Tuesday 8 March 2011

The Depths Of Human Darkness

Regular readers will know that I become mildly peevish when Pagans dive into the realms of fantasy and hyperbole. When fiction effects how people view us, how we view ourselves, our place in the world and how we treat others then flights of imagination and exaggeration have to be called to account.

The reason I’m writing about this today with some sense of urgency is because claims of Satanic Ritual Abuse are steadily working their way back into the therapeutic mainstream. Every single one of my colleagues is well educated and sensible, many have extensive experience of trauma and abuse work, and a number of them understand Satanic abuse to be a fact.

During my training as a psychotherapist we endured 2, two hour sessions with a woman who described sexual abuse and Satanic abuse in frothing detail. The class clearly experienced trauma, people were weeping in each others arms at the end of her descriptions of systematic forced abortions, child and animal torture for the purpose of Satanic ritual. She gave us all her contact details so we could arrange therapy privately with her. She dismissed all questions with a statement along the lines of, “You need to decide if you’re an abuser, if you’ve been abused yourself, if you want to do anything about abusers or just leave children to be sexually tortured to death.”

Unusually, our tutors left the room for both sessions, presumably because they knew the content was traumatising. One solemnly told us that she was counselling a number of people who had experienced Satanic abuse. The other was subdued and asked for our discussion to be confidential when I presented him with a folder full of evidence that Satanic Abuse does not exist.

Today my email contained a piece from a woman with high status within counselling, advertising herself as an expert in ‘satanic abuse, mind control and programming.’ It astonishes me that David Ike is dismissed as someone with florid delusions but the very same content has become mainstream in counselling in the UK.

So I want to be clear about nomenclature, what has been proved and what has not been proved, and how this might affect those of us who work with people who have experienced horrific abuse. Everything I’m going to write about here is easily referenced but I’m not going to reference anything because it’s important that you do your own research. Find legal, Intelligence and government reports, research the subject yourself – everything is very readily available on the internet.

Because what is happening now is that one person who believes that Satanic abuse exists teaches 3 people, who talk to 15 people, and so on. This is how myth is made, how peoples lives are wrecked and how people who really have been abused are further abused. You need to find, read and understand this information for yourself, weigh it up for yourself.

  • Satanic Ritual Abuse is supposed to be abuse for the purpose of worshipping Satan. People who describe it depict ritualistic acts of extreme abuse and a highly organised conspiracy. 
  • Some abuse is indeed ritualistic. The use of ritual during abuse is not an indication of Satanic Abuse. Ritual in abuse is used as another means of control. 
  • There is no evidence for Satanic abuse, anywhere in the world. Scientific, forensic, medical and law enforcement agencies have not found one shred of evidence for the claims made by people alleging Satanic abuse. 

  • Myra Hindley and Ian Brady, Rose and Fred West subjected their victims to unspeakable tortures and deaths because they were psychopathic sexual serial killers, not because they were Satanists.
  • Claims of Satanic abuse have been so thoroughly disproved that social work and therapy as professions suffered a loss of credibility. Too many social workers and therapists had made Satanic abuse their priority, creating a hierarchy of abuse in which Satanic abuse was so important that ‘ordinary’ sexual, physical and psychological abuse was ignored. 
  • Proponents of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) having lost credibility, are still pushing their wares as Sadistic Ritual Abuse (SRA). Sadistic ritual abuse occurs, but as a phrase it is almost always used by people who actually believe in Satanic abuse. They are almost always Evangelical Christians. Increasingly, they are mainstream therapists taught by organisations that hide their Evangelical Christian background.
  • Religious abuse does exist. Exorcisms are a growing phenomena occurring predominantly in African Christian communities. The abuse is so great that in the UK Project Violet, a special police unit, has been set up to work with these communities. Other specialist charities have been set up to address African Christian groups who torture and murder children predominantly, but also elderly women and occasionally men who are perceived to be possessed. Abuse of children and adults, particularly women, has been and continues to be widespread throughout religious institutions. 
  • Just as people who identify as members of any religion may use their religion as a way to control the people they abuse, so there will be people who identify as Pagan who will use Paganism as a way to control the people they abuse. 
  • The issue is abuse rather than religion. 
  • Ritual in abuse exists beyond religion. Religious iconography and terminology are used to control victims, to force their submission and their silence. 
  • Paedophilia has always existed but repeated reports on this practice have led to it becoming less unbelievable and paradoxically more accessible to people who might not have considered it as a practice before. Extreme abuse has also always existed and proponents of Satanic abuse have served to give abusers new ideas.
  • Louisiana, Illinois, Texas and Idaho have passed laws against specific acts that are often used in ritual abuse. These acts do not prejudice any religion. Other States are in the process of creating something similar.

Therapy has a shameful history in the myth-making of Satanic abuse. There is money to be made and status to be gained from writing books, offering counselling, supervision, teaching and talks. Time and again ‘recovered memory syndrome’ has been debunked by straightforward psychology experiments and this is what therapists who've ‘recovered’ memories of Satanic abuse in their clients were doing. This is recognised in current Crown Prosecution Service guidance to therapists who deal with abuse of any kind. It's resulted in children and some adults who've been abused being denied counselling or psychotherapy until after their court case has finished, which can be years.

To admit that what you have been doing as a therapist is not only morally, ethically and intellectually wrong but very clearly harmful; is based on nothing but pornographic tracts that have been systematically discredited; that you’ve made a deal of money from this, leads to profound and painful introspection, potential sanction from professional bodies, potential legal action and certainly loss of income. Who wants to go there? How much easier it is to defend your practice by saying it’s all a conspiracy and therapists who don’t believe it are either stupid, in denial or part of the problem.

I’ve worked with a number of people who were abused in ways that are so horrific that they became quite mad and quite dangerous. It’s clear that highly organized paedophile rings do exist and that paedophilia crosses all classes and social groups, so I’ve no doubt that people of influence are involved in some organized paedophile groups. Working ritual with these young people was delicate and heartbreaking. To begin with I had no idea of the depth of abuse that they’d been exposed to and I thank the Goddess with all my heart that I was training in Person Centered therapy, which purposely hands over power to the client. I didn’t require that ritual happen for any festival but brought the ritual stuff along so that we could do it if the patient wanted to. Reclaiming the beauty and simplicity of ritual was a very small part of some patients healing.

 I give thanks that I have a sound and solid understanding of ritual, psychologically, socially, spiritually and as an act of relationship. I thank the people who trained me as a Witch that I have an understanding of sexuality, sex, gender and their endless, healthful, joyful permutations, concepts that are still growing, healthfully, joyfully as well as at times with difficulty.

 I give thanks that I’d been around as the Satanic panic of the 80’s and 90’s burst and was discredited, so that I could speak knowledgeably and sensibly with patients and staff – and I give particular thanks to the Pagan individuals and groups who did so much to bring sanity to the debate.

I give thanks to my husband who attempted to ritually purify me every time I returned from those early encounters with patients, traumatised, contaminated and with a terrible (minuscule) empathy for their experience of the very worst of human nature. Human nature as part of it demonstrably is, without need for goats or knives or human farms, can be so infinitely destructive that we don’t need the fiction of Satanic abuse to explain it.

It’s curious that so many fine, upstanding professionals need Satanic Abuse to explore the depths of their own darkness. Perhaps they can frame studying Satanic Abuse as more professional and intelligent than buying sensational pulp books about witch crazes or concentrations camps or Fred and Rose West? But I wish they’d do it without dragging very vulnerable people with them into the filth that unexamined darkness becomes, and making them pay for the privilege.


Unknown said...

I am horrified to hear that SRA is even being mentioned in psychotherapy training in the UK. I am just about to complete my Masters degree in Art Psychotherapy and I would absolutely refuse to attend any class that would consider SRA a subject for anything other than mentioning in the context of something fictitious to be aware of in case anyone were ever to suggest otherwise. Surely there is some recourse for being taught something that has not only entirely no proof for its existence but a wealth of evidence to discredit it?

Clare Slaney said...

I made a formal complaint about those two lectures. In the face of one tutor who was febrile about being caught out being, erm, flamboyant with the truth, and another tutor who just wanted to get everything over with, and a lecturer who was like Medusa caught by the throat, and a university who didn't know where to begin, I qualified and ran off as soon as I could. These SRA merchants are pure poison, and the trouble is that they've taught a number of perfectly sane professionals who have no reason not to take them at face value. I've given this particular womans details to the Pagan Fed. If she's just been badly taught I hope she turns her practice around. If she's anything else, I hope the BACP deal with her in their usual fashion.

Bo said...

Good for you Clare. I consider you a marvellous person because we agree on some things deeply but not on others, so our dialogue is always fruitful and respectful. On this, we are in utter accord, and I cheer your writing. More power to your elbow.

Clare Slaney said...

Thanks Bo, it's so Grown Up to be able to disagree and still tootle along happly together.

Anonymous said...


Clare Slaney said...

Lorraine, I sincerely hope you are not accepted to any school of psychology. You will, unless you change your attitude, cause enormous harm to the vulnerable people that you meet.