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Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA)

Rebirth of SRA panic in
the UK during 2002-2003

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Background of Satanic Ritual Abuse in the UK:

During the late 1980s and early 1990's when the ritual abuse panic was rapidly declining in North America, it seems to have reached a peak in the UK. The following people were charged:

Many lives were disrupted; children were forcibly removed from families; professions were ruined; and some innocent people spent time in jail. However, no hard evidence of ritual abuse -- Satanic or otherwise -- was ever found. It was a true cultural panic, a successor to the Salem Witch trials.

In 1994, anthropologist Professor Jean La Fontaine was commissioned by the Department of Health to study ritual abuse in the UK. She examined all 86 known allegations of ritual abuse during the interval 1988 to 1991, and found no evidence of Satanism in any of the cases. She did uncover three pedophiles who pretended to be Satanists in order to better control their victims. She concluded that some evangelical Christians, psychologists, childcare workers, and health-care professionals created and promoted the myth. She also concluded that the ritual abuse myth deflected care and concern away from the real plight of many abused children.

Damian Thompson of The Telegraph, a UK newspaper, wrote:

"What the inquiry did expose, however, was the tangle of folklore and urban legend that produced the scare. The ingredients included:

  • Stories of baby sacrifice borrowed from 19th-century anti-Catholic
    propaganda (many Satan-hunters are anti-Catholic fundamentalists);
  • The anti-Semitic blood libel;
  • Corny images of devil-worshippers owing more to The Wicker Man
    [movie] than to any real occult rubric;
  • Television cartoons (the Orkney allegations featured adults dressed
    as Ninja Turtles); and
  • The scatological rambling of small children."

2002: Belief in Satanic Ritual Abuse returns:

Lord Acton chaired a private meeting in Westchester, UK, to discuss hooded chanting Satanists ritually assaulting children. The organizers said:

"You may be aware that, for several years, there have been reports of the ritual abuse of children and in some cases ritual murder. The rituals reportedly often involve the Black Mass and the wearing of robes. Adult survivors of ritual abuse are divulging important evidence regarding the large scale of this problem in the UK."

There is no real possibility that adult survivors are fraudulent in their statements about having been abused. They have what appear to be real memories of abuse received during their own childhood. The only question is whether these "memories" are of actual events, or whether they are false "memories" that have been implanted either by suggestive therapeutic techniques or by self-hypnosis. All hard evidence seems to be pointing to false memories.

Wilfred Wong, an evangelical Christian activist who attended the meeting, is promoting a change in the law to create a new category of crime: ritual abuse. He feels that "hundreds, if not thousands" of sexual assaults and murders could then be tried in court. He comments: "But so far little has been done."

The main speaker at the meeting was Valerie Sinason, a psychotherapist at St George's Hospital in London. She claimed that the body of a five-year-old black boy whose torso was pulled from the Thames River in 2001-SEP bore all the hallmarks of a ritual murder. She said: "Sadly, I do not think this is a one-off." There is a general consensus outside the SRA community that the boy was murdered by an African witchdoctor who was harvesting body parts for magical medicine.

Prof.  La Fontaine commented on Sinason's beliefs, saying:

"It's depressing to find someone who has a position at leading London hospitals who is so cut off from what research methodology is, and what rational evidence is" 

La Fontaine criticized what Sinason describes as "clinical evidence" of infanticide and cannibalism. In reality, it appears to be present only in stories that her patients have told her. Thompson suggests:

"The implication is that, because the suffering of these people is real, their 'memories' must be accurate. ... "

"Prof La Fontaine's report cannot compete with the Hammer Horror scenario of Satanic abuse, just as the painstaking work of real archaeologists pales in comparison with the tales of 'lost civilizations' that television companies, to their shame, still commission.

"Fortunately, inconvenient facts have a way of fighting to the surface. Lord Alton - who says he is keeping an 'open mind' on satanic abuse - might want to consider the following story. [In 2001], ... Jeremy Laurance, the health editor of the Independent, was alerted by a well known psychotherapist to the existence of pictures on the Internet of a man eating a dismembered baby. The paper ran the story. A week later it apologized. 'Let's not beat about the bush. I've been had,' said Laurance. It turned out that the photographs were a hoax by a Chinese performance artist. And the gullible psychotherapist? Valerie Sinason, of course."

2003: One, hopefully the final, ritual abuse scare:

By the mid 1990s, almost all child psychologists, child protective service officials, and police investigators in the English-speaking world had learned of the dangers of traditional but newly discredited interviewing techniques when used on young children. They had learned safer methods. Accusations of multiple victim multiple offender (M.V.M.O.) crimes and SRA evaporated.

Many investigators had assumed that SRA hoaxes would never materialize again. They were wrong. Belief in evil, underground, secret, inter-generational, internationally organized Satanists still exists -- primarily among two groups: a diminishing minority of radical feminists and some conservative Christians.

In the fall of 2003, disclosures of SRA emerged once more. On 2003-OCT-3, Police executed "Operation Haven." They conducted pre-dawn raids on four houses on Lewis Island -- one of the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland -- and three houses in Leicestershire. A group of eight adults was charged with ritual abuse.

The case collapsed, Charges were eventually dropped and those imprisoned were released. There are indications that the children had been sexually abused, but that Satanism or other ritual activity was not involved.

Almost five years has passed, and no other cases have surfaced. The ritual abuse panic may have finally dissipated in the UK as it has in North America.


  1. Danian Thopmpson, "The people who believe that Satanists might eat your baby," The Telegraph (UK), 2002-MAR-22.
  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.

Copyright 2007 & 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2007-MAY-26
Latest update: 2008-JUL-08
Author: B.A. Robinson

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