as Goddess Worship, New Age Spirituality, Santeria, Wicca (Witchcraft), etc. Each seminar leader can spread religious suspicion, misinformation and intolerance in each city that he/she visits. It can last for years.

Among those promoting the existance of SRA during the early 1980's were many police officers. They were concerned that Satanists were literally getting away with murder. It soon became obvious to them that no hard evidence had ever been found which pointed to a Satanic conspiracy. There were "no bodies, no bones, no bloodstains, nothing" 12 The police reasoned that if survivors' testimony was true, then certain hard evidence would have been readily detectable. It wasn't. The most famous example are the non-existent tunnels under the McMartin Preschool center in California. 

There is plenty of soft evidence of SRA in the memories of hundreds of child survivors and tens of thousands of adult survivors. Many experts believe that these are false memories; children's memories having been created by improper interview methods, and adult's memories generated by a variety of suggestive therapeutic techniques. Everyone is in agreement that the survivors very rarely lie; they are telling the truth as they remember it to be. However, there is a growing belief that those memories are not of real events. Most police officers are now highly skeptical about the existence of SRA. Almost four decades have now passed since "Michelle Remembers" was published. In spite of hundreds of rigorous police investigations, hard evidence of SRA has not been found.

This essay continues in Part 2


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

  1. "Breaking Free: SRA Survivor's Group: Mission Statement," at:
  2. Robert M. Bowman, Jr., "Satanism and Satanic Ritual Abuse," at: This is an account of Satanism and SRA by a conservative Christian.
  3. "By Satan possessed: The search for the Devil," a HBO movie by Antony Thomas. It was aired on 1993-SEP-7. The movie describes in detail the 1991 abuse by the police and child protection officers of the Wallis family in Escondido CA. Their children were taken into care for 68 days. The only hard evidence against the parents was that the father had named his sailboat "Witch Way." A movie review by the San Diego Union-Tribune is at:
  4. Damian Thomson, "The people who believe that Satanists might eat your baby," The Daily Telegraph, London, UK, 2002-MAR-22, Page 28.
  5. Michelle Smith & Lawrence Pazder, "Michelle Remembers," (Reissued 1989), Pocket Books. This is the novel that started the Satanic panic; three independent investigations have shown it to be a work of fiction. Review/order this book
  6. Various authors, "Journal of Psychohistory", vol. 24, #4, (1994-Spring). The journal has one skeptical article followed by a series of articles by believers in SRA.
  7. Wiccan Information Network, WIN INTELLIGENCE REPORT, SAMHAIN 1993 Wiccan Information Network, PO Box 2422, Main Post Office, Vancouver BC, V6B 3W7 Canada.
  8. Debbie Nathan & Michael Snedeker, "Satan's Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt," Iuniverse, (2001). Review/order this book
  9. Lauren Stratford & Johanna Michaelson, "Satan's Underground: The extraordinary story of one woman's escape," Pelical Publ. (Reissued 1991)  Review/order this book
  10. Rebecca Brown: "He came to set the captives free," Whitaker House, (1993). This is an immensely popular book that she promotes as a documentary. However, it appears to be a work of fiction. It was once In the top 7,500 of all books sold by, and -- as of 2009-JAN -- is still the second most popular book on the topic of Satanism.  Read 228 reviews/order this book Almost all reviewers give the book either 0 or 5 stars out of a maximum of 5 stars.
  11. Phil Baker, "A walk on the dark side: Think satanism isn't serious?
    Phil Baker finds out the awful truth
    ," The Guardian (London), 2001-OCT-6, Saturday pages, P. 10.
  12. J.M Feldman, et al., "Stranger Than Fiction: When Our Minds Betray Us," American Psychiatric Press, Washington DC, (1998). Review/order this book Discusses false memories.

Copyright 1995 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2017-AUG-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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