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Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA)


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Satanic ritual abuse (SRA) is a.k.a. Cult Related Abuse, Ritual Abuse,
Ritualized Abuse, Sadistic Ritual Abuse, Organized Sadistic Abuse, etc.


Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) can be defined as the psychological, sexual, and/or physical assault forced on an unwilling human victim, and committed by one or more Satanists according to a prescribed ritual, the primary aim of which is to fulfill the need to worship the Christian devil, Satan.

Whether or not SRA actually existed was a high-profile controversial topic starting in 1980. A survey by Redbook magazine in 1994 found that 70% of American adults believed in the existence of abusive Satanic cults. Thirty-two percent explained away the absence of hard evidence or other proof by believing that "the FBI and police ignore evidence because they don't want to admit the cults exist." 1 There is a near consensus among investigators today that SRA is either nonexistent or occurs at an extremely low and undetectable level.

It is important to realize that the above definition is relatively restrictive. It excludes a number of behaviors which are known to exist: 

bullet Abuse by non-Satanic, abusive pedophiles 2 who pretend to be Satanists in order to gain better control of their victims through fear.
bullet Mass murderers by a person who claims to be a Satanist and who tries to use the "Devil made me do it" defense when arrested. They are generally found to have little or no knowledge of Satanism.
bullet Abuse and murder by psychotic individuals and psychopaths who are primarily motivated by their mental illness, not by any religious belief system.
bullet Abuse by non-Satanists who engage in behaviors like SRA but are motivated by Christian or other beliefs. Exorcisms including physical abuse is the most common type.

When belief in Satanic Ritual Abuse collapsed in the mid 1990s, some believers redefined the acronym "SRA" to refer to "Sadistic Ritual Abuse" by followers of any religion or of no religion.

During the 1980s and 1990s, estimates of the number of SRA murders in the U.S. and Canada ranged from 0 (among skeptics) to 60,000 (among some believers in the widespread nature of SRA). It was a unique type of crime for which absolutely no reliable statistics were available.

By the time of the most recent update to this section in 2009-JAN, belief about SRA has largely vanished from the scene. There are many adults who are still suffering from implanted false memories of abuse that never happened. There is always the possibility that a small percentage of these victims actually were abused. However, hard evidence is non-existent.

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The importance of studying SRA:

SRA is a very important topic to study. Consider:

bullet If there were 60,000 humans being killed annually by Satanists in the U.S. and Canada as many people believed in the 1980s and early 1990s, then there would have been about 3 such deaths for every known homicide. SRA would then have been, by far, our most serious social problem.
bullet If there were no murders, then the memories of SRA once held by tens or hundreds of thousands of people were not based on reality. All or almost all were victims of false memories created during recovered memory therapy. They were at least partly disabled by those beliefs. Some were driven to committing suicide. SRA would have remained a very serious problem.
bullet If the actual number of murders was somewhere between these two values, SRA would still be a very serious problem.

In the early 1990's, we analyzed reports on SRA from both believers and skeptics. We tentatively concluded that the skeptics are correct; there is no underground, internationally organized, inter-generational network of Satanic conspirators ritually abusing and murdering children. We have been tracking the SRA movement ever since, and have not seen any hard evidence that would convince us to change our conclusions.

Panics surface at unpredictable times:

bullet Approximately 300 years ago, almost two dozen innocent people in Salem, MA, were charged with witchcraft and executed by hanging; one was pressed to death.
bullet Between 1980 and 1995, a North-American wide panic involved beliefs in Satanic Ritual Abuse.

Nobody knows when the next panic will occur. Our best defense against future panics is awareness of past panics.

References used:

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

  1. Mentioned in: Wendy Kaminer, "Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials: the Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety," Vintage, (2000). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  2. The definition of the word "pedophile" is in a state of flux. Throughout this web site, we try use the term "pedophile" in its historical sense to refer to any adult who is sexually attracted to pre-pubertal children. We use the term "abusive pedophile" to refer to those adults who form a very small minority of pedophiles -- those who act out their sexual attraction by sexually molesting children.

Copyright 1995 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-JAN-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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