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     MindNet Journal - Vol. 1, No. 48
     V E R I C O M M / MindNet         "Quid veritas est?"


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Editor: Mike Coyle 

Contributing Editors: Walter Bowart
                      Alex Constantine
                      Martin Cannon

Assistant Editor: Rick Lawler

Research: Darrell Bross


Cultural and Economic Barriers to Protecting Children from
Ritual Abuse and Mind Control

By Catherine Gould, Ph.D.

Dec. 1995


   How are we to understand the phenomenon of ritual abuse
in the 1990's? Throughout the Western world, increasing numbers
of therapists and other helping professionals are hearing
accounts from children as young as two and adults ranging into
the ninth decade of their lives describe mind-numbing accounts of
abuses consisting of sexual sadism and pornography, physical
torture, and highly sophisticated psychological manipulation
which, taken together, we have come to refer to as ritual abuse.
   The evidence is rapidly accumulating that the problem of
ritual abuse is considerable in scope, and extremely grave in its
consequences. Among 2,709 members of the American Psychological
Association who responded to a poll, 2,292 cases of ritual abuse
were reported (Bottoms, Shaver, & Goodman, 1993). In 1992 alone,
Childhelp USA logged 1,741 calls pertaining to ritual abuse,
Monarch Resources of Los Angeles logged approximately 5,000, Real
Active Survivors tallied nearly 3,600, Justus Unlimited of
Colorado received almost 7,000, and Looking Up of Maine handled
around 6,000. Even allowing for some of these calls to have been
made by people who assist survivors but are not themselves
survivors, and for some survivors to have called more that one
helpline or made multiple calls to the same helpline, these
numbers suggest that at a minimum there must be tens of thousands
of survivors of ritual abuse in the United States.
   Evidence also continues to accumulate that the ritual
abuse of children constitutes a child abuse problem of
significant scope. In 1988, Finkelhor, Williams and Burns (1988)
published the results of a nationwide study of substantiated
reports of sexual abuse in day care involving 1,639 young child
victims. Thirteen percent of these cases were found to involve
ritual abuse. Other studies of ritually abused children have been
relatively small. Kelly (1988; 1989; 1992a;  1992b; 1993)
reported on 35 day care victims of ritual abuse, Waterman et al.
(1993) reported on 82 children complaining of ritual abuse in
preschool, Faller (1988; 1990) studied 18 children who had
disclosed ritual abuse in their preschool, and Bybee and Mowbray
(1993) from the Michigan State Department of Mental Health
identified 62 children alleging ritual abuse in their preschool
and 53 children who reported seeing others be ritually abused.
Snow and Sorenson (1990) studied 39 children reporting ritual
abuse in five neighborhoods in Utah, and Jonker and Jonker-Bakker
(1991) reported on a total group of 98 children, at least 48 of
whom were believed to be victims of ritual abuse. The latter case
is the only one cited here which was conducted outside of the
United States.
   Unfortunately, these statistics tell us little about the
actual prevalence of child ritual abuse. Much more telling are
the data these researchers have collected regarding the effects
of ritual abuse on child victims. In Faller's (1994) review of
the literature from which these studies are drawn, most of the
studies which were selected included a control group of children
with sexual abuse histories but no reports of ritual abuse. It is
very telling that in every case in which the symptomatology of
the ritually abused children was compared to the symptomatology
of the sexually abused children, the ritually abused children
showed considerably more symptoms of trauma.
   In the Finkelhor et al. (1988) study, ritually abused
children showed significantly more symptoms of trauma than did
sexually abused children. Kelly (1988; 1989; 1992a; 1992b; 1993)
showed that ritually abused children had significantly higher
scores on the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist than did
sexually abused children, indicating more severe symptomatology
on the part of the children who had been ritually abused.
Waterman et al. (1993) found that both therapists and parents
rated ritually abused children as showing more behavioral
symptoms on the Achenbach than sexually abused children. Other
assessment instruments used in this study found ritually abused
children to function less well at the time of termination from
therapy than did sexually abused children. Faller (1990) found
that more ritually abused children than sexually abused children
suffered from sleep, emotional, and behavioral problems, as well
as phobias and problems with sexual acting out.
   A great deal of literature has been amassed on the often
extreme and debilitating effects of child sexual abuse on its
victims, effects which may last a lifetime. To have four
comparative studies as methodologically sound as the ones
presented above all illustrating that ritual abuse causes even
greater effects on child victims than does sexual abuse should
give us as a nation serious pause. The data reflecting the grave
consequences of ritual abuse on children has been coming in for
over five years now. Yet we, a nation with mandated child abuse
reporting and computerized accounts of numbers of children
reported to have been sexually, physically, and emotionally
abused each year, still have no systematic means of collecting
data on numbers of children reported to have been ritually
abused! We could, relatively easily and for minimal expense,
obtain statistics on the number of cases of ritual child abuse
being reported in the United States each year simply by adding
one additional category on the child abuse reporting forms which
mandated reporters must complete when they file a child abuse
   Given the accumulation of data illustrating not only that
children reporting ritual abuse are profoundly negatively
impacted by those experiences, but that they are even more
severely impacted that are child victims of sexual abuse, how can
we give any weight at all to the skeptical position that ritual
abuse memories are no more that screen memories for incest
experiences that are actually worse, suppressed from awareness
and replaced by accounts of impossibly bizarre rituals? If
children claiming to be ritually abused were in fact sexually
abused only, then clearly their symptomatology should be similar
to and no more serious than that of sexually abused children.
   The psychological condition of ritually abused children
matches the accounts they give of what has been done to them not
only in the severity of their symptomatology, but also in its
particulars. That is to say, not only do ritually abused children
appear more disturbed than sexually abused children on
traditional instruments like the Achenbach, they also demonstrate
symptoms which relate in direct and obvious ways to the abuse
experiences they describe. For example, because ritual abuse
usually involves traumatic confinement, ritually abused children
often fear elevators, closets, and other small spaces. Because
these children have often had urine and feces smeared on their
bodies and put in their mouths, they may smear themselves or
others with urine or feces, or develop phobias of the bathroom.
Because many of these children have witnessed torture and
killing, and have been threatened with death of themselves and
their loved ones, they often fear that they or their family
members will be killed. And so on. (See Gould, 1992 for a more
complete account of the symptomatology that characterizes
ritually abused children). The nature as well as the severity of
ritually abused children's symptomatology gives eloquent and
tragic testimony to the fact that ritual abuse does indeed exist,
in all the horror described by its victims, both young and old.
   Perhaps no skeptic has done more to obfuscate the issue
of ritual abuse than Kenneth Lanning of the FBI, who for years
has maintained that no substantive evidence exists for the
reality of ritual abuse (Lanning, 1991). (As investigative
journalist Civia Tamarkin has noted, for decades the FBI also
told the American public that the Mafia did not exist in the
United States (1991)). "No bodies...No adult witnesses," as
Parenting magazine put it so succinctly, and so erroneously in
their March 1994 article "The Satanism Scare" (Ruben, 1994).
And why do accounts like the ones given by the 37 ritually abused
adults in the Young et al. (1991) study, and the 14 ritually
abused families in the Kelly (1992a) study, of group sexual
assaults, human sacrifice, forced cannibalism and the like not
constitute eyewitness accounts to so-called experts like Lanning?
   I am personally aware of scores of adult survivors with
memories of ritual crimes (contrary to the position of many
skeptics, most of these memories were retrieved without hypnosis
or chemical assistance; many were in fact retrieved outside of
therapy) who have made concerted attempts to bring these crimes
to the attention of law enforcement. The vast majority of these
survivor accounts have been met with absolute indifference and
inaction on the part of local law enforcement agencies, as well
as the FBI, who might reasonably be expected to investigate the
charges of interstate trafficking of children and pornography
which are commonly made by ritual abuse survivors.
   Not only do skeptics such as Lanning choose to ignore
eyewitness/victim accounts of ritual criminal activity, they
apparently also choose to overlook the significant number of
cases of ritual abuse in which perpetrators have confessed to
their crimes. In the Bottoms et al. (1991; 1993) study of 2,292
cases of ritual abuse, perpetrators in 30% of the child cases
confessed to abusing one or more children, and perpetrators in
15% of adult cases confessed to perpetrating as well. In the case
studied by Snow and Sorenson (1990), two adolescent perpetrators
admitted to charges of abuse. Both of these sets of data require
further analysis to determine which acts of ritual abuse were
confessed to by what number of perpetrators.
   Corroboration and eyewitness accounts offered by children
should also be given serious attention when therapists and
investigators can demonstrate that no contamination of the
children's disclosures has taken place. In the case studied by
Jonker and Jonker-Bakker (1991), children from different schools
and different locales gave accounts of perpetrators, abuse
locations, and abusive acts that were mutually corroborating.
Accounts of tunnels under the McMartin preschool given by
children claiming to have been ritually abused at the school were
fully corroborated when the existence and location of the tunnels
were documented by a professional team of archaeologists (Summit,
   If it were not enough to have a substantial amount of
data from well-controlled studies demonstrating the grave
psychological impact which ritual abuse has on children, to have
eyewitness accounts of significant numbers of adult and child
survivors, to have perpetrator confessions of ritual abuse
crimes, and to have a whole variety of types of corroboration of
children's accounts of ritual abuse, the number of ritual abuse
cases in which criminal convictions have been obtained should
certainly put to rest any remaining questions about the existence
of ritual abuse. It has become fashionable in the last several
years for the media to minimize and even dissemble about the data
which so strongly support the existence of ritual abuse.
Amazingly, this has happened even in relation to ritual abuse
cases in which criminal convictions have been obtained. Parenting
magazine (Ruben, 1994), for example, asserted that "far more
cases (of ritual abuse) end in acquittal" than in conviction.
   In fact, 58% of the ritual abuse cases in the Finkelhor
(1988) study that went to trial resulted in convictions. In the
Kelly (1992b) study, convictions were obtained in 80% of the
ritual and sexual abuse cases combined; since there were no
significant differences between the rates of criminal conviction
in these two groups, we can surmise that convictions were
obtained in approximately 80% of the ritual abuse cases Kelly
studied. Finally, and most significant given the thousands of
cases studied, convictions were obtained in 11% of all ritual
child abuse cases studied by Bottoms et al. (1991; 1993). All
three sets of data need to be further analyzed to determine in
which cases acts of ritual abuse other than child sexual abuse
per se were entered into the court record, and on which charges
the perpetrators were convicted.
   It is because ritual abuse cases are being seen in
greater numbers in courtrooms across the United States, and
convictions are being obtained, that one by one states are
passing laws against crimes that occur virtually exclusively
within the context of ritual abuse. In September of this year,
California became the sixth state in the country to pass a law
against specific acts of ritual abuse.
   How can it be that, with significant numbers of criminal
convictions of perpetrators of ritual abuse and laws against
ritual abuse on the books in a growing number of states, with the
clinical data amassed by thousands of therapists in the United
States and internationally, with physical evidence like the
tunnels found under the McMartin preschool corroborating
children's reports of abuse, that we cannot reach a consensus
that ritual abuse constitutes a serious problem for us as a
nation, and demands to be addressed? Why is it that media
accounts of ritual abuse are often filled with so much
obfuscation that the public is left wondering whether ritual
abuse might not in fact be the "urban myth" or "mass hysteria"
that certain skeptics have made a virtual career out of saying
that it is?
   I propose that there are two major factors at work in
this elaborate national dance of deception and denial. The first
is economic, and the second sociocultural. The economic reasons
for the denial and minimization of ritual abuse are in one sense
obvious. Survivors of ritual abuse, especially those far enough
along in their recoveries to have moved through the horrific
memories of group sexual assaults and bloody sacrifices, usually
find that underneath those traumatic ritual memories is a
previously dissociated knowledge of having served the
cult/perpetrator group in ways that are unambiguously economic.
For example, women survivors often discover that they have served
as prostitutes for the cult, sometimes since childhood, and
frequently for little or no financial compensation. Within the
frame of the cult-created Multiple personality disorder
(Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID, in the new diagnostic
nomenclature) from which most ritual abuse victims suffer, the
core personality in such a survivor usually knows nothing of her
cult involvement or of her cult "job". In other words, her core
personality does not wonder why her work as a prostitute never
earns her any money, because she has no idea that she (or, more
accurately, one of her alters) is prostituting. The alter who
works as a prostitute does so because she has been programmed to
function in this manner, usually from early childhood, with
extreme torture, and knows no other way of life. (See Neswald,
1991 and Gould & Cozolino, 1992 for a more complete description
of how ritual abuse deliberately creates alters programmed to
serve particular cult functions).
   Survivors of ritual abuse who I have treated, or on whose
cases I have consulted, have also discovered that they have
worked for the cult/perpetrator group as bookkeepers and money
launderers, as drug dealers and couriers, as pornography
subjects, as programmers/torturers of children, as computer
programmers, as investment specialists, as legal advisers, and
even as government agents, always outside the conscious awareness
of their core personalities. Rarely has a case come to my
attention in which the survivor was well paid for her
contributions to the financial advancement of the
cult/perpetrator group which she (unconsciously) served. Most
often as the survivor accesses the memories that are buried under
countless layers of torture trauma, she has to contend not only
with the rude awakening that since birth she has lived a life of
unspeakable pain and horror outside her conscious awareness, but
also that she has been literally enslaved to a perpetrator group,
since her activities have been dictated by others and enacted
outside her own free will, with little or no financial
remuneration. In fact, survivors who have generated sometimes
millions of dollars for their perpetrator groups, often are
virtually penniless when they come to therapy, and are treated
for very low fees.
   When we understand the fact that ritual abuse is usually
perpetrated by groups which are deeply involved in organized
crime, the underlying incentives of these cult/perpetrator groups
becomes clear. While ritual abuse is certainly an integral part
of some kinds of satanism, it is  most likely that the deeper
reason for the prevalence of ritual abuse is that, simply put, it
reliably creates a group of people who function as unpaid slaves
to the perpetrator group. Because their core personalities are
amnestic to their cult activities, these ritual abuse victims
pose little threat to their controllers. Without extensive
therapeutic help, cult victims are usually unaware that they work
for the cult/perpetrator group  and are therefore incapable of
contemplating quitting their cult jobs. Neither can they turn
higher-ups in to the authorities for their criminal activities,
since they have little or no conscious access to information
about what activities they or their superiors are involved in.
   Clearly, the groups who create these unpaid subjugates
have considerable economic incentive to do so. How much money do
these groups actually generate, and is it enough to impact the
culture at the level of, say, media-created public opinion? This,
of course, is the cloudy part of the economic argument for why
ritual abuse is as widespread as it is, in families and in
preschools, and why we as a society have been so slow to
recognize and respond to the seriousness of this problem. It is
by definition difficult to know who belongs to groups whose
membership is highly secretive, especially when many of the
membership themselves are amnestic to their involvement.
Therefore, it is difficult to assess the degree to which members
of these groups influence media accounts of ritual abuse, derail
ritual abuse investigations by law enforcement, are instrumental
in getting children complaining of intrafamilial ritual abuse
sent back to an abusing parent, or hire officials to make public
statements on behalf of a national law enforcement bureau to the
effect that no substantial evidence of ritual abuse exists.
   No doubt it will take serious, well-coordinated efforts
on the part of local and national law enforcement to gather the
data that will be needed to know how powerful and deeply
entrenched these ritually abusing, criminally involved groups
actually are. In the meantime, we as a nation must examine how
deep our commitment to child protection really is. Mothers
Against Sexual Abuse (MASA), headquartered in Los Angeles,
continues to find, despite vigorous efforts at change, that
judges across the country are more likely to award custody to
fathers than to mothers, even when the child has complained of
abuse by the father and those complaints have been substantiated
by psychological or medical findings. I am personally aware of
dozens of cases across the United States in which a child has
disclosed severe maltreatment in the form of ritual abuse in a
preschool, and the case has never been properly investigated,
other parents with children in attendance at the school have
never been notified, the school has not been closed down, and no
charges have been filed. Organizations like Believe The Children
of Chicago are aware of cases like these numbering well into the
   In both intrafamilial and extrafamilial child abuse cases
like those described above, the more extreme and ritualized the
abuse, the less likely the child is to be granted protection and
the perpetrators are to be apprehended. Clearly this has to do
exclusively with cultural bias, not what is in the best interests
of the child, since, as the research makes amply clear, the
negative impact of ritual abuse on the child is extremely grave.
   In my opinion, we in the United States deny the reality
and seriousness of ritual abuse, especially as it impacts on
children, in part because it threatens our images of ourselves as
Americans. The thinking of the skeptic often goes something like
this. Hideous crimes involving torture and mine control "don't
happen here." They happen in third world countries, which do
not have the freedoms "guaranteed" by our democratic form of
government. There would be no purpose served by having a fascist
type of group torture United States Citizens, as this kind of
terrorization is designed to overthrow an existing government,
and ours by its very design cannot be overthrown. And certainly
there would be no purpose served in torturing children. Since
they don't vote and don't form coalitions of any kind, extremist
groups would have no interest in coercing them into
socio-political compliance.
   What this argument misses is the fact that, when mind
control is put into place with very young children, through the
torturous programming that is the essence of ritual abuse, then
reinforced and further developed as the child victims get older,
by the time those children reach adolescence and adulthood they
have become valuable resources for the perpetrator group to
exploit. That exploitation may or may not be political, but it
is certainly economic. To fully grasp this at a cultural level
requires the general public to come to grips with a level of
understanding of human nature still barely comprehended within
the mental health community; that is, that the normative
response to severe trauma, especially in early childhood, is
dissociation and amnesia for the traumatic events, and that this
response can be manipulated by sociopaths and programmed cult
members to create individuals amnestic to both their traumatic
histories and their behaviors in the world of abuse and
criminality into which their alter personalities have been
   Until law enforcement personnel, public policy makers,
the judiciary, the child protection system and others who are
involved with the protection of children and the betterment of
society come to understand this new paradigm, ritual abuse is
likely to continue to be minimized in both its scope, its
impact, and the insidious way it has of multiplying when left
unchecked. The paradigm shift which will need to take place in
order to provide truly effective treatment for ritual abuse
victims, and in order to successfully curb this extreme form of
brutality in our culture is certain to be a difficult one to
achieve. (See Gould & Graham-Costain (1994a; 1994b) for an
account of treatment guidelines for ritually abused children). It
calls into question not only the belief most Americans have that
systematic brutality on a large scale does not and cannot exist
in this country, but also our belief that we operate from our
free will, and that that freedom of thought and action is
   To become fully aware of just how vulnerable to utter
violation and manipulation that free will really is when
sociopaths and programmed cult victim members are allowed access
to children demands that we put far greater efforts into
safeguarding our children's welfare than we ever dreamed would be
necessary. The price tag emotionally and financially for putting
that awareness into practice will be very high indeed. But the
price of ignoring or minimizing the impact of ritual abuse on our
children and on our society will surely prove intolerable.


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ritualistic and religion-related abuse allegations in the United
States. Paper presented at the ninety-ninth annual convention of
the American Psychological Association, San Francisco, August.

Bottoms, B., Shaver, P., & Goodman, G. (1993). Profile of
ritualistic and religion-related abuse allegations in the United
States. Updated findings provide via personal communication from
B. Bottoms. Cited in  K.C. Faller (1994). Ritual Abuse: A Review
of the Research. The American Professional Society on the Abuse
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Bybee, D. & Mowbray, C. (1993). An analysis of allegations of
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Faller, K.C. (1990). Sexual abuse of children in cults: A medical
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