Satanic Panic Rides Again

Private Eye magazine (1244 p. 28) has an interesting account of how the industry treating supposed survivors of “Satanic Ritual Abuse” with repressed memories continues unabated:

They are promoting a whole new field of “trauma” therapy in how to treat  survivors of ritual abuse, who are diagnosed as suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder. Victims are said to develop a number of “alters” or other personalities, to whom they switch to help them bury the memories…

The latest fashionable theory is in this pyshcobabble psychotherapy is that these survivors are victims of “mind control” exerted by the perpetrators using the “alters” to control the victim to make them suppress or disbelieve the memories of the abuse.

According to a book entitled Ritual Abuse in the Twenty First Century,

In a “typical group…by the age of six months the child has a minimum of 18 to 20 alters.”

The idea of secret Satanic conspiracies and covens was a significant feature of conservative evangelical culture in the 1970s and 1980s, during which period a number of bogus memoirs by supposed former Satanists were published: Mike Warnke’s The Satan Seller (ghosted by David Balsiger) and Lauren Stratford’s Satan’s Underground (promoted by Hal Lindsey) are two notorious examples from the USA; in the UK we had Audrey Harper’s Dance with the Devil (with a foreward by the late Geoffrey Dickens MP). These stories have been debunked; the Fortean Times has a nice bit on Harper:

In 1988, [she] told the Sunday Sport how, before her salvation, she had been initiated into Devil-worship at a ceremony in which the throat of a cockerel was slit and its blood smeared all over her body. Two years later, her story appeared in a book, Dance with the Devil, in which she claimed that it was a baby whose throat was slit and whose blood was smeared on her. Either Harper could not tell the difference between a cockerel and a baby, or she had decided that her original story was not sensational enough.

However, another strand stressed the idea that victims of Satanic Ritual Abuse needed therapists who would uncover “repressed memories” of abuse – an idea popularised in Michelle Remembers, by Lawrence Pazder (who eventually married his patient). This launched an industry that has apparently continued to grow despite the lack of any evidence unearthed by supposed “recovered” memories, and despite the fiascos of the 1980s and 1990s, when unabused children were taken into care by over-zealous social workers (blogged here).

It also appears to have weathered the fact that there are now many more testimonies from real survivors of actual abuse – those who were abused years ago in Catholic schools or other institutionalised settings constantly remember the horror of what happened to them; there are no “repressed memories” (they probably wish they could suppress them), and no “mind control” by the abusers. See also my early blog entry here.