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RITUAL ABUSE CASES IN MUENSTER, GERMANY

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Rainer Moellers, a male nursery teacher at a Montessori nursery in Muenster, was fired because of allegations of ritual abuse. The concerns originated with a conversation between a child, his mother and a friend of the mother who is a social worker and member of a local feminist group. The allegation centered around the taking of the child's temperature; it was quickly cleared up. But, after a series of talks to parents by the feminist group, additional allegations surfaced. Parents received a checklist of warning signs of sexual abuse. In 1992, Moellers was charged with abusing 62 children at 2 nurseries. Charges included:

bulletInserting toothbrushes and toothpaste in their anus
bulletInserting spoons in their vagina
bulletGroup oral and penetrative sex simultaneously
bulletPenetration by other devices: toy cars, soap, pencils
bulletSticking pins, needles, nails and a penknife into genitals
bulletSmearing jam, nutella, toothpaste, excrement and sperm on genitals and licking it off
bulletEjaculation, defecation and urination on the children on nursery carpets.
bulletPainting genitals with water paints
bulletForcing children to eat excrement out of toilet bowls
bulletPornography and videos
bulletBurial in coffins
bulletThreats of harm by dangerous animals, magicians, death threats
bulletJourneys to a white house (later discovered to be a theater refreshment stand), where the children witnessed women being sacrificed.

As in essentially all ritual abuse cases, medical examinations revealed two factors:

bulletthere was no evidence to confirm any of the charges
bulletif some of the abuse had happened, physical evidence would have been present

A key personality in the case was Psychiatrist Tilman Fürniß (Fuerniss) of the local university, the University of Muenster. He wrote The Multiprofessional handbook of Child Sexual Abuse (1991), and had been part of the original child sexual abuse team at Great Ormond St. Hospital in London England. This team had imported many of the techniques and assumptions of child abuse questioning from the US, including the use of anatomically correct dolls and hypothetical questioning. These dolls have since been shown to have limited use in cases where sexual abuse was known to have happened. But they can generate entirely false accusations when used on a "fishing expedition" with young children (1, P. 161-186). Hypothetical questioning has also been discredited. Prof. Fürniß has lectured extensively about the prevalence of pedophile rings operating in institutions, and his writing have influenced many child care workers and therapists.

Two Fürniß-trained trauma therapists worked with the children and parents; he ran some sessions himself. Statement Validity Analysis (SVA) by various psychologists was divided:
bulletsome said that the more extreme allegations were fantasy, an extension of genuine abuse.
bulletOthers felt no abuse had occurred at all and that the psychological symptoms in the children were caused by the investigation.

Applicable forms of SVA became a point of contention in this and other European cases. Some forms appear to be highly accurate, while others tend simply to confirm the prejudices of the investigators. Psychological profiles of the accused did not support his being a likely abuser. None of the staff had observed any usual behavior by Moellers. Other people were named as alleged perpetrators but charges were withheld and finally abandoned as the controversy over the Moellers case intensified.

A major influence was a long article in Der Spiegel in 1993-JUN which critically drew attention to the role of Prof. Fuerniss and the similarity between this case and the McMartin and Kelly Michaelscases in the US. The article mentioned the similarity with a case in Bjeugn, a small Norwegian village. This too was heavily influenced by the writings of Prof. Fürniß and included allegations made by children against four men and three women, complete with the same ritual abuse stories as mentioned in the Montessori case.

Mr. Moellers was eventually tried; he was acquitted on all counts in early 1995.

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A second case of alleged mass ritual abuse of children surfaced in Worms, Germany. Apparently another therapist trained by Professor Fürniß was involved in bringing this case forward. The alleged perpetrators were found not-guilty in 1997-JUN.

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Reference

  1. S.J. Ceci & M. Bruck, "Jeopardy in the Courtroom: A Scientific Analysis of Children's Testimony", American Psychological Association, Washington DC (1995)

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