Child Victims of Ritualistic Crime -
Abused or Indoctrinated?
As Jon Conte, President of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children recently remarked, believing or not believing the children who claim they are victims of occult-related ritualistic abuse has polarized the therapeutic community. "R's become a litmus test. If you believe, you're for kids; If you're not, your motivation is wanting." On the one side are those who believe the children have been ritualistically abused and their stories are accurate depictions of such abuse. On the other side are those who don't necessarily think they are lying, but rather, they believe the children have been Indoctrinated by untrained and/or overzealous therapists and through media accounts of ritual abuse.
Hypothesis: Child survivors have been ritualistically abused by Satanic groups.
Proponents are vociferous in their support of the child victims, claiming that until children can be considered reliable, ritual abuse will continue to flourish. For example:
Dr. Roland Summit says "there is no scientific support for the notion that children conjure up elaborate accounts of victimization to please their examiners... no logical basis for the presumption that children are so perceptive and so imaginative that they can take the cue from a question or an anatomically specific doll and then draw from the examiner's mind an explicit narrative of the most unheard-of and exotic perversities, including patterns of adult behavior not only unknown to children but to most clinicians as well. Any logical support for the indoctrination theory must explain how these exotic stories, unfamiliar even to the examiners, prove to match the best available knowledge of cult activities drawn from such diverse sources as ancient documents and the accounts of adult survivors of rituals practiced on an earlier generation of children. And if it were possible for examiners to cue children into false accounts, why would these examiners induce stories which they couldn't themselves believe, and which they knew would be unbelievable to their supervisors?" (Summit, 1988.)
Therapist Noel Plourde has worked with over 100 individual child victims of multi-victims, multi-perpetrators situations and over 200 individuals involved in therapy and support groups dealing with the same problem. She believes the problem is widespread, "although not prevalent in every community" and that the children must be believed because "of the nature of their disclosures and their effect, particularly the level of ongoing fear that is found in these children."
While there is little physical evidence, a great deal of "emotional evidence exists that matches the disclosure content." (Plourde interview, May 18, 1989.)
Joy Byers, with the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse, recently told a journalist that "children don't have the expertise that would give them the knowledge that they could make up stories of sexual abuse, sexual acts." (Charlier, 1988.)
Hypothesis: Children who claim they have been ritualistically abused by Satanic groups have been Indoctrinated by untrained and/or overzealous therapists and through media accounts of ritual abuse.
Proponents believe the children have been misled by emotionally involved therapists or by unsubstantiated "urban legends" passed down through the media. These proponents aim much of their criticism at the therapeutic community, claiming not that therapists are incompetent, but that they are either untrained or too biased to treat children who are allegedly ritualistically abused. For example:
Kenneth Lanning of the FBI feels many therapists have not had adequate experience with severely traumatized children or those abused by multiple offenders who threatened them with violence or death to control them. Some "tend not be very objective; they are too emotionally involved."
Further, because of the lack of well-researched materials on the topic, therapists use manuals "written by law enforcement officers" which are too often full of inaccuracies, perceptions and opinions rather than facts. (Lanning Interview, April 1989.)
Child Psychiatrist Lee Coleman believes some children are "literally being trained by professionals to believe they have been molested... Children seldom 'lie' about such things, but they may be manipulated by adults into believing things that never happened." After reviewing 200 hours of interview tapes with children suspected of being molested, Dr.
Coleman found a clear pattern. "The interviewers assume, before talking with the child, that molestation has taken place. The accused persons are assumed to be guilty, and the thinly disguised purpose of the interview is to get something out of the child to confirm these suspicions...I see children so horribly manipulated by our investigative system that they begin to believe what interviewers keep suggesting to them, even to the point of creating in their little minds murders which never took place, and - yes - imagining satanic cults." (Coleman, 1986.)
Psychiatrist G. Christian Harris, President of the Seattle Chapter of the American Psychiatric Association, warns that therapists are often "too gullible," are willing to "hop on the bandwagon" without adequate training, and that because their training teaches them to listen to and believe patients, they are ill-equipped to make judgments about evidence and truth. (as quoted in Gerlernter, 1989.)