Frosh (2002) has suggested that therapeutic spaces provide children and adults with the rare opportunity to articulate experiences that are otherwise excluded from the dominant symbolic order. However, since the 1990s, post-modern and post-structural theory has often been deployed in ways that attempt to ‘manage’ from; afar the perturbing disclosures of abuse and trauma that arise in therapeutic spaces (Frosh 2002). Nowhere is this clearer than in relation to organised abuse, where the testimony of girls and women has been deconstructed as symptoms of cultural hysteria (Showalter 1997) and the colonisation of women’s minds by therapeutic discourse (Hacking 1995). However, behind words and discourse, ‘a real world and real lives do exist, howsoever we interpret, construct and recycle accounts of these by a variety of symbolic means’ (Stanley 1993: 214). Summit (1994: 5) once described organised abuse as a ‘subject of smoke and mirrors’, observing the ways in which it has persistently defied conceptualisation or explanation. Explanations for serious or sadistic child sex offending have typically rested on psychiatric concepts of ‘paedophilia’ or particular psychological categories that have limited utility for the study of the cultures of sexual abuse that emerge in the families or institutions in which organised abuse takes pace. For those clinicians and researchers who take organised abuse seriously, their reliance upon individualistic rather than sociological explanations for child sexual abuse has left them unable to explain the emergence of coordinated, and often sadistic, multi—perpetrator sexual abuse in a range of contexts around the world.
As mandatory reporting laws and community awareness drove an increase its child protection investigations throughout the 1980s, some children began to disclose premeditated, sadistic and organised abuse by their parents, relatives and other caregivers such as priests and teachers (Hechler 1988). Adults in psychotherapy described similar experiences. The dichotomies that had previously associated organised abuse with the dangerous, external ‘Other’ had been breached, and the incendiary debate that followed is an illustration of the depth of the collective desire to see them restored. Campbell (1988) noted the paradox that, whilst journalists and politicians often demand that the authorities respond more decisively in response to a ‘crisis’ of sexual abuse, the action that is taken is then subsequently construed as a ‘crisis’. There has been a particularly pronounced tendency of the public reception to allegations of organised abuse. The removal of children from their parents due to disclosures of organised abuse, the provision of mental health care to survivors of organised abuse, police investigations of allegations of organised abuse and the prosecution of alleged perpetrators of organised abuse have all generated their own controversies. These were disagreements that were cloaked in the vocabulary of science and objectivity but nonetheless were played out in sensationalised fashion on primetime television, glossy news magazines and populist books, drawing textual analysis. The role of therapy and social work in the construction of testimony of abuse and trauma. in particular, has come under sustained postmodern attack. Frosh (2002) has suggested that therapeutic spaces provide children and adults with the rare opportunity to articulate experiences that are otherwise excluded from the dominant symbolic order. However, since the 1990s, post-modern and post-structural theory has often been deployed in ways that attempt to ‘manage’ from; afar the perturbing disclosures of abuse and trauma that arise in therapeutic spaces (Frosh 2002). Nowhere is this clearer than in relation to organised abuse, where the testimony of girls and women has been deconstructed as symptoms of cultural hysteria (Showalter 1997) and the colonisation of women’s minds by therapeutic discourse (Hacking 1995). However, behind words and discourse, ‘a real world and real lives do exist, howsoever we interpret, construct and recycle accounts of these by a variety of symbolic means’ (Stanley 1993: 214). Summit (1994: 5) once described organised abuse as a ‘subject of smoke and mirrors’, observing the ways in which it has persistently defied conceptualisation or explanation.
There are a range of useful and illuminating analyses of the media construction of organised abuse as it became front-page news in the 1980s and 1990s (Kitzinger 2004, Atmore 1997, Kelly 1998), but this book is focused on organised abuse as a criminal practice; as well as a discursive object of study, debate and disagreement. These two dimensions of this topic are inextricably linked because precisely where and how organised abuse is reported to take place is an important determinant of how it is understood. Prior to the 1980s, the predominant view of the police, psychiatrists and other authoritative professionals was that organised abuse occurred primarily outside the family where it was committed by extra-familial ‘paedophiles’. This conceptualisation; of organised abuse has received enduring community support to the present day, where concerns over children’s safety is often framed in terms of their vulnerability to manipulation by ‘paedophiles’ and ‘sex rings’. This view dovetails more generally with the medico-legal and media construction of the ‘paedophile as an external threat to the sanctity of the family and community (Cowburn and Dominelli 2001) but it is confounded by evidence that organised abuse and other forms of serious sexual abuse often originates in the home or in institutions, such as schools and churches, where adults have socially legitimate authority over children.
Research on organised abuse emphasises the diversity of organised abuse cases, and the ways in which serious forms of child maltreatment cluster in the lives of children subject to organised victimisation (eg Bibby 1996b, Itziti 1997, Kelly and Regan 2000). Most attempts to examine organised abuse have been undertaken by therapists and social workers who have focused primarily on the role of psychological processes in the organised victimisation of children and adults. Dissociation, amnesia and attachment, in particular, have been identified as important factors that compel victims to obey their abusers whilst inhibiting them from disclosing their abuse or seeking help (see Epstein et al. 2011, Sachs and Galton 2008). Therapists and social workers have surmised that these psychological effects are purposively induced by perpetrators of organised abuse through the use of sadistic and ritualistic abuse. In this literature, perpetrators are characterised either as dissociated automatons mindlessly perpetuating the abuse that they, too, were subjected to as children, or else as cruel and manipulative criminals with expert foreknowledge of the psychological consequences of their abuses. The therapist is positioned in this discourse at the very heart of the solution to organised abuse, wielding their expertise in a struggle against the coercive strategies of the perpetrators. Whilst it cannot be denied that abusive groups undertake calculated strategies designed to terrorise children into silence and obedience, the emphasis of this literature on psychological factors in explaining organised abuse has overlooked the social contexts of such abuse and the significance of abuse and violence as social practices.
Our comfort in theological traditions should never usurp our desire for spiritual Truth. If we vigorously pursue the rituals rather than a relational experience with God then we've missed His message entirely.
There is a slave trade still in this country—yes, the real and horrific sex and human trafficking trade run by organised criminal gangs, which is appalling and must be stopped. But there's the hidden slavery too of children exploited and used within their own families, within organised and ritual abuse.
In her book claiming that allegations of ritualistic abuse are mostly confabulations, La Fontaine’s (1998) comparison of social workers to ‘nazis’ shows the depth of feeling evident amongst many sceptics. However, this raises an important question: Why did academics and journalists feel so strongly about allegations of ritualistic abuse, to the point of pervasively misrepresenting the available evidence and treating women disclosing ritualistic abuse, and those workers who support them, with barely concealed contempt? It is of course true that there are fringe practitioners in the field of organised abuse, just as there are fringe practitioners in many other health-related fields. However, the contrast between the measured tone of the majority of therapists and social workers writing on ritualistic abuse, and the over-blown sensationalism of their critics, could not be starker. Indeed, Scott (2001) notes with irony that the writings of those who claimed that ‘satanic ritual abuse’ is a ‘moral panic’ had many of the features of a moral panic: scapegoating therapists, social workers and sexual abuse victims whilst warning of an impending social catastrophe brought on by an epidemic of false allegations of sexual abuse. It is perhaps unsurprising that social movements for people accused of sexual abuse would engage in such hyperbole, but why did this rhetoric find so many champions in academia and the media?
In 2011 in Swansea, Wales, Colin Batley was found guilty of 35 charges relating to his role as the leader of a 'satanic cult' that sexually abused children and women, manufactured child abuse images and forced children and women into prostitution (de Bruxelles 2011).His partner and two other women were also convicted on related charges, with one man convicted of paying to abuse a victim of the group. The groups' ritualistic activities were based on the doctrine of Aleister Crowley, an occult figure whose writing includes references to ritual sex with children. Crowley's literature has been widely linked to the practice of ritualistic abuse by survivors and their advocates, who in turn have been accused by occult groups of religious persecution. During Batley's trial, the prosecution claimed that Crowley's writings formed the basis of Batley's organisation and he read from a copy of it during sexually abusive incidents. It seems that alternative as well as mainstream religious traditions can be misused by sexually abusive groups. p38
When there is abuse by itself it's scary enough. When there is abuse within a religious setting it is so terrifying to people. Look how long its taken the Ryan report of 2009 took till then to talk about ritualistic kinds of abuse children in Ireland went through at the hands of nuns and priests, so nobody can bear it when its linked to religion, but when it's linked to religion that is not mainstream it seems to frighten people more. As if yes, abuse exists, Satanism exists, but you can't have Satanist abuse.
My view is that the false memory campaign is a spent force. It failed to realise its key goals, failed to renew itself and has largely faded away. Of course, the false memory campaign has left behind the sedimentation of doubt and disbelief that we will have to keep chipping away at. However it is important to recognise that we are witnessing an increasing, not decreasing, number of investigations and prosecutions for cases of organised and ritual abuse. Adults and children who disclose sexual abuse are more likely to be believed now than they were ten or twenty years ago, and that includes victims who describe organised and ritual abuse.Source: Interview with Lynn Schirmir
The literature on ritualistic abuse suggests that ritualistic sexual practices with young children are a characteristic of particularly abusive groups, and that such practices typically occur alongside a diverse range of other abusive practices, such as child prostitution and the manufacture of child abuse images. One of the shortcomings of the available literature, however, is the general presumption (implicit or explicit) that abusive groups are motivated by a religious or spiritual conviction. In clinical and research literature, abusive groups are generally referred to as 'cults', and 'cult abuse' is a term that has been used interchangeably with 'ritual abuse'. p38