This is a subject that I care a great deal about, as it has done so much damage, and yet responsibility for the damage has never really been publicly and clearly admitted in the past by those who furthered and perpetuated it. I am talking about the “Satanic Panics” and “Satanic Ritual Abuse” scares which were at their heights in the 1980s and 90s, but which I recently learned have not yet gone away.
That they are still with us is not a surprise; they are nothing new, in fact they evidence an archaic psychology which makes them seem surreal and oddly cinematic (having maybe been primed by fiction, film and bogus literary “accounts”). But then people are largely fairly primitive, and their moral compasses are constructed with a lot less altruism than they generally think. In that sense, it is only a matter of time before the “monster” is sighted, and the pitch forks and torches lend mission to the mob. That’s one good reason we should always beware of this kind of thing developing. Not just with “Satanism”, but with any perceived “outsider identity”. It’s a lowest common denominator behaviour of people in clans and groups towards “the other”.
There is a very good article on the WideShut blog, detailing both the history and the cultural influences feeding the modern SRA myth. The video at the start is worth the view if you prefer to sit back and just have a watch. One thing I was actually quite shocked to learn though was that one of the prime media pushers of the 90s SRA agenda in the UK was Beatrix Campbell, who actually made a Dispatches documentary whipping up the scare (in the name of “the children”, naturally). What shocked me wasn’t that a journalist would make such garbage (stories sell, it’s a job), but that Beatrix Campbell later ran as a candidate for the UK Green Party in 2010 in Hampstead and Kilburn, and from her website appears to still be a prominent member. Now maybe I have missed something, but I have never heard or read of a retraction of belief in the discredited SRA phenomenon from her, nor any taking of responsibility for contributing to a delusion that inflicted very real damage on families and children. That the Green Party shelters such a person is disturbing. Or is it just so easy to forget about the accusations and the damage, to just overlook the requirement for responsibility, even in retrospect, when you put the words “Satanic” and “child abuse” together in a sentence? After all, who could blame you? Are you a paedophile or something?
But as I said above, things haven’t gone away. Last year in Hampstead a new “Satanic Ritual Abuse” scare started developing, centring on a separated couple, their children, the mother and her new partner, and the accused father (plus whichever imaginary people also came to be accused as part of the “conspiracy”). The accusations were brought into doubt quite quickly in fact, but the children were made the subjects of a police protection order, and were subjected to medical examinations by a pediatrician. None of the police investigations confirmed the details of the stories of the children. By September the children had withdrawn their accusations, and admitted they had been bullied into it by their mother’s partner with physical violence and abuse. The mother (a Ms Draper) at this point dispensed with her legal team and chose to represent herself. At this stage, as the legal case was starting to fall apart, and a full blown, Social Services supported “Satanic Panic” was failing to materialize, the online publication of material relating to the case and the fantasized claims started to really increase.
By March 2015 Mrs Justice Pauffley found there was “no satanic cult or other cult at which babies were murdered and children sexually abused” and that “all of the material promulgated by Ms Draper published on the internet is nothing other than utter nonsense”. But it didn’t stop there. There was a response to the internet call of Ms Draper and her supporters. A local school and a Church were named by these internet crusaders as being part of the Satanic conspiracy, and names and addresses of people, families and children were published. Innocent teachers, police officers and parents were smeared. Bogus videos of children claiming satanic abuse were uploaded, shared, re-uploaded, effectively multiplying the psychological abuse of these children by the accusers. And the vigilantes followed. Ham & High reported in March of this year:
“The families concerned have been provided with panic alarms and advised to fit fire-proof letterboxes after threats started flooding in from those believing the allegations. Police have also stood guard outside the school and church to protect parents and pupils”
Death threats, the lot. All this, after the judge had ruled the claims “nothing other than utter nonsense”, and further found that the children had been “tortured” into making the claims by their own mother (who took on her own legal defense) and her partner; punching, kicking and dousing them with water while semi-clothed*. You can actually see a lot more on the nature of the online “support” that Ms Draper and her partner got, plus the disintegration of it in recent weeks at the Hoaxtead Research blog. It’s not for the faint of heart or stomach, nor anyone who nurses an abiding faith in the sanity of the human race. What is also bizarre is the convergence of Van Helsing vampire hunting zeal, with a hodge-podge of New Age beliefs in some of the near rabid rants, all topped off with kiddie-centric pedo-killing swagger. It’s genuinely creepy. Is this the flip side of all that new age, love and white light, empathic, earth saving, bright eyed, true believing stuff? Shared psychosis?
In February of this year police attended Ms Draper’s home address, at which point she fled, allegedly overseas. She mounted a legal appeal against the above findings that her claims were false (while still absenting herself), which she lost this month. The children were in care (of Social/Child Services) in March, I’m not sure what their situation is now, but this must have been a nightmare for them.
As you will see from the Hoaxtead website, the vigilante Satan hunters are falling apart in disarray, as their pasted together belief system fails one reality test after another, and they look for people to blame. But the damage has been done. To the children they used, to the parents, teachers and police officers they smeared, the community they terrorized. And what will the come back be? Will we forget about it all, like Green Party candidates can? Will we somewhere inside say “but think of the children! They were only trying to protect the children!“. Will we really be that stupid?
This is not a problem that will go away easily or quickly, because whether it’s “Satanists” or someone else, people love to hate a scape goat. But let’s be realistic. If you do not punish false accusers, you’re pretty much giving the next nut job a free license, a relatively no-loss option, for the damage they can try to cause. Anyone should be able to report a crime, and have a crime investigated to the extent of reason, evidence and thoroughness, without come back. But clear cases of false accusation? Fabrication? Leading to vigilantism and destruction of people’s lives? It should have consequences, and I don’t mean counselling.
Failing in the attack on the innocent is not enough. There are real life consequences for the accused, even when proven innocent. There should be legal consequences for the accusers, when proven knowingly false. And if there are mental health problems involved, well if they are serious enough to ameliorate responsibility then they are serious enough to be formally diagnosed and treated, because they are putting people at risk. We’re so used to the idea of “protecting the accuser”, that we sometimes forget that the accuser is actually not always the victim, but sometimes the opposite. It’s part of what the false ones bank on, because with certain crimes, contrary to what people say, people are guilty until proven innocent, indeed guilty by accusation, by thug law.
By letting people get away with it, as if it were all understandable, excusable, just “one of those things”, we’re casting a vote for social delusion. We’re acquiescing in a world where people with pitch forks and torches are basically good sorts, and vigilantes have hearts of gold, and the truth can’t get in the way of a good story.
Ask yourself what kind of person that kind of world serves.
* from the same article in Ham & High