The existence of ritual abuse has been one of the four places where so called skeptics and false memory syndrome proponents have attacked the credibility of child abuse survivors.
The second one is attacking the theory of recovered memory. However, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that recovered memory exists as a phenomenon it has fairly high corroboration. There is also a lot of evidence that those attacking the theory of recovered memory may have ulterior motives, for example, they may have been accused of child abuse crimes or may have been connected to mind control research in the past.
The third is that somehow therapists have implanted memories in child abuse survivors. However, there is little evidence that this is possible and when it has been claimed, so called retractors (if the victims even ever retracted) may have had prior symptoms of trauma before these so called implantations occurred.
The fourth is the questioning of the existence of dissociation and DID/MPD. However there is overwhelming scientific evidence that these diagnoses clearly exist and that trauma contributes to the manifestation of these diagnoses.
By attacking these areas, some so called skeptics and false memory syndrome proponents have worked to discredit all child abuse survivors and child abuse crimes. Some skeptics will state that they are against child abuse or that it may occasionally exist, but none appear to be active in fighting or exposing child abuse crimes.
I will be focusing on why the support of the existence of ritual abuse by all the child abuse movement is crucial to the protection of the child abuse movement as a whole.
Ritual abuse crimes are often the most difficult to believe because of the extreme nature of these crimes. Societies have a tendency in general to not want to believe that horrible things can happen right next door or down the street from them. Many of the atrocities that have happen throughout history have occurred in populated areas. Yet members of societies have stated after the fact that they did not know that anything was going on or that any atrocities were committed.
This denial is at times encouraged by those that may have a vested interest in society maintaining a high level of denial or they may simply have trouble cognitively having an accurate world view, possibly due to their own psychodynamic issues.
Catherine Gould stated:
“Not only do skeptics…choose to ignore eyewitness/victim accounts of ritual criminal activity, they apparently also choose to overlook the significant number of cases of ritual abuse in which perpetrators have confessed to their crimes.” (Denying Ritual Abuse of Children – Catherine Gould – The Journal of Psychohistory 22 (3) 1995)
“When we understand the fact that ritual abuse is usually perpetrated by groups which are deeply involved in organized crime, the underlying incentives of these cult/perpetrator groups become clean…How much money do these groups actually generate, and is it enough to impact the culture at the level of, say, media-created public opinion? This, of course, is the cloudy part of the economic argument for why ritual abuse is as wide-spread as it is, in families and in preschools, and why we as a society have been so slow to recognize and respond to the seriousness of this problem. It is by definition difficult to know who belongs to groups whose membership is highly secretive, especially when many of the membership themselves are amnestic to their involvement.
Therefore, it is difficult to assess the degree to which members of these groups influence media accounts of ritual abuse, derail ritual abuse Investigations by law enforcement, are instrumental in getting children complaining of interfamilial ritual abuse sent back to an abusing parent, or hire officials to make public statements on behalf of a national law enforcement bureau to the effect that no substantial evidence of ritual abuse exists.” (Denying Ritual Abuse of Children – Catherine Gould – The Journal of Psychohistory 22 (3) 1995)
“In my opinion, we in the United States deny the reality and seriousness of ritual abuse, especially as it impacts on children, in part because it threatens our images of ourselves as Americans. The thinking of the skeptic often goes something like this: Hideous crimes involving torture and mind control “don’t happen here.” (Denying Ritual Abuse of Children – Catherine Gould – The Journal of Psychohistory 22 (3) 1995)
Lloyd deMause stated :
“one of the most widely cited books claiming that cult abuse reports were mass hysteria is Paul and Shirley Eberle’s The Abuse of Innocence: The McMartin Preschool trial. Taken quite seriously by reviewers and widely quoted in later magazine articles as authoritative, the book makes such claims as that the over 100 McMartin children who reported they had been abused by a cult were all “brainwashed” and the mothers were all “hysterical” and that it was meaningless that physicians found three-quarters of the children bore physical evidence that corroborated their stories.
What reviewers didn’t mention was that the Eberles had been called “the most prolific publishers of child pornography in the United States” by Sgt. Toby Tyler, a San Bernadino deputy sheriff who is a nationally recognized expert on child pornography. Their kiddie porn material that I have seen and the articles they have published such as “I Was a Sexpot at Five” and “Little Lolitas” Included illustrations of children involved in…“ (sexual acts)
(Why Cults Terrorize and Kill Children – LLOYD DEMAUSE – The Journal of Psychohistory 21 (4) 1994)
It has been stated that incest is universal.
deMause discusses the universality of incest:
“In several hundred studies published by myself and my associates in The Journal of Psychohistory, we have provided extensive evidence that the history of childhood has been a nightmare from which we have only recently begun to awaken. The further back in history one goes – and the further away from the West one gets – the more massive the neglect and cruelty one finds and the more likely children are to have been killed, rejected, beaten, terrorized and sexually abused by their caretakers.”(The History of Child Abuse – Lloyd deMause –
The Journal of Psychohistory V. 25, N. 3, Winter 1998)
“That it is incest itself – and not the absence of incest – that has been universal for most people in most places at most times. Furthermore, the earlier in history one searches, the more evidence there is of universal incest, just as there is more evidence of other forms of child abuse.” (The Universality of Incest – Lloyd DeMause
Journal of Psychohistory 19 (2) Winter 1991)
It has been stated that child pornography is a billion dollar industry and there are frequent arrests around the world for crimes of its production and possession.
“Billion-Dollar Black Market Industry – Child porn has emerged as a multibillion dollar black market industry, though “average people don’t believe it,” said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “The reality is, with the advent of the Internet, the problem of child pornography has exploded,” said Allen…..“There’s a myth here,” he said, “and that is the myth of the stranger.” Allen pointed to NCMEC’s data, which show that most child sexual exploitation victims know the perpetrator of the crime — at least 35 percent of them are the victim’s own parents and 70 percent are other family members or someone close to the child. “Overwhelmingly, the people who are victimizing America’s children, photographing it and distributing it via child pornography are close to the child,” he said. “Many of them are their dads.” http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=3132195&page=1
The cover up of ritual abuse may be due to the potential financial losses some of these groups may have if the children are believed. So the perpetrators may have a financial motive to create a social situation where children are not believed. The DSM-IV-TR states under its DID diagnosis that the reports of patients suffering from DID are “often confirmed by objective evidence,” and that the abusers in those situations may be inclined to “deny or distort” these acts.
Tactically, perpetrators began to see the legal and financial ramifications if their crimes against children were exposed. Cries of “witch hunt” and “panic” were used to spin and cover up crimes against children. Those (like Salter and Calof) that were working to expose these crimes or expose those that were trying to cover up alleged crimes were harassed, causing some to stop researching and advocating for children. Many presentations of child abuse crimes, like ritual abuse crimes in the media and on the web, like Wikipedia, carry only one sided accounts of these crimes, minimizing or leaving out the victims’ and prosecutors’ perspective, even in cases where convictions were found and appeals were denied.
The media turned on child abuse survivors in the early and mid 1990′s and began to in essence support those that had perpetrated crimes against children, believing unfounded stories about so called “miscarriages of justice.” Due to the extreme nature of ritual abuse crimes and the psychological need for the public denial of these crimes, it became an easy sell to spin these crimes against children for the public to believe the misstatements about falsely accused perpetrators. After ritual abuse was discredited, then other child abuse crimes could be more easily discredited.
Salter discusses this in “Organised abuse and the politics of disbelief” – Michael Salter – Faculty of Law Faculty of Medicine – University of New South Wales (Proceedings of the 2nd Australian & New Zealand Critical Criminology Conference 19 – 20 June 2008 Sydney, Australia – Presented by the Crime & Justice Research Network and the Australian and New Zealand Critical Criminology Network)
During a period in which women and children’s testimony of incest and sexual abuse were gaining an increasingly sympathetic hearing, lobby groups of people accused of child abuse construed and positioned “ritual abuse” as the new frontier of disbelief.
The term “ritual abuse” arose from child protection and psychotherapy practice with adults and children disclosing organised abuse, only to be discursively encircled by backlash groups with the rhetoric of “recovered memories”, “false allegations” and “moral panic”. Seeking to recast the debate on child abuse according to an older politics of disbelief, these groups and activists attempted to characterise sexual abuse testimony, as a whole, through the lens of “ritual abuse”:
Quote from Pamela Freyd:
It must be obvious to rational people that accusations based on memories that include satanic ritual are delusions of some sort. For those of us who are only accused of ‘run-of-the-mill incest,’ this should turn out to be some help. If ‘memories’ of satanic abuse can be induced in therapy then so can memories’ of incest or anything else. (Pamela Freyd, co-founder of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, quoted in Calof 1993)
It does not take much effort to understand why people accused of child sexual abuse may engage in a vigorous defence of their innocence, nor why they might be joined by professional defence experts that make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year defending them. What does bear explaining is the purchase that their rhetoric found in the media, academia and the broader community.
Since the 1980s, disclosures of organised abuse have been disparaged by a range of activists, journalists and researchers who have focused, in particular, on cases in which sexually abusive groups were alleged to have behaved in ritualistic or ceremonial ways (e.g. Eberle and Eberle 1986; Loftus and Ketcham 1994; Wakefield and Underwager 1994; Guilliatt 1996; Nathan and Snedeker 1996; Ofshe and Watters 1996). Whilst these authors claimed to be writing in the interests of science and social justice, what has emerged from their writing are a familiar set of arguments about the credibility of women and children’s testimony of sexual violence; in short, that women and children are prone to a range of memory and cognitive errors that lead them to make false allegations of rape.
As survivors of child abuse, we need to rebut these arguments (of the so-called skeptics). We need to know the facts. We need to fight against the arguments that protect child abusers. Every time a statement is made in the media against survivors of child abuse, the media needs to hear from hundreds of survivors. Everyone needs to write an intelligent letter, backed by facts. Every time a biased web page is created against survivors of child abuse, we need to create several intelligent, well-written pages to counter these. We need to get into the debate to tell our side of the story in every place we can. Wherever there is an opening for our side of the story, we must be there to tell it. And we need to say why we are telling this side of the story, to protect children from being abused and to help those that have been abused. We need to start getting published again in peer reviewed journals and start publishing nonfiction books about this topic in major publishing houses.
I will close with a quote from Audre Lorde:
“I have come to believe over and over again, that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood…. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you…. and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us. The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.” Audre Lorde (The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action, Sister Outsider).