Date: 10 Mar 1998
One of the articles in _Out of Darkness_ (Sakheim & Devine) is Catherine Gould's "Diagnosis and Treatment of Ritually Abused Children." Gould begins by addressing a central problem in SRA (Satanic Ritual Abuse) counselling: nobody ever remembers being abused by Satanists -- at least, not when they start their treatment. So how does a counselor figure out which patients are likely to be SRA victims, so that they can "help" them recover their memories?
Gould's answer is a diagnostic test: 106 questions which will detect whether or not a child has been ritually abused by devil-worshippers. Questions are divided up into different categories, like "Problems associated with sexual behavior and beliefs" or "Problems associated with the supernatural, rituals, occult symbols, religion." If a patient answers "yes" to several of these questions, she may be an SRA victim. If she answers "yes" to a "significant" number, in several different categories, then she is almost undoubtedly a victim.
"Cool," I thought. "I love tests." So I took it.
Lord and Lady, did I PEG the meter! Yes indeed folks, I answered "yes" to almost one half of all the questions -- in every single category. In fact, in some categories I answered "yes" to each and every question. There is absolutely no doubt, according to this test, that I am a victim of childhood Satanic abuse. The fact that I can't remember it doesn't matter. I've obviously suppressed my memories of these horrors.
Only I didn't. I know what happened when I was a kid. I know why I scored so high on this test. And that's one of the things that angers me the most about Satanism "experts."
My score comes from two facts. Fact #1: I was a normal kid. Gould's diagnostic test has been lambasted by Special Agent Kenneth Lanning because it takes ordinary, normal childhood behavior and labels it as "evidence" of Satanic ritual abuse. Does your daughter pretend that she's married when she plays house? Could be a sign that she's the Bride of Satan in a witches' coven. (No joke!) Does your child think there's a monster in his closet? That's probably evidence that he was locked up and tortured by Satanists.
The bottom line is, no human being could answer "no" to all these questions. Maybe Mr. Spock could, or Robby the Robot. But no human being can get through childhood without talking about being married, or worrying about ghosts, or pulling their pants down at an "inappropriate" moment.
But half of my score obviously stems from Fact #2: I was sexually abused by a neighbor when I was nine. There was nothing "Satanic" or "ritualistic" about this. It was plain old garden-variety child abuse, stuff that's all too common.
And there's the rub: this diagnostic test can't distinguish between "normal" abuse and "Satanic" abuse. The fact that I knew "age-inappropriate" details about sex is not a sign that I was abused by my neighbor. No, it's a sign that Witches used me in their evil rituals.
So let's run the tape back and see what would have happened if I'd been sent to Ms. Gould after being abused. My parents have noticed that I'm acting strangely, and I won't say what's wrong. They take me to a psychiatrist, hoping she can work things out.
According to Ms. Gould's article, the first stage is the diagnostic test. Bam, I peg the meter: I display almost half of all "known" symptoms of Satanic abuse. The therapist now tells my parents that there's very clear signs that I have been ritually abused by Satanists.
Stage #2 is memory recovery. I don't remember any Satanists, so my therapist "helps" me. We play games, in which I pretend to be ritually abused. I answer tons and tons of leading questions. I get encouraged constantly to remember, and get emotionally rewarded every time I "recover" a memory. I get told about other children who've gone through this. Since I'm not dealing with my real memories -- with what actually happened -- it's not likely that I'm actually getting better during this therapy. And given how malleable children's memories are, I'm very, very likely to "remember" Satanic abuse if I try hard enough.
Stage #3 is even worse: identifying the source of abuse. My parents are the first suspects, and my therapist will have to cross-examine them to ensure that they're not Satanists. (Why would they bring me to counselling if they were Witches? Because many Satanists are made to forget their involvement in the cult and can allow their child to be abused even though they have no memories of the event.)
If I remember who abused me, that's a start. But it often isn't possible to accurately date when abuse started by the child's memory alone. So my therapist turns to my parents for help. The next step, Ms. Gould says, is to determine when symptoms first appeared. I started using "age-inappropriate" sex terms a couple months ago, so we might be tempted to think that I was abused recently. But that would be a mistake. The "real" abuse had to happen much, much earlier. Why? Because I've been afraid of the Great Sightless Emu-Bird in my closet since I was four.
You can see where this leads. Attention is drawn away from my real abuser, from the true source of my problems. Now my parents are fixated on my life at age four, on trying to figure out how Satanists got access to me that early. Was it my baby-sitter? My day-care provider? My pre-school teacher?
This is what angers me most about SRA "experts". Many SRA survivors *are* victims -- they've endured real, horrific abuse. But because of the philosophical/religious agenda of their counselors, the abuse doesn't stop. They don't deal with real events, with the things that truly caused them problems. Instead they're used, milked for "evidence" to support the experts' pet conspiracy theory.
And they're not the only ones who get hurt in this. To go back to the example, my parents are about to start a Witch hunt. They're now convinced that someone ritually abused me at age four. And -- since no one actually did -- they've got to find some innocent person to blame for my suffering. If my baby-sitter plays Dungeons and Dragons, she could be accused. If my teacher or day-care provider is Wiccan, that's a likely sign that she's to blame. (For, as other Satanism "experts" point out, many Wiccans are former Satanists.)
What if I actually preserve one real, genuine bit of memory through all this? What if I remember that Mr. Neighbor abused me? Since my counselor is convinced that this is Satanic abuse, I will be "encouraged" to remember the "full" details of the event -- such as, the "fact" that I was forced to drink urine, sacrifice babies, etc., etc. Now, if my parents attempt to charge the criminal, they can't. I can no longer articulate what happened to me in a way anyone will believe.
If I say that Mr. Neighbor is a Satanic High Priest, his friends and relatives will mock me and point out that he's a regular attendee of the Baptist Church. If the police try to find evidence -- the dead baby and sacrificed cat that I remember -- they'll come up blank. And many people will rightly claim that there is no Satanic conspiracy, therefore my "memories" must be false. I cannot get justice. My memories have been so tangled, so confused that I can no longer convince people of what happened. In fact, I don't even remember what happened.
In the end, my abuser goes unpunished. The lies and false memories that my counselor loaded on me have successfully hidden the one nugget of truth: the abuse that really happened. Maybe I'm shamed and try to forget this. Maybe I go through life convinced that I was ritually abused, furious and hurt that no one believes me. Heck, maybe I'll become a "Satanism expert" when I grow up, so I can "help" other kids who go through the same thing.
For me, horrors lie on every side of this issue. Victims of genuine abuse get abused further and receive no healing for the damage they've suffered. Abusers go free, since the lies and disinformation of the "Satanism experts" conceal the real crimes that happened. Innocent people are accused of hideous evil, their lives and careers ruined. And the people to blame -- the folks who promote these Witch hunts -- get further "evidence" for their conspiracy theory.