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Satanic ritual abuse, or SRA, is a practice of an alleged organized network of Satanists engaging in brainwashing and abuse of victims, especially children, throughout the United States or even the world. The term Satanic Ritual Abuse is often used interchangeably with Sadistic Ritual Abuse, a broader term that refers to any and all ritualistic abuse. This is especially the case in psychology. Claims of Satanic Ritual Abuse remain controversial and law enforcement sources, criminologists, psychologists, and religious affairs commentors generally consider this belief false or at least grossly exaggerated. At present, press and media figures and much of the public treats claims of Satanic ritual abuse with great skepticism. Many sociologists class the public outcry in the 1980s concerning SRA as an example of a public moral panic.

It is important to note that modern satanism (or LaVeyan satanism) does not condone unnecessary violence or ritual killing, especially with regards to children.


Those who believe that there is organized Satanic ritual abuse going on in the United States claim that large numbers of people there are ritually murdered annually. Some sources claim Utah State Prison psychologist Al Carlisle estimated between 40,000 to 60,000 people are ritually murdered annually in the US. However, Al Carlisle was quoting another person's estimate, and acknowledged the figure would have to be much lower. The FBI Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) statistics list only 16,504 total homicides reported to law enforcement in 2003. See Crime in the United States - 2003. However, it must also be remembered that the Uniform Crime Report records only the crimes reported to police.

There is no generally accepted evidence of any murders due to SRA. Despite widespread claims, no firm evidence of any organized network of Satanic ritual abuse has been presented in court. The panic slowly faded in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance concludes: "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." One FBE special investigator, however, says that 'the majority of victims alleging "ritual" abuse are in fact victims of some form of abuse or trauma.

Historical origins

The belief that certain people worship evil principles or entities, and use magic powers against others, commonly known as witchcraft, is probably as old as mankind and can today still be found in many cultures. For example the early Christian writer Epiphanius of Salamis in the fourth century CE accused the Gnostic sect of the Borborites of abortion and consuming the babies.

The earliest claims that organised groups systematically and repeatedly torture and kill others in the context of devil worship can be found in the European witch-panics. For instance, in 1334 there was a trial of 63 presumed witches in Toulouse, France, who were accused of worshipping Satan, eating infant flesh, engaging in sexual orgies with others and with Satan himself. Eight of them were burned and the rest imprisoned. Earlier witch panics are usually not well documented, especially when there was no official trial. Witchhunting in Europe reached a peak in the 16th and 17th centuries, when many mass trials against presumed worshippers of Satan took place.

Even though some religious fundamentalists continue to believe in the occult power of witchcraft, most religious leaders deny that actual magic exists and denounce these accusations. They typically characterize the accused to have been singled out for being mentally ill or otherwise different. The Roman Catholic Church continues to appoint exorcists and teach that Satan is "the prince of this world", and that the work of mediums and spiritualists, even when not ordered directly towards Satan, is opening the door to him. Prominent exorcists like Father Gabriele Amorth have claimed that witchcraft is the source of 90% of demonic afflictions.

Modern times

Contemporary reports of SRA began occurring as early as the 1960s (notably, this coincided with depictions of satanic cults in popular fictional media, such as the film Rosemary's Baby). Following the publication of books purportedly by survivors or perpetrators, concern over SRA became more prominent, and in the 1980s a "Satanic panic" appeared to descend on some American Christian communities. According to the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, an "SRA industry" sprang up in this period, with self-appointed experts taking money to educate law enforcement and private citizens on the alleged threat.

During this period, evidence for SRA primarily took one of two different forms:

* questioning of children who, according to investigators, reported being the victims of SRA.
* "recovered memories" of adults who discover allegedly repressed memories of Satanic ritual abuse, when they underwent various forms of psychotherapy.

Claims of SRA have included many different elements, but most often include shocking and disgusting behavior, inappropriate and violent sexuality, and the suggestion of imaginative cruelty:

* Ritual sacrifice of animals and people of all ages
o including carrying out sacrifices in the British House of Commons
* Cannibalism, including forced cannibalism
o including cooking babies in microwaves
* Torture, including:
o Keeping people naked in snake-filled cages
o Inflicting spider bites
o Urinating into the victim's mouth or over their body
o Burying people alive
o Crucifixion and similar tortures
o Electric Shock
o Chemical
+ Injections
+ Drugs
* Summoning supernatural beings
* Sleep Deprivation
* Sensory deprivation Tanks
* Black Masses
* Mock Marriages
* Forced pregnancies
* Pornography
* Brainwashing
* Kidnapping
* Sexual abuse, including ritual sexual abuse of children of all ages
* Murder (estimates go up to 10,000 a year and higher)
* Necrophilia
* Rape
* Infiltrating politics, the police, and the legal and medical profession
* Funding research into the false memory syndrome

A number of people claiming to be experts on SRA appeared on popular television programs in the 1980s and early 1990s. Wiccan investigators have pointed out that reports of the supposed procedures of Satanic abusers are inconsistent between these individuals and believe that the promoters are either lying or mentally ill. Others suspect that the promoters of SRA claims are simply very good at appealing to viewers' morbid curiosity; programs detailing SRA have often had large audiences.

In 1987, Geraldo Rivera hosted the first of a series of special reports on his primetime television program discussing alleged epidemics of Satanic ritual abuse. He stated that: "Estimates are that there are over 1 million Satanists in this country [...] The majority of them are linked in a highly organized, very secretive network. From small towns to large cities, they have attracted police and FBI attention to their Satanic ritual child abuse, child pornography and grisly Satanic murders. The odds are that this is happening in your town."

Following this series of programs, outbreaks of SRA-based hysteria occurred in towns and cities across the United States, particularly concerning allegations of Satanic practices by teenagers, and accusations of Satanic practices at nursery schools. Rivera's programs were very important in expanding popular belief in SRA.

Specific cases

The first case of alleged SRA occurred in Kern County, California in 1982. Initially, two couples were accused of having formed a sex ring to abuse their children; in the end some 60 children testified to the truth of various bizarre allegations. Long prison sentences resulted, all of them being overturned on appeal, largely because the children had been subjected to suggestive interrogation techniques, many had later recanted, and there was no physical evidence. The two couples spent 12 years in prison before being released; one defendant in a similar Kern County case waited 20 years for his release. Another defendant remains in a mental hospital for sex offenders because he had a prior conviction of child abuse. See Kern county child abuse cases for details.

One famous false case of SRA involved a large number of children at McMartin preschool in Manhattan Beach, California in 1983. Under interrogation techniques such as the Reid technique, which was originally designed to trick adults into confessing, 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 appears to have been an alcoholic schizophrenic whose claims derived from her mental illness. Eventually the case collapsed under its own weight, but several completely innocent people were ruined financially and socially by association with the case.

Beginning in 1983, a series of abuse claims were made in the small town of Jordan, Minnesota. Twenty-four adults were charged, but ultimately exonerated. The case was popularized in part by Big Black's song, "Jordan, Minnesota."

About forty similar incidents have occurred elsewhere, mainly in the United States, including the town of Edenton, NC, but also in Martensville, Saskatchewan. The remains of a small infant girl, first dubbed 'Baby X' and later 'Kristina Angelica James,' were discovered near Rupert, Idaho in the early 1990s, and the body was considered evidence of SRA activity. Yet no unambiguous evidence linking the girl's death to SRA was ever found.

Several "mass child abuse" scares took place in Germany (in Coesfeld, Worms and Nordhorn), where violent rituals and underground tunnel networks were sometimes alleged; all the accused were later acquitted. Two widely publicized cases of similar mass hysteria occurred in the north of the ...

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