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NONE DARE CALL IT REASON: Kids, Cults, and Common Sense

[KNOTICE: This report is copyrighted 1989 by Robert Hicks and is Licensed  to 
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Subject: NONE DARE CALL IT REASON: Kids, Cults, and Common Sense 

       Robert Hicks/Law Enforcement Section Department of Criminal 
      Justice Services 805 E. Broad Street Richmond, Virginia 232l9 

      Talk prepared for the Virginia Department for Children's l2th 
     Annual Legislative Forum, Roanoke, Virginia, September 22, 1989 

     In an article on satanic cults in Family Violence Bulletin published 
by the University of Texas at Tyler,  Dr. Paula Lundberg-Love writes of a 
seminar she attended entitled "Ritualistic Child Abuse and Adolescent 
Indoctrination."  Quoting the seminar instructor, who is president of the 
Cult Awareness Council in Houston, Lundberg-Love writes that "some satanic 
cults are created for the expressed purposes of child prostitution or the 
production of child pornography" and that "'religion' has proved to be a 
good 'front' for organized child prostitution and pornography rings."  
Perhaps more damning as a reflection on our collective impotence, she 
points out that "in many states, ritualistic behavior is not against the 
law" (l989: 9).

     In recounting the amazing and startling facts she learned, Lundberg-
Love offers the following insight about how satanists ply their trade:

     There are also individuals within the cult to whom
     particular tasks are assigned.  Transporters are the
     people who take babies and ship them out-of-state.
     Spotters have the task of looking for recruits or 
     objects.  Breeders are, as their name implies, used
     for the purposes of breeding.  The production of
     'snuff' films (films in which an individual is
     actually killed) is associated with these persons.
     [The seminar instructor] suggested that juveniles
     may be being used to transport these films across
     the border.  (Ibid.)

     I can only admire Houston's Cult Awareness Council for their shrewd 
investigative work in uncovering the clandestine mechanics of a satanic 
international conspiracy so slick and sophisticated that its members remain 
faceless, having never been identified, and its murderous activities remain 
covert because the satanists leave no traces of their nefarious 
undertakings.  Yet the Cult Awareness Council has produced a model of the 
cult's activities that is specific and detailed.  But, of course, we have 
no evidence of satanic child prostitution, no evidence that women breed 
babies for sacrifice, no one has ever found a snuff film.  But Lundberg-
Love's article has credibility:  the article's author is the associate 
director of the Family Violence Research and Treatment Program at the 
University of Texas, Tyler.

     I suggest that Houston's Cult Awareness Council, intentionally or 
perhaps, worse, unwittingly, has become a conduit for a farrago of half-
truths, unsupported generalizations, vague musings, hysteria, and downright 
ignorance fostered in part by Fundamentalist Christian groups with the 
willing collusion of police and the so-called helping professions.  
Lundberg-Love, by reiterating satanic nonsense to other professionals, has 
shown irresponsibility stirred by an inability to think critically.  Or 
drop the "critically":  an inability to think underlies claims about women 
who breed babies for satanic sacrifices, about children forced to witness 
human sacrifice in daycare centers, about teenagers transformed into 
zombies by playing Dungeons and Dragons.

     More insidious from my point of view is her observation that satanic 
cults operate under the guise of religion and thus deserve First Amendment 
protection, therefore precluding legal retaliation against these evildoers. 
This observation begs the question of necessity.  In times of stress, 
people seek to proscribe or criminalize behavior that they imagine 
threatens the larger public good.  We must curtail civil liberties, for 
awhile, some say, because of an immediate necessity to do so.  Threats of 
immanent harm from our enemies necessitate an abrogation of certain rights.  
Illicit drug use has reached such epidemic proportions that we must of 
necessity unlock closed doors in the Fourth Amendment to allow police to 
conduct intrusive searches otherwise prohibited by the Constitution.  We 
must of necessity allow the government more power to protect us from 
outsiders.  Satanism presents such a threat to us that we necessarily  must 
ban certain forms of rock music to protect our children, remove books on 
witchcraft and the occult from school libraries, confiscate Dungeons and 
Dragons books on school property.

     I maintain that although satanic or occult symbols seem to be enjoying 
popularity today among teens, their presence does not betoken a lost kid, 
one in satan's thrall.  Historian Jeffrey Burton Russell has observed, 
"Rooted in adolescent resentment of authority, [kids use] the terms and 
symbols of the occult to express cultural rebellion rather than personal 
belief" (l986: 257).  If today you came to hear lurid tales of children 
participating in pornographic movies produced by satan's film unit or of 
demons nabbing teenagers while playing Dungeons and Dragons and forced to 
kill their families, I'm going to disappoint you.  Most of you not only 
work with children in the capacities of educators, therapists, law 
enforcers, but you also assume the role of advocates for children's 
welfare.  I ask you not to relinquish any of those roles but I do ask that 
you not relinquish your critical faculties, as Lundberg-Love has done, 
whenever you hear the words "ritualisic," "satanic," "occult," or "cult."

     Do not dissolve your gray matter and willingly adopt as immutable 
truths such ideas as:  children never lie about sexual abuse; teenagers who 
are Girl or Boy Scouts, members of a church, or good students cannot do 
nasty things, or if they do, someone or something made them do it.  Or that 
teens have so little free will that lurking satanists will deceive them 
into attending sex and drug parties and thereby swear them in as card-
carrying minions of The Evil One.  Or that teens have so little judgment 
where fantasy is concerned that we must absolutely control all that they 
read and hear.

     In particular, question glib assertions made at cult awareness 
seminars.  Analyze the cause-effect relationships foisted on you.  Question 
cult experts' credentials.  As for law enforcers, you will find that most 
police cult experts derive their expertise from attending other cult 
seminars.  I recently spoke opposite a State Police officer who gave a 
slide program on satanism but admitted that he had never investigated a 
putative cult crime; his work, rather, involved accounting.  You could have 
invited another speaker here today, one who purports that teens are in 
great danger of satanic or occult influence and that, in particular, 
Dungeons and Dragons damages kids' psyches.  Patricia A. Pulling, though, 
who heads Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons (BADD), has no clinical 
background, though parents frequently haul their misbehaving children 
before her for an analysis of their satanic proclivities.  She recently 
represented herself at a Virginia cult seminar as being "a private 
investigator with the state of Virginia" and noted that she had received 
"innumerable degrees and awards."  As far as I know, her innumerable 
degrees extend to an AA from J. Sargent Reynolds Community College, 
Richmond, but the private investigator business implies some association 
with state government.  In truth, she holds a state license to be a private 
investigator, a pursuit requiring one week of classroom training.  Period.
But beyond what she says, the publisher of her recent book, The 
Devil's Web, refers to her as "a police detective."  Such wishful 
thinking smacks of dishonesty.

     Yet popular speakers like Pat Pulling assert that 95 to l50 kids have 
committed suicide related to playing Dungeons and Dragons.  People at her 
seminars nod sagely and gasp in astonishment that our government allows 
such a game to exist.  What is her proof of this assertion?  In her 
booklet, Dungeons and Dragons, she offers a series of newspaper clippings 
to prove her point.  In one, with no source cited, an Arlington, Texas, boy 
killed himself with a shotgun in front of his drama class.  The first 
paragraph of the article notes that the boy "was a devotee of the fantasy 
game Dungeons and Dragons and had a lead role in this weekend's school 
play," an odd parallel comment, perhaps.  An observation occurs further on 
in the article that the boy enjoyed the game.  But where is the causal 
relationship?  The article quotes the boys' friends as commenting on his 
character, but no one quoted even links the game to the death.  Yet this 
article, for all its superficiality, counts as a statistical fatality (BADD 
n.d.).  And no one challenges this assertion at Pulling's seminars.

     In The Devil's Web, Pulling defines Dungeons and Dragons as a "fantasy 
role-playing game which uses demonology, witchcraft, voodoo, murder, rape, 
blasphemy, suicide, assassination, insanity, sex perversion, homosexuality, 
prostitution, satanic type rituals, . . .and many other teachings.  There 
have been a number of deaths nationwide where [such games] were either the 
decisive factor in adolescent suicide and murder, or played a major factor. 
. .Since role-playing is used typically for behavior modification, it has 
become apparent nationwide . . .that there is a great need to investigate 
every aspect of a youngster's environment. . ."  (l989: 179).  Pulling 
further states that fantasy role-playing games  "are representative of the 
many subtle ways in which occult influences can prey upon the minds of 
children"  (Ibid.: l02).  But the game retails in images and symbols:  kids 
enact imaginary adventures through imaginary means, not by translating the 
action to their everyday environment.

     Pulling's main scare about D&D is that the game contains some bona 
fide occult material, whatever that is.  She seems to think that where game 
designers use demons and monsters from the writings of medieval and late 
l9th century English sources, that somehow the game takes on a pernicious 
magic of its own.  Pulling is alarmed at the nature of the demons and 
monsters invoked by the game, but the monsters, often drawn from the 
encyclopedia or from game designers' imaginations, bear no evil beyond what 
people impute to them.  If we bridle at D&D, then we must take offense at 
the Creature from the Black Lagoon, a multitude of plastic toys found at 
any shopping mall, comic books, Saturday morning TV, and the like.  Demons, 
monsters, creatures from space populate kids' imaginations and one easily 
sees why:  Star Trek, Star Wars, and like films ensure that space beings 
take on an omnipresent reality, coupled with "legitimate" science.   
Pulling also introduces a paradox and an insight:  she claims that the 
students most susceptible to falling within the spiraling path to hell are 
bright boys with varied interests who may lack social skills.  In other 
words, nerds.  The insight in all this focuses on the kids' interests.  A 
recent anthropological study of modern witches and magic in Britain 
observed that many male adherents of magic groups had computer backgrounds, 
an observation made by many people about D&D players (Luhrman l989: l06).  
Anthropologist T. M. Luhrmann observes that these folks also read science 
fiction in abundance.  She speculates on why these people gravitate to 

     [S]everal possible explanations present themselves.
     Perhaps the most important is that both magic and
     computer science involve creating a world defined by
     chosen rules, and playing within their limits.  Both
     in magic and in computer science words and symbols have
     a power which most secular, modern endeavours deny them.
     Those drawn to the symbol-rich rule-governed world of
     computer science may be attracted by magic. . .One
     reason that the fantasy games designed for the computer
     may be so appealing may be because of the complexity of
     the rules.  Another explanation is the sense of mastery
     and power when the machine obeys your dictates, which
     may feel like the mastery of magic. . .The wizard commands
     the material world, breaking the laws which seem to bind
     it.  (Ibid.: l07).

Massachusetts Institute of Technology sociologist S. Turkle has written at 
length about young men's involvement with computers and D&D.  I refer you 
to The Second Self:  Computers and the Human Spirit, by S. Turkle, l984, 
published by the MIT Press.

     So Pulling scares parents by isolating from context specific rules 
concerning particular demons, overlooking the game's intellectual 
challenge:  after all, since the game involves no board, players must rely 
on imagery and imagination.  If one removes the aura of a supernatural 
netherworld from the game, and if one questions the shoddy evidence for the 
game's links to teen murder and suicide, what is one left with?  Just a 
game.  I make no apologies for ruining anyone's scapegoat for the world's 
ills, if you do find the game scary.  Quite possibly some people find the 
game a mental accessory to a criminal propensity:  but question closely any 
convicted murderer who claims that D&D made him do it.  Sociopaths need no 
such justification, but when confined to prison cells contemplating a bleak 
future, why not blame one's behavior on a game?  

     But back to Pulling's model of the D&D player.  Those kids who are 
intelligent with poor social skills simply defines the process of growing 
up.  By imbuing games with some supernatural taint, we deny kids their own 
intelligence and ability to make choices.  When the Pasadena, Texas, school 
board decided to ban the l960's peace symbol from school property, they did 
so because a cult seminar advised teachers that the symbol is satanic:  
that interpretation derives from Christian publications that describe the 
upside-down cross as a mockery of Christianity.  How do the kids react?  
One twelve-year-old said, "If they ban peace symbols, they'll have to ban 
basic geometry because of all its lines and circles" (Time, July 3, l989).  
These kids ain't fools:  they usually separate faddish symbols from serious 
evildoing.  But if they know that the symbol offends some adults, what do 
you suppose they'll do?  A counselor at the Bon Air detention facility in 
Richmond told me that rooms for kids come equipped with a Bible.  One 
teenager took one look at the Bible and challenged the counselor:  he 
demanded The Satanic Bible, the one published by Anton LaVey, founder of 
the Church of Satan, in l969.  Now, the counselor has been challenged:  who 
might win this little power struggle? If the counselor leaps back, makes 
the sign of a cross, and in an hysterical voice cries out, "Get thee behind 
me, Satan," guess who wins?  In this case, the counselor blandly replied, 
"Sure.  I'll see what I can do.  Tell me where I can find a copy."  For 
those of you who are worried about that response, I can only attribute your 
worry to not having read The Satanic Bible.  Read it and you'll agree with 
religious scholar Gordon Melton who has referred to it as "assertiveness 
training with a twist." The book does not even praise a supernatural devil 
and instead relies on Satan's symbolic history in our culture.  Further, 
unlike parts of the Christian Bible, The Satanic Bible very explicitly 
warns readers not to physically harm children nor anyone else.

     I noted the influence of Fundamentalist Christianity on not only the 
D&D ideology but on other aspects of the satanic cult bruhaha.  Much of 
what Pulling and cult cops and other self-proclaimed experts parley to 
audiences comes from Christian sources.  For example, the earliest 
denigration of D&D I could come up with, from l980, says this:

     Some endeavors offer a greater temptation for ego to
     manifest itself in us, however.  The next thing to 
     actual defeat of others and self-exaltation as rulers 
     over the vanquished is the voluntary, imaginary role-
     playing that is offered by such games as Dungeons and
     Dragons. . .It is not without knowledge that Dungeons
     and Dragons was devised.  But it is the knowledge of
     an evil that mingled the Babylonian mystery religions
     with a luke-warm 'Christianity.' (Dager l980)

     The same thoughts have been conveyed to cult awareness audiences again 
and again and again.  I asked you earlier to sift such information, 
question it, analyze it, and ask the credentials of these experts.  Among 
the books prominently displayed at cult seminars are two by Rebecca Brown, 
MD, He Came to Set the Captives Free and Prepare for War.  Ken Lanning, FBI 
special agent who specializes in child sexual abuse investigations, raises 
the issue of cult seminars not defining terms, using the "words satanic, 
occult, and ritualistic" interchangeably (l989:4).  Lanning particularly 
cites Brown's contributions to this confusion as her "doorways" to demonic 
infestation (to use Lanning's term) include horoscopes, vegetarianism, 
yoga, biofeedback, homosexuality, fraternity oaths, along with the standard 
fantasy role-playing games, Church of Satan, the Hare Krishna movement, and 
so on.  So who is Rebecca Brown and why does she wield authority?  Her 
title gets attention:  she has appeared at seminars and on television, no 
less.  What's her background?

     In l984, she was known as Ruth Bailey, MD, and she practiced medicine 
in Indiana.  That year, she lost her license.  Medical examiners concluded 
that she knowingly misdiagnosed such ailments as leukemia, various blood 
diseases, and even brain tumors in patients who were not in fact suffering 
from these problems.  Bailey said that she had been "chosen by God" as the 
only physician who could diagnose such maladies which were caused by 
demons.  And, further, other doctors could not diagnose these problems 
because the doctors themselves were demons.  As a result of these 
diagnoses, she prescribed her patients with massive doses of Demerol and 
the addicted patients had to undergo detoxification.  Besides administering 
drugs to patients, Bailey had another novel method up her sleeve:  she 
would "share" the patient's disease by injecting herself with "non-
therapeutic amounts" of Demerol, taking three cubic centimeters of the 
stuff hourly, injecting it in the back of her hands or inside her thighs.  
The psychiatrist who examined her said that she suffered from "acute 
personality disorders including demonic delusions and/or paranoid 
schizophrenia" (Medical Licensing Board of Indiana l984).  She later moved 
to California, changing her name to Rebecca Brown through a change-of-name 
petition entered into the Superior Court, County of San Bernardino, in 
l986.  There are a few lessons here.  Be careful not to accept facile 
explanations of misbehavior at face value.  Don't uncritically accept a 
source because it has a Christian message.

     By refusing to define "satanism," "occult," and "ritualistic," cult 
experts can unleash these words to fit any social dilemma, misbehavior, or 
human failing they wish.  And they do.  The lack of definition aids and 
abets the conspiracy theory fanned by Pulling and the cult cops.  These 
cult cops take as evidence of a conspiracy the presence of like symbols 
across the country.  They further surmise that the presence of a spray-
painted inverted pentagram underside a bridge in San Francisco not only 
means the same thing as one on a bridge in Norfolk but that some satanic 
supramind, the international conspiracy has organized people to wreak havoc 
on us all.  This conspiracy, of course, supposedly recruits children, teens 
especially.  Pulling and the cult cops would have us suspend heaps of 
disbelief to accept that the D&D player who peers into the occult through 
game playing gets yanked by some mind-control cult into an abrupt 
personality change characterized by violence and hate.  No one wants to 
consider other, more mundane explanations for personality changes and mood 
swings, apparently.  But in the face of a complete absence of evidence for 
a conspiracy, some cult cops can find only feeble argument.

     Take Idaho police officer Larry Jones, who authors the Cult Crime 
Impact Network newsletter, a Fundamentalist-biased periodical widely read 
by cult cops.  In defense of the lack of evidence, Jones tosses the 
question back: "'To people who say, prove to me these secret cults exist, I 
say, prove they don't'" (Springston l989).  To this inanity, I find the 
reply easy:  since my orientation to the cult scare concerns law 
enforcement, a perspective Jones should share, I say that police officers 
have no obligation to prove that the satanic mastercult doesn't exist.  
Police officers operate under well-founded reasonable suspicion to look 
into suspected wrongdoing, and they make arrests based on probable cause.  
Both reasonable suspicion and probable cause  have fairly precise 
definitions supported by reams of case law.  I can't prove that UFO's 
exist, but just prove to me that they don't.  I can't prove that termites 
built the Great Pyramid, but just prove to me that they didn't.  When 
Richmond Bureau of Police Lieutenant Lawrence Haake was asked whether he 
had any evidence of satanic sacrifices of people, he admitted he didn't but 
added, "'No evidence can be evidence'" (Ibid.)  Sure, perhaps, but no 
evidence can also mean that none exists. Many cult cops have indeed 
asserted that the lack of any evidence testifies to the satanic cult's 
success at covering their tracks. Well, if you're backed into a corner, try 
tossing skepticism back into the lap of the skeptic.  Pulling maintains 
that many unsolved homicides might be sacrificial victims and says, "'They 
certainly have found a number of unsolved murders with no motive, haven't 
they?'" (Ibid.) Some have gone unsolved, yes, but one cannot logically 
conclude that satanists did them.  But I almost forgot:  these shifty 
satanists, says Pulling, include the intelligentsia and power brokers of 
our society, so we might as well cave in than resist (Briggs l988).  Better 
devil red than dead.

     Which brings us back to definitions for a moment.  A satanic 
ritualistic killing, to the cult cops, ought to be defined as a killing 
performed in propitiation of satan.  We certainly have plenty of killers 
around who claim a satanic motivation, but killers simply adopt an ideology 
that justifies or explains what they would do in any case.  The argument 
that a true satanic killing would therefore implicate those mild, middle-
class, suburban engineers and doctors and lawyers simply vanishes upon 
scrutiny:  such folks haven't yet been arrested for these sacrifices.  So 
much for satanic crime.  On to "occult."  As Lanning points out, "Occult 
means simply 'hidden,'" a term unconnected with crime, but used by cult 
cops to refer "to the action or influence of supernatural powers. . .or an 
interest in paranormal phenomena" (l989:5).  But Lanning rails against the 
use of "ritualistic," since folks who point fingers and yell "ritualistic!" 
forget that ritual governs our lives in benign fashion.  Again, Lanning:  
"During law enforcement training conferences on this topic, ritualistic 
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" 
(Ibid.: 7).  He concludes:  "The most important point for the criminal 
investigator is to realize that most ritualistic criminal behavior is not 
motivated simply by satanic or religious ceremonies" (Ibid. 9).  I refer 
you to Lanning for an extended discussion of the word.

     We've attached some meaning to "ritual," "occult," and "satanic 
crime," so we're left with "cult."  Definitions of the word depend on the 
scholarly purposes they serve.  But I have not been so concerned with the 
academic treatment of the word, but rather its current connotation in cult 
awareness seminars.  I agree with Gordon Melton that "[t]he term 'cult' is 
a pejorative label used to describe certain religious groups outside of the 
mainstream of Western religion" (l986:3)  The pejorative quality of the 
label is borne out by the attributes heaped on cults by cult experts:  that 
cult members must swear obedience to the all-powerful leader, that cults 
pursue ends that justify the means, that cults retain members through mind 
control methods.  This language has been pretty consistently applied to 
nonconformists for a few centuries now.  Rather, I agree with Melton that 
"Cults represent a force of religious innovation within a culture" (Ibid.), 
but Melton's social science approach to categorizing and studying cults 
doesn't mesh with the cult seminar use of the term. In a very broad sense, 
cults don't even have to be religious.  Cult cops assume that two or more 
kids who hang out together and wear upside down crosses, pentagrams, and 
Ozzy Osborne buttons might be cult members.  This kind of cult in former 
days we called a clique.  Now, we are to assume that such kids have gotten 
sucked into a black hole of mind control, manipulation by satanic 
recruiters, all unwarranted assumptions.  But some cults we know to promote 
violence.  Let me name a few:  The Covenant, Sword, and Arm of the Lord; 
The Christian Conservative Church of America;  The Church of Christ of 

Christian Aryan Nations (all described in Melton l986).  Sorry, though:  I 
couldn't come up with any satanic groups which promote the militarism of 
these Christian organizations.   

     More directly, when we allow cult seminar presenters to rant away 
without defining their terms or by being explicit about what they know and 
don't know, we play a dangerous game.  Gordon Melton observes that when 
people speak of "them" as satanic, or as an enemy, or as a criminal cult, 
we thereby "express [our] contempt of others and . . .assign them a status 
outside the realm of God's chosen, and hence of lesser worth, [which] is 
the religious equivalent of secular terms such as 'nigger,' 'kike,' or 
'wop'" (Ibid. 259).  When the Matamoros murders hit the headlines, the 
newspapers dubbed them "satanic," a term that disappeared within a week as 
it became obvious to investigators that the murders had nothing to do with 
satanic cults.  But the labels that stuck involved foreign experiences such 
as Palo Mayombe and Santeria, words most Americans heard for the first 
time.  But to dub the killings as Santeria or Palo Mayombe, drawn as 
perverse cults by the press, amounts to impure and simple racism.  What I 
cannot understand is the Fundamentalist Christian diatribe against 
nonChristian beliefs that have been tagged as cultic.  As I have pointed 
out, cult cops freely label groups as cults and therefore imply a threat to 
one's free will.  But as the historian Jeffrey Burton Russell has pointed 
out, such people "claim that a belief in the Devil erodes human 
responsibility, but Christianity has always insisted that the Devil has no 
power to coerce or compel the human will" (l986: 300).

     I hope I have forced your attention to the importance of developing 
solid definitions for social problems.  Precise definition provides the 
best map through which to explore the phenomena of children's behavior.  
But, of course, you know this.  Simply don't forget it when cults enter the 
fray.  Imprecision and casual name-calling by cult awareness seminars has 
led to severe consequences for both children and adult child advocates.  I 
would like to cite one example, one, unfortunately, which I stress is not 
unique.  But my example illustrates how the helping professions may ignore 
suggestions of actual physical or mental abuse and instead pursue claims of 
satanic goings on in daycare centers and in the process the counselors, 
therapists, and police end up abusing children.

     Since l983, the country witnessed the first of many cases of purported 
satanic abuse of children in daycare centers, beginning with the McMartin 
case in California, followed quickly by the Jordan, Minnesota case, and 
they continue to happen.  The best and most critical examination of such 
cases appeared in a series of investigative reports published in a Memphis 
newspaper, The Commercial Appeal, last year.  Journalists Tom Charlier and 
Shirley Downing found that these cases were "not really about ritual child 
abuse at all.  [They] are about the dangers of popular justice, a less-
than-skeptical press and the presumption of guilt" (l988).  Over a hundred 
cities have witnessed the same pattern:  a single incident of alleged abuse 
by a single child mushroomed into mass accusations of parents, daycare 
center workers, and even prosecutors and police.  The children's stories 
which launched the cases were usually uncorroborated by physical evidence 
or even adult testimony.  Further, the nature of the prosecutory system 
itself fanned the flames of accusation.  By the time such cases entered 
court, the news media greedily reported children's stories of devil 
worship, nude dancing with daycare staff, varieties of sexual assault, 
human and animal sacrifice, nude photography, bondage, drowning, cooking 
and eating babies' limbs, and so on.  And the investigators, who pursued 
evidence of crime, acted as advocates by removing kids from their homes 
before their parents had even been investigated, much less charged with 

     Unfortunately, these stories reveal that prosecutors, allied with 
parents, adopted as an unqualified truth the assertion that children don't 
lie about abuse.  Yet investigators asked children leading questions, 
interviewed them as many as 50 times in some cases, refused to accept kids' 
denials that satanic abuse took place, offered rewards or exerted pressure 
to obtain correct testimony from them.  One case, in Bakersfield, 
California a few years ago, produced prison terms totalling 26l9 years for 
seven defendants, which set a record (Mathews l989).

     The Bakersfield case began in l984 when a girl reported to her mother 
that two men had "touched" her in a peculiar way.  Within a year's time, 
the one allegation evolved into a sex abuse ring, satanic rituals, and 
infanticide (what follows derives from a report of the Office of the 
Attorney General, California, l986). Twenty-one children had been placed in 
protective custody away from their homes.  How did this happen?

     Once removed from their homes, the children endured repeated 
questioning by police, therapists, and welfare workers.  Further, the 
sheriff's department interviewed children in isolation while in protective 
custody.  Parents were arbitrarily arrested and released with no charges 
filed.  The deputies, most of whom had virtually no training in child abuse 
matters (and had not even attended mandatory California inservice training 
in the subject, although they found time to attend a satanic cult seminar), 
simply deferred their questioning of children to a child protective 
services worker, described as zealous for her unqualified belief that the 
children maintained the truth under questioning.  Yet the questioning 
occurred repeatedly, even after the sheriff's deputies discussed the case 
before church groups and evolved their own beliefs about what was 
occurring.  The deputies received virtually no supervision and no one 
coordinated the efforts of the three agencies trying to investigate the 
case.  In all, l9 victims were interviewed l34 times.  Searches yielded no 
evidence of sexual abuse or satanic crime, yet the deputies did not follow 
cues which required physical evidence gathering.  For example, many kids 
claimed to have been drugged during cult rituals, yet no one tested them 
for drugs.  Efforts to obtain any corroborative physical evidence were 
feeble or nonexistent.  Further, deputies did not even furnish verbatim 
interviews with the children, instead simply paraphrasing the interviews 
and offering in the transcripts unsupported conclusions.

     Once in custody, kids mingled and had many opportunities to "cross 
germinate" their stories.  Very significantly, the child witnesses first 
denied that their parents were involved in the satanic molestations, but 
after repeated questioning under the direction of the zealous therapist, 
children not only implicated their parents but also many investigators in 
the case.  The sheriff's deputies and the social worker conducted their 
inquisition based on the premise that "children do not lie."  This meant 
that investigators took children's statements at face value and neglected 
to do further corroborative work.  The following interview took place 
between a suspected parent-abuser and the social worker:

Social worker:  Okay, ah. . .you know when children, when 
children tell law enforcement or Child Protective Services. . .
Suspect:  Uh huh.
SW:  About somebody we believe children, okay.
S:  Uh huh.
SW:  Especially little, ah, would involve children but these are 
just, you know, four, four, five and six-year olds. . .
S:  Uh huh.
SW:  Okay, and they don't have, they shouldn't have knowledge of 
this stuff, they have a lot of knowledge, a lot of explicit 
details, knowledge, they say cream was being used. . .lotion.
S:  Have you seen, you know, TV nowadays though, the parents let 
their kids watch.
SW:  Okay, people often do accuse TV, but still children don't 
fantasize about sexual abuse and they don't implicate their own 
S:  Uh huh.
SW:  Okay?
S:  Uh huh.
Deputy:  Let alone themselves.
SW:  Yeah, let alone themselves, especially when they're, when 
they are feeling so badly about and they know it's wrong.
S:  Uh huh.
SW:  Okay, it's just they, some you know, if they aren't gonna, 
if they're mad at their dad and that's when they may say physical 
S:  Uh huh.
SW:  But, ah, they're not gonna say sexual.
S:  Uh huh.
SW:  It just doesn't happen.
S:  Uh huh.
SW:  So we, we do believe the children.
S:  Uh huh.
SW:  Okay, that you are involved.
S:  Then no matter what I, what I say doesn't even matter then?
SW:  Well, yeah of course it matters, but, but our stand is that 
we believe the children.
S:  Uh huh.
SW:  At all cost, cause that's our job and that's, that's what 
our belief is.

     Quoting further from the California Attorney General's report of the 
matter, "This dependence upon and deferment to staff of Child Protective 
Services--who perform functions quite different from police officers in a 
child abuse investigation--focused the interviews primarily on protecting 
the child at the expense of investigating and determining the facts in the 
case.  While protecting the child was certainly critical, once that had 
been assured the criminal investigation should have been the Sheriff's 
deputies' primary concern."

     Let's talk about the interviews with children for a moment.  The 
California Attorney general found that deputies departed from standard 
interview practice and virtually ignored the complexities that obtain when 
the person interviewed is a child.  "Deputies generally did not question 
the children's statements, and they responded positively or said something 
to reinforce their previous allegations. . . They applied pressure on the 
children to name additional suspects and victims, and questioned them with 
inappropriate suggestions that produced the answers they were looking for."  
Interviewers, both police and social workers, used leading and suggestive 
questions, gave quite overt positive reinforcement when they received 
answers they sought, rather than giving neutral responses.  In some cases, 
interviewers demanded answers; sometimes they threatened the children; in 
other cases they confused them.  A sample:

Interviewer:  Okay, you said that they touched the privates before they 
stabbed the baby?  Did they take the clothes off the baby before they 
stabbed the baby?  Did they take the clothes off the baby when they touched 
the privates?  And then they had you go up and stab the baby?  So, did the 
baby--was the baby's clothes still off after they'd taken them off and you 
had to stab the baby?

Answer:  No.

And in a flagrant abuse of investigative technique, a deputy had wanted to 
use an anatomically-detailed doll in an interview, but although deputies 
had them on hand, they had no training in their use.  So one deputy told a 
child, "I forgot my dolly then you could point.  You want to point on me?"

     Let me point out that deputies did pursue the satanic claims, but 
found alleged homicide victims alive; they searched lakes where bodies 
supposedly were deposited and found none; in fact, they uncovered no 
evidence to prove any satanic assertions.  The satanic connection, by the 
way, didn't even emerge in the case until after nine months of interviews 
with the kids.  One psychiatrist in another daycare center case observed of 
the repeated interviews, "If [the investigator] get[s] a child to the point 
where they believe they've helped kill a baby or eaten flesh, I want to 
know whether you're a child abuser" (Charlier and Downing l988).

     As two Pennsylvania State University criminal justice professors have 
pointed out, "If children denied victimization, then it was assumed they 
were concealing the truth, which must be drawn out by some inducement or 
reinforcement.  The therapeutic process thus became an infallible 
generating mechanism for criminal charges," a remark made about the 
McMartin case that applies to Bakersfield also. (Jenkins and Katkin l988: 
30). Psychiatrist Lee Coleman, who with journalist Debbie Nathan is writing 
a book about the daycare cases, adds that

     The interviewers assume, before talking with the child,
     that molestation has taken place.  The accused persons
     are assumed to be guilty, and the thinly disguised purpose      
     of the interview is to get something out of the child to
     confirm these suspicions.  It is all too easy, with
     repeated and leading and suggestive questions, to get a
     young child so confused that he or she can't tell the
     difference between fact and fantasy. (l986: 8).

     There are three great tragedies in all this:  one, that real physical 
or sexual abuse of a child will pass uninvestigated; two, that children are 
abused by the criminal justice process, children who are victims of nothing 
except not telling stories that investigators want to hear; third, that 
innocent adults will have their lives ruined.  One young imprisoned mother 
in the Bakersfield case, whose children have been placed in foster care, 
looks forward to freedom one day, but she does not want to be united with 
her kids.  She says, "'I'm scared of kids.  I'm scared to death of kids. . .
I'm glad I can't have any more" (Mathews l989).

     One might place the burden of blame for a shoddy investigation on the 
sheriffs' deputies, since the law enforcers were charged with detecting 
lawbreaking and arresting offenders.  And, of course, seven women still 
languish in prison.  But what of therapists, psychiatrists, and 
psychologists?  Although the satanic nature of the daycare allegaions has 
only recently begun to appear in professional literature, purportedly 
scholarly studies have taken the satanic abuse claims quite uncritically.  
The uncritical treatment of the subject is bound to influence other 
professionals more prone to be convinced by tables of data with chi-square 
tests than to question the data in the tables.

     For example, Susan J. Kelly, R.N., Ph.D, Boston School of Nursing, 
even elaborated a typology of ritual abuse (building on the work of family 
violence expert David Finkelhor, of whom more in a moment) and discussed 
satanic philosophy by noting its "fundamental tenet that followers have a 
right to abundant and guilt-free sex of every description.  Moreover, 
because Christianity believes that children are special to God, satanism, 
which negates Christianity, considers the desecration of children to be a 
way of gaining victory over God" (l988: 229).  This description of satanic 
ideology amounts to pure dogma, perpetuated and elaborated by the cult 
awareness seminars and the press.  Like other therapists, Kelly imputes the 
the cult presence surrounding child abuse to the usual mind control methods 
employed against members and so on.  No one, apparently, wants to consider 
the proposition that some child abusers, who may go to elaborate and 
imaginative lengths to intimidate children into not revealing the abuse, 
may employ satanic trappings to do just that.  Therapists such as Kelly 
have also ignored the inquisitorial process that produces arrests and 
convictions, as in the Bakersfield case, preferring not to confront the 
issue of leading children to contrive satanic scenarios to please eager 

     I find that David Finkelhor's latest book, Nursery Crimes:  Sexual 
Abuse in Daycare, not only perpetuates the satanic dogma but using 
mathematical analyses of bad data, it emerges with a new class of offender. 
The study examined cases in 270 daycare centers, but the cases had to be 
"substantiated" before inclusion in the data.  In order to be 
substantiated, the study team had to find only one professional agency 
associated with a case who believed that abuse occurred.  And this study 
swept up all of the much-publicized daycare center abuse cases such as 
McMartin and even Bakersfield.  So the study takes as a working assumption 
that the allegations in the satanic ritual abuse cases are true.  While the 
study makes insightful remarks about child abuse and attempts a 
comprehensive look at abuse, the victims, and the abusers, the inclusion of 
the satanic cases renders the study yet more dogma masquerading as science.  
I said that the skewed data created a new class of offenders.  Every study 
of child sexual abuse portrays offenders as almost exclusively men, usually 
acting alone.  The rare cases involving women usually find them complicit 
as the consequence of involvement with a man:  a boyfriend or husband, for 
example.  Yet the satanic ritual cases involving daycare centers have 
almost entirely focused on the women running the centers.  And the 
allegations hold that women, entire daycare center staffs, ran satanic 
parties replete with mass sex abuse, child pornography, and the like.  I 
should hope that the Bakersfield case suggests to you that other dynamics, 
to use the social work term, govern the sensationalistic cases.  
Nonetheless, Finkelhor and his colleagues pronounce that "Female 
perpetrators were significantly more likely than men to have forced 
children to sexually abuse others and to have participated in ritualistic, 
mass abuse" (l988: 45).

     In rather limp fashion, Finkelhor notes that the satanic allegations 
have emerged in some daycare cases months after abuse investigations have 
begun under some other pretext.  Unlike some investigators who find the 
delay evidence that children have been coached to tell such stories, he 
holds that children may need months of therapy before finding the strength 
to tell the satanic tales.  But Finkelhor's conclusions present a mixed 
bag.  On the one hand, he singles out the marauding women, "We recommend 
that parents, licensing, and law-enforcement officials be educated to view 
females as potential sexual abusers" (Ibid.: 257)  Yet he advises that we 
"avoid a disproportionate focus on day-care abuse" because abuse in the 
daycare setting amounts to a relatively small percentage of abuse overall.

     The idea of pervasive satanic cults which influence and intimidate 
children should not supplant a reasonable, cautious inquiry, for law 
enforcers and therapists alike.  Ironically, despite the cult seminars 
which contrive images of the faceless, tenebrous evil that grips us from 
the bowels of hell, the tentacles of demons wrapped around kids' necks, the 
cult experts who teach the seminars often conclude with common-sense 
advice.  For example, Woman's Day magazine printed "A Parent's Primer on 
Satanism" recently (l988).  The primer noted that bright, bored, 
underachieving, talented and even gifted teens are susceptible to cults.  
Watch for kids exhibiting personality changes or mood swings; kids who drop 
friends and favorite activities in exchange for other activities and 
friends; who keep secrets, particularly about new friends; receive erratic 
grades; misbehave; wear satanic symbols on jewelry, T-shirts, and the like.  
Now, if one removes the cult from all of this, one is left with teens 
growing up, dealing with social pressures, handling puberty, running at 
full tilt on massive doses of pizza and hormones.  But what's a parent to 
do?  Woman's Day suggests not to panic; observe the child; if the teen 
listens to rock music with offensive lyrics, listen to what the child 
listens to.  "If [the lyrics] disturb you, talk to him or her about it.  
Ask what the words mean to your child" (Ibid.).  No matter what ill we 
believe threatens our children--whether communists, satanists, The Beatles 
or Twisted Sister--the advice is the same:  don't panic; observe; listen; 
talk.  Don't ignore satanic symbols or paraphernalia, but don't imbue them 
with cosmic significance, either.  Rely on your professional experience and 
training to guide your rational inquiry about satan in teens' lives.  Don't 
panic, and trust children, teens particularly, to behave responsibly most 
of the time, and don't leap to satanic excuses to explain misbehavior.   
     Thank you.
    Addendum:  Investigation of Child Sexual Abuse Resources

Cult seminars sometimes suggest that women breed babies for sacrifice, that 
runaway or throwaway kids become sacrificial fodder.  For a perspective on 
missing kids, consult "First Comprehensive Study of Missing Children in 
Progress," OJJDP Update on Research, April, l988.  A related study is 
"Stranger Abduction Homicides of Children, OJJDP Juvenile Justice Bulletin, 
January, l989.  Suggestions on new professional thinking for handling child 
sexual abuse cases can be found in "Prosecuting child sexual abuse--new 
approaches," by Debra Witcomb, Research in Action, National Institute of 
Justice, May l986 (reprinted from NIJ Reports/SNI l97.  A related article, 
"Prosecution of Child Sexual Abuse:  Innovations in Practice," appeared in 
the NIJ Research in Brief, November, l985, also by Debra Witcomb.  Perhaps 
the best overall investigative guide is the l987 manual, Investigation and 
Prosecution of Child Abuse published by the National Center for the 
Prosecution of Child Abuse.  Some discussion of the problems associated 
with anatomically-detailed dolls in child abuse investigations can be found 
in "Using dolls to interview child victims:  Legal concerns and interview 
procedures," NIJ Research in Action, by Kenneth R. Freeman and Terry 
Estrada-Mullaney, reprinted from NIJ Reports/SNI 207, January/February 
l988.  A review of the dolls' legal issues can be found in "'Real' Dolls 
Too Suggestive," by Debra Cassens Moss, American Bar Association Journal, 
December l, l988.  The ABA Journal also carried another article by Moss in 
its May l, l987 issue, "Are the Children Lying?" which discussed the 
sensationalist daycare center cases.

                        References Cited

Antiwar or Antichrist?  Time, July 3, l989.

B.A.D.D., Dungeons and Dragons, no date, Richmond, VA.

Briggs, E.  Satanic cults said to entice teens with sex, drugs.  
Richmond Times Dispatch, March 5, l988.

Charlier, Tom, and Downing. Shirley.  Justice Abused:  A l980s 
Witch-Hunt.  The Commercial Appeal, January, l988, Memphis. (six-
part series)

Coleman, Lee.  Therapists are the real culprits in many child 
sexual abuse cases.  Augustus, l4 (6): 7-9, l986.

Dager, Albert J.  A Media Spotlight Special Report:  Dungeons and 
Dragons. l980.  Santa Ana, California.

Finkelhor, David; Williams, Linda M., Burns, Nanci.  Nursery 
Crimes:  Sexual Abuse in Day Care.  l988.  Beverly Hills:  Sage 

Jenkins, Philip, and Katkin, Daniel.  Protecting Victims of Child 
Sexual Abuse:  A Case for Caution.  The Prison Journal, 
Fall/Winter l988: 25-35.

Kelley, Susan J.  Ritualistic Abuse of Children:  Dynamics and 
Impact.  Cultic Studies Journal 5(2): 228-236, l988.

Lanning, Kenneth V.  Satanic, Occult, Ritualistic Crime:  A Law 
Enforcement Perspective.  Unpublished ms., l989.  FBI Academy.

Luhrmann, T. M.  Persuasions of the Witch's Craft:  Ritual Magic 
in Contemporary England.  l989.  Cambridge, Massachusetts:  
Harvard University Press.

Lundberg-Love, P.  Update on Cults Part I:  Satanic Cults.  
Family Violence Bulletin 5(2): 9-l0, l989.

Mathews, Jay.  In California, a Question of Abuse.  The 
Washington Post, May 3l, l989.

Medical Licensing Board of Indiana.  Findings of Fact, 
Conclusions of Law and Order, Cause #83MLD038 in the Matter of 
Ruth Bailey, MD.  Filed October 2, l984.

Melton, J. G.  Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America.  l986.  
New York:  Garland Publishing Company.

Office of the Attorney General.  Report on the Kern County Child 
Abuse Investigation.  Sacramento, l986.

Pulling, Patricia A.  The Devil's Web.  l989.  Lafayette, LA:  
Huntington House, Inc.

Russell, Jeffrey Burton.  Mephistopheles:  The Devil in the 
Modern World. l986. Ithaca, New York:  Cornell University Press.

Springston, Rex.  Experts say tales are bunk.  (Two-part 
article).  The Richmond News Leader, April 6-7, l989.

A Parent's Primer on Satanism.  Woman's Day, November 22, l988.

                             - 3 0 -

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