Radio 4 on Satanic Ritual Abuse

Thanks to Jo D Baker for pointing out this excellent two-part Radio 4 series on so-called satanic ritual abuse. Presenter David Aaronovitch describes how various professionals have made lurid claims about supposed rings of Satanists abusing and murdering children. Some of these claims were utterly bizarre: babies being conceived for sacrifice, ritual altars, organised conspiracies dedicated to Satan. If that sounds implausible, there’s a simple reason for that: the claims were cobblers.

Not entirely cobblers. Pseudo-satanic abuse does exist, where paedophile rings have used talk of the Devil and rituals to frighten their victims and make their claims implausible. However, in such cases the perpetrators weren’t motivated by a love for Satan: they just wanted to have sex with kids. There have been criminal convictions for pseudo-satanic paedophile rings, but none for acts by genuine Satanic cults.

The programme mentions psychotherapist Valerie Sinason, a believer in satanic ritual abuse who has been at the centre of controversies over alleged “false memories”. The idea is that psychotherapy can inadvertently trigger memories of a trauma that never actually happened – particularly if the therapist is a fervent believer in the presumed trauma and goes digging for it.

On that note it’s worth mentioning that Sinason is up before a UKCP complaints and conduct hearing in September. They seem to have scheduled the entire week for the hearing. It’s taken them long enough to investigate her practice, given that way back in 2002 the anthropologist Jean la Fontaine said of Sinason, “”It’s depressing to find someone who has a position at leading London hospitals who is so cut off from what research methodology is, and what rational evidence is.”

It’ll be interesting to see what comes out of the UKCP hearing.

5 thoughts on “Radio 4 on Satanic Ritual Abuse

  1. As always, the Beeb does need to be examined in its motives. I don’t know if babies are sacrificed and I do certainly want to pretend I have never heard the likes, but I don’t want to take a clearly one-sided drive to distract me with fear and incredulity from making an informed, proper analysis. The fact is, it wasn’t that long ago I assumed our country didn’t torture our enemies, but Abu Ghraib showed us pictures of ordinary soldiers of both genders merrily enjoying their sadistic pleasure. And I remember the media’s response to child sexual abuse claims in the 80s. In fact, Freud himself believed women’s claims of being sexually abused by their fathers was their own sexual desire mixed with ‘hysteria’. I’m going to keep my mind open to the possibility of our human capability for tremendous evil. I don’t want to live in fear, but at the same time, there are documents proving sinister mind control programmes during the cold war that manifestly burst my ‘we’re better than that’ bubble I naturally want to zone myself into. I’ve never spoken to anyone who claims they were abused in a Satanic cult, but I have worked with people whose memories of sexual abuse were repressed and resurfaced adulthood, even those whose abuse was known, documented and subsequently forgotten. To be honest, when the media gets on its high horse about denigrating a person/persons or views or stances, my suspicion hackles get raised and I wonder why go to such effort to protect the country from something they’re barely even aware of let alone believed til now?

    • I don’t think the show was suggesting sexual abuse doesn’t happen – more questioning the idea that it’s done by Satanists.

      I work regularly with child sexual abuse survivors. I’ve seen the effects of it done by parents, step-parents, professionals, school peers….never by Satanists though. Perhaps the lesson from these news stories is that unspeakable cruelty to children is such an everyday part of our society that it really doesn’t need macabre occult conspiracies for it to happen.

  2. It happens and for anyone to disbelieve it is like disbelieving the survivors! Why is it so easy for people to stand up against racism, sexism even pedophilia but not satanism and ritual/satanic abuse. There are victims out there as we “speak” who are whistleblowers and fighting to stay alive.

    Only because one hasnt witnessed it or seen it doesnt mean it doesnt exist. I am disgusted that all other things are fought for yet when it comes to abuse, victims still arent believed. they have to fight to be believed. pfui!

    • Yes I believe and know that this happens. I know people who have witnessed a baby being killed and well known people involved. Think of it this way – human being are capable of creating the most beautiful things and are also capable of committing such horrendous acts that they may be hard to imagine. We as a species do not want to believe we could be capable of this, it is too difficult to contemplate, so it’s easy to not believe, it makes us feel better.

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