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Satanic ritual abuse

Satanic ritual abuse is the alleged organized abuse—generally sexual or violent abuse—of unwilling individuals by worshippers of Satan. Some conservative Christian groups in the United States have claimed that as many as 60,000 people a year are murdered by an organized network of Satanists. If this conspiracy theory is true then SRA kills three people for every one victim of "regular" homicide.

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Historical Origins

The idea of Satanism first arose in Europe around the eleventh century. According to some of the commentators of the time, there was an internationational Satanic conspiracy plotting to bring down Christianity. The agents of this conspiracy were witches who:

Modern historians believe that such a conspiracy existed only in the minds of the people of the time. It was used as an excuse to dispose of rivals and malcontents, and enforce the power of both Church and State.

Similar allegations were also used by the opponents to organised Christianity. The leyenda nega of 1567, a text by Montanus that was rapidly translated to all European languages, portrayed the Inquisition in dark colours. In this text hordes of monks would torture prisoners, rape their daughters, and worship satan.

During the end of the seventeenth century, the idea of Satanism became less and less influential, though most Christian sects never fully gave up the ideas of demonic possession and devil worship.

Modern Stories

Concern over SRA became most prominent in the 1980s, when a "Satanic panic" descended on America's Christian community. According to the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, an "SRA industry" sprung up in this period, taking money to educate law enforcement and private citizens on the alleged threat.

Stories of SRA have included many different elements:

Many promoters of the SRA ideas have been later shown to be frauds, but not before they appeared on popular television programs to spread their story. Wiccan investigators have pointed out that reports of the supposed procedures of Satanic abusers are inconsistent between these individuals, leading many investigators to believe the promoters are either lying or crazy. Believers in SRA have also targeted role-playing games, especially Dungeons & Dragons, claiming that these games are secret instructions for suicide and Satanic abuse, or a "back door to Satanism." Science fiction writer Michael Stackpole wrote an extensive report about one of the most prolific of these investigators, who launched a nationwide crusade against Dungeons and Dragons after her son committed suicide. [1] (http://members.tripod.com/~limsk/pulling.htm)

Some believers in SRA have used aggressive therapy techniques, especially the use of highly leading questions under hypnosis that has, in many cases, implanted false memories of ritual abuse in patients who have not suffered it. These memories are vivid and "real" even though they often show signs of fantasy and have been flatly contradicted by physical evidence. Female virgins have "recovered" vivid memories of satanic rape.

The most famous false case of SRA involved a large number of children at McMartin preschool[?] in Manhattan Beach, California. Under interrogation techniques designed for adults, small children told police they had been sexually abused, forced to murder infants, and drink blood (see blood libel). They also recalled being flushed down the toilet and abused in sewers, taken into an underground cavern beneath the school, flying through the air, and seeing giraffes and lions. The original accuser was a paranoid schizophrenic. Eventually the case collapsed under its own weight, but several completely innocent people were ruined financially and in the eyes of the community. Similar incidents have occurred elsewhere, mainly in the United States, but also in Martensville, Saskatchewan.

While the SRA meme remains in society, no credible evidence has ever been found that there is a statistically significant number of murders due to SRA, nor that there is any kind of organized network of ritual abuse. The panic slowly died off in the late 1980s and 1990s.

The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance conclude, "In the early 1990s, we analyzed reports on SRA from both believers and skeptics. We tentatively concluded that the skeptics are correct; there is no international Satanic conspiracy ritually abusing and murdering children. We have been tracking the SRA movement ever since, and have not seen any hard evidence to change our conclusions."

SRA in Literature

One of the first books on the subject of ritual satanic torture was entitled Michelle Remembers and was published in 1980 by Michelle Smith and her psychiatrist (and later husband) Laurence Pazder. It was accompanied by features in People[?] magazine and National Enquirer[?], and numerous radio and television shows. Michelle had memories of seeing ritual human sacrifice, various forms of torture, and contact with supernatural beings. There was no corroborating evidence of these allegations, and both of Michelle's sisters and her father have denied everything in the book.

This book was followed in 1987 by Nightmare: uncovering the strange 56 personalties of Nancy Lynn Gooch. This was a collaboration by Nancy with E. Peterson and L. Freeman. Nancy recovered her memories of satanic abuse after reading a Steven King novel. It was followed in 1989 by Suffer the Child by J. Spencer, who described a patient with similar memories. Both of these books were best-sellers.

Meanwhile, Lauren Stratford in 1988 wrote an account of her supposed childhood satanic abuse. The book was autobiographical, and entitled Satan's Underground. This was the first book to describe how cultists force young women to serve as 'breeders' of babies. The babies are then taken from them and sacrificed, unless the women manage to have a coat-hanger abortion in that time.

Lauren's account is one of the most thoroughly investigated accounts of such abuse, and contains many flaws. Lauren claimed to have given birth to three children in her teens and early twenties, yet none of her friends, relatives, or teachers recalled these births, or ever seeing her pregnant. However they did recall her engaging in self-mutilation, while Lauren claimed that her scars were the product of her torture at the hands of Satanists. The age of her father's death was also variously reported: Laurence claimed it was 1983, everyone else, and the official record, claimed it was 1965. The team of journalists who discovered these counter-claims wrote them as Satan's Sideshow in 1990. Satan's Underground was subsequently withdrawn by the publishers.

More accounts followed, many discovered by Christian psychiatrists. Many of these have holes similar to those in Lauren's account. With the rise of the Internet, stories of satanic abuse can be found online, but be warned that many of them are extremely disturbing.

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