Thursday, June 25, 2009

Satanic Ritual Abuse...For Kids?

I don't talk about the Satanic Panic on here as much as I'd like to, mostly because I'm a little bit late to the party as far as debunking it goes, but I think it's one of the most fascinating periods of recent American history. I own a number of a books about the Satanism scare and its kissing cousin the repressed memory movement, and until recently they all had one thing in common: they were all written by skeptics. Don't panic - I haven't suddenly become some kind of True Believer! It's just that, as informative as authors like Loftus, Victor, Pendergrast, Nathan, and Campbell are, they can only go so far when it comes to explaining the mindset of the folks who actually promulgated the wild claims that gripped the U.S. in the 1980s and 90s.

As such, I've recently started buying up books written by the proponents and True Believers of the satanism/ritual abuse scare. Right now this part of my collection is fairly small and is highlighted by Pat Pulling's fantastically hyperbolic anti-Dungeons & Dragons screed The Devil's Web. All that may soon change. I've just ordered a copy of perhaps the most seedy and exploitative work of the era. No, no, it's not The Courage to Heal, Ellen Bass and Laura Davis' black bible of victimhood that served as the cornerstone of the recovered memory movement. It's not even Michelle Remembers, the thoroughly fictitious "true story" that bridged the gap between the recovered memory movement and the ritual abuse panic.

The book is Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy, a 28-page children's picture book about Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA). It was written and illustrated in 1990 by Doris Sanford* and Graci Evans, who have also collaborated on such books the Hurts of Childhood Series, a noble-minded set of books meant to help children deal with things like parental alcoholism and entering foster care. To be fair, these ladies seem to have good hearts and an honest compassion for the intended audience of their books, but Please Don't Make Go Back, Mommy was a vehicle for harm rather than healing.

The children who became swept up in SRA cases tended to vehemently deny that anything had happened to them when initially approached by investigators and only made "disclosures" after hours of cajoling interviews filled with leading questions. It is apparent from both taped interviews of children by SRA proponents and statements made by accusers who later recanted that the kids involved often molded their accusations to fit the expectations of the investigators involved in the interview process. (See Victims of Memory by Mark Pendergrast and Smoke and Mirrors: The Devastating Effects of False Sexual Abuse Claims by Terrence Campbell.) The kids, isolated from their usual supports and surrounded by imposing authority figures, often became more interested in giving the "right" answers than telling the truth and (surprise, surprise) these "right answers" tended to fit the expectations of the interviewer. These expectations, in turn, were molded by what became the cultural narrative of SRA - sadistic sex practices, bestiality, incest, animal sacrifice, genital mutilation and a potpourri of other creepy stuff. Books like Satan's Underground, Michelle Remembers, and The Satan Seller** laid out this narrative for adults. Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy lays it out for children, minus the most prurient stuff. It provides a framework for SRA accusations and, I suspect, helped more than one child guess the "correct" answers in an interview that would eventually be used against an innocent adult.

There aren't a lot of copies of Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy floating around out there (Supposedly less than 8,000 copies were ever printed.), which is probably for the best except that it's impossible to find quotes and pictures from it online. I plan to alleviate this - When it arrives I'll do a much more thorough review and probably post a few scans.

* I've heard stories that Lauren Stratford, the author of the allegedly autobiographical horror tale Satan's Underground (and who was later outed as a fraud by the Christian magazine Cornerstone), actually penned the text of this book, but as far as I know that's just a rumor.
** All of which were eventually unmasked as fraudulent accounts.

1 comment:

Three Ninjas said...

I used to work for the publishing company that did Satan's Underground and its sequel. The publisher was not convinced it was true.

That's all, I have nothing substantive to add.