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Satanic abuse no myth, say experts

Source: By Sophie Goodchild, Home Affairs Correspondent

30th Apr 2000

A specially commissioned government report will this week conclude that satanic abuse does take place in Britain. It will say that its victims have suffered actual abuse and are not suffering from "false memory syndrome". The report, ordered by the Department of Health, focuses on the experiences of 50 "survivors". Compiled by Dr John Hale, director of the Portman Clinic in London, and psychotherapist Valerie Sinason, it will reopen the debate which started a decade ago with testimonies from children in Nottingham, Rochdale and Orkney.

Its findings contradict the claims of a report ordered by the Conservative government in 1994, which concluded that satanic abuse was a "myth". It follows the growing concern of child protection agencies, and the Government, over organised child abuse.

Last week, it emerged that police were investigating the alleged sexual and physical abuse of up to 4,000 children in care homes and council-run homes in Devon.

Ms Sinason, who has treated 126 ritual abuse survivors, said yesterday that in many cases children were tortured by being held under water or made to believe they had witnessed the murder of infants as part of the satanic ritual.

"Some children are born for the purpose of abuse and are not registered on birth certificates," she added. "The abusers use trickery to convince children they have taken part in murder. This increases the power of the abuser."

The report will point to the difficulty of bringing prosecutions because of the problems of putting abused children into the witness box. There are currently at least five cases involving ritual abuse in the hands of lawyers.

Lee Moore, a barrister who founded the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, and was himself a victim of ritual abuse, said it was hard to persuade people to give evidence, particularly after the 1994 report claiming satanic abuse was a myth perpetuated by social workers.

The latest report was welcomed by Dr Joan Coleman, a Surrey psychiatrist who has spent 14 years treating victims. "A lot of children are born into satanic families who indulge in this ritual abuse," she said. "It's only now that child sexual abuse is being exposed that people are beginning to believe ritual abuse exists."

The report will be studied by John Hutton, the health department minister with responsibility for child protection. He is expected to order an investigation into its findings.

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