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The
child ritual abuse scare

Background

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Sponsored link.

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Factors contributing to the scare during the 1980s and early 1990s:

There have been many accusations of sexual touching and sexual abuse of children at a small percentage of day care centers, pre-schools and church Sunday schools. These almost always involve a single male perpetrator abusing one or a few children. Some of these have been proven beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.

We deal here with a different topic: the many dozens of accusations of large scale ritual abuse, as far back as the early 1980's and continuing to the mid 1990's, when the first draft of this essay was written. Most occurred in the United States, although a few have surfaced in Canada, Europe and elsewhere.

Circa 1980, several trends combined to increase parents' anxiety over the safety of their children in daycare, church school, and preschool centers:

bulletThe percentage of mothers who worked outside the home increased. This caused an increase in the number of children in daycare, and the guilt that parents often felt when they left their children in the care of relative strangers.
bulletThe federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act was passed. It intended to help states combat child abuse. But it had a very undesirable side-effect: it gave states a strong economic incentive to search out instances of child abuse in their area. It also gave immunity from prosecution to child protection officers, even if they conducted improper investigations. Investigators detected widespread abuse where none had actually occurred.
bulletMichelle Smith's book "Michelle Remembers" was published in 1980. It triggered a North American Satanic panic. Although presented as an documentary exposing Satanic Ritual Abuse, it was in fact a fantasy novel. Many of the public, particularly feminists, conservative Christians and law enforcement officers initially bought into the beliefs expressed in the book that ritual abuse was a widespread evil and an immediate danger to children. As of later 2001, the book is out of print. However, used copies can still be purchased from Amazon.com market place.
bulletAlthough the vast majority of child molesters are not gay, there was a widespread belief that children were at high risk for abuse by gay males. Homosexuals were coming out of the closet in large numbers during the 1970's and the drive for equal rights for gays and lesbians were intensifying the public's awareness (and fear) of sexual minorities.
bulletBack in the 1970's, "psychiatric textbooks estimated the rate of father-daughter incest at one to two for every million women in the United States." 1 Incest and sexual abuse of children had been a very low-profile topic. It was brought to the foreground by feminists during the 1970s. They claimed that massive numbers of children were being abused. Catherine MacKinnon estimated that 4.5% of all women were molested by their fathers during childhood. If other family members and friends are considered, the figure rose to 40%. Judith Herman's book Father-Daughter Incest (1980) estimated that victims of incest numbered in the millions. Parents feared for their children's safety, when in the presence of their fathers, male relatives, friends of the family and day care workers.It was only later that more reliable estimates became available. It is now generally accepted that about 1% of young girls are sexually molested by their fathers, and 1% by their step-fathers.
bulletAlso in the 1980's an estimate was widely circulated that one in four children have been sexually assaulted. Since then, the number quoted has varied from one in four to one in three. These data are derived from a single study that asked adults whether they had  an unwanted sexual advance when they were under the age of 18? If one considers that most youth start dating in their early teens, that many youths are not the best communicators, that the average youth becomes sexually active at the age of 16, there is immense opportunity among teenagers for an unwanted sexual advance in the form of a stolen kiss, an inappropriate hug, etc. Unfortunately, this one in four ratio is often quoted in a context that implies that one in four children have been raped. That is irresponsible reporting which needlessly adds to the fear that parents experience.

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Sponsored link:

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The scare itself:

The end result of these trends was to increase anxiety about the safety of children in day care centers, by parents, child protection services and law enforcement. When three other factors were added:

bulletImproper interview techniques that were guaranteed to create false disclosures of abuse that never happened, and
bulletInvalid medical examination procedures intended to detect abuse, and
bulletLaboratory STD tests that gave false positives,

then the stage was set for the detection of numerous MVMO abuse cases where no abuse had actually happened.

We have analyzed three dozen court trials involving Multi-Victim/Multi-Offender (MVMO) sexual and ritual abuse of very young children. Charges in most cases involved massive sadistic sexual abuse of children, usually involving incredibly vicious forms of assault and dozens (sometimes hundreds) of victims in each case.

We have concluded from a study of these MVMO cases that:
bulletSexual touching was perpetrated by a single woman in a Florida case, called Country Walk. However, she perceived it as part of her culture and did not regard it as abuse.
bulletSexual abuse by single individuals conceivably could have happened in a few of the other cases.
bulletNo sadistic, ritual abuse has happened in any of the cases studied.
bulletNo abuse by a conspiracy of adults has occurred.
bulletMany hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children were emotionally damaged - not by sexual or ritual abuse but by the accidental implantation of false memories by therapists and investigators
bulletHundreds of adults were sentenced to long prison terms for crimes that they did not commit - in fact, for crimes that never happened.
bulletMost of the adults who were incarcerated have now been released.

There is one little known, possible exception to the above conclusion. This was a series of court trials in Prescott, ON, Canada. This is a small town about 50 miles northeast of Kingston ON. Kingston is located where Lake Ontario feeds into the St. Lawrence River. The Prescott case may have involved actual instances of massive, coordinated sexual and ritual abuse of children on a scale that has never before occurred in North America. Or, it may have been the worst miscarriage of justice in North America involving this form of crime, resulting in jailing almost 100 adults for crimes that never happened. We have insufficient evidence at this time to reach a conclusion, but tend towards the latter explanation. 

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Reference used:

  1. "Sex, Lies, and Audiotapes; Rael Jean Isaac explains why we've been so willing to believe fantastic tales of sexual abuse," Independent Women's Forum, The Women's Quarterly, 2001-Summer.

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Copyright © 1995 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2007-DEC-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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