June 21, 1994

Book Reviews: Ritual Abuse

These reviews were written by Geri Corvus. Ignore any other byline you see!

In Pursuit of Satan by Robert D Hicks
(Prometheus Books 1991 £15.50—available from Prometheus Books, 10 Crescent View, Loughton, Essex. IG10 4PZ, or online at the Prometheus Books website.)

Suffer the Little Children by Dr D.H.S. Reid
1992 (available for £15 inc p&p from MIREC, Step Rock House, St Andrews, Fife. KY16 9AT)

Amazingly there are some Pagans out there who still believe there is some truth in the Satanic Abuse Myth. They should read these two books from cover to cover—together they illustrate the growth of a social panic, its tragic consequences and how easily prejudiced preconceptions can be accepted as fact by people expected to know better.

Hicks concentrates entirely on America, examining a number of the 'day-care' cases in which hundreds of young children were allegedly abused by Satanist nursery staff. He details the extraordinary and often terrifying methods used by police investigators who believed in the existence of ritual abuse. On the basis of, usually, a single uncorroborated allegation, parents would be warned that their children had probably been abused and handed a list of 'Satanic abuse indicators' to watch out for (nightmares, phobias, bedwetting and deliberate farting were all certain symptoms); therapists were allowed to question very young children dozens of times, using lies, threats and misleading questions to get the answers they wanted to hear; older children were bullied and intimidated into 'confessing'.

When the facts didn't fit, the believers struggled to find explanations: a nursery's open-access policy meant that visitors were liable to walk in on 'secret' rituals? The Satanists had posted look-outs on all the doors! The nurseries' open-plan designs made unobserved devil-worship untenable? The children were taken to other locations to be abused! Nobody had noticed busloads of kids going in and out? They went through tunnels! No tunnels? The Satanists filled them in...!

Believers' psychological theories and techniques are examined and found wanting. Hypnotic regression, once thought to be infallible for recovering repressed memories, is demonstrated by modern research to be a form of imaginative reconstruction rather than a straightforward memory playback, making it possible to introduce false memories that feel totally convincing. Hicks also profiles some of the key US ritual abuse believers, finding bogus credentials and lack of relevant experience and qualifications everywhere. For instance, Dr Roland Summit (whose twin precepts "Children never lie about sexual abuse" and "Abused children usually deny they have been abused" are engraved on the hearts of most social workers) has never actually worked with children!

In addition to pointing out the gaping holes in "proven" SA cases, Hicks' training in anthropology enables him to put the Satanic Abuse Myth into context alongside other social panics and urban rumours—cattle mutilations, LSD transfers etc, to show that all such myths follow the same basic pattern of an invisible all-pervading Them threatening the family and society.

By contrast, Dr Reid's book is extremely short. It deals with just one case—the allegations of Satanic abuse on a small Orkneys island that led to the legal dawn kidnapping of nine children in February 1991.

A consultant paediatrician specialising in child sex abuse, he was asked to write a report on the Orkney case. What he found appalled him. He is not a good writer and tends to wander off the point, but his book should be on every social worker's reading list as an example of how not to manage a case.

Incompetence and slowness to act in an earlier, (genuine) case of child abuse in one South Ronaldsay family largely led to the events of 1991. One severely abused daughter of this family, left without counselling or real support for years, became highly disturbed and began spouting lurid fantasies involving other islanders as well as her family.

By 1989, some elements of these fantasies were showing similarities to the new phenomenon of Satanic abuse that Scottish social workers were being told about by experts like Maureen Davies and Dr Roland Summit, and Orkney social workers promptly kidnapped the rest of the children into care. (This was probably to make up for their earlier slowness, when they had ignored clear signs of cruelty by the children's father for four years.) Over a year of 'therapy' was needed before some of the children felt able to admit to being ritually abused. That was enough to tip several of the social workers over into an all-embracing wish-fulfilment fantasy, where they were the goodies protecting helpless kiddies from Evil Abusers. Accordingly, they 'protected' nine more children by dragging them from their beds, at which point their pathetic fantasy was finally exposed to the world. Since then, the law on child care has been amended to ensure that 'dawn raids' can no longer take place. However, there is no sign that the social work industry has learned anything from this and other so-called ritual abuse cases, according to Dr Reid.

In 1992, the Pagan magazine Wood & Water ran a review fully supporting the ritual abuse myth on the grounds that 1) children don't lie, and 2) people once denied that child sex abuse existed. Their article was headed "A Conspiracy of Toddlers?"

What these two books show is that it is really a case of a conspiracy of conspiracy-freaks.

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This page contains a single entry by Feòrag published on June 21, 1994 4:51 PM.

Book Reviews: Fantasy and Science Fiction was the previous entry in this blog.

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