by Kenneth V. Lanning, FBI Supervisory Special Agent
January 1992
Behavioral Science Unit, National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime
Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI Academy
Quantico, Virginia 22135
                               TABLE OF CONTENTS

     1.   Introduction.

     2.   Historical Overview.

          a.   "Stranger Danger"
          b.   Intrafamilial Child Sexual Abuse.
          c.   Return to "Stranger Danger"
          d.   The Acquaintance Molester
          e.   Satanism: A New Form of "Stranger Danger"

     3.   Law Enforcement Training

     4.   Definitions.

          a.   What is Ritual?
          b.   What is "Ritual" Child Abuse?
          c.   What Makes a Crime Satanic, Occult, or Ritualistic?

     5.   Multidimensional Child Sex Rings

          a.   Dynamics of Cases
               i.   Multiple Young Victims
               ii.  Multiple Offenders
               iii. Fear as a Controlling Tactic
               iv.  Bizarre or Ritualistic Activity
          b.   Characteristics of Multidimensional Child Sex Rings
               i.   Female Offenders
               ii.  Situational Molesters
               iii. Male and Female Victims
               iv.  Multidimensional Motivation
               v.   Pornography and Paraphernalia
               vi.  Control through Fear
          c.   Scenarios
               i.   Adult Survivors
               ii.  Day Care Cases
               iii. Family/Isolated Neighborhood Cases
               iv.  Custody/Visitation Disputes
          d.   Why Are Victims Alleging Things that Do Not Seem to be

     6.   Alternative Explanations

          a.   Pathological Distortion
          b.   Traumatic Memory
          c.   Normal Childhood Fears and Fantasy
          d.   Misperception, Confusion, and Trickery
          e.   Overzealous Intervenors
          f.   Urban Legends
          g.   Combination

     7.   Do Victims Lie About Sexual Abuse and Exploitation?

          a.   Personal Knowledge
          b.   Other Children or Victims
          c.   Media
          d.   Suggestions and Leading Questions
          e.   Misperception and Confusion
          f.   Education and Awareness Programs

     8.   Law Enforcement Perspective

     9.   Investigating Multidimensional Child Sex Rings

          a.   Minimize Satanic/Occult Aspect
          b.   Keep Investigation and Religious Beliefs Separate
          c.   Listen to the Victims
          d.   Assess and Evaluate Victim Statements
          e.   Evaluate Contagion
          f.   Establish Communication with Parents
          g.   Develop a Contingency Plan
          h.   Multidisciplinary Task Forces
          i.   Summary

     10.  Conclusion

     11.  References

     12.  Suggested Reading


          Since 1981 I have been assigned to the Behavioral Science
     Unit at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, and have
     specialized in studying all aspects of the sexual victimization
     of children. The FBI Behavioral Science Unit provides
     assistance to criminal justice professionals in the United
     States and foreign countries. It attempts to develop practical
     applications of the behavioral sciences to the criminal justice
     system. As a result of training and research conducted by the
     Unit and its successes in analyzing violent crime, many
     professionals contact the Behavioral Science Unit for
     assistance and guidance in dealing with violent crime,
     especially those cases considered different, unusual, or
     bizarre. This service is provided at no cost and is not limited
     to crimes under the investigative jurisdiction of the FBI.

          In 1983 and 1984, when I first began to hear stories of
     what sounded like satanic or occult activity in connection with
     allegations of sexual victimization of children (allegations
     that have come to be referred to most often as "ritual" child
     abuse), I tended to believe them. I had been dealing with
     bizarre, deviant behavior for many years and had long since
     realized that almost anything is possible. Just when you think
     that you have heard it all, along comes another strange case.
     The idea that there are a few cunning, secretive individuals in
     positions of power somewhere in this country regularly killing
     a few people as part of some satanic ritual or ceremony and
     getting away with it is certainly within the realm of
     possibility. But the number of alleged cases began to grow and
     grow. We now have hundreds of victims alleging that thousands
     of offenders are abusing and even murdering tens of thousands
     of people as part of organized satanic cults, and there is
     little or no corroborative evidence. The very reason many
     "experts" cite for believing these allegations (i.e. many
     victims, who never met each other, reporting the same events),
     is the primary reason I began to question at least some aspects
     of these allegations.

          I have devoted more than seven years part-time, and eleven
     years full-time, of my professional life to researching,
     training, and consulting in the area of the sexual
     victimization of children. The issues of child sexual abuse and
     exploitation are a big part of my professional life's work. I
     have no reason to deny their existence or nature. In fact I
     have done everything I can to make people more aware of the
     problem Some have even blamed me for helping to create the
     hysteria that has led to these bizarre allegations. I can
     accept no outside income and am paid the same salary by the FBI
     whether or not children are abused and exploited - and whether
     the number is one or one million. As someone deeply concerned
     about and professionally committed to the issue, I did not
     lightly question the allegations of hundreds of victims child
     sexual abuse and exploitation.

          In response to accusations by a few that I am a "satanist"
     who has infiltrated the FBI to facilitate cover-up, how does
     anyone (or should anyone have to) disprove such allegations?
     Although reluctant to dignify such absurd accusations with a
     reply, all I can say to those who have made such allegations
     that they are wrong and to those who heard such allegations is
     to carefully consider the source.

          The reason I have taken the position I have is not because
     I support or believe in "satanism," but because I sincerely
     believe that my approach is the proper and most effective
     investigative strategy. I believe that my approach is in the
     best interest of victims of child sexual abuse. It would have
     been easy to sit back, as many have, and say nothing publicly
     about this controversy. I have spoken out and published on this
     issue because I am concerned about the credibility of the child
     sexual abuse issue and outraged that, in some cases,
     individuals are getting away with molesting children because we
     can't prove they are satanic devil worshippers who engage in
     brainwashing, human sacrifice, and cannibalism as part of a
     large conspiracy.

          There are many valid perspectives from which to assess and
     evaluate victim allegations of sex abuse and exploitation.
     Parents may choose to believe simply because their children
     make the claims. The level of proof necessary may be minimal
     because the consequences of believing are within the family.
     One parent correctly told me, "I believe what my child needs me
     to believe."

          Therapists may choose to believe simply because their
     professional assessment is that their patient believes the
     victimization and describes it so vividly. The level of proof
     necessary may be no more than therapeutic evaluation because
     the consequences are between therapist and patient. No
     independent corroboration may be required.

          A social worker must have more real, tangible evidence of
     abuse in order to take protective action and initiate legal
     proceedings. The level of proof necessary must be higher
     because the consequences (denial of visitation, foster care)
     are greater.

          The law enforcement officer deals with the criminal
     justice system. The levels of proof necessary are reasonable
     suspicion, probable cause, and beyond a reasonable doubt
     because the consequences (criminal investigation, search and
     seizure, arrest, incarceration) are so great. This discussion
     will focus primarily on the criminal justice system and the law
     enforcement perspective. The level of proof necessary for
     taking action on allegations of criminal acts must be more than
     simply the victim alleged it and it is possible. This in no way
     denies the validity and importance of the parental,
     therapeutic, social welfare, or any other perspective of these

          When, however, therapists and other professionals begin to
     conduct training, publish articles, and communicate through the
     media, the consequences become greater, and therefore the level
     of proof must be greater. The amount of corroboration necessary
     to act upon allegations of abuse is dependent upon the
     consequences of such action. We need to be concerned about the
     distribution and publication of unsubstantiated allegations of
     bizarre sexual abuse. Information needs to be disseminated to
     encourage communication and research about the phenomena. The
     risks, however, of intervenor and victim "contagion" and public
     hysteria are potential negative aspects of such dissemination.
     Because of the highly emotional and religious nature of this
     topic, there is a greater possibility that the spreading of
     information will result in a kind of self-fulfilling prophesy.

          If such extreme allegations are going to be disseminated
     to the general public, they must be presented in the context of
     being assessed and evaluated, at least, from the professional
     perspective of the disseminator and, at best, also from the
     professional perspective of relevant others. This is what I
     will attempt to do in this discussion. The assessment and
     evaluation of such allegations are areas where law enforcement,
     mental health, and other professionals (anthropologists,
     folklorists, sociologists, historians, engineers, surgeons,
     etc.) may be of some assistance to each other in validating
     these cases individually and in general.


          In order to attempt to deal with extreme allegations of
     what constitute child sex rings, it is important to have an
     historical perspective of society's attitudes about child
     sexual abuse. I will provide a brief synopsis of recent
     attitudes in the United States here, but those desiring more
     detailed information about such societal attitudes,
     particularly in other cultures and in the more distant past,
     should refer to Florence Rush's book "The Best Kept Secret:
     Sexual Abuse of Children" (1980) and Sander J. Breiner's book
     "Slaughter of the Innocents" (1990).

          Society's attitude about child sexual abuse and
     exploitation can be summed up in one word: *denial*. Most
     people do not want to hear about it and would prefer to pretend
     that child sexual victimization just does not occur. Today,
     however, it is difficult to pretend that it does not happen.
     Stories and reports about child sexual victimization are daily

          It is important for professionals dealing with child
     sexual abuse to recognize and learn to manage this denial of a
     serious problem. Professionals must overcome the denial and
     encourage society to deal with, report, and prevent sexual
     victimization of children.

          Some professionals, however, in their zeal to make
     American society more aware of this victimization, tend to
     exaggerate the problem. Presentations and literature with
     poorly documented or misleading claims about one in three
     children being sexually molested, the $5 billion child
     pornography industry, child slavery rings, and 50,000 stranger-
     abducted children are not uncommon. The problem is bad enough;
     it is not necessary to exaggerate it. Professionals should cite
     reputable and scientific studies and note the sources of
     information. If they do not, when the exaggerations and
     distortions are discovered, their credibility and the
     credibility of the issue are lost.

     a.   "STRANGER DANGER."

          During the 1950s and 1960s the primary focus in the
     literature and discussions on sexual abuse of children was on
     "stranger danger" - the dirty old man in the wrinkled raincoat.
     If one could not deny the existence of child sexual abuse, one
     described victimization in simplistic terms of good and evil.
     The "stranger danger" approach to preventing child sexual abuse
     is clear-cut. We immediately know who the good guys and bad
     guys are and what they look like.

          The FBI distributed a poster that epitomized this
     attitude. It showed a man, with his hat pulled down, hiding
     behind a tree with a bag of candy in his hands. He was waiting
     for a sweet little girl walking home from school alone. At the
     top it read: "Boys and Girls, color the page, memorize the
     rules." At the bottom it read: "For your protection, remember
     to turn down gifts from strangers, and refuse rides offered by
     strangers." The poster clearly contrasts the evil of the
     offender with the goodness of the child victim.

          The myth of the child molester as the dirty old man in the
     wrinkled raincoat is now being reevaluated, based on what we
     now know about the kinds of people who victimize children. The
     fact is a child molester can look like anyone else and even be
     someone we know and like.

          There is another myth that is still with us and is far
     less likely to be discussed. This is the myth of the child
     victim as a completely innocent little girl walking down the
     street minding her own business. It may be more important to
     dispel this myth than the myth of the evil offender, especially
     when talking about the sexual exploitation of children and
     child sex rings. Child victims can be boys as well as girls,
     and not all victims are little "angels."

          Society seems to have a problem dealing with any sexual
     abuse case in which the offender is not completely "bad" or the
     victim is not completely "good." Child victims who, for
     example, simply behave like human beings and respond to the
     attention and affection of offenders by voluntarily and
     repeatedly returning to the offender's home are troubling. It
     confuses us to see the victims in child pornography giggling or
     laughing. At professional conferences on child sexual abuse,
     child prostitution is almost never discussed. It is the form of
     sexual victimization of children most unlike the stereotype of
     the innocent girl victim. Child prostitutes, by definition,
     participate in and often initiate their victimization.
     Furthermore child prostitutes and the participants in child sex
     rings are frequently boys. One therapist recently told me that
     a researcher's data on child molestation were misleading
     because many of the child victims in question were child
     prostitutes. This implies that child prostitutes are not "real"
     child victims. In a survey by the "Los Angeles Times," only 37
     percent of those responding thought that child prostitution
     constituted child sexual abuse (Timnik, 1985). Whether or not
     it seems fair, when adults and children have sex, the child is
     always the victim.


          During the 1970s, primarily as a result of the women's
     movement, society began to learn more about the sexual
     victimization of children. We began to realize that most
     children are sexually molested by someone they know who is
     usually a relative - a father, step-father, uncle, grandfather,
     older brother, or even a female relative. Some mitigate the
     difficulty of accepting this by adopting the view that only
     members of socio-economic groups other than theirs engage in
     such behavior.

          It quickly became apparent that warnings about not taking
     gifts from strangers were not good enough to prevent child
     sexual abuse. Consequently, we began to develop prevention
     programs based on more complex concepts, such as good touching
     and bad touching. the "yucky" feeling, and the child's right to
     say no. These are not the kinds of things you can easily and
     effectively communicate in fifty minutes to hundreds of kids
     packed into a school auditorium. These are very difficult
     issues, and programs must he carefully developed and evaluated.

          In the late 1970s child sexual abuse became almost
     synonymous with incest, and incest meant father-daughter sexual
     relations. Therefore, the focus of child sexual abuse
     intervention became father-daughter incest. Even today, the
     vast majority of training materials, articles, and books on
     this topic refer to child sexual abuse only in terms of
     intrafamilial father-daughter incest.

          Incest is, in fact, sexual relations between individuals
     of any age too closely related to marry. It need not
     necessarily involve an adult and a child, and it goes beyond
     child sexual abuse. But more importantly child sexual abuse
     goes beyond father-daughter incest. Intrafamilial incest
     between an adult and child may be the most common form of child
     sexual abuse, but it is not the only form.

          The progress of the 1970s in recognizing that child sexual
     abuse was not simply a result of "stranger danger" was an
     important breakthrough in dealing with society's denial. The
     battle, however, is not over. The persistent voice of society
     luring us back to the more simple concept of "stranger danger"
     may never go away. It is the voice of denial.


          In the early 1980s the issue of missing children rose to
     prominence and was focused primarily on the stranger abduction
     of little children. Runaways, throwaways, noncustodial
     abductions, nonfamily abductions of teenagers - all major
     problems within the missing children's issue - were almost
     forgotten. People no longer wanted to hear about good touching
     and bad touching and the child's right to say "no." They wanted
     to be told, in thirty minutes or less, how they could protect
     their children from abduction by strangers. We were back to the
     horrible but simple and clear-cut concept of "stranger danger."

          In the emotional zeal over the problem of missing
     children, isolated horror stories and distorted numbers were
     sometimes used. The American public was led to believe that
     most of the missing children had been kidnapped by pedophiles -
     a new term for child molesters. The media, profiteers, and
     well-intentioned zealots all played big roles in this hype and
     hysteria over missing children.


          Only recently has society begun to deal openly with a
     critical piece in the puzzle of child sexual abuse -
     acquaintance molestation. This seems to be the most difficult
     aspect of the problem for us to face. People seem more willing
     to accept a father or stepfather, particularly one from another
     socio-economic group, as a child molester than a parish priest,
     a next-door neighbor, a police officer, a pediatrician, an FBI
     agent, or a Scout leader. The acquaintance molester, by
     definition, is one of us. These kinds of molesters have always
     existed, but our society has not been willing to accept that

          Sadly, one of the main reasons that the criminal justice
     system and the public were forced to confront the problem of
     acquaintance molestation was the preponderance of lawsuits
     arising from the negligence of many institutions.

          One of the unfortunate outcomes of society's preference
     for the "stranger danger" concept is what I call "say no, yell,
     and tell" guilt. This is the result of prevention programs that
     tell potential child victims to avoid sexual abuse by saying
     no, yelling, and telling. This might work with the stranger
     hiding behind a tree. Adolescent boys seduced by a Scout leader
     or children who actively participate in their victimization
     often feel guilty and blame themselves because they did not do
     what they were "supposed" to do. They may feel a need to
     describe their victimization in more socially acceptable but
     sometimes inaccurate ways that relieve them of this guilt.

          While American society has become increasingly more aware
     of the problem of the acquaintance molester and related
     problems such as child pornography, the voice calling us back
     to "stranger danger" still persists.


          In today's version of "stranger danger," it is the satanic
     devil worshipers who are snatching and victimizing the
     children. Many who warned us in the early 1980s about
     pedophiles snatching fifty thousand kids a year now contend
     they were wrong only about who was doing the kidnapping, not
     about the number abducted. This is again the desire for the
     simple and clear-cut explanation for a complex problem.

          For those who know anything about criminology, one of the
     oldest theories of crime is demonology: The devil makes you do
     it. This makes it even easier to deal with the child molester
     who is the "pillar of the community." It is not his fault; it
     is not our fault. There is no way we could have known; the
     devil made him do it. This explanation has tremendous appeal
     because, like "stranger danger," it presents the clear-cut,
     black-and-white struggle between good and evil as the
     explanation for child abduction, exploitation, and abuse.

          In regard to satanic "ritual" abuse, today we may not be
     where we were with incest in the 1960s, but where we were with
     missing children in the early 1980s. The best data now
     available (the 1990 "National Incidence Studies on Missing,
     Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children in America")
     estimate the number of stereotypical child abductions at
     between 200 and 300 a year, and the number of stranger
     abduction homicides of children at between 43 and 147 a year.
     Approximately half of the abducted children are teenagers.
     Today's facts are significantly different from yesterday's
     perceptions, and those who exaggerated the problem, however
     well-intentioned, have lost credibility and damaged the reality
     of the problem.


          The belief that there is a connection between satanism and
     crime is certainly not new. As previously stated, one of the
     oldest theories concerning the causes of crime is demonology.
     Fear of satanic or occult activity has peaked from time to time
     throughout history. Concern in the late 1970s focused primarily
     on "unexplained" deaths and mutilations of animals, and in
     recent years has focused on child sexual abuse and the alleged
     human sacrifice of missing children. In 1999 it will probably
     focus on the impending "end of the world."

          Today satanism and a wide variety of other terms are used
     interchangeably in reference to certain crimes. This discussion
     will analyze the nature of "satanic, occult, ritualistic" crime
     primarily as it pertains to the abuse of children and focus on
     appropriate *law enforcement* responses to it.

          Recently a flood of law enforcement seminars and
     conferences have dealt with satanic and ritualistic crime.
     These training conferences have various titles, such as "Occult
     in Crime," "Satanic Cults," 'Ritualistic Crime Seminar,"
     "Satanic Influences in Homicide," "Occult Crimes, Satanism and
     Teen Suicide," and "Ritualistic Abuse of Children."

          The typical conference runs from one to three days, and
     many of them include the same presenters and instructors. A
     wide variety of topics are usually discussed during this
     training either as individual presentations by different
     instructors or grouped together by one or more instructors.
     Typical topics covered include the following:

          --   Historical overview of satanism,
               witchcraft, and paganism from ancient to
               modern times.

          --   Nature and influence of fantasy role-
               playing games, such as "Dungeons and

          --   Lyrics, symbolism, and influence of rock
               and roll, Heavy Metal, and Black Metal

          --   Teenage "stoner" gangs, their symbols, and
               their vandalism.

          --   Teenage suicide by adolescents dabbling in
               the occult.

          --   Crimes committed by self-styled satanic
               practitioners, including grave and church
               desecrations and robberies, animal
               mutilations, and even murders.

          --   Ritualistic abuse of children as part of
               bizarre ceremonies and human sacrifices.

          --   Organized, Traditional, or
               Multigenerational satanic groups involved
               in organized conspiracies, such as taking
               over day care centers, infiltrating police
               departments, and trafficking in human
               sacrifice victims.

          --   The "Big Conspiracy" theory, which implies
               that satanists are responsible for such
               things as Adolph Hitler, World War II,
               abortion, illegal drugs, pornography,
               Watergate, and Irangate, and have
               infiltrated the Department of Justice, the
               Pentagon, and the White House.

          During the conferences, these nine areas are linked
     together through the liberal use of the word "satanism" and
     some common symbolism (pentagrams, 666, demons, etc.). The
     implication often is that all are part of a continuum of
     behavior, a single problem or some common conspiracy. The
     distinctions among the different areas are blurred even if
     occasionally a presenter tries to make them. The information
     presented is a mixture of fact, theory, opinion, fantasy, and
     paranoia, and because some of it can be proven or corroborated
     (symbols on rock albums, graffiti on walls, desecration of
     cemeteries, vandalism, etc.), the implication is that it is all
     true and documented. Material produced by religious
     organizations, photocopies and slides of newspaper articles,
     and videotapes of tabloid television programs are used to
     supplement the training and are presented as "evidence" of the
     existence and nature of the problem.

          All of this is complicated by the fact that almost any
     discussion of satanism and the occult is interpreted in the
     light of the religious beliefs of those in the audience. Faith,
     not logic and reason, governs the religious beliefs of most
     people. As a result, some normally skeptical law enforcement
     officers accept the information disseminated at these
     conferences without critically evaluating it or questioning the
     sources. Officers who do not normally depend on church groups
     for law enforcement criminal intelligence, who know that media
     accounts of their own cases are notoriously inaccurate, and who
     scoff at and joke about tabloid television accounts of bizarre
     behavior suddenly embrace such material when presented in the
     context of satanic activity. Individuals not in law enforcement
     seem even more likely to do so. Other disciplines, especially
     therapists, have also conducted training conferences on the
     characteristics and identification of "ritual" child abuse.
     Nothing said at such conferences will change the religious
     beliefs of those in attendance. Such conferences illustrate the
     highly emotional nature of and the ambiguity and wide variety
     of terms involved in this issue.


          The words "satanic," "occult," and "ritual" are often used
     interchangeably. It is difficult to define "satanism"
     precisely. No attempt will be made to do so here However, it is
     important to realize that, for some people, any religious
     belief system other than their own is "satanic." The Ayatollah
     Khomeini and Saddam Hussein referred to the United States as
     the "Great Satan." In the British Parliament a Protestant
     leader called the Pope the Antichrist. In a book titled
     "Prepare For War" (1987), Rebecca Brown, M.D. has a chapter
     entitled "Is Roman Catholicism Witchcraft?" Dr. Brown also
     lists among the "doorways" to satanic power and/or demon
     infestation the following: fortune tellers, horoscopes,
     fraternity oaths, vegetarianism, yoga, self-hypnosis,
     relaxation tapes, acupuncture, biofeedback, fantasy role-
     playing games, adultery, homosexuality, pornography, judo,
     karate, and rock music. Dr. Brown states that rock music "was a
     carefully masterminded plan by none other than Satan himself"
     (p. 84). The ideas expressed in this book may seem extreme and
     even humorous. This book, however, has been recommended as a
     serious reference in law enforcement training material on this

          In books, lectures, handout material, and conversations, I
     have heard all of the following referred to as satanism:

          --   Church of Satan
          --   Ordo Templi Orientis
          --   Temple of Set
          --   Demonology
          --   Witchcraft
          --   Occult
          --   Paganism
          --   Santeria
          --   Voodoo
          --   Rosicrucians
          --   Freemasonry
          --   Knights Templar
          --   Stoner Gangs
          --   Heavy Metal Music
          --   Rock Music
          --   KKK
          --   Nazis
          --   Skinheads
          --   Scientology
          --   Unification Church
          --   The Way
          --   Hare Krishna
          --   Rajneesh
          --   Religious Cults
          --   New Age
          --   Astrology
          --   Channeling
          --   Transcendental Meditation
          --   Holistic Medicine
          --   Buddhism
          --   Hinduism
          --   Mormonism
          --   Islam
          --   Orthodox Church
          --   Roman Catholicism

          At law enforcement training conferences, it is witchcraft,
     santeria, paganism, and the occult that are most often referred
     to as forms of satanism. It may be a matter of definition, but
     these things are not necessarily the same as traditional
     satanism. The worship of lunar goddesses and nature and the
     practice of fertility rituals are not satanism. Santeria is a
     combination of 17th century Roman Catholicism and African

          Occult means simply "hidden." All unreported or unsolved
     crimes might be regarded as occult, but in this context the
     term refers to the action or influence of supernatural powers,
     some secret knowledge of them, or an interest in paranormal
     phenomena, and does not imply satanism, evil, wrongdoing, or
     crime. Indeed, historically, the principal crimes deserving of
     consideration as "occult crimes" are the frauds perpetrated by
     faith healers, fortune tellers and "psychics" who for a fee
     claim cures, arrange visitations with dead loved ones, and
     commit other financial crimes against the gullible.

          Many individuals define satanism from a totally Christian
     perspective, using this word to describe the power of evil in
     the world. With this definition, any crimes, especially those
     which are particularly bizarre, repulsive, or cruel, can be
     viewed as satanic in nature. Yet it is just as difficult to
     precisely define satanism as it is to precisely define
     Christianity or any complex spiritual belief system.

     a.   WHAT IS RITUAL?

          The biggest confusion is over the word "ritual." During
     training conferences on this topic, ritual almost always comes
     to mean "satanic" or at least "spiritual." "Ritual" can refer
     to a prescribed religious ceremony, but in its broader meaning
     refers to any customarily-repeated act or series of acts. The
     need to repeat these acts can be cultural, sexual, or
     psychological as well as spiritual.

          Cultural rituals could include such things as what a
     family eats on Thanksgiving Day, or when and how presents are
     opened at Christmas. The initiation ceremonies of fraternities,
     sororities, gangs, and other social clubs are other examples of
     cultural rituals.

          Since 1972 I have lectured about sexual ritual, which is
     nothing more than repeatedly engaging in an act or series of
     acts in a certain manner because of a *sexual* need. In order
     to become aroused and/or gratified, a person must engage in the
     act in a certain way. This sexual ritual can include such
     things as the physical characteristics, age, or gender of the
     victim, the particular sequence of acts, the bringing or taking
     of specific objects, and the use of certain words or phrases.
     This is more than the concept of M.O. (Method of Operation)
     known to most police officers. M.O. is something done by an
     offender because it works. Sexual ritual is something done by
     an offender because of a need. Deviant acts, such as urinating
     on, defecating on, or even eviscerating a victim, are far more
     likely to be the result of sexual ritual than religious or
     "satanic" ritual.

          From a criminal investigative perspective, two other forms
     of ritualism must be recognized. The "Diagnostic and
     Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" (DSM-III-R) (APA, 1987)
     defines "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder" as "repetitive,
     purposeful, and intentional behaviors that are performed in
     response to an obsession, or according to certain rules or in a
     stereotyped fashion" (p. 247). Such compulsive behavior
     frequently involves rituals. Although such behavior usually
     involves noncriminal activity such as excessive hand washing or
     checking that doors are locked, occasionally compulsive
     ritualism can be part of criminal activity. Certain gamblers or
     firesetters, for example, are thought by some authorities to be
     motivated in part through such compulsions. Ritual can also
     stem from psychotic hallucinations and delusions. A crime can
     be committed in a precise manner because a voice told the
     offender to do it that way or because a divine mission required

          To make this more confusing, cultural, religious, sexual,
     and psychological ritual can overlap. Some psychotic people are
     preoccupied with religious delusions and hear the voice of God
     or Satan telling them to do things of a religious nature.
     Offenders who feel little, if any, guilt over their crimes may
     need little justification for their antisocial behavior. As
     human beings, however, they may have fears, concerns, and
     anxiety over getting away with their criminal acts. It is
     difficult to pray to God for success in doing things that are
     against His Commandments. A negative spiritual belief system
     may fulfill their human need for assistance from and belief in
     a greater power or to deal with their superstitions. Compulsive
     ritualism (e.g., excessive cleanliness or fear of disease) can
     be introduced into sexual behavior. Even many "normal" people
     have a need for order and predictability and therefore may
     engage in family or work rituals. Under stress or in times of
     change, this need for order and ritual may increase.

          Ritual crime may fulfill the cultural, spiritual, sexual,
     and psychological needs of an offender. Crimes may be
     ritualistically motivated or may have ritualistic elements. The
     ritual behavior may also fulfill basic criminal needs to
     manipulate victims, get rid of rivals, send a message to
     enemies, and intimidate co-conspirators. The leaders of a group
     may want to play upon the beliefs and superstitions of those
     around them and try to convince accomplices and enemies that
     they, the leaders, have special or "supernatural" powers.

          The important point for the criminal investigator is to
     realize that most ritualistic criminal behavior is not
     motivated simply by satanic or any religious ceremonies. At
     some conferences, presenters have attempted to make an issue of
     distinguishing between "ritual," "ritualized," and
     "ritualistic" abuse of children. These subtle distinctions,
     however, seem to be of no significant value to the criminal


          I cannot define "ritual child abuse" precisely and prefer
     not to use the term. I am frequently forced to use it (as
     throughout this discussion) so that people will have some idea
     what I am discussing. Use of the term, however, is confusing,
     misleading, and counterproductive. The newer term "satanic
     ritual abuse" (abbreviated "SRA") is even worse. Certain
     observations, however, are important for investigative

          Most people today use the term to refer to abuse of
     children that is part of some evil spiritual belief system,
     which almost by definition must be satanic.

          Dr. Lawrence Pazder, coauthor of "Michelle Remembers,"
     defines "ritualized abuse of children" as "repeated physical,
     emotional, mental, and spiritual assaults combined with a
     systematic use of symbols and secret ceremonies designed to
     turn a child against itself, family, society, and God"
     (presentation, Richmond, Va., May 7,1987). He also states that
     "the sexual assault has ritualistic meaning and is not for
     sexual gratification."

          This definition may have value for academics,
     sociologists, and therapists, but it creates potential problems
     for law enforcement. Certain acts engaged in with children
     (i.e. kissing, touching, appearing naked, etc.) may be criminal
     if performed for sexual gratification. If the ritualistic acts
     were in fact performed for spiritual indoctrination, potential
     prosecution can be jeopardized, particularly if the acts can be
     defended as constitutionally protected religious expression.
     The mutilation of a baby's genitals for sadistic sexual
     pleasure is a crime. The circumcision of a baby's genitals for
     religious reasons is most likely *not* a crime. The intent of
     the acts is important for criminal prosecution.

          Not all spiritually motivated ritualistic activity is
     satanic. Santeria, witchcraft, voodoo, and most religious cults
     are not satanism. In fact, most spiritually- or religiously-
     based abuse of children has nothing to do with satanism. Most
     child abuse that could be termed "ritualistic" by various
     definitions is more likely to be physical and psychological
     rather than sexual in nature. If a distinction needs to be made
     between satanic and nonsatanic child abuse, the indicators for
     that distinction must be related to specific satanic symbols,
     artifacts, or doctrine rather than the mere presence of any
     ritualistic element.

          Not all such ritualistic activity with a child is a crime.
     Almost all parents with religious beliefs indoctrinate their
     children into that belief system. Is male circumcision for
     religious reasons child abuse? Is the religious circumcision of
     females child abuse? Does having a child kneel on a hard floor
     reciting the rosary constitute child abuse? Does having a child
     chant a satanic prayer or attend a black mass constitute child
     abuse? Does a religious belief in corporal punishment
     constitute child abuse? Does group care of children in a
     commune or cult constitute child abuse? Does the fact that any
     acts in question were performed with parental permission affect
     the nature of the crime? Many ritualistic acts, whether satanic
     or not, are simply not crimes. To open the Pandora's box of
     labeling child abuse as "ritualistic" simply because it
     involves a spiritual belief system means to apply the
     definition to all acts by all spiritual belief systems. The day
     may come when many in the forefront of concern about ritual
     abuse will regret they opened the box.

          When a victim describes and investigation corroborates
     what sounds like ritualistic activity. several possibilities
     must be considered. The ritualistic activity may be part of the
     excessive religiosity of mentally disturbed, even psychotic
     offenders. It may be a misunderstood part of sexual ritual. The
     ritualistic activity may be incidental to any real abuse. The
     offender may be involved in ritualistic activity with a child
     and also may be abusing a child, but one may have little or
     nothing to do with the other.

          The offender may be deliberately engaging in ritualistic
     activity with a child as part of child abuse and exploitation.
     The motivation, however, may be not to indoctrinate the child
     into a belief system, but to lower the inhibitions of, control,
     manipulate, and/or confuse the child. In all the turmoil over
     this issue, it would be very effective strategy for any child
     molester deliberately to introduce ritualistic elements into
     his crime in order to confuse the child and therefore the
     criminal justice system. This would, however, make the activity
     M.O. and not ritual.

          The ritualistic activity and the child abuse may be
     integral parts of some spiritual belief system. In that case
     the greatest risk is to the children of the practitioners. But
     this is true of all cults and religions, not just satanic
     cults. A high potential of abuse exists for any children raised
     in a group isolated from the mainstream of society, especially
     if the group has a charismatic leader whose orders are
     unquestioned and blindly obeyed by the members. Sex, money, and
     power are often the main motivations of the leaders of such


          Some would answer that it is the offender's spiritual
     beliefs or membership in a cult or church. If that is the
     criterion, why not label the crimes committed by Protestants,
     Catholics, and Jews in the same way? Are the atrocities of Jim
     Jones in Guyana Christian crimes?

          Some would answer that it is the presence of certain
     symbols in the possession or home of the perpetrator. What does
     it mean then to find a crucifix, Bible, or rosary in the
     possession or home of a bank robber, embezzler, child molester,
     or murderer? If different criminals possess the same symbols,
     are they necessarily part of one big conspiracy?

          Others would answer that it is the presence of certain
     symbols such as pentagrams, inverted crosses, and 666 at the
     crime scene. What does it mean then to find a cross spray
     painted on a wall or carved into the body of a victim? What
     does it mean for a perpetrator, as in one recent case profiled
     by my Unit, to leave a Bible tied to his murder victim? What
     about the possibility that an offender deliberately left such
     symbols to make it look like a "satanic" crime?

          Some would argue that it is the bizarreness or cruelness
     of the crime: body mutilation, amputation, drinking of blood,
     eating of flesh, use of urine or feces. Does this mean that all
     individuals involved in lust murder, sadism, vampirism,
     cannibalism, urophilia, and coprophilia are satanists or occult
     practitioners? What does this say about the bizarre crimes of
     psychotic killers such as Ed Gein or Richard Trenton Chase,
     both of whom mutilated their victims as part of their psychotic
     delusions? Can a crime that is not sexually deviant, bizarre,
     or exceptionally violent be satanic? Can white collar crime be

          A few might even answer that it is the fact that the crime
     was committed on a date with satanic or occult significance
     (Halloween, May Eve, etc.) or the fact that the perpetrator
     claims that Satan told him to commit the crime. What does this
     mean for crimes committed on Thanksgiving or Christmas? What
     does this say about crimes committed by perpetrators who claim
     that God or Jesus told them to do it? One note of interest is
     the fact that in handout and reference material I have
     collected, the number of dates with satanic or occult
     significance ranges from 8 to 110. This is compounded by the
     fact that it is sometimes stated that satanists can celebrate
     these holidays on several days on either side of the official
     date or that the birthdays of practitioners can also be
     holidays. The exact names and exact dates of the holidays and
     the meaning of symbols listed may also vary depending on who
     prepared the material The handout material is often distributed
     without identifying the author or documenting the original
     source of the information. It is then frequently photocopied by
     attendees and passed on to other police officers with no one
     really knowing its validity or origin.

          Most, however, would probably answer that what makes a
     crime satanic, occult, or ritualistic is the motivation for the
     crime. It is a crime that is spiritually motivated by a
     religious belief system. How then do we label the following
     true crimes?

          --   Parents defy a court order and send their
               children to an unlicensed Christian school.

          --   Parents refuse to send their children to
               any school because they are waiting for the
               second coming of Christ.

          --   Parents beat their child to death because
               he or she will not follow their Christian

          --   Parents violate child labor laws because
               they believe the Bible requires such work.

          --   Individuals bomb an abortion clinic or
               kidnap the doctor because their religious
               belief system says abortion is murder.

          --   A child molester reads the Bible to his
               victims in order to justify his sex acts
               with them.

          --   Parents refuse life-saving medical
               treatment for a child because of their
               religious beliefs.

          --   Parents starve and beat their child to
               death because their minister said the child
               was possessed by demonic spirits.

          Some people would argue that the Christians who committed
     the above crimes misunderstood and distorted their religion
     while satanists who commit crimes are following theirs. But who
     decides what constitutes a misinterpretation of a religious
     belief system? The individuals who committed the above-
     described crimes, however misguided, believed that they were
     following their religion as they understood it. Religion was
     and is used to justify such social behavior as the Crusades,
     the Inquisition, Apartheid, segregation, and recent violence in
     Northern Ireland, India, Lebanon and Nigeria.

          Who decides exactly what "satanists" believe? In this
     country, we cannot even agree on what Christians believe. At
     many law enforcement conferences The "Satanic Bible" is used
     for this, and it is often contrasted or compared with the
     Judeo-Christian Bible. The "Satanic Bible" is, in essence, a
     short paperback book written by one man, Anton LaVey, in 1969.
     To compare it to a book written by multiple authors over a
     period of thousands of years is ridiculous, even ignoring the
     possibility of Divine revelation in the Bible. What satanists
     believe certainly isn't limited to other people's
     interpretation of a few books. More importantly it is subject
     to some degree of interpretation by individual believers just
     as Christianity is. Many admitted "satanists" claim they do not
     even believe in God, the devil, or any supreme deity. The
     criminal behavior of one person claiming belief in a religion
     does not necessarily imply guilt or blame to others sharing
     that belief. In addition, simply claiming membership in a
     religion does not necessarily make you a member.

          The fact is that far more crime and child abuse has been
     committed by zealots in the name of God, Jesus, Mohammed, and
     other mainstream religion than has ever been committed in the
     name of Satan. Many people, including myself, don't like that
     statement, but the truth of it is undeniable.

          Although defining a crime as satanic, occult, or
     ritualistic would probably involve a combination of the
     criteria set forth above, I have been unable to clearly define
     such a crime. Each potential definition presents a different
     set of problems when measured against an objective, rational,
     and constitutional perspective. In a crime with multiple
     subjects, each offender may have a different motivation for the
     same crime. Whose motivation determines the label for the
     crime? It is difficult to count or track something you cannot
     even define.

          I have discovered, however, that the facts of so-called
     "satanic crimes" are often significantly different from what is
     described st training conferences or in the media. The actual
     involvement of satanism or the occult in these cases usually
     turns out to be secondary, insignificant, or nonexistent.
     Occult or ritual crime surveys done by the states of Michigan
     (1990) and Virginia (1991) have only confirmed this
     "discovery." Some law enforcement officers, unable to find
     serious "satanic" crime in their communities, assume they are
     just lucky or vigilant and the serious problems must be in
     other jurisdictions. The officers in the other jurisdictions,
     also unable find it, assume the same.


          Sometime in early 1983 I was first contacted by a law
     enforcement agency for guidance in what was then thought to be
     an unusual case. The exact date of the contact is unknown
     because its significance was not recognized at the time. In the
     months and years that followed, I received more and more
     inquiries about "these kinds of cases." The requests for
     assistance came (and continue to come) from all over the United
     States. Many of the aspects of these cases varied, but there
     were also some commonalties. Early on, however, one
     particularly difficult and potentially significant issue began
     to emerge.

          These cases involved and continue to involve
     unsubstantiated allegations of bizarre activity that are
     difficult either to prove or disprove. Many of the
     unsubstantiated allegations, however, do not seem to have
     occurred or even be possible. These cases seem to call into
     question the credibility of victims of child sexual abuse and
     exploitation. These are the most polarizing, frustrating, and
     baffling cases I have encountered in more than 18 years of
     studying the criminal aspects of deviant sexual behavior. I
     privately sought answers, but said nothing publicly about those
     cases until 1985.

          In October 1984 the problems in investigating and
     prosecuting one of these cases in Jordan, Minnesota became
     publicly known. In February 1985, at the FBI Academy, the FBI
     sponsored and I coordinated the first national seminar held to
     study "these kinds of cases." Later in 1985, similar
     conferences sponsored by other organizations were held in
     Washington, D.C.; Sacramento, California; and Chicago,
     Illinois. These cases have also been discussed at many recent
     regional and national conferences dealing with the sexual
     victimization of children and Multiple Personality Disorder.
     Few answers have come from these conferences. I continue to be
     contacted on these cases on a regular basis. Inquiries have
     been received from law enforcement officers, prosecutors,
     therapists, victims, families of victims, and the media from
     all over the United States and now foreign countries. I do not
     claim to understand completely all the dynamics of these cases.
     I continue to keep an open mind and to search for answers to
     the questions and solutions to the problems they pose. This
     discussion is based on my analysis of the several hundred of
     "these kinds of cases" on which I have consulted since 1983.


          What are "these kinds of cases"? They were and continue to
     be difficult to define. They all involve allegations of what
     sounds like child sexual abuse, but with a combination of some
     atypical dynamics. These cases seem to have the following four
     dynamics in common: (1) multiple young victims, (2) multiple
     offenders, (3) fear as the controlling tactic, and (4) bizarre
     or ritualistic activity.


          In almost all the cases the sexual abuse was alleged to
     have taken place or at least begun when the victims were
     between the ages of birth and six. This very young age may be
     an important key to understanding these cases. In addition the
     victims all described multiple children being abused. The
     numbers ranged from three or four to as many as several hundred


          In almost all the cases the victims reported numerous
     offenders. The numbers ranged from two or three all the way up
     to dozens of offenders. In one recent case the victims alleged
     400-500 offenders were involved. Interestingly many of the
     offenders (perhaps as many as 40-50 percent) were reported to
     be females. The multiple offenders were often family members
     and were described as being part of a cult, occult, or satanic


          Child molesters in general are able to maintain control
     and ensure the secrecy of their victims in a variety of ways.
     These include attention and affection, coercion, blackmail,
     embarrassment, threats, and violence. In almost all of these
     cases I have studied, the victims described being frightened
     and reported threats against themselves, their families, their
     friends, and even their pets. They reported witnessing acts of
     violence perpetrated to reinforce this fear. It is my belief
     that this fear and the traumatic memory of the events may be
     another key to understanding many of these cases.


          This is the most difficult dynamic of these cases to
     describe. "Bizarre" is a relative term. Is the use of urine or
     feces in sexual activity bizarre, or is it a well-documented
     aspect of sexual deviancy, or is it part of established satanic
     rituals? As previously discussed, the ritualistic aspect is
     even more difficult to define. How do you distinguish acts
     performed in a precise manner to enhance or allow sexual
     arousal from those acts that fulfill spiritual needs or comply
     with "religious" ceremonies? Victims in these cases report
     ceremonies, chanting, robes and costumes, drugs, use of urine
     and feces, animal sacrifice, torture, abduction, mutilation,
     murder, and even cannibalism and vampirism. All things
     considered, the word "bizarre" is probably preferable to the
     word "ritual" to describe this activity.

          When I was contacted on these cases, it was very common
     for a prosecutor or investigator to say that the alleged
     victims have been evaluated by an "expert" who will stake his
     or her professional reputation on the fact that the victims are
     telling the "truth." When asked how many cases this expert had
     previously evaluated involving these four dynamics, the answer
     was always the same: none! The experts usually had only dealt
     with one-on-one intrafamilial sexual abuse cases. Recently an
     even more disturbing trend has developed. More and more of the
     victims have been identified or evaluated by experts who have
     been trained to identify and specialize in satanic ritual


          As previously stated, a major problem in communicating,
     training, and researching in this area is the term used to
     define "these kinds of cases." Many refer to them as "ritual,
     ritualistic, or ritualized abuse of children cases" or "satanic
     ritual abuse (SRA) cases." Such words carry specialized
     meanings for many people and might imply that all these cases
     are connected to occult or satanic activity. If ritual abuse is
     not necessarily occult or satanic, but is "merely" severe,
     repeated, prolonged abuse, why use a term that, in the minds of
     so many, implies such specific motivation?

          Others refer to these cases as "multioffender/multivictim
     cases." The problem with this term is that most multiple
     offender and victim cases do not involve the four dynamics
     discussed above.

          For want of a better term, I have decided to refer to
     "these kinds of cases" as "multidimensional child sex rings."
     Right now I seem to be the only one using this term. I am,
     however, not sure if this is truly a distinct kind of child sex
     ring case or just a case not properly handled. Following are
     the general characteristics of these multidimensional child sex
     ring cases as contrasted with more common historical child sex
     ring cases [see my monograph "Child Sex Rings: A Behavioral
     Analysis] (1989) for a discussion of the characteristics of
     historical child sex ring cases].


          As many as 40-50 percent of the offenders in these cases
     are reported to be women. This is in marked contrast to
     historical child sex rings in which almost all the offenders
     are men.


          The offenders appear to be sexually interacting with the
     child victims for reasons other than a true sexual preference
     for children. The children are substitute victims, and the
     abusive activity may have little to do with pedophilia [see my
     monograph "Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis" (1987) for a
     further explanation about types of molesters].


          Both boys and girls appear to be targeted, but with an
     apparent preference for girls. Almost all the adult survivors
     are female, but day care cases frequently involve male as well
     as female victims. The most striking characteristic of the
     victims, however, is their young age (generally birth to six
     years old when the abuse began).


          Sexual gratification appears to be only part of the
     motivation for the "sexual" activity. Many people today argue
     that the motivation is "spiritual" - possibly part of an occult
     ceremony. It is my opinion that the motivation may have more to
     do with anger, hostility, rage and resentment carried out
     against weak and vulnerable victims. Much of the ritualistic
     abuse of children may not be sexual in nature. Some of the
     activity may, in fact, be physical abuse directed at sexually-
     significant body parts (penis, anus, nipples). This may also
     partially explain the large percentage of female offenders.
     Physical abuse of children by females is well-documented.


          Although many of the victims of multidimensional child sex
     rings claim that pictures and videotapes of the activity were
     made, no such visual record has been found by law enforcement.
     In recent years, American law enforcement has seized large
     amounts of child pornography portraying children in a wide
     variety of sexual activity and perversions. None of it,
     however, portrays the kind of bizarre and/or ritualistic
     activity described by these victims. Perhaps these offenders
     use and store their pornography and paraphernalia in ways
     different from preferential child molesters (pedophiles). This
     is an area needing additional research and investigation.


          Control through fear may be the overriding characteristic
     of these cases. Control is maintained by frightening the
     children. A very young child might not be able to understand
     the significance of much of the sexual activity but certainly
     understands fear. The stories that the victims tell may be
     their perceived versions of severe traumatic memories. They may
     be the victims of a severely traumatized childhood in which
     being sexually abused was just one of the many negative events
     affecting their lives.

     c. SCENARIOS.

          Multidimensional child sex rings typically emerge from one
     of four scenarios: (1) adult survivors, (2) day care cases, (3)
     family/isolated neighborhood cases, and (4) custody/visitation


          In adult survivor cases, adults of almost any age - nearly
     always women - are suffering the consequences of a variety of
     personal problems and failures in their lives (e.g.,
     promiscuity, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, failed
     relationships, self-mutilation, unemployment). As a result of
     some precipitating stress or crisis, they often seek therapy.
     They are frequently hypnotized, intentionally or
     unintentionally, as part of the therapy and are often diagnosed
     as suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder. Gradually,
     during the therapy, the adults reveal previously unrecalled
     memories of early childhood victimization that includes
     multiple victims and offenders, fear as the controlling tactic,
     and bizarre or ritualistic activity. Adult survivors may also
     claim that "cues" from certain events in their recent life
     "triggered" the previously repressed memories.

          The multiple offenders are often described as members of a
     cult or satanic group. Parents, family members, clergy, civic
     leaders, police officers (or individuals wearing police
     uniforms), and other prominent members of society are
     frequently described as present at and participating in the
     exploitation. The alleged bizarre activity often includes
     insertion of foreign objects, witnessing mutilations, and
     sexual acts and murders being filmed or photographed. The
     offenders may allegedly still be harassing or threatening the
     victims. They report being particularly frightened on certain
     dates and by certain situations. In several of these cases,
     women (called "breeders") claim to have had babies that were
     turned over for human sacrifice. This type of case is probably
     best typified by books like "Michelle Remembers" (Smith &
     Pazder, 1980), "Satan's Underground" (Stratford, 1988), and
     "Satan's Children" (Mayer, 1991).

          If and when therapists come to believe the patient or
     decide the law requires it, the police or FBI are sometimes
     contacted to conduct an investigation. The therapists may also
     fear for their safety because they now know the "secret." The
     therapists will frequently tell law enforcement that they will
     stake their professional reputation on the fact that their
     patient is telling the truth. Some adult survivors go directly
     to law enforcement. They may also go from place to place in an
     effort to find therapists or investigators who will listen to
     and believe them. Their ability to provide verifiable details
     varies and many were raised in apparently religious homes. A
     few adult survivors are now reporting participation in specific
     murders or child abductions that are known to have taken place.

     (2)  DAY CARE CASES.

          In day care cases children currently or formerly attending
     a day care center gradually describe their victimization at the
     center and at other locations to which they were taken by the
     day care staff. The cases include multiple victims and
     offenders, fear, and bizarre or ritualistic activity, with a
     particularly high number of female offenders. Descriptions of
     strange games, insertion of foreign objects, killing of
     animals, photographing of activities, and wearing of costumes
     are common. The accounts of the young children, however, do not
     seem to be quite as "bizarre" as those of the adult survivors,
     with fewer accounts of human sacrifice.


          In family/isolated neighborhood cases, children describe
     their victimization within their family or extended family. The
     group is often defined by geographic boundary, such as a cul-
     de-sac, apartment building, or isolated rural setting. Such
     accounts are most common in rural or suburban communities with
     high concentrations of religiously conservative people. The
     stories are similar to those told of the day care setting, but
     with more male offenders. The basic dynamics remain the same,
     but victims tend to be more than six years of age, and the
     scenario may also involve a custody or visitation dispute.


          In custody/visitation dispute cases, the allegations
     emanate from a custody or visitation dispute over at least one
     child under the age of seven. The four dynamics described above
     make these cases extremely difficult to handle. When
     complicated by the strong emotions of this scenario, the cases
     can be overwhelming. This is especially true if the disclosing
     child victims have been taken into the "underground" by a
     parent during the custody or visitation dispute. Some of these
     parents or relatives may even provide authorities with diaries
     or tapes of their interviews with the children. An accurate
     evaluation and assessment of a young child held in isolation in
     this underground while being "debriefed" by a parent or someone
     else is almost impossible. However well-intentioned, these
     self-appointed investigators severely damage any chance to
     validate these cases objectively.

          BE TRUE?

          Some of what the victims in these cases allege is
     physically impossible (victim cut up and put back together,
     offender took the building apart and then rebuilt it); some is
     possible but improbable (human sacrifice, cannibalism,
     vampirism ); some is possible and probable (child pornography,
     clever manipulation of victims); and some is corroborated
     (medical evidence of vaginal or anal trauma, offender

          The most significant crimes being alleged that do not
     *seem* to be true are the human sacrifice and cannibalism by
     organized satanic cults. In none of the multidimensional child
     sex ring cases of which I am aware have bodies of the murder
     victims been found - in spite of major excavations where the
     abuse victims claim the bodies were located. The alleged
     explanations for this include: the offenders moved the bodies
     after the children left, the bodies were burned in portable
     high-temperature ovens, the bodies were put in double-decker
     graves under legitimately buried bodies, a mortician member of
     the cult disposed of the bodies in a crematorium, the offenders
     ate the bodies, the offenders used corpses and aborted fetuses,
     or the power of Satan caused the bodies to disappear.

          Not only are no bodies found, but also, more importantly,
     there is no physical evidence that a murder took place. Many of
     those not in law enforcement do not understand that, while it
     is possible to get rid of a body, it is even more difficult to
     get rid of the physical evidence that a murder took place,
     especially a human sacrifice involving sex, blood, and
     mutilation. Such activity would leave behind trace evidence
     that could be found using modern crime scene processing
     techniques in spite of extraordinary efforts to clean it up.

          The victims of these human sacrifices and murders are
     alleged to be abducted missing children, runaway and throwaway
     children, derelicts, and the babies of breeder women. It is
     interesting to note that many of those espousing these theories
     are using the long-since-discredited numbers and rhetoric of
     the missing children hysteria in the early 1980s. Yet
     "Stranger-Abduction Homicides of Children," a January 1989
     "Juvenile Justice Bulletin," published by the Office of
     Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the U.S.
     Department of Justice, reports that researchers now estimate
     that the number of children kidnapped and murdered by nonfamily
     members is between 52 and 158 a year and that adolescents 14 to
     17 years old account for nearly two-thirds of these victims.
     These figures are also consistent with the 1990 National
     Incident Studies previously mentioned.

          We live in a very violent society, and yet we have "only"
     about 23,000 murders a year. Those who accept these stories of
     mass human sacrifice would have us believe that the satanists
     and other occult practitioners are murdering more than twice as
     many people every year in this country as all the other
     murderers combined.

          In addition, in none of the cases of which I am aware has
     any evidence of a well-organized satanic cult been found. Many
     of those who accept the stories of organized ritual abuse of
     children and human sacrifice will tell you that the best
     evidence they now have is the consistency of stories from all
     over America. It sounds like a powerful argument. It is
     interesting to note that, without having met each other, the
     hundreds of people who claim to have been abducted by aliens
     from outer space also tell stories and give descriptions of the
     aliens that are similar to each other. This is not to imply
     that allegations of child abuse are in the same category as
     allegations of abduction by aliens from outer space. It is
     intended only to illustrate that individuals who never met each
     other can sometimes describe similar events without necessarily
     having experienced them.

          The large number of people telling the same story is, in
     fact, the biggest reason to doubt these stories. It is simply
     too difficult for that many people to commit so many horrendous
     crimes as part of an organized conspiracy. Two or three people
     murder a couple of children in a few communities as part of a
     ritual, and nobody finds out? Possible. Thousands of people do
     the same thing to tens of thousands of victims over many years?
     Not likely. Hundreds of communities all over America are run by
     mayors, police departments, and community leaders who are
     practicing satanists and who regularly murder and eat people?
     Not likely. In addition, these community leaders and high-
     ranking officials also supposedly commit these complex crimes
     leaving no evidence, and at the same time function as leaders
     and managers while heavily involved in using illegal drugs.
     Probably the closest documented example of this type of alleged
     activity in American history is the Ku Klux Klan, which
     ironically used Christianity, not satanism, to rationalize its
     activity but which, as might be expected, was eventually
     infiltrated by informants and betrayed by its members.

          As stated, initially I was inclined to believe the
     allegations of the victims. But as the cases poured in and the
     months and years went by, I became more concerned about the
     lack of physical evidence and corroboration for many of the
     more serious allegations. With increasing frequency I began to
     ask the question: "Why are victims alleging things that do not
     *seem* to be true?" Many possible answers were considered.

          The first possible answer is obvious: clever offenders.
     The allegations may not seem to be true but they are true. The
     criminal justice system lacks the knowledge, skill, and
     motivation to get to the bottom of this crime conspiracy. The
     perpetrators of this crime conspiracy are clever, cunning
     individuals using sophisticated mind control and brainwashing
     techniques to control their victims. Law enforcement does not
     know how to investigate these cases.

          It is technically possible that these allegations of an
     organized conspiracy involving taking over day care centers,
     abduction, cannibalism, murder, and human sacrifice might be
     true. But if they are true, they constitute one of the greatest
     crime conspiracies in history.

          Many people do not understand how difficult it is to
     commit a conspiracy crime involving numerous co-conspirators.
     One clever and cunning individual has a good chance of getting
     away with a well-planned interpersonal crime. Bring one partner
     into the crime and the odds of getting away with it drop
     considerably. The more people involved in the crime, the harder
     it is to get away with it. Why? Human nature is the answer.
     People get angry and jealous. They come to resent the fact that
     another conspirator is getting "more" than they. They get in
     trouble and want to make a deal for themselves by informing on

          If a group of individuals degenerate to the point of
     engaging in human sacrifice, murder, and cannibalism, that
     would most likely be the beginning of the end for such a group.
     The odds are that someone in the group would have a problem
     with such acts and be unable to maintain the secret.

          The appeal of the satanic conspiracy theory is twofold:

          (1)  First, it is a simple explanation for a
               complex problem. Nothing is more simple
               than "the devil made them do it." If we do
               not understand something, we make it the
               work of some supernatural force. During the
               Middle Ages, serial killers were thought to
               be vampires and werewolves, and child
               sexual abuse was the work of demons taking
               the form of parents and clergy. Even today,
               especially for those raised to religiously
               believe so, satanism offers an explanation
               as to why "good" people do bad things. It
               may also help to "explain" unusual,
               bizarre, and compulsive sexual urges and

          (2)  Second, the conspiracy theory is a popular
               one. We find it difficult to believe that
               one bizarre individual could commit a crime
               we find so offensive. Conspiracy theories
               about soldiers missing in action (MIAs),
               abductions by UFOs, Elvis Presley
               sightings, and the assassination of
               prominent public figures are the focus of
               much attention in this country. These
               conspiracy theories and allegations of
               ritual abuse have the following in common:
               (1) self-proclaimed experts, (2) tabloid
               media interest, (3) belief the government
               is involved in a coverup, and (4)
               emotionally involved direct and indirect

          On a recent television program commemorating the one
     hundredth anniversary of Jack the Ripper, almost fifty percent
     of the viewing audience who called the polling telephone
     numbers indicated that they thought the murders were committed
     as part of a conspiracy involving the British Royal Family. The
     five experts on the program, however, unanimously agreed the
     crimes were the work of one disorganized but lucky individual
     who was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. In many ways,
     the murders of Jack the Ripper are similar to those allegedly
     committed by satanists today.

          If your child's molestation was perpetrated by a
     sophisticated satanic cult, there is nothing you could have
     done to prevent it and therefore no reason to feel any guilt. I
     have been present when parents who believe their children were
     ritually abused at day care centers have told others that the
     cults had sensors in the road, lookouts in the air, and
     informers everywhere; therefore, the usually recommended advice
     of unannounced visits to the day care center would be


          Even if only part of an allegation is not true, what then
     is the answer to the question "Why are victims alleging things
     that do not *seem* to be true?" After consulting with
     psychiatrists, psychologists, anthropologists, therapists,
     social workers, child sexual abuse experts, and law enforcement
     investigators for more than eight years, I can find no single,
     simple answer. The answer to the question seems to be a complex
     set of dynamics that can be different in each case. In spite of
     the fact that some skeptics keep looking for it, there does not
     appear to be one answer to the question that fits every case.
     Each case is different, and each case may involve a different
     combination of answers.

          I have identified a series of possible alternative answers
     to this question. The alternative answers also do not preclude
     the possibility that clever offenders are sometimes involved. I
     will not attempt to explain completely these alternative
     answers because I cannot. They are presented simply as areas
     for consideration and evaluation by child sexual abuse
     intervenors, for further elaboration by experts in these
     fields, and for research by objective social scientists. The
     first step, however, in finding the answers to this question is
     to admit the possibility that some of what the victims describe
     may not have happened. Some child advocates seem unwilling to
     do this.


          The first possible answer to why victims are alleging
     things that do not *seem* to be true is *pathological
     distortion*. The allegations may be errors in processing
     reality influenced by underlying mental disorders such as
     dissociative disorders, borderline or histrionic personality
     disorders, or psychosis. These distortions may be manifested in
     false accounts of victimization in order to gain psychological
     benefits such as attention and sympathy (factitious disorder).
     When such individuals repeatedly go from place to place or
     person to person making these false reports of their own
     "victimization," it is called Munchausen Syndrome. When the
     repealed false reports concern the "victimization" of their
     children or others linked to them, it is called Munchausen
     Syndrome by Proxy. I am amazed when some therapists state that
     they believe the allegations because they cannot think of a
     reason why the "victim," whose failures are now explained and
     excused or who is now the center of attention at a conference
     or on a national television program, would lie. If you can be
     forgiven for mutilating and killing babies, you can be forgiven
     for anything.

          Many "victims" may develop pseudomemories of their
     victimization and eventually come to believe the events
     actually occurred. Noted forensic psychiatrist Park E. Dietz
     (personal communication, Nov. 1991) states:

               "Pseudomemories have been acquired through
          dreams (particularly if one is encouraged to keep a
          journal or dream diary and to regard dream content as
          'clues' about the past or as snippets of history),
          substance-induced altered states of consciousness
          (alcohol or other drugs), group influence
          (particularly hearing vivid accounts of events
          occurring to others with whom one identifies
          emotionally such as occurs in incest survivor
          groups), reading vivid accounts of events occurring
          to others with whom one identifies emotionally,
          watching such accounts in films or on television, and
          hypnosis. The most efficient means of inducing
          pseudomemories is hypnosis.

               "It is characteristic of pseudomemories that the
          recollections of complex events (as opposed to a
          simple unit of information, such as a tag number) are
          incomplete and without chronological sequence. Often
          the person reports some uncertainty because the
          pseudomemories are experienced in a manner they
          describe as 'hazy', 'fuzzy', or 'vague'. They are
          often perplexed that they recall some details vividly
          but others dimly.

               "Pseudomemories are not delusions. When first
          telling others of pseudomemories, these individuals
          do not have the unshakable but irrational conviction
          that deluded subjects have, but with social support
          they often come to defend vigorously the truthfulness
          of the pseudomemories.

               "Pseudomemories are not fantasies, but may
          incorporate elements from fantasies experienced in
          the past. Even where the events described are
          implausible, listeners may believe them because they
          are reported with such intense affect (i.e. with so
          much emotion attached to the story) that the listener
          concludes that the events must have happened because
          no one could 'fake' the emotional aspects of the
          retelling. It also occurs, however, that persons
          report pseudomemories in such a matter-of-fact and
          emotionless manner that mental health professionals
          conclude that the person has 'dissociated'
          intellectual knowledge of the events from emotional
          appreciation of their impact."


          The second possible answer is *traumatic memory*. Fear and
     severe trauma can cause victims to distort reality and confuse
     events. This is a well-documented fact in cases involving
     individuals taken hostage or in life-and-death situations. The
     distortions may be part of an elaborate defense mechanism of
     the mind called "splitting" - The victims create a clear-cut
     good-and-evil manifestation of their complex victimization that
     is then psychologically more manageable.

          Through the defense mechanism of dissociation, the victim
     may escape the horrors of reality by inaccurately processing
     that reality. In a dissociative state a young child who
     ordinarily would know the difference might misinterpret a film
     or video as reality.

          Another defense mechanism may tell the victim that it
     could have been worse, and so his or her victimization was not
     so bad. They are not alone in their victimization - other
     children were also abused. Their father who abused them is no
     different from other prominent people in the community they
     claim also abused them. Satanism may help to explain why their
     outwardly good and religious parents did such terrible things
     to them in the privacy of their home. Their religious training
     may convince them that such unspeakable acts by supposedly
     "good" people must be the work of the devil. The described
     human sacrifice may be symbolic of the "death" of their

          It may be that we should anticipate that individuals
     severely abused as very young children by *multiple* offenders
     with *fear* as the primary controlling tactic will distort and
     embellish their victimization. Perhaps a horror-filled yet
     inaccurate account of victimization is not only not a
     counterindication of abuse, but is in fact a corroborative
     indicator of extreme physical, psychological, and/or sexual
     abuse. I do not believe it is a coincidence nor the result of
     deliberate planning by satanists that in almost all the cases
     of ritual abuse that have come to my attention, the abuse is
     alleged to have begun prior to the age of seven and perpetrated
     by multiple offenders. It may well be that such abuse, at young
     age by multiple offenders, is the most difficult to accurately
     recall with the specific and precise detail needed by the
     criminal justice system, and the most likely to be distorted
     and exaggerated when it is recalled. In her book "Too Scared to
     Cry" (1990), child psychiatrist Lenore Terr, a leading expert
     on psychic trauma in childhood, states "that a series of early
     childhood shocks might not be fully and accurately
     'reconstructed' from the dreams and behaviors of the adult" (p.


          The third possible answer may be *normal childhood fears
     and fantasy*. Most young children are afraid of ghosts and
     monsters. Even as adults, many people feel uncomfortable, for
     example, about dangling their arms over the side of their bed.
     They still remember the "monster" under the bed from childhood.
     While young children may rarely invent stories about sexual
     activity, they might describe their victimization in terms of
     evil as they understand it. In church or at home, children may
     be told of satanic activity as the source of evil. The children
     may be "dumping" all their fears and worries unto an attentive
     and encouraging listener.

          Children do fantasize. Perhaps whatever causes a child to
     allege something impossible (such as being cut up and put back
     together) is similar to what causes a child to allege something
     possible but improbable (such as witnessing another child being
     chopped up and eaten).


          Misperception, confusion, and trickery may be a fourth
     answer. Expecting young children to give accurate accounts of
     sexual activity for which they have little frame of reference
     is unreasonable. The Broadway play "Madame Butterfly" is the
     true story of a man who had a 15-year affair, including the
     "birth" of a baby, with a "woman" who turns out to have been a
     man all along. If a grown man does not know when he has had
     vaginal intercourse with a woman, how can we expect young
     children not to be confused?

          Furthermore some clever offenders may deliberately
     introduce elements of satanism and the occult into the sexual
     exploitation simply to confuse or intimidate the victims.
     Simple magic and other techniques may be used to trick the
     children. Drugs may also be deliberately used to confuse the
     victims and distort their perceptions. Such acts would then be
     M.O., not ritual.

          As previously stated, the perceptions of young victims may
     also be influenced by any trauma being experienced. This is the
     most popular alternative explanation, and even the more zealous
     believers of ritual abuse allegations use it, but only to
     explain obviously impossible events.


          *Overzealous intervenors*, causing intervenor contagion,
     may be a fifth answer. These intervenors can include parents,
     family members, foster parents, doctors, therapists, social
     workers, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and any
     combination thereof. Victims have been subtly as well as
     overtly rewarded and bribed by usually well-meaning intervenors
     for furnishing further details. In addition, some of what
     appears not to have happened may have originated as a result of
     intervenors making assumptions about or misinterpreting what
     the victims are saying. The intervenors then repeat, and
     possibly embellish, these assumptions and misinterpretations,
     and eventually the victims are "forced" to agree with or come
     to accept this "official" version of what happened.

          The judgment of intervenors may be affected by their zeal
     to uncover child sexual abuse, satanic activity, or
     conspiracies. However "well-intentioned," these overzealous
     intervenors must accept varying degrees of responsibility for
     the unsuccessful prosecution of those cases where criminal
     abuse did occur. This is the most controversial and least
     popular of the alternative explanations.

     f.   URBAN LEGENDS.

          Allegations of and knowledge about ritualistic or satanic
     abuse may also be spread through *urban legends*. In "The
     Vanishing Hitchhiker" (1981), the first of his four books on
     the topic, Dr. Jan Harold Brunvand defines urban legends as
     "realistic stories concerning recent events (or alleged events)
     with an ironic or supernatural twist" (p. xi). Dr. Brunvand's
     books convincingly explain that just because individuals
     throughout the country who never met each other tell the same
     story does not mean that it is true. Absurd urban legends about
     the corporate logos of Proctor and Gamble and Liz Claiborne
     being satanic symbols persist in spite of all efforts to refute
     them with reality. Some urban legends about child kidnappings
     and other threats to citizens have even been disseminated
     unknowingly by law enforcement agencies. Such legends have
     always existed, but today the mass media aggressively
     participate in their rapid and more efficient dissemination.
     Many Americans mistakenly believe that tabloid television shows
     check out and verify the details of their stories before
     pulling them on the air. Mass hysteria may partially account
     for large numbers of victims describing the same symptoms or

          Training conferences for all the disciplines involved in
     child sexual abuse may also play a role in the spread of this
     contagion. At one child abuse conference I attended, an
     exhibitor was selling more than 50 different books dealing with
     satanism and the occult. By the end of the conference, he had
     sold nearly all of them. At another national child sexual abuse
     conference, I witnessed more than 100 attendees copying down
     the widely disseminated 29 "Symptoms Characterizing Satanic
     Ritual Abuse" in preschool-aged children. Is a four-year-old
     child's "preoccupation with urine and feces" an indication of
     satanic ritual abuse or part of normal development?

     g.   COMBINATION.

          Most multidimensional child sex ring cases probably
     involve a *combination* of the answers previously set forth, as
     well as other possible explanations unknown to me at this time.
     Obviously, cases with adult survivors are more likely to
     involve some of these answers than those with young children.
     Each case of sexual victimization must be individually
     evaluated on its own merits without any preconceived
     explanations. All the possibilities must be explored if for no
     other reason than the fact that the defense attorneys for any
     accused subjects will almost certainly do so.

          Most people would agree that just because a victim tells
     you one detail that turns out to be true, this does not mean
     that every detail is true. But many people seem to believe that
     if you can disprove one part of a victim's story, then the
     entire story is false. As previously stated, one of my main
     concerns in these cases is that people are getting away with
     sexually abusing children or committing other crimes because we
     cannot prove that they are members of organized cults that
     murder and eat people.

          I have discovered that the subject of multidimensional
     child sex rings is a very emotional and polarizing issue.
     Everyone seems to demand that one choose a side. On one side of
     the issue are those who say that nothing really happened and it
     is all a big witch hunt led by overzealous fanatics and
     incompetent "experts." The other side says, in essence, that
     everything happened; victims never lie about child sexual
     abuse, and so it must be true.

          There is a middle ground. It is the job of the
     professional investigator to listen to all the victims and
     conduct appropriate investigation in an effort to find out what
     happened, considering all possibilities. Not all childhood
     trauma is abuse. Not all child abuse is a crime. The great
     frustration of these cases is the fact that you are often
     convinced that something traumatic happened to the victim, but
     do not know with any degree of certainty exactly what happened,
     when it happened, or who did it.


          The crucial central issue in the evaluation of a response
     to cases of multidimensional child sex rings is the statement
     "Children never lie about sexual abuse or exploitation. If they
     have details, it must have happened." This statement,
     oversimplified by many, is the basic premise upon which some
     believe the child sexual abuse and exploitation movement is
     based. It is almost never questioned or debated at training
     conferences. In fact, during the 1970s, there was a successful
     crusade to eliminate laws requiring corroboration of child
     victim statements in child sexual abuse cases. The best way to
     convict child molesters is to have the child victims testify in
     court. If we believe them, the jury will believe them. Any
     challenge to this basic premise was viewed as a threat to the
     movement and a denial that the problem existed.

          I believe that children *rarely* lie about sexual abuse or
     exploitation, if a lie is defined as a statement deliberately
     and maliciously intended to deceive. The problem is the
     oversimplification of the statement. Just because a child is
     not lying does not necessarily mean the child is telling the
     truth. I believe that in the majority of these cases, the
     victims are not lying. They are telling you what they have come
     to believe has happened to them. Furthermore the assumption
     that children rarely lie about sexual abuse does not
     necessarily apply to everything a child says during a sexual
     abuse investigation. Stories of mutilation, murder, and
     cannibalism are not really about sexual abuse.

          Children rarely lie about sexual abuse or exploitation.
     but they do fantasize, furnish false information, furnish
     misleading information, misperceive events, try to please
     adults, respond to leading questions, and respond to rewards.
     Children are not adults in little bodies and do go through
     developmental stages that must be evaluated and understood. In
     many ways, however, children are no better and no worse than
     other victims or witnesses of a crime. They should not be
     automatically believed, nor should they be automatically

          The second part of the statement - if children can supply
     details, the crime must have happened - must also be carefully
     evaluated. The details in question in most of the cases of
     multidimensional child sex rings have little to do with sexual
     activity. Law enforcement and social workers must do more than
     attempt to determine how a child could have known about the sex
     acts. These cases involve determining how a victim could have
     known about a wide variety of bizarre and ritualistic activity.
     Young children may know little about specific sex acts, but
     they may know a lot about monsters, torture, kidnapping, and

          Victims may supply details of sexual and other acts using
     information from sources other than their own direct
     victimization. Such sources must be evaluated carefully by the
     investigator of multidimensional child sex rings.


          The victim may have personal knowledge of the sexual or
     ritual acts, but not as a result of the alleged victimization.
     The knowledge could have come from viewing pornography, sex
     education, or occult material; witnessing sexual or ritual
     activity in the home; or witnessing the sexual abuse of others.
     It could also have come from having been sexually or physically
     abused, but by other than the alleged offenders and in ways
     other than the alleged offense.


          Young children today are socially interacting more often
     and at a younger age than ever before. Many parents are unable
     to provide possibly simple explanations for their children's
     stories because they were not with the children when the events
     occurred. They do not even know what videotapes their children
     may have seen, what games they may have played, or what stories
     they may have been told or overheard. Children are being placed
     in day care centers for eight, ten, or twelve hours a day
     starting as young as six weeks of age. The children share
     experiences by playing house, school, or doctor. Bodily
     functions such as urination and defecation are a focus of
     attention for these young children. To a certain extent, each
     child shares the experiences of all the other children.

          The odds are fairly high that in any typical day care
     center there might be some children who are victims of incest;
     victims of physical abuse; victims of psychological abuse;
     children of cult members (even satanists); children of sexually
     open parents; children of sexually indiscriminate parents;
     children of parents obsessed with victimization; children of
     parents obsessed with the evils of satanism; children without
     conscience; children with a teenage brother or pregnant mother;
     children with heavy metal music and literature in the home;
     children with bizarre toys, games, comics, and magazines;
     children with a VCR and slasher films in their home; children
     with access to dial-a-porn, party lines, or pornography; or
     children victimized by a day care center staff member. The
     possible effects of the interaction of such children prior to
     the disclosure of the alleged abuse must be evaluated, Adult
     survivors may obtain details from group therapy sessions,
     support networks, church groups, or self-help groups. The
     willingness and ability of siblings to corroborate adult
     survivor accounts of ritual abuse varies. Some will support and
     partially corroborate the victim's allegations. Others will
     vehemently deny them and support their accused parents or

     c.   MEDIA.

          The amount of sexually explicit, occult, anti-occult, or
     violence-oriented material available to adults and even
     children in the modern world is overwhelming. This includes
     movies, videotapes, television, music, toys, and books. There
     are also documentaries on satanism, witchcraft, and the occult
     that are available on videotape. Most of the televangelists
     have videotapes on the topics that they are selling on their

          The National Coalition on Television Violence News (1988)
     estimates that 12% of the movies produced in the United States
     can be classified as satanic horror films. Cable television and
     the home VCR make all this material readily available even to
     young children. Religious broadcasters and almost all the
     television tabloid and magazine programs have done shows on
     satanism and the occult. Heavy metal and black metal music,
     which often has a satanic theme, is readily available and
     popular. In addition to the much-debated fantasy role-playing
     games, there are numerous popular toys on the market with an
     occult-oriented, bizarre, or violent theme.

          Books on satanism and the occult, both fiction and
     nonfiction, are readily available in most bookstores,
     especially Christian bookstores. Several recent books
     specifically discuss the issue of ritual abuse of children.
     Obviously, very young children do not read this material, but
     their parents, relatives, and therapists might and then discuss
     it in front of or with them. Much of the material intended to
     fight the problem actually fuels the problem and damages
     effective prosecution.


          This problem is particularly important in cases stemming
     from custody/visitation disputes involving at least one child
     under the age of seven. It is my opinion that most suggestive,
     leading questioning of children by intervenors is inadvertently
     done as part of a good-faith effort to learn the truth. Not all
     intervenors are in equal positions to potentially influence
     victim allegations. Parents and relatives especially are in a
     position to subtly influence their young children to describe
     their victimization in a certain way. Children may also
     overhear their parents discussing the details of the case.
     Children often tell their parents what they believe their
     parents want or need to hear. Some children may be
     instinctively attempting to provide "therapy" for their parents
     by telling them what seems to satisfy them and somehow makes
     them feel better. In one case a father gave the police a tape
     recording to "prove" that his child's statements were
     spontaneous disclosures and not the result of leading,
     suggestive questions. The tape recording indicated just the
     opposite. Why then did the father voluntarily give it to the
     police? Probably because he truly believed that he was not
     influencing his child's statements - but he was.

          Therapists are probably in the best position to influence
     the allegations of adult survivors. The accuracy and
     reliability of the accounts of adult survivors who have been
     hypnotized during therapy is certainly open to question. One
     nationally-known therapist personally told me that the reason
     police cannot find out about satanic or ritualistic activity
     from child victims is that they do not know how to ask leading
     questions. Highly suggestive books and pictures portraying
     "satanic" activity have been developed and marketed to
     therapists for use during evaluation and treatment. Types and
     styles of verbal interaction useful in therapy may create
     significant problems in a criminal investigation. It should be
     noted, however, that when a therapist does a poor investigative
     interview as part of a criminal investigation, that is the
     fault of the criminal justice system that allowed it and not
     the therapist who did it.

          The extremely sensitive, emotional, and religious nature
     of these cases makes problems with leading questions more
     likely than in other kinds of cases. Intervenors motivated by
     religious fervor and/or exaggerated concerns about sexual abuse
     of children are more likely to lose their objectivity.


          In one case, a child's description of the apparently
     impossible act of walking through a wall turned out to be the
     very possible act of walking between the studs of an unfinished
     wall in a room under construction. In another case, pennies in
     the anus turned out to be copper-foil-covered suppositories.
     The children may describe what they believe happened. It is not
     a lie, but neither is it an accurate account of what happened.


          Some well-intentioned awareness programs designed to
     prevent child set abuse, alert professionals, or fight satanism
     may in fact be unrealistically increasing the fears of
     professionals, children, and parents and creating self-
     fulfilling prophesies. Some of what children and their parents
     are telling intervenors may have been learned in or fueled by
     such programs. Religious programs, books, and pamphlets that
     emphasize the power and evil force of Satan may be adding to
     the problem. In fact most of the day care centers in which
     ritualistic abuse is alleged to hate taken place are church-
     affiliated centers, and many of the adult survivors alleging it
     come from apparently religious families.


          The perspective with which one looks at satanic, occult,
     or ritualistic crime is extremely important. As stated,
     sociologists, therapists, religious leaders, parents, and just
     plain citizens each have their own valid concerns and views
     about this issue. This discussion, however, deals primarily
     with the law enforcement or criminal justice perspective.

          When you combine an emotional issue such as the sexual
     abuse of children with an even more emotional issue such as
     people's religious beliefs, it is difficult to maintain
     objectivity and remember the law enforcement perspective. Some
     police officers may even feel that all crime is caused by evil,
     all evil is caused by Satan, and therefore, all crime is
     satanic crime. This may be a valid religious perspective, but
     it is of no relevance to the investigation of crime for
     purposes of prosecution.

          Many of the police officers who lecture on satanic or
     occult crime do not even investigate such cases. Their
     presentations are more a reflection of their personal religious
     beliefs than documented investigative information. They are
     absolutely entitled to their beliefs, but introducing
     themselves as current or former police officers and then
     speaking as religious advocates causes confusion. As difficult
     as it might be, police officers must separate the religious and
     law enforcement perspectives when they are lecturing or
     investigating in their official capacities as law enforcement
     officers. Many law enforcement officers begin their
     presentations by stating that they are not addressing or
     judging anyone's religious beliefs, and then proceed to do
     exactly that.

          Some police officers have resigned rather than curtail or
     limit their involvement in this issue as ordered by their
     departments. Perhaps such officers deserve credit for
     recognizing that they could no longer keep the perspectives

          Law enforcement officers and all professionals in this
     field should avoid the "paranoia" that has crept into this
     issue and into some of the training conferences. Paranoid type
     belief systems are characterized by the gradual development of
     intricate, complex, and elaborate systems of thinking based on
     and often proceeding logically from misinterpretation of actual
     events. Paranoia typically involves hypervigilance over the
     perceived threat, the belief that danger is around every
     corner, and the willingness to take up the challenge and do
     something about it. Another very important aspect of this
     paranoia is the belief that those who do not recognize the
     threat are evil and corrupt. In this extreme view, you are
     either with them or against them. You are either part of the
     solution or part of the problem.

          Overzealousness and exaggeration motivated by the true
     religious fervor of those involved is more acceptable than that
     motivated by ego or profit. There are those who are
     deliberately distorting and hyping this issue for personal
     notoriety and profit. Satanic and occult crime and ritual abuse
     of children has become a growth industry. Speaking fees, books,
     video and audio tapes, prevention material, television and
     radio appearances all bring egoistic and financial rewards.

          Bizarre crime and evil can occur without organized satanic
     activity. The professional perspective requires that we
     distinguish between what we know and what we're not sure of.

          The facts are:

          a.   Some individuals believe in and are
               involved in something commonly called
               satanism and the occult.

          b.   Some of these individuals commit crime.

          c.   Some groups of individuals share these
               beliefs and involvement in this satanism
               and the occult.

          d.   Some members of these groups commit crime

          The unanswered questions are:

          a.   What is the connection between the belief
               system and the crimes committed?

          b.   Is there an organized conspiracy of satanic
               and occult believers responsible for
               interrelated serious crime (e.g.,
               molestation, murder)?

          After all the hype and hysteria are put aside, the
     realization sets in that most satanic/occult activity involves
     the commission of *no* crimes, and that which does usually
     involves the commission of relatively minor crimes such as
     trespassing, vandalism, cruelty to animals, or petty thievery.

          The law enforcement problems most often linked to satanic
     or occult activity are:

          a.   Vandalism.
          b.   Desecration of churches and cemeteries.
          c.   Thefts from churches and cemeteries.
          d.   Teenage gangs
          e.   Animal mutilations.
          f.   Teenage suicide.
          g.   Child abuse.
          h.   Kidnapping.
          i.   Murder and human sacrifice

          Valid evidence shows some "connection" between satanism
     and the occult and the first six problems (a-f) set forth
     above. The "connection" to the last three problems (g-i) is far
     more uncertain.

          Even where there seems to be a "connection," the nature of
     the connection needs to be explored. It is easy to blame
     involvement in satanism and the occult for behaviors that have
     complex motivations. A teenager's excessive involvement in
     satanism and the occult is usually a symptom of a problem and
     not the cause of a problem. Blaming satanism for a teenager's
     vandalism, theft, suicide, or even act of murder is like
     blaming a criminal's offenses on his tattoos: Both are often
     signs of the same rebelliousness and lack of self-esteem that
     contribute to the commission of crimes.

          The rock band Judas Priest was recently sued for allegedly
     inciting two teenagers to suicide through subliminal messages
     in their recordings. In 1991 Anthony Pratkanis of the
     University of California at Santa Cruz, who served as an expert
     witness for the defense, stated the boys in question "lived
     troubled lives, lives of drug and alcohol abuse, run-ins with
     the law ... family violence, and chronic unemployment. What
     issues did the trial and the subsequent mass media coverage
     emphasize? Certainly not the need for drug treatment centers;
     there was no evaluation of the pros and cons of America's
     juvenile justice system, no investigation of the schools, no
     inquiry into how to prevent family violence, no discussion of
     the effects of unemployment on a family. Instead our attention
     was mesmerized by an attempt to count the number of subliminal
     demons that can dance on the end of a record needle" (p. 1).

          The law enforcement investigator must objectively evaluate
     the legal significance of any criminal's spiritual beliefs. In
     most cases, including those involving satanists, it will have
     little or no legal significance. If a crime is committed as
     part of a spiritual belief system, it should make no difference
     which belief system it is. The crime is the same whether a
     child is abused or murdered as part of a Christian, Hare
     Krishna, Moslem, or any other belief system. We generally don't
     label crimes with the name of the perpetrator's religion. Why
     then are the crimes of child molesters, rapists, sadists, and
     murderers who happen to be involved in satanism and the occult
     labeled as satanic or occult crimes? If criminals use a
     spiritual belief system to rationalize and justify or to
     facilitate and enhance their criminal activity, should the
     focus of law enforcement be on the belief system or on the
     criminal activity?

          Several documented murders have been committed by
     individuals involved in one way or another in satanism or the
     occult. In some of these murders the perpetrator has even
     introduced elements of the occult (e.g. satanic symbols at
     crime scene). Does that automatically make these satanic
     murders? It is my opinion that the answer is no. Ritualistic
     murders committed by serial killers or sexual sadists are not
     necessarily satanic or occult murders. Ritualistic murders
     committed by psychotic killers who hear the voice of Satan are
     no more satanic murders than murders committed by psychotic
     killers who hear the voice of Jesus are Christian murders.

          Rather a satanic murder should be defined as one committed
     by two or more individuals who rationally plan the crime and
     whose *primary* motivation is to fulfill a prescribed satanic
     ritual calling for the murder. By this definition I have been
     unable to identify even one documented satanic murder in the
     United States. Although such murders may have and can occur,
     they appear to be few in number. In addition the commission of
     such killings would probably be the beginning of the end for
     such a group. It is highly unlikely that they could continue to
     kill several people, every year, year after year, and not be

          A brief typology of satanic and occult practitioners is
     helpful in evaluating what relationship, if any, such practices
     have to crimes under investigation. The following typology is
     adapted from the investigative experience of Officer Sandi
     Gallant of the San Francisco Police Department, who began to
     study the criminal aspects of occult activity long before it
     became popular. No typology is perfect, but I use this typology
     because it is simple and offers investigative insights. Most
     practitioners fall into one of three categories, any of which
     can be practiced alone or in groups:


          "Most teenagers involved in fantasy role-playing games,
     heavy metal music, or satanism and the occult are going through
     a stage of adolescent development and commit no significant
     crimes. The teenagers who have more serious problems are
     usually those from dysfunctional families or those who have
     poor communication within their families. These troubled
     teenagers turn to satanism and the occult to overcome a sense
     of alienation, to rebel, to obtain power, or to justify their
     antisocial behavior. For these teenagers it is the symbolism,
     not the spirituality, that is more important. It is either the
     psychopathic or the oddball, loner teenager who is most likely
     to get into serious trouble. Extreme involvement in the occult
     is a symptom of a problem, not the cause. This is not to deny,
     however, that satanism and the occult can be negative
     influences for a troubled teenager. But to hysterically warn
     teenagers to avoid this "mysterious, powerful and dangerous"
     thing called satanism will drive more teenagers right to it.
     Some rebellious teenagers will do whatever will most shock and
     outrage society in order to flaunt their rejection of adult


          "For these practitioners there is little or no spiritual
     motivation. They may mix satanism, witchcraft, paganism, and
     any aspects of the occult to suit their purposes. Symbols mean
     whatever they want them or believe them to mean. Molesters,
     rapists, drug dealers, and murderers may dabble in the occult
     and may even commit their crimes in a ceremonial or ritualistic
     way. This category has the potential to be the most dangerous,
     and most of the "satanic" killers fall into this category.
     Their involvement in satanism and the occult is a symptom of a
     problem, and a rationalization and justification of antisocial
     behavior. Satanic/occult practices (as well as those of other
     spiritual belief systems) can also be used as a mechanism to
     facilitate criminal objectives.


          "These are the so-called true believers. They are often
     wary of outsiders. Because of this and constitutional issues,
     such groups are difficult for law enforcement to penetrate.
     Although there may be much we don't know about these groups, as
     of now there is little or no hard evidence that as a group they
     are involved in serious, organized criminal activity. In
     addition, instead of being self-perpetuating master crime
     conspirators, "true believers" probably have a similar problem
     with their teenagers rebelling against their belief system. To
     some extent even these Traditional satanists are self-stylized.
     They practice what they have come to believe is "satanism."
     There is little or no evidence of the much-discussed
     multigenerational satanists whose beliefs and practices have
     supposedly been passed down through the centuries. Many
     admitted adult satanists were in fact raised in conservative
     Christian homes."

          "Washington Post" editor Walt Harrington reported in a
     1986 story on Anton LaVey and his Church of Satan that
     "sociologists who have studied LaVey's church say that its
     members often had serious childhood problems like alcoholic
     parents or broken homes, or that they were traumatized by
     guilt-ridden fundamentalist upbringings, turning to Satanism as
     a dramatic way to purge their debilitating guilt" (p. 14).

          Some have claimed that the accounts of ritual abuse
     victims coincide with historical records of what traditional or
     multigenerational satanists are known to have practiced down
     through the ages. Jeffrey Burton Russell, Professor of History
     at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the author
     of numerous scholarly books on the devil and satanism, believes
     that the universal consensus of modern historians on satanism
     is (personal communication, Nov. 1991):

          "(1) incidents of orgy, infanticide, cannibalism, and
     other such conduct have occurred from the ancient world down to
     the present; (2) such incidents were isolated and limited to
     local antisocial groups; (3) during the period of Christian
     dominance in European culture, such groups were associated with
     the Devil in the minds of the authorities; (4) in some cases
     the sectaries believed that they were worshiping Satan; (5) no
     organized cult of Satanists existed in the Christian period
     beyond localities, and on no account was there ever any
     widespread Satanist organization or conspiracy; (6) no reliable
     historical sources indicate that such organizations existed;
     (7) the black mass appears only once in the sources before the
     late nineteenth century."

          Many police officers ask what to look for during the
     search of the scene of suspected satanic activity. The answer
     is simple: Look for evidence of a crime. A pentagram is no more
     criminally significant than a crucifix unless it corroborates a
     crime or a criminal conspiracy. If a victim's description of
     the location or the instruments of the crime includes a
     pentagram, then the pentagram would be evidence. But the same
     would be true if the description included a crucifix. In many
     cases of alleged satanic ritual abuse, investigation can find
     evidence that the claimed offenders are members only of
     mainstream churches and are often described as very religious.

          There is no way any one law enforcement officer can become
     knowledgeable about all the symbols and rituals of every
     spiritual belief system that might become part of a criminal
     investigation. The officer needs only to be trained to
     recognize the possible investigative significance of such
     signs, symbols, and rituals. Knowledgeable religious scholars,
     academics, and other true experts in the community can be
     consulted if a more detailed analysis is necessary.

          Any analysis, however, may have only limited application,
     especially to cases involving teenagers, dabblers, and other
     self-styled practitioners. The fact is signs, symbols, and
     rituals can mean anything that practitioners want them to mean
     and/or anything that observers interpret them to mean.

          The meaning of symbols can also change over time, place,
     and circumstance. Is a swastika spray-painted on a wall an
     ancient symbol of prosperity and good fortune, a recent symbol
     of Nazism and anti-Semitism, or a current symbol of hate,
     paranoia, and adolescent defiance? The peace sign which in the
     1960s was a familiar antiwar symbol is now supposed to be a
     satanic symbol. Some symbols and holidays become "satanic" only
     because the antisatanists say they are. Then those who want to
     be "satanists" adopt them, and now you have "proof" they are

          In spite of what is sometimes said or suggested at law
     enforcement training conferences, police have no authority to
     seize any satanic or occult paraphernalia they might see during
     a search. A legally-valid reason must exist for doing so. It is
     not the job of law enforcement to prevent satanists from
     engaging in noncriminal teaching, rituals, or other activities.


          Multidimensional child sex rings can be among the most
     difficult, frustrating, and complex cases that any law
     enforcement officer will ever investigate. The investigation of
     allegations of recent activity from multiple young children
     under the age of seven presents one set of problems and must
     begin quickly, with interviews of *all* potential victims being
     completed as soon as possible. The investigation of allegations
     of activity ten or more years earlier from adult survivors
     presents other problems and should proceed, unless victims are
     at immediate risk, more deliberately, with gradually-increasing
     resources as corroborated facts warrant.

          In spite of any skepticism, allegations of ritual abuse
     should be aggressively and thoroughly investigated, This
     investigation should attempt to corroborate the allegations of
     ritual abuse. but should *simultaneously* also attempt to
     identify alternative explanations. The only debate is over how
     much investigation is enough. Any law enforcement agency must
     be prepared to defend and justify its actions when scrutinized
     by the public, the media, elected officials, or the courts.
     This does not mean, however, that a law enforcement agency has
     an obligation to prove that the alleged crimes did not occur.
     This is almost always impossible to do and investigators should
     be alert for and avoid this trap.

          One major problem in the investigation of multidimensional
     child sex rings is the dilemma of recognizing soon enough that
     you have one. Investigators must be alert for cases with the
     potential for the four basic dynamics: (a) multiple young
     victims, (b) multiple offenders, (c) fear as the controlling
     tactic, and (d) bizarre or ritualistic activity. The following
     techniques apply primarily to the investigation of such
     multidimensional child sex rings:


          There are those who claim that one of the major reasons
     more of these cases have not been successfully prosecuted is
     that the satanic/occult aspect has not been aggressively
     pursued. One state has even introduced legislation creating
     added penalties when certain crimes are committed as part of a
     ritual or ceremony. A few states have passed special ritual
     crime laws. I strongly disagree with such an approach. It makes
     no difference what spiritual belief system was used to enhance
     and facilitate or rationalize and justify criminal behavior. It
     serves no purpose to "prove" someone is a satanist. As a matter
     of fact, if it is alleged that the subject committed certain
     criminal acts under the influence of or in order to conjure up
     supernatural spirits or forces, this may very well be the basis
     for an insanity or diminished capacity defense, or may damage
     the intent aspect of a sexually motivated crime. The defense
     may very well be more interested in all the "evidence of
     satanic activity." Some of the satanic crime "experts" who
     train law enforcement wind up working or testifying for the
     defense in these cases.

          It is best to focus on the crime and all the evidence to
     corroborate its commission. Information about local satanic or
     occult activity is only of value if it is based on specific law
     enforcement intelligence and not on some vague, unsubstantiated
     generalities from religious groups. Cases are not solved by
     decoding signs, symbols, and dates using undocumented satanic
     crime "manuals." In one case a law enforcement agency executing
     a search warrant seized only the satanic paraphernalia and left
     behind the other evidence that would have corroborated victim
     statements. Cases are solved by people- and behavior-oriented
     investigation. Evidence of satanic or occult activity may help
     explain certain aspects of the case, but even offenders who
     commit crimes in a spiritual context are usually motivated by
     power, sex, and money.


          I believe that one of the biggest mistakes any
     investigator of these cases can make is to attribute
     supernatural powers to the offenders. During an investigation a
     good investigator may sometimes be able to use the beliefs and
     superstitions of the offenders to his or her advantage. The
     reverse happens if the investigator believes that the offenders
     possess supernatural powers. Satanic/occult practitioners have
     no more power than any other human beings. Law enforcement
     officers who believe that the investigation of these cases puts
     them in conflict with the supernatural forces of evil should
     probably not be assigned to them. The religious beliefs of
     officers should provide spiritual strength and support for them
     but should not affect the objectivity and professionalism of
     the investigation.

          It is easy to get caught up in these cases and begin to
     see "satanism" everywhere. Oversensitization to this perceived
     threat may cause an investigator to "see" satanism in a crime
     when it really is not there (quasi-satanism). Often the eye
     sees what the mind perceives. It may also cause an investigator
     not to recognize a staged crime scene deliberately seeded with
     "satanic clues" in order to mislead the police (pseudo-
     satanism). On rare occasions an overzealous investigator or
     intervenor may even be tempted to plant "evidence of satanism"
     in order to corroborate such allegations and beliefs.
     Supervisors need to be alert for and monitor these reactions in
     their investigators.


          It is not the investigator's duty to believe the victims;
     it is his or her job to listen and be an objective fact finder.
     Interviews of young children should be done by investigators
     trained and experienced in such interviews. Investigators must
     have direct access to the alleged victims for interview
     purposes. Therapists for an adult survivor sometimes want to
     act as intermediaries in their patient's interview. This should
     be avoided if at all possible. Adult survivor interviews are
     often confusing difficult and extremely time-consuming. The
     investigator must remember however that almost anything is
     possible. Most important the investigator must remember that
     there is much middle ground. Just because one event did happen
     does not mean that all reported events happened, and just
     because one event did not happen does not mean that all other
     events did not happen. Do not become such a zealot that you
     believe it all nor such a cynic that you believe nothing.
     Varying amounts and parts of the allegation may be factual.
     Attempting to find evidence of what did happen is the great
     challenge of these cases. *All* investigative interaction with
     victims must be carefully and thoroughly documented.


          This is the part of the investigative process in child
     sexual victimization cases that seems to have been lost. Is the
     victim describing events and activities that are consistent
     with law enforcement documented criminal behavior, or that are
     consistent with distorted media accounts and erroneous public
     perceptions of criminal behavior? Investigators should apply
     the "template of probability." Accounts of child sexual
     victimization that are more like books, television, and movies
     (e.g. big conspiracies, child sex slaves, organized pornography
     rings) and less like documented cases should be viewed with
     skepticism but thoroughly investigated. Consider and
     investigate all possible explanations of events. It is the
     investigator's job, and the information learned will be
     invaluable in counteracting the defense attorneys when they
     raise the alternative explanations.

          For example, an adult survivor's account of ritual
     victimization might be explained by any one of at least four
     possibilities: First, the allegations may be a fairly accurate
     account what actually happened. Second, they may be deliberate
     lies (malingering), told for the usual reasons people lie (e.g.
     money, revenge, jealousy). Third, they may be deliberate lies
     (factitious disorder) told for atypical reasons (e.g.
     attention, forgiveness). Lies so motivated are less likely to
     be recognized by the investigator and more likely to be rigidly
     maintained by the liar unless and until confronted with
     irrefutable evidence to the contrary. Fourth, the allegations
     may be a highly inaccurate account of what actually happened,
     but the victim truly believes it (pseudomemory) and therefore
     is not lying. A polygraph examination of such a victim would be
     of limited value. Other explanations or combinations of these
     explanations are also possible. *Only* thorough *investigation*
     will point to the correct or most likely explanation.

          Investigators cannot rely on therapists or satanic crime
     experts as a shortcut to the explanation. In one case, the
     "experts" confirmed and validated the account of a female who
     claimed to be a 15-year-old deaf-mute kidnapped and held for
     three years by a satanic cult and forced to participate in
     bizarre rituals before recently escaping. Active investigation,
     however, determined she was a 27-year-old woman who could hear
     and speak, who had not been kidnapped by anyone, and who had a
     lengthy history of mental problems and at least three other
     similar reports of false victimization. Her "accurate" accounts
     of what the "real satanists" do were simply the result of
     having read, while in mental hospitals, the same books that the
     "experts" had. A therapist may have important insights about
     whether an individual was traumatized, but knowing the exact
     cause of that trauma is another matter. There have been cases
     where investigation has discovered that individuals diagnosed
     by therapists as suffering from Post-Vietnam Syndrome were
     never in Vietnam or saw no combat.

          Conversely, in another case, a law enforcement "expert" on
     satanic crime told a therapist that a patient's accounts of
     satanic murders in a rural Pacific Northwest town were probably
     true because the community was a hotbed of such satanic
     activity. When the therapist explained that there was almost no
     violent crime reported in the community, the officer explained
     that that is how you know it is the satanists. If you knew
     about the murders or found the bodies, it would not be
     satanists. How do you argue with that kind of logic?

          The first step in the assessment and evaluation of victim
     statements is to determine the disclosure sequence, including
     how much time has elapsed since disclosure was first made and
     the incident was reported to the police or social services. The
     longer the delay, the bigger the potential for problems. The
     next step is to determine the number and purpose of *all prior*
     interviews of the victim concerning the allegations. The more
     interviews conducted before the investigative interview, the
     larger the potential for problems. Although there is nothing
     wrong with admitting shortcomings and seeking help, law
     enforcement should never abdicate its control over the
     investigative interview. When an investigative interview is
     conducted by or with a social worker or therapist using a team
     approach, law enforcement must direct the process. Problems can
     also be created by interviews conducted by various intervenors
     *after* the investigative interview(s).

          The investigator must closely and carefully evaluate
     events in the victim's life before, during, and after the
     alleged abuse.

          Events to be evaluated *before* the alleged abuse include:

          (1)  Background of victim.
          (2)  Abuse of drugs in home.
          (3)  Pornography in home.
          (4)  Play, television, and VCR habits. 
          (5)  Attitudes about sexuality in home. 
          (6)  Extent of sex education in home. 
          (7)  Activities of siblings. 
          (8)  Need or craving for attention. 
          (9)  Religious beliefs and training. 
          (10) Childhood fears. 
          (11) Custody/visitation disputes. 
          (12) Victimization of or by family members. 
          (13) Interaction between victims.

          Events to be evaluated *during* the alleged abuse include:

          (1)  Use of fear or scare tactics. 
          (2)  Degree of trauma. 
          (3)  Use of magic deception or trickery. 
          (4)  Use of rituals. 
          (5)  Use of drugs. 
          (6)  Use of pornography.

          Events to be evaluated *after* the alleged abuse include:

          (1)  Disclosure sequence. 
          (2)  Background of prior interviewers. 
          (3)  Background of parents. 
          (4)  Co-mingling of victims. 
          (5)  Type of therapy received.


          Consistent statements obtained from different multiple
     victims are powerful pieces of corroborative evidence - that is
     as long as those statements were not "contaminated."
     Investigation must carefully evaluate both pre- and post-
     disclosure contagion, and both victim and intervenor contagion.
     Are the different victim statements consistent because they
     describe common experiences or events, or because they reflect
     contamination or urban legends?

          The sources of potential contagion are widespread. Victims
     can communicate with each other both prior to and after their
     disclosures. Intervenors can communicate with each other and
     with victims. The team or cell concepts of investigation are
     attempts to deal with potential investigator contagion. All the
     victims are not interviewed by the same individuals, and
     interviewers do not necessarily share information directly with
     each other. Teams report to a leader or supervisor who
     evaluates the information and decides what other investigators
     need to know.

          Documenting existing contagion and eliminating additional
     contagion are crucial to the successful investigation and
     prosecution of these cases. There is no way, however, to erase
     or undo contagion. The best you can hope for is to identify and
     evaluate it and attempt to explain it. Mental health
     professionals requested to evaluate suspected victims must be
     carefully selected. Having a victim evaluated by one of the
     self-proclaimed experts on satanic ritual abuse or by some
     other overzealous intervenor may result in the credibility of
     that victim's testimony being severely damaged.

          In order to evaluate the contagion element, investigators
     must meticulously and aggressively investigate these cases. The
     precise disclosure sequence of the victim must be carefully
     identified and documented. Investigators must verify through
     active investigation the exact nature and content of each
     disclosure outcry or statement made by the victim. Second-hand
     information about disclosure is not good enough.

          Whenever possible, personal visits should be made to all
     locations of alleged abuse and the victim's homes. Events prior
     to the alleged abuse must be carefully evaluated. Investigators
     may have to view television programs, films, and videotapes
     seen by the victims. It may be necessary to conduct a
     background investigation and evaluation of everyone, both
     professional and nonprofessional, who interviewed the victims
     about the allegations prior to and after the investigative
     interview(s). Investigators must be familiar with the
     information about ritual abuse of children being disseminated
     in magazines, books, television programs, videotapes, and
     conferences. Every possible way that a victim could have
     learned about the details of the abuse must be explored if for
     no other reason than to eliminate them and counter the
     defense's arguments.

          There may, however, be validity to these contagion
     factors. *They may explain some of the "unbelievable" aspects
     of the case and result in the successful prosecution of the
     substance of the case.* Consistency of statements becomes more
     significant if contagion is identified or disproved by
     independent investigation. The easier cases are the ones where
     there is a single, identifiable source of contagion. Most
     cases, however, seem to involve multiple contagion factors.

          Munchausen Syndrome and Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy are
     complex and controversial issues in these cases. No attempt
     will be made to discuss them in detail, but they are documented
     facts (Rosenberg, 1987). Most of the literature about them
     focuses on their manifestation in the medical setting as false
     or self-inflicted illness or injury. They are also manifested
     in the criminal justice setting as false or self-inflicted
     crime victimization. If parents would poison their children to
     prove an illness, they might sexually abuse their children to
     prove a crime. "Victims" have been known to destroy property,
     manufacture evidence, and mutilate themselves in order to
     convince others of their victimization. The motivation is
     psychological gain (i.e. attention, forgiveness, etc.) and not
     necessarily money, jealousy, or revenge. These are the
     unpopular, but documented, realities of the world. Recognizing
     their existence does not mean that child sexual abuse and
     sexual assault are not real and serious problems.


          The importance and difficulty of this technique in
     extrafamilial cases involving young children cannot be
     overemphasized. An investigator must maintain ongoing
     communication with the parents of victims in these abuse cases.
     Not all parents react the same way to the alleged abuse of
     their children. Some are very supportive and cooperative.
     Others overreact and some even deny the victimization.
     Sometimes there is animosity and mistrust among parents with
     different reactions. Once the parents lose faith in the police
     or prosecutor and begin to interrogate their own children and
     conduct their own investigation, the case may be lost forever.
     Parents from one case communicate the results of their
     "investigation" with each other, and some have even contacted
     the parents in other cases. Such parental activity is an
     obvious source of potential contamination.

          Parents must be made to understand that their children's
     credibility will be jeopardized when and if the information
     obtained turns out to be unsubstantiated or false. To minimize
     this problem, within the limits of the law and without
     jeopardizing investigative techniques, parents must be told on
     a regular basis how the case is progressing. Parents can also
     be assigned constructive things to do (e.g. lobbying for new
     legislation, working on awareness and prevention programs) in
     order to channel their energy, concern, and "guilt."


          If a department waits until actually confronted with a
     case before a response is developed, it may be too late. In
     cases involving ongoing abuse of children, departments must
     respond quickly, and this requires advanced planning. There are
     added problems for small- to medium-sized departments with
     limited personnel and resources. Effective investigation of
     these cases requires planning, identification of resources,
     and, in many cases, mutual aid agreements between agencies. The
     U.S. Department of Defense has conducted specialized training
     and has developed such a plan for child sex ring cases
     involving military facilities and personnel. Once a case is
     contaminated and out of control, I have little advice on how to
     salvage what may once have been a prosecutable criminal
     violation. A few of these cases have even been lost on appeal
     after a conviction because of contamination problems.


          Sergeant Beth Dickinson, Los Angeles County Sheriff's
     Department, was the chairperson of the Multi-Victim, Multi-
     Suspect Child Sexual Abuse Subcommittee. Sergeant Dickinson
     states (personal communication, Nov. 1989):

          "One of the biggest obstacles for investigators to
     overcome is the reluctance of law enforcement administrators to
     commit sufficient resources early on to an investigation that
     has the potential to be a multidimensional child sex ring. It
     is important to get in and get on top of the investigation in a
     timely manner - to get it investigated in a timely manner in
     order to assess the risk to children and to avoid hysteria,
     media sensationalism, and cross-contamination of information.
     The team approach reduces stress on individual investigators,
     allowing for peer support and minimizing feelings of being

          The team approach and working together does not mean,
     however, that each discipline forgets its role and starts doing
     the other's job.

     i.   SUMMARY.

          The investigation of child sex rings can be difficult and
     time consuming. The likelihood, however, of a great deal of
     corroborative evidence in a multivictim/multioffender case
     increases the chances of a successful prosecution if the crime
     occurred. Because there is still so much we do not know or
     understand about the dynamics of multidimensional child sex
     rings, investigative techniques are less certain. Each new case
     must be carefully evaluated in order to improve investigative

          Because mental health professionals seem to be unable to
     determine, with any degree of certainty, the accuracy of victim
     statements in these cases, law enforcement must proceed using
     the corroboration process. If some of what the victim describes
     is accurate, some misperceived, some distorted, and some
     contaminated, what is the jury supposed to believe? Until
     mental health professionals can come up with better answers,
     the jury should be asked to believe what the *investigation*
     can corroborate. Even if only a portion of what these victims
     allege is factual, that may still constitute significant
     criminal activity.

     10.  CONCLUSION.

          There are many possible alternative answers to the
     question of why victims are alleging things that don't seem to
     be true. The first step in finding those answers is to admit
     the possibility that some of what the victims describe may not
     have happened. Some experts seem unwilling to even consider
     this. Most of these victims are also probably not lying and
     have come to believe that which they are alleging actually
     happened. There are alternative explanations for why people who
     never met each other can tell the same story.

          I believe that there is a middle ground - a continuum of
     possible activity. Some of what the victims allege may be true
     and accurate, some may be misperceived or distorted, some may
     be screened or symbolic, and some may be "contaminated" or
     false. The problem and challenge, especially for law
     enforcement, is to determine which is which. This can only be
     done through active investigation. I believe that the majority
     of victims alleging "ritual" abuse are in fact victims of some
     form of abuse or trauma. That abuse or trauma may or may not be
     criminal in nature. After a lengthy discussion about various
     alternative explanations and the continuum of possible
     activity, one mother told me that for the first time since the
     victimization of her young son she felt a little better. She
     had thought her only choices were that either her son was a
     pathological liar or, on the other hand, she lived in a
     community controlled by satanists.

          Law enforcement has the obvious problem of attempting to
     determine what actually happened for criminal justice purposes.
     Therapists, however, might also be interested in what really
     happened in order to properly evaluate and treat their
     patients. How and when to confront patients with skepticism is
     a difficult and sensitive problem for therapists.

          Any professional evaluating victims' allegations of
     "ritual" abuse cannot ignore or routinely dismiss the lack of
     physical evidence (no bodies or physical evidence left by
     violent murders); the difficulty in successfully committing a
     large-scale conspiracy crime (the more people involved in any
     crime conspiracy, the harder it is to get away with it); and
     human nature (intragroup conflicts resulting in individual
     self-serving disclosures are likely to occur in any group
     involved in organized kidnapping, baby breeding, and human
     sacrifice). If and when members of a destructive cult commit
     murders, they are bound to make mistakes, leave evidence, and
     eventually make admissions in order to brag about their crimes
     or to reduce their legal liability. The discovery of the
     murders in Matamoros, Mexico in 1989 and the results of the
     subsequent investigation are good examples of these dynamics.

          Overzealous intervenors must accept the fact that some of
     their well-intentioned activity is contaminating and damaging
     the prosecutive potential of the cases where criminal acts did
     occur. We must all (i.e., the media, churches, therapists,
     victim advocates, law enforcement, and the general public) ask
     ourselves if we have created an environment where victims are
     rewarded, listened to, comforted, and forgiven in direct
     proportion to the severity of their abuse. Are we encouraging
     needy or traumatized individuals to tell more and more
     outrageous tales of their victimization? Are we making up for
     centuries of denial by now blindly accepting any allegation of
     child abuse no matter how absurd or unlikely? Are we increasing
     the likelihood that rebellious, antisocial, or attention-
     seeking individuals will gravitate toward "satanism" by
     publicizing it and overreacting to it? The overreaction to the
     problem can be worse than the problem.

          The amount of "ritual" child abuse going on in this
     country depends on how you define the term. One documented
     example of what I might call "ritual" child abuse was the
     horror chronicled in the book "A Death in White Bear Lake"
     (Siegal, 1990). The abuse in this case, however, had little to
     do with anyone's spiritual belief system. There are many
     children in the United States who, starting early in their
     lives, are severely psychologically, physically, and sexually
     traumatized by angry, sadistic parents or other adults. Such
     abuse, however, is not perpetrated only or primarily by
     satanists. The statistical odds are that such abusers are
     members of mainstream religions. If 99.9% of satanists and 0.1%
     of Christians abuse children as part of their spiritual belief
     system, that still means that the vast majority of children so
     abused were abused by Christians.

          Until hard evidence is obtained and corroborated, the
     public should not be frightened into believing that babies are
     being bred and eaten, that 50,000 missing children are being
     murdered in human sacrifices, or that satanists are taking over
     America's day care centers or institutions. No one can prove
     with absolute certainty that such activity has *not* occurred.
     The burden of proof, however, as it would be in a criminal
     prosecution, is on those who claim that it has occurred.

          The explanation that the satanists are too organized and
     law enforcement is too incompetent only goes so far in
     explaining the lack of evidence. For at least eight years
     American law enforcement has been aggressively investigating
     the allegations of victims of ritual abuse. There is little or
     no evidence for the portion of their allegations that deals
     with large-scale baby breeding, human sacrifice, and organized
     satanic conspiracies. Now it is up to mental health
     professionals, not law enforcement, to explain why victims are
     alleging things that don't seem to have happened. Professionals
     in this field must accept the fact that there is still much we
     do not know about the sexual victimization of children, and
     that this area desperately needs study and research by
     rational, objective social scientists.

          If the guilty are to be successfully prosecuted, if the
     innocent are to be exonerated, and if the victims are to be
     protected and treated, better methods to evaluate and explain
     allegations of "ritual" child abuse must be developed or
     identified. Until this is done, the controversy will continue
     to cast a shadow over and fuel the backlash against the
     validity and reality of child sexual abuse.

     11.  REFERENCES.

     American Psychiatric Association, "Diagnostic and
          Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" (3rd Ed.,
          Rev.). Washington, DC: 1987.

     Breiner, S.J., "Slaughter of the Innocents: Child Abuse
          Through the Ages and Today." New York: Plenum Press,

     Brown, R., "Prepare for War." Chino, CA: Chick
          Publications, 1987.

     Brunvand, J.H., "The Vanishing Hitchhiker." New York:
          Norton, 1981.

     Harrington, Walt, "The Devil in Anton LaVey." Washington,
          D.C.: "The Washington Post Magazine," February 23,
          1986, pages 6-17.

     Lanning, K.V., "Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis"
          (2nd Ed.). Washington, D.C.: National Center for
          Missing and Exploited Children, 1987.

     Lanning, K.V. (1989). Child sex rings: A behavioral
          analysis. Washington, DC: National Center for Missing
          and Exploited Children.

     LaVey, Anton, "The Satanic Bible." New York: Avon Books,

     Mayer, R.S., "Satan's Children." New York: Putnam, 1991.

     Michigan Department of State Police, "Occult Survey." East
          Lansing, Michigan, 1990.

     "National Coalition on Television Violence (NCTV) News,"
          June- October 1988, page 3.

     "National Incidence Studies on Missing, Abducted, Runaway,
          and Thrownaway Children in America." Washington,
          D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, 1990.

     Prattanis, A., "Hidden messages," "Wellness Letter." 
          Berkeley, California: University of California,
          January 1991, pages 1-2.

     Rosenberg, D.A., "Web of Deceit: A Literature Review of
          Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy," "Child Abuse and
          Neglect" #2, 1987, pages 547-563.

     Rush, E., "The Best Kept Secret: Sexual Abuse of
          Children." New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980.

     Smith, M., & Pazder, L., "Michelle Remembers." New York:
          Congdon and Lattis, 1980.

     Siegal, B., "A Death in White Bear Lake." New York:
          Bantam, 1990.

     "Stranger-Abduction Homicides of Children," "Juvenile
          Justice Bulletin." Washington, D.C.: U. S. Department
          of Justice, 1989.

     Stratford. L., "Satan's Underground." Eugene, Oregon:
          Harvest House, 1988.

     Terr, L., "Too Scared to Cry." New York: Harper & Row,

     Timnik, L., "The Times Poll," "Los Angeles Times," August
          25-26, 1985.

     Virginia Crime Commission Task Force, "Final Report of the
          Task Force Studying Ritual Crime." Richmond,


     Cooper, John Charles, "The Black Mask: Satanism in America
          Today." Old Tappen, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell Company,

          Probably the best of the large number of books
          available primarily in Christian bookstores and
          written from the Christian perspective. This one,
          however, is written without the hysteria and
          sensationalism of most. Recommended for investigators
          who want information from this perspective.

     Hicks, Robert D., "In Pursuit of Satan: The Police and the
          Occult." Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1991.

          Undoubtedly the best book written to date on the
          topic of satanism and the occult from the law
          enforcement perspective. Robert D. Hicks is a former
          police officer who is currently employed as a
          criminal justice analyst for the state of Virginia.
          Must reading for any criminal justice professional
          involved in this issue. Unfortunately, in the chapter
          on "Satanic Abuse of Children," the author appears to
          have been overly influenced by extreme skeptics with
          minimal or questionable credentials in this area. The
          book is easy to read, logical, and highly

     Richardson, James T.; Best, Joel; & Bromley, David G.;
          Eds, "The Satanism Scare." NY: Aldine de Gruyter,

          The best book now available on the current
          controversy over satanism written from the academic
          perspective, The editors and many of the chapter
          authors are college professors and have written an
          objective, well-researched book. One of the great
          strengths of this book is the fact that the editors
          address a variety of the controversial issues from a
          variety of disciplines (i.e., sociology, history,
          folklore, anthropology, criminal justice). Because of
          its academic perspective it is sometimes harder to
          read but is well worth the effort. The chapter on
          "Law Enforcement and the Satanic Crime Connection"
          contains the results of a survey of "Cult Cops" and
          is must reading for law enforcement officers. The
          chapter on "Satanism and Child Molestation:
          Constructing the Ritual Abuse Scare" was written,
          however, by a free-lance journalist who seems to take
          the position that these cases involve little or no
          real child abuse.

     Terr, Lenore, "Too Scared to Cry: Psychic Trauma in
          Childhood." New York: Harper and Row, 1990.

          An excellent book written by a psychiatrist that
          provides important insights into the nature and
          recallability of early psychic trauma. For me, Dr.
          Terr's research and findings in the infamous
          Chowchilla kidnapping case shed considerable light on
          the "ritual" abuse controversy.

                               -= END OF FILE =-

Email | Back to Religion | Astraea Home | Multiplicity | Politics | Silly