Tales of satanic ritual abuse, with well-organized cults sacrificing animals and babies and engaging in sexual perversion and cannibalism, is the stuff of tabloid television. Now the first empirical study of its actual prevalence, based on information from district attorneys, social service workers, police officials and psychotherapists, suggests that these tales are usually just that -- figments of imagination. Athough the survey found occasional cases of lone abusers who used ritualistic trappings, it found no substantiated reports of well-organized satanic rings of people who sexually abuse children. In a survey of more than 11, psychiatric and police workers throughout the country, conducted for the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, researchers found more than 12, accusations of group cult sexual abuse based on satanic ritual, but not one that investigators had been able to substantiate. The organizers of the survey say it is the first authoritative national survey on the subject. Over the last decade, accusations of molesting by cults have been made in thousands of cases and in retrospective claims by adult patients in psychotherapy who say they were abused as children. Combined with sensationalistic press coverage, these lawsuits and other reports have led many people to believe that there is a nationwide network of satanic groups preying on the young. Gail Goodman, a psychologist at the University of California at Davis, who directed the survey. The survey included 6, psychiatrists, psychologists and clinical social workers, and 4, district attorneys, police departments and social service agencies. They reported 12, accusations of ritual abuse that they had investigated.
Satanic ritual abuse SRA , sometimes known as ritual abuse , ritualistic abuse , organized abuse , or sadistic ritual abuse was the subject of a moral panic often referred to as the satanic panic that originated in the United States in the s, spreading throughout many parts of the world by the late s. Allegations of SRA involved reports of physical and sexual abuse of people in the context of occult or Satanic rituals. In its most extreme form, allegations involve a conspiracy of a worldwide SRA organization that includes the wealthy and powerful of the world elite in which children are abducted or bred for human sacrifices , pornography , and prostitution. Nearly every aspect of SRA was controversial, including its definition, the source of the allegations and proof thereof, testimonies of alleged victims, and court cases involving the allegations and criminal investigations. The panic affected lawyers', therapists', and social workers' handling of allegations of child sexual abuse.
The dangers were imaginary, but the consequences were not.
Scores of children in more than half a dozen California communities are telling authorities that they have been sexually abused by groups of adults who also forced them to take part in Satanic-type rituals, including the drinking of blood, cannibalism and the sacrificial murders of other children. The latest such case surfaced in Bakersfield 10 days ago, when the Kern County Sheriff's Department held a press conference to confirm reports that half of the 15 victims of an alleged child sex-abuse ring had made such accusations against their parents and other adults. Frank Drake, who heads the department's detective division. But it's not only in California. You can see cases across the United States popping up where you get these tremendously uncanny similarities. Evidence of similar cases in other states is sketchy at best. Questions about Satanism briefly arose, for example, when a 5-year-old boy in Niles, Mich. Last month sheriff's deputies in Toledo dug up acres of suburban fields after receiving a tip that a local Satanic cult had buried as many as 75 bodies in the area. No bodies were found.
During the s and s a moral panic  about alleged Satanic ritual abuse SRA occurred, mainly in parts of the English-speaking world. This was propagated by certain psychotherapists , social workers , Christian fundamentalists and law enforcement officials. Some of the cases ended in prosecution and imprisonment. Many but not all of those imprisoned have been released. Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States have had several incidents of alleged SRA which received national and international news coverage. Other countries have also had isolated events in which abuse or murder took place with Satanic ritual elements, including Argentina and Brazil. In , police in Perth linked Scott Gozenton, a self-professed Satanist, with organised child sexual abuse.