Satanic Abuse Myth: June 2005 Archives

June 26, 2005

Media in moral panic shocker!

United Kingdom: The similarity between the current moral panic< over exorcism in evangelical churches, in particular those with African congregations, and the earlier Satanic ritual abuse panic has been noted by the Grauniad:

The front-page headline leaping from the newsstands could not have been more clear: Children sacrificed in London churches, say police. At the same moment, the BBC was reporting that detectives trying to investigate the ritual murder of children accused of witchcraft were facing a wall of silence. Lord Stevens, the recently retired commissioner of the Metropolitan police, was weighing in to damn African churches, which he said were obsessed by witchcraft, exorcism and evil spirits.

We must, Lord Stevens railed in a Sunday newspaper column, stop this madness costing children's lives.

And, just like its predecessor, the evidence is scant indeed.

The police had conducted no such investigation, have scant evidence of ritual abuse of African children and - with the important exception of the young boy known as Adam, whose torso was found floating in the Thames four years ago - have seen nothing to suggest that any child has been sacrificed.

There have been a grand total of two cases where African children have been abused, and in one case killed, because they were believed to be possessed:

To date, however, just two witchcraft abuse cases have come before the British courts. Victoria Climbié, who was brought to London from the Ivory Coast by her aunt, suffered terrible abuse before being taken to a church in south London where the pastor decided that she was possessed. The beatings continued and she died soon afterwards.

Three people are awaiting sentence after being convicted this month of the abuse of an eight-year-old Angolan orphan. They starved the child, who can be identified only as Child B, struck and cut her, and rubbed chilli in her eyes in an attempt to drive out the devil within.

Which, while this is more evidence than exists for secret gangs of Satanists raping and killing children for religious purposes, it's still nothing more than isolated cases and the demonisation of an entire religious tradition seems a little excessive. Implications that there might be ever such a slight racist motivation behind the reaction seem to carry some weight, especially when you discover that in the last two years in Haringey (the borough in which Child B lived):

Over the same period [social workers] have been alerted to about 6,000 cases of children in need, of whom about 650 were children in high need of protection, many of them suffering serious physical or sexual abuse.

How media whipped up a racist witch-hunt - The Guardian, 25th June 2005.

June 11, 2005

Old myth, even older clothes

England: Josie Appleton has written an interesting article about the reaction to the conviction of three people for abusing a child they believed to be witch. In particular she questions the racist assumptions made by the media, social services and the police about the case. It quickly begins to sound as if something very familar indeed is going on.

The case quickly became a careering bandwagon, on to which police, social services and the media leapt. This was understood not as the criminal actions of one woman, but as a sign of the barbarity of Africans in general. Articles speculated about the dozens, even hundreds, of African children being subjected to mystical abuse behind the closed doors of north-east London. The Metropolitan Police has set up a special six-person team, 'Project Violet', to tackle ritualised child abuse in London's African communities.

MP Diane Abbott quickly established a claim to take over the ecological niche left by the late Geoffrey Dickens:

Because the defendants attended an evangelical church in Hackney, their crime apparently implicated the whole African spiritual infrastructure. 'Ban these witchcraft churches', called Diane Abbott in the London Evening Standard on 7 June. According to the Abbott, MP for Hackney North, churches should be registered, opened up for monitoring, and shut down 'the minute any child connected to their congregation is abused'.

Yet there is little hard evidence to justify these wild claims. It seems to be the accusers who are possessed with ideas of mass, ritualised child abuse—not London's immigrant communities.

Appleton then reports on some more familiar-sounding hyperbole:

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Satanic Abuse Myth category from June 2005.

Satanic Abuse Myth: January 2005 is the previous archive.

Satanic Abuse Myth: June 2006 is the next archive.

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