Report Dismisses Satanic Child Abuse as a Myth
by Hugh Muir
This material posted 9 June 1994 by
Clive D.W. Feather | Santa Cruz Operation | If you lie to the compiler,
firstname.lastname@example.org | Croxley Centre | it will get its revenge.
Phone: +44 923 816 344 | Hatters Lane, Watford | - Henry Spencer
Fax: +44 923 210 352 | WD1 8YN, United Kingdom |
His comments are in square brackets.
[Reproduced without permission from the Daily Telegraph, Friday June 3,
1994 (edition *). This is a reputable daily UK newspaper.]
Evangelical Christians and healthcare professionals using dubious
information were held responsible yesterday for the myth that children
have been victims of widespread ritual and Satanic abuse.
A report ordered by Mrs Virgina Bottomley, the Health Secretary, said
Christians campaigning against new religious movements had been "a
powerful influence encouraging the identification of Satanic abuse".
They were joined by psychologists and childcare workers who engineered
the hysteria which led to children being taken from their parents in
Rochdale, Nottingham, and Orkney.
Of 84 cases examined by the researchers, however, no evidence was found
to justify any allegation of Satanic abuse and only three claims of
ritual abuse were substantiated. Professor Jean La Fontaine, the
report's author, said that even these three cases did not merit the
description of ritual abuse as the desire for sex was more important
than the element of ritual.
"I think the evangelicals created the climate in which people could
believe this sort of thing was happening" she said.
"People began thinking that perhaps it was something they hadn't seen
because they hadn't looked and though they had better start looking.
That argument is mistaken because we are not talking about a different
kind of abuse. It is the same old sexual abuse."
Prof La Fontaine added: "In these cases, the children were worryingly
disturbed. It was easy to make a mistake by assuming that, because the
children were so damaged, what had happened to them must have been so
much worse than normal sexual abuse".
She said claims that the children themselves alleged Satanic and ritual
abuse were false. "The fact is that the small children didn't actually
say these things. They said bits and pieces that were picked up by the
"You can never say that something doesn't exist. All I can say is that
there is no evidence in the cases I have examined."
Prof La Fontaine's report was welcomed by Mrs Bottomley, who said there
had been "speculating and scaremongering" for years. Calling on
professionals to study it, she said: "Professor La Fontaine has abused
the myth of Satanic abuse". The 36-page study, called _The_Extent_and_
_Nature_of_Organised_and_Ritual_Abuse_, was commissioned in 1991 after
children were removed from their homes in Rochdale and Orkney.
It defines ritual abuse as "sexual abuse where there have been
allegations of ritual associated with the abuse, whether or not these
allegations have been taken any further or tested in the courts".
Satanic abuse is defined as "a ritual directed to worship of the Devil".
Aided by researchers at Manchester University, Prof La Fontaine asked
for details of organised and ritual abuse of children reported between
January 1988 and December 1991 and received 211.
Researchers studied the records of police and social services departments
in eight local authority areas. The Lord Chancellor's Office gave Prof
La Fontaine and her team access to 34 files referring to children who
had alleged ritual abuse and had been made wards of court.
Researchers found that 967 cases of organised abuse and 85 of ritual
abuse had occured over four years - meaning that eight percent of all
sex abuse allegations involved ritual abuse.
Nearly a third of the cases came from the East Midlands, with 21 of
those in Nottinghamshire. London had 12 and another 14 occured in the
South East. Twelve cases were found in the North West. Primarily, the
cases involved "very poor people". Of the men said to have been
involved, fewer than a third had a job and only three had middle class
[Nottinghamshire has a population of about 1 million and London (for these
purposes) about 6.5 million, out of a total for England and Wales of 49
million (I believe that the study excluded Scotland and Northern Ireland).]
The killing of humans was alleged in 35 cases but could not be proved in
any of them. Ceremonial robes were mentioned in 28 cases but evidence
was found in only two.
Once allegations had been made, Prof La Fontaine found that interviews
with children were badly conducted, with frequent and aggressive
questioning. "What is defended as 'what children say' may be nothing of
the sort", the report said.
The myth distracted attention from the real plight of many abused
Ms Valerie Sinason, a consultant child psychologist at the Tavistock
Clinic in London, said: "I think it is very worrying to have Mrs
Bottomley, a former social worker, discounting the pain of children and
adults who come forward and say this is happening to them".