Satanic Ritual Abuse (hereafter "SRA") encompasses an array of definitions continuing to be highly controversial in scope, etiology, and reality vs. distortion. The controversy is fueled by two camps differenting in interpretation with smaller contingents somewhere in between. On one end are supporters of the existence of SRA evidenced by their reports of past abuse as survivors and documented sexual crimes against children.
Those who subscribe to contemporary SRA believe this phenomenon includes both genuine and intimidation based staged satanic worship. On the other end of the spectrum law enforcement professionals, academies, mental health experts, and social scientists debunk many of these claims espoused by devotees of SRA episodes. The remaining experts and SRA investigators share theories combining the two camps into their own interpretations.
Although these two camps vehemently disagree on the etiology and existence of SRA, all concur predators exist which actively prey on children for sexual and / or distorted beliefs. 99.9% of SRA dynamics are hotly debated, but the population of victims being children, women, and animals are never disputed. SRA & Ritual Abuse (hereafter "RA") survivors, involved loved ones, supporting experts, and supporting survivor advocates identify this form of child sexual abuse as close to pure evil as the human condition permits.
One of the most prolific and astute investigators on child sexual abuse, RA, child victimization, and SRA is David Finkelhor Ph.D. Dr. Finkelhor is Professor of Sociology at the University of New Hampshire. In addition to educating young minds, he is director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, an administrator for the Family Research Laboratory, and author and / or contributor to countless books, journal articles, and investigative studies. Since approaching his doctoral degree in 1977, Dr. Finkelhor has focused his brilliance on child victimization, child sexual abuse, pediatric homicide, abducted and missing children and family violence. His verbalized primary endeavor is to one day empirically validating child sexual abuse is widespread and painfully affecting children from all parts of the globe.
Child Victimization (Oxford University Press, 2/6/08), is one of Dr. Finkelhor's greatest achievements as an author to date. In this treatise, he combines and integrates his knowledge and experiences in a conceptual construct he coined Developmental Victimology. Under his concept of Developmental Victimology, he incorporates all forms of child victimization into a unified analysis for education, treatment, and prevention professionals. A brief review of his curriculum vitae posted at the University of New Hampshire's website exemplifies his accomplishments on child sexual abuse and pediatric victimization.
Regarding SRA and RA, from 1986 to 1989. Finkelhor devised and implemented a study in day care agencies nation wide. At the time, SRA was frequently covered by national media, involved in court room battles, and rampant through the country and abroad. It was Dr. Finkelhor and his colleagues who devised a methodology to assess whether RA and SRA were real criminal events or dramatic hoax. Their research was funded by the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect and results were published in the book Nursery Crimes: Sexual Abuse in Day Care (Sage Publications, January, 1988) coauthored by Linda M. Williams, and contributions by Nanci Burns.
In an executive summary of their findings, Dr. Finkelhor reported RA was defined as abuse involving supernatural symbols, activities, and religious themes. He estimated 13% of children found to be abused in the study were actively victimized using elements of RA. Given the diversity and complexity of RA and SRA, Dr. Finkelhor and his colleagues moved to subdivide the cases into three categories. Of the 13%, all had engaged in child abuse but their profiles and motivations were something different. He and his team determined the perpetrators modus operandi entailed different themes.
A. True cult-based ritualism, B. Pseudo-ritualism, and C. Psychological ritualism. Although his initial research query for the national study was to determine if day care agencies were high risk environments for children, his results and categorization of SRA / RA were valuable. As an expert sociologist with impossible credentials, Dr. Finkelhor introduced to the SRA / RA industry three faces of Satanic Ritual Abuse. Although criticized for his data collection, Dr. Finkelhor and his associates created specifically defined segments with a nomenclature describing their motivations.
1) His first category was defined as True Cult-Based Ritualism. This segment of SRA included children who were abused as fodder honoring a larger spiritual being. Because this segment engaged in spiritual pursuits, victimization involved others adding the goal of a social objective as well. Of the 13% of alleged RA episodes, this category of cult based involved perpetrators was engaged in child victimization for spiritual, metaphysical, and / or religious based belief systems.
This segment of offenders included spiritual and paranormal components and occurred in a social group dynamic more than the other offenders. These assailants were not suffering from psychiatric illness or sexually motivated, but engaged in these heinous acts for religious / spiritual devotion.
2) The second category defined by Dr. Finkelhor was perpetrators engaged in what he defined as Psuedo-Ritualism. Of the three categories he subdivided, these assailants were true sociopaths and psychopaths motivated by the goal of sexual gratification and sadistic fantasy. For these deviant predators, their theater of spiritual, paranormal, and religious murals were elements of planned intimidation tactics.
In addition to sexually abusing their pediatric victims physically, they are relatively experienced gratification from sadistic psychological victimization. As predator sociopaths victimize others void of remorse, they also implement tactics and strategies increasing the victim's level of fear reducing their potential of disclosing the abuse to an adult or loved one.
3) The third and possibly easiest profile to conceptualize as a psychiatrist is Dr. Finkelhor's category of perpetrators is defined as engaging in Psychological Ritualism. Unlike the perpetrator motivated by spiritual connection with social objectives or the sociopath seeking sexual gratification, this segment of ritual abuse perpetrators are engaged in a severe psychiatric illness (s) fueling their distorted motivations to abuse children.
Although not as sociopathic as the other two groups, these individuals are still just as dangerous, volatile, and highly unpredictable. According to Dr. Finkelhor, he summarized their psychiatric disabilities were either dictated by an obsessive compulsive condition and / or a thought disordered delusional process.
The three faces of Satanic Ritual Abuse conceptualized by Dr. Finkelhor created a brief moment of clarity for some experts working in the field attempting to assist the mind and motivations of the adult predator. Although his initial query was to assess risk potential for children attending day care agencies, he and his team became part of the violent controversies fostered the supporters and detractors of whether SRA and RA were contemporary forms of victimization.
Almost 25 years have passed since he and his colleagues begin investigating child sexual abuse and risk potential at day care agencies. Despite the passage of time, his extrapolation of the three faces of Satanic Ritual Abuse still to this day remains as relevant as ever.
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Michael Nuccitelli, Psy.