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Ritual Child Abuse: Where Do We Go From Here?

NCJ Number
Children's Legal Rights Journal Volume: 12 Issue: 1 Dated: (Winter 1991) Pages: 12-18
D W Lloyd
Date Published
7 pages
The phenomenon of ritualistic child abuse has created a major national controversy since cases have been prosecuted in California, New Jersey, Florida, and other States.
The media have publicized opinions ranging from alarm at the possibility of a national conspiracy of groups that abuse children to total disbelief, even when defendants have been convicted of physically and sexually assaulting children. This divergence of views is equally widespread among professionals. Experts in child welfare, mental health, law enforcement, and law disagree about the definition of ritualistic child abuse, how frequently it occurs, and what is known about individuals and groups who commit it. Defining ritualistic child abuse should be a priority, since no adequate definition has evolved that represents a consensus of professionals. Anthropologists and sociologists should carefully review the applicability of existing knowledge about cults and groups that allegedly abuse children. Investigative roles of the police, child protective services, mental health therapists, child care licensing agencies, and prosecutors should be clarified. States and communities should conduct interagency investigations of "macro" cases, using guidelines such as those developed by the Los Angeles County Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse or Neglect. A clinical syndrome for forensic evaluation of ritualistic child abuse should be developed, and accounts of adults who claim to have experienced ritualistic abuse as children should be evaluated. 26 references