U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Investigator's Guide to Allegations of "Ritual" Child Abuse

NCJ Number
Date Published
46 pages
This analysis of the view that child sexual abuse is often committed by members of satanic cults or other ritualistic groups concludes that this conclusion is questionable and that investigations should focus on the facts while considering alternative explanations.
In the United States the prevailing attitude toward child sexual abuse is denial. In addition, the long-standing stereotype of abusers as complete strangers has been replaced by the view that satanic devil worshipers are victimizing children. Conferences have focused on the subject, although it has been impossible to document the widespread existence of this problem. Alternative explanations for the allegations include pathological distortion due to mental disorders in the victim, traumatic memory, normal childhood fears and fantasy, confusion, trickery, overzealous intervenors, and the spreading of urban legends. Law enforcement personnel should focus on the facts of each case. They should be alert for the four basic dynamics of child sex rings: (1) multiple young victims, (2) multiple offenders, (3) fear as the controlling tactic, and (4) multidimensional rings. However, investigations should keep religious beliefs separate from the investigation, listen to the victims, carefully assess and evaluate the victim's statements, establish communication with the parents, and use an interdisciplinary team approach. 22 references