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


NCJ Number
School Intervention Report Volume: 7 Issue: 1 Dated: (Fall 1993) Pages: 1- 10
B Bradway
Date Published
10 pages
Ritual sexual abuse of children causes severe psychological effects, but the prevalence of such abuse is difficult to estimate because many child victims and adult survivors do not publicly acknowledge they were abused.
Children who are sexually abused may be subjected to emotional and physical sadism. The abuse may occur in the home or in other settings such as day care centers, and ritual sexual abuse may have religious overtones. Ritual sexual abuse cases are especially difficult to prosecute. If the abuse occurs in a group situation, the sheer magnitude of the cases creates problems. In addition, the manner in which children perceive and remember reality makes it easy for offenders to commit acts that confuse and intimidate them. Ritual sexual abuse has been categorized according to three types: cult-based ritual abuse when sexual abuse is used to induce a mystical or religious experience in the abuser; pseudo-ritual abuse to exploit children through psychological, sadistic intimidation and to inhibit their disclosure of abuse; and psychopathological ritual abuse stemming from an obsessive, sadistic individual rather than from a group concerned with religious or other experiences. Many sexual abuse victims indicate that they may not be believed if they report abuse, that they may be labeled as crazy, and that the offender may retaliate against them. Further, survivors of ritual sexual abuse often develop multiple personality disorders. Other psychological symptoms of child victims and adult survivors include suicidal or homicidal urges, eating disorders, substance abuse, and low self-esteem. Studies show that ritual sexual abuse is often initiated by family members and sometimes by day care providers. The role of therapists in helping ritual sexual abuse survivors is discussed, as well as difficulties associated with child testimony in court. 15 references