The Role of Ritual in the Organised Abuse of Children
Michael Salter 13 NOV 2012 Child Abuse Review Vol. 21 Issue 5
Over the last 30 years, allegations of ritual child sexual abuse have emerged from child protection cases and legal proceedings and from adults and children in psychotherapy. These allegations have been met with disbelief from many practitioners and academics. Children and adults disclosing ritual abuse continue to present in a range of circumstances and recent substantiations of ritual abuse allegations call for a grounded analysis of their claims. This paper is based on qualitative interviews with 16 adults who described experiencing ritual abuse in childhood. They described the ways in which sexually abusive groups generated shared rationales of religious or mythological justifications for organised abuse. Participants were forced to internalise these rationales in degrading and dehumanising ordeals, whereupon they became active in facilitating their own abuse and/or the abuse of others. Ritual abuse can therefore be conceptualised as a device or strategy that enjoins the participation of victims in organised abuse whilst simultaneously accomplishing exculpation for perpetrators.
“The evidence base for ritual abuse is complex, including successful convictions in child sex prosecutions where ritual abuse was alleged, and a range of studies documenting long-term and serious psychological harm amongst children and adults disclosing organised and ritual abuse (for a summary, see Noblitt and Perskin, 2000, chapter 6). In recent years, ritual abuse has been substantiated in criminal investigations in North America (for newspaper reports, see Gyan, 2010; Lemoine, 2008a, 2008b), the UK and Europe (de Bruxelles, 2011; Kelly, 1998), and it has been documented in African and European child trafficking networks (International Organization of Migration, 2001). A recent resurgence in publications on ritual abuse highlights that adults and children are continuing to disclose ritual abuse in a variety of settings (Epstein et al., 2011; Noblitt and Perskin-Noblitt, 2008; Sachs and Galton, 2008; Sarson and MacDonald, 2008).”
This analysis of survivors’ accounts of ritual abuse has shown how rituals serve as legitimising practices within organised abuse. In participants’ accounts, abusive groups utilised ritual practices to generate a private discourse about the righteous domination of abusive men over women and children, a discourse often marked with references to the ‘natural’ or ‘supernatural’ order. In this context, ritualistic practices were not simply a deviant form of religious activity, but rather they served to imbue organised abuse with metaphysical or religious overtones, thereby recasting sexual abuse as a masculine right, even a duty, rather than as a practice of control and power. The internal and private discourses of abusive groups, with their copious mentions of Satan, magical powers and eternal damnation, may appear jarringly naive and even garish to those unfamiliar with the abusive contexts in which they have arisen. However, for victims of ritual abuse, they invoke a metaphysical order in which they are required to submit to further abuse and torture. Within traumatic rituals in which they were forced into contact with a range of taboo substances, participants’ views of themselves ultimately came to accord with the view of their abusers. In accordance with the mythos of the abusive group, they came to view themselves as polluted and contaminated vessels whose lot was to endure ongoing abuse and violence at the hands of men who claimed a natural or supernatural mandate to do so.”
Lawyer alleges church cover-up as late as 2005
By Suzanne Smith Wed Nov 14, 2012
The senior lawyer who reviewed the Catholic Church’s Towards Healing protocols says the church was still covering up sexual abuse as late as 2005.
Professor Patrick Parkinson was cited by Cardinal George Pell as the man who had reviewed the church’s protocols on two occasions and had given them his tick of approval.
But Professor Parkinson has told Lateline he has withdrawn his support for the protocol because the church failed to take action over clergy who do not comply.
He alleges a church cover-up as late as 2005 put children at risk.
And he says the church behaviour alleged by New South Wales Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox and Victorian police amounts to “organised criminality”.
Responding to the announcement of a royal commission into institutionalised child sexual abuse, Cardinal Pell drew on the authority of Professor Parkinson.
“We follow the Towards Healing procedures here in Sydney. They were set in place in early 1997. They have been twice reviewed by Professor Parkinson, one of the leading authorities in the area,” Cardinal Pell said.
“Since 1997 one of the significant protocols that’s in place is, [it's] completely prohibited to shift priests who have been charged, to shift them around.
“If and where that has been done, that is against the protocols.”
Professor Parkinson was involved in regularly reviewing the Towards Healing protocol up until 2009.
He says he no longer supports the document, or the church body that it established to investigate any failures.
“My disagreement with the Catholic Church has been that I have challenged them over failures to comply with the letter and spirit of the protocols,” he said.
“As a matter of integrity I could no longer support the National Committee of Professional Standards while there was a gap between their rhetoric and their actions.”