Tales of Satanic Abuse Can't be Corroborated

19 December, 1994 San Francisco Chronicle


Monday, October 31, 1994 Section: Front Page: 5A

By: New York Times

Tales of satanic ritual abuse, with well-organized cults sacrificing animals and babies and engaging in sexual perversion and cannibalism, is the stuff of tabloid television.

Now the first empirical study of its actual prevalence, based on information from district attorneys, social service workers, police officials and psychotherapists, suggests these tales are usually just that -- figments of imagination.

Although the survey found occasional cases of lone abusers who used ritualistic trappings, it found no substantiated reports of well-organized satanic rings of people who sexually abuse children.

None were substantiated

In a survey of more than 11,000 psychiatric and police workers throughout the country, conducted for the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, researchers found more than 12,000 accusations of group cult sexual abuse based on satanic ritual, but not one that investigators had been able to substantiate.

The organizers of the survey say it is the first authoritative national survey on the subject.

Accusations of molesting by cults have been made in thousands of cases during the past decade, and in retrospective claims by adult patients in psychotherapy who say they were abused as children.

Nationwide network alleged

Combined with sensationalistic media coverage, these lawsuits and other reports have led many people to believe that there is a nationwide network of satanic groups preying on the young.

"After scouring the country, we found no evidence for large-scale cults that sexually abuse children," said Gail Goodman, a psychologist at the University of California, Davis, who directed the survey.

"Since the McMartin preschool case there have been claims of ritualistic and sadistic child abuse in cases all over the country, and we've been concerned," said David Lloyd, director of the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect. "The survey was to see just how well- founded these concerns are -- if these are just based on mistaken perceptions or there is ome firm evidence."

12,264 accusations

The survey included 6,910 psychiatrists, psychologists and clinical social workers, and 4,655 district attorneys, police departments, and social service agencies. They reported 12,264 accusations of ritual abuse that they had investigated.

The survey found that there was not a single case among them in which there was clear corroborating evidence for the most common accusation -- "a well- organized, intergenerational satanic cult, who sexually molested and tortured children in their homes or schools for years and committed a series of murders," Goodman said her group did find "convincing evidence of lone perpetrators or couples who say they are involved with Satan or use the claim to intimidate victims." She added that they "unearthed a few cases where there were confessions or photographs."

But the overall results show little or no support for the more extreme claims, Goodman said. "If there is anyone out there with solid evidence of satanic cult abuse of children, we would like to know about it," she said.

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Last Updated: 26 Nov 95 -- Mark Pritchard

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