‘Neither proved nor disproved’: The slippery nature of SRA claims

Yesterday we talked about the “UK godmother” of Satanic ritual abuse claims, Valerie Sinason. We noted that in February 2000, following Jean La Fontaine’s solid debunking of the notion of SRA in the UK, The Guardian reported that Ms Sinason and her colleague at the Tavistock Clinic, Dr Robert Hale, mounted a counter-offensive:

Fresh controversy over the existence of satanic or ritual child abuse erupted yesterday when it emerged that two psycho-therapists received a £22,000 government grant to produce evidence of the practice.

The author of an official report which found no evidence of satanic abuse, and was said by the then health secretary to have proved it a myth, dismissed the new research as “ludicrous”.

Concern over ritual abuse arose in the early 1990s following controversies in Nottingham, Rochdale and the Orkneys. Jean La Fontaine, an anthropologist, was commissioned by the department of health to investigate alleged cases.

Of 84 cases reviewed in her 1994 report, none was considered satanic and three found to have shown any evidence of ritual. Virginia Bottomley, the then Conservative health secretary, declared that the report had exposed satanic abuse as a myth.

It was yesterday confirmed, however, that Valerie Sinason and Rob Hale, who were leading critics of the report, had subsequently received £22,000 from the health department to document evidence of ritual abuse from the reported experiences of their patients.

Ms Sinason, who is based at the Tavistock clinic in London with Dr Hale, who is also a psychiatrist, said 46 of her patients claimed to have witnessed murder of children or adults during ritual abuse ceremonies that had involved up to 300 people at a time. Some 70% of the reported abuse was carried out by paedophiles and the rest by satanists.

Interviewed on BBC radio, Prof La Fontaine accused Ms Sinason of being “out of her depth” and unable to produce any hard evidence for her beliefs. “It’s depressing to find someone who has a position at leading London hospitals who is so cut off from what research methodology is, and what rational evidence is.”

A health department spokeswoman said Ms Sinason and Dr Hale were expected to submit their report, which had the status of a pilot study, in the spring.

The Sinason/Hale report, which the Department of Health originally stated would be a “pilot study”, failed to appear as scheduled. In fact, it was never released at all, though a few bits were leaked to the red-tops, and were pounced upon by true believers in SRA, as evidence of their most lurid imaginings.

A year later Jeremy Laurence, health reporter for The Independent, reported:

Once again…allegations of ritual abuse have turned out to rest on very little. A year ago, Valerie Sinason appeared on Radio 4’s Today programme claiming she had “clinical evidence” of babies who had not been registered at birth being involved in ritual abuse. The implication was that the babies had been conceived and raised secretly for use in rituals that sometimes ended in their sacrifice.

Most experts poured scorn on these claims and pointed out they could do serious harm by their very outlandishness – by making the whole of child abuse seem less likely and easier to dismiss. But they gained a measure of credence because Ms Sinason had been commissioned by the Department of Health, together with a colleague Dr Robert Hale, to write a report detailing her findings, which was submitted to the department last July.

I contacted the health department to ask what had happened to Ms Sinason’s report and ask for a comment. What I received, by e-mail, was one of the longest and most carefully worded statements I can remember receiving.

The health department said, in summary, that they had received the report by Dr Hale and Ms Sinason, submitted it to peer review and returned it to the authors with reviewers’ comments. They had no plans to publish it. They also cited separate research that they had commissioned from Professor Joan La Fontaine of the London School of Economics, who found “no independent material evidence” to support allegations of “Satanic child abuse and devil worship”.

The coup de grace came in the final paragraph:

“In the Government’s view, the conclusion of the study they commissioned by Professor La Fontaine … has not been rendered invalid by Dr Hale and Valerie Sinason’s study.”

In other words, the claims about Satanic abuse are a load of tosh. To my knowledge, this is the first official declaration by a government department to this effect.

So what happened to the Sinason/Hale study?

Yesterday, HR commenter YdychyncachuTracey kindly provided us with a link to all 12 pages of it (nine pages of actual text, plus tables, references, etc.).

You can read it on this link; we hope you’ll be as impressed and astounded as we were.

Neither proved nor disproved?

Early on in the report, Sinason and Hale state that “this kind of abuse is rarer than other kinds” and that “an even smaller number of cases of this kind of abuse have entered the legal process”. They allow that this could be explained by the fact that no corroborative evidence exists, or that such evidence does exist, but “adequate methods of establishing its validity do not exist”, or that “current views on the status of such abuse hinders investigation”.

In other words, if people don’t believe in SRA, they can’t see it. The problem with this argument is that if evidence exists in the real world, it’s either there or it isn’t. Belief in that evidence is not relevant; it exists or it does not.

Of the 50 cases which were “clinically assessed” by Sinason, 14 cases were referred to the police; of those cases, nine were dropped by the police, and only two proceeded to prosecution. According to Ms Sinason, these two were the only ones which were “non-Satanist” in nature:

(This does lead us to wonder what happened to the other 36 cases, many of which, according to Ms Sinason, included allegations of murder, necrophilia, illegal abortions, bestiality, animal torture, cannibalism, and other crimes. If these things were believed to have happened, why were they, too, not reported to the police?)

The report concludes with a curiously roundabout “explanation of observed phenomena”:The point here is that the allegations of SRA can be “neither proved nor disproved”—leaving the question of their validity completely open to interpretation, now and forever.

As commenter Justin Sanity pointed out,

I could compile an ENORMOUS number of “cases” involving criminal mental health malpractice, by cranking out all the “allegations” myself and making them nonsensical enough that the police would just decline to look at them. Then they would be “neither proven nor disproven by police”, and since the content would be considered confidential no one would know that it was all me being a hoaxster. I could go on demanding that a special investigative panel – consisting of me and some friends – be appointed and funded to look into “these very serious allegations which were never properly investigated”, for decades to come!

Indeed, this is the modus operandi of the Hampstead hoax, in a nutshell:

  1. Force two children to make a bunch of allegations which are so completely nonsensical that the police will only look at the ones which might possibly be feasible in the real world.
  2. The police investigate only the things which could potentially be possible (because having babies arrive via DHL, for example, or dozens of people swarm into or out of a school on a daily basis to rape children, or thousands of babies murdered by exceptionally neat and tidy killers who are somehow able to erase every trace of evidence is just plain silly).
  3. Police look into some of the more feasible claims, discover no evidence whatsoever.
  4. They close the case.
  5. Now all those other ridiculous allegations become “neither proven nor disproven” by police.
  6. Ergo, Hoaxtead mobsters can run around screeching that no proper investigation was done, it’s all part of the cover-up, and so forth, ad infinitum.

Ultimately, the problem is that if something remains “neither proved nor disproved”, it becomes an object of faith and belief, rather than a thing which can be discussed rationally and objectively.

And that is exactly what the hoax promoters rely on.

79 thoughts on “‘Neither proved nor disproved’: The slippery nature of SRA claims

  1. Here’s a fax from Valerie Sinason about the press interest from Feb 2001, prior to the Independent piece.

    https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/389624/response/984962/attach/3/SINASON%20DH%20130201.pdf?cookie_passthrough=1

    She mentions unregistered children.

    I will have to digest the full horror of the pilot study over time I think.

    For example she talks about setting up three way calls with family members the subjects say were abusers, murderers even. This instinctively seems bad to me.

    No murders appear to have been passed to police and prosecuted.

    Also, rituals with up to 300 people attending? If that is in England, even then one of the most densely populated places in Europe, I’m surprised no one noticed. Not even all the cars or coaches parked up.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Fascinating post, EC!

    By the way, is anyone here familiar with Beatrix Campbell? She has much in common with Sinason (I think) and was instrumental in pushing SRA in the 90s.

    Go to 41:32:

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Added to this is the fact the 1000s of Fringe Dwellers who actively promote this nonsense either as fanatical believers or scam artists seeking money (without naming anyone in particular – Bellend McKenzie & Crew) use the tired old claim as they do about this website, that this mythical Establishment (there is one but not the one they think exists) use enormous resources and agents to nip in the bud all talk and investigation.

    They say about us here of course.
    As though anyone would pay people to crticise or monitor the biggest load of ratbag nutcases like this motley bunch. It’s a psychological need to believe they are so important that someone in power must silence them.
    Let them all go and sit on Neelu’s roof when the same Establishment finally comes to remove the descendant of Indian Royalty from her house.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. She’s a fanatical lesbian Marxist . Nothing fanatical about being a lesbian of course but didn’t she eventually set up house with a nurse who was instrumental in promoting a discredited SRA case?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This is interesting and fascinating.
    Following links and names mentioned in the above video leads to an exposed fake Holocaust “victim”.
    An excellent article examining why someone would falsely claim to be such a victim brings up yet again that nefarious practice of “recovered memory” technique used this time to convince a Swiss man who never even experienced WW2 to claim he had been in a Concentration Camp as a small child.

    So many people with mental illness are used by others in SRA (as in the above case) to promote lunacy.
    http://www.othervoices.org/2.1/salecl/wilkomirski.php
    Why One Would Pretend to be a Victim of the Holocaust by Renata Salecl

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  6. @GOS – perhaps more relevant, to say that Beatrix Campbell is a marxist-feminist who happens to be lesbian?
    But so what? Why bother to remark on those things? Critics like Michael Salter claim that pointing these things out must mean that I think women can’t think rationally about sex crime, they are “too emotional” and “hysterical” . WRONG! I don’t believe those things.
    Salter would say, remarking that Campbell is Lesbian can only be motivated by a bigoted desire to portray Lesbians as hysterically “anti-male”. WRONG! I don’t believe that either. And I’m a proud member of a GLBTQ community with many Lesbians in leadership positions whom I care about and respect.

    Here is the relevance: Meredith Maran.
    Meredith Maran, coincidentally also a life-long feminist activist in the same age group as Campbell, and coincidentally happens to be Lesbian. Maran has the most impeccable “credentials” as an activist and a journalist promoting awareness of women’s issues – sexual violence against women & children especially – and just as respected within a community of women who happened to be both feminist activists and Lesbian.
    Maran said, in her book “My Lie”, that as a young woman living in a community of similar women, she felt pressured to have a personal incest victim narrative – that having such a story to relate, when other women were sharing theirs, really was a “badge” of identity and validity. Women who didn’t have an incest story to relate WERE perceived to be “not really one of us”, lacking that shared experience.

    Maran has also stated, that her partner during that time – who was a highly regarded sexual violence researcher – surprised her one day by relating a personal tale of satanic ritual abuse she supposedly experienced as a child. But Maran and this woman had previously discussed the entirety of their childood memories with each other over many years together, she believed, including their incest victim narratives – but her partner had never mentioned SRA before. And then her partner really shattered her world by flatly demanding that Maran “recall” her own SRA narrative. But I don’t have one, Maran protested. You’d better get one, said her partner, because I can’t be partnered with someone who doesn’t. And when Maran said – no, I can’t! – her partner left her, permanently.

    That is the relevance. We know, because THEY have told us, that feminist activists in some Lesbian communities at that time professed belief in SRA as a matter of ‘belonging’, in their community, and as a matter of shared social-political feminist STRATEGY.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I believe in faries as well. They are on parade at the Sydney Mardi Gras every year. Am I allowed to say that? Is it offensive to our LGTB alphabet soup fellow beings? I do not mean it to be, it’s just the generic term my generation grew up with.

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  8. What’s odd to me is that Beatrix Campbell, as a Marxist feminist (and therefore, one presumes, an atheist) is a believer in claims that largely emanated from the Christian conservatives in the US.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. @stan – this is also why it is relevant to point out, that the two women who wrote “Courage to Heal” – a very popular self-help book about women recalling sexual violence from their childhood – happened to be feminist activists and Lesbians (but not professionals in psychology or counselling). Because the first edition of that book included a sample SRA narrative that, it was suggested, might be something other women would recollect. This book also had some passages suggesting that all women, Lesbian or not, ought to experiment with Lesbian sex “to better understand women’s sexuality”. Naturally, those passages drove traditional conservatives totally bonkers when they discovered them, and led to “pro-family” leaders in Catholic and Fundamentalist communities denouncing CSA awareness campaigns as “Lesbian recruitment campaigns” in disguise, which probably did set back awareness in those communities for years after.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. ” Naturally, those passages drove traditional conservatives totally bonkers when they discovered them, and led to “pro-family” leaders in Catholic and Fundamentalist communities denouncing CSA awareness campaigns as “Lesbian recruitment campaigns” in disguise, which probably did set back awareness in those communities for years after.”

    Worth noting in passing that a well-known lesbian blogger and journalist in the UK has recently disclosed that she was a victim of an abusive (lesbian) relationship:

    Liked by 1 person

  11. ♫ There I met a democrat who wouldn’t say his prayers
    So I took him by the left leg and through him down the stairs ♫

    I think Trump’s proposing that as the new national anthem, isn’t he?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. We were right – Ogilvy’s blog closure announcement was a lie. Oh sorry, “prank”. Hmmm, keep digging, sunshine 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  13. It strikes me as odd that a lot of these stories about SRA involve rituals being carried out in churches. Surely that would mean the rituals were not satanic but Christian or Catholic?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Who’s bright idea was it to allow Robert Green to preach the Hollie hoax in a primary school? I wonder who the audience was. For the love of God tell me it wasn’t the school staff and that he’d just rented the building. A poor decision by the head teacher either way in my opinion. And lest we forget that the jumped up little prick is still bound by a lifetime gagging order not to talk his Holliehoax shite in public.

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  15. It might occur to people to wonder, why these feminist activists – in Meredith Maran’s community, and with the “Courage to Heal” book – did what they did.
    Were they ‘crazy’ ? Were they ‘evil’ ? Were they ‘hysterically anti-male’ ? (I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean, even)

    No, of course not!
    I won’t presume to speak for them, but I can share an observation from my own activism work alongside women professing to be feminist activists. Feminist research and community activism should do more than just inform people. “Raising awareness” of issues of importance to women ( and many other social communities) should be ‘framed’ in such a way that it also promotes social change – specifically, the empowerment of the powerless, which can include women, racial & ethnic minorities, GLBTQ, people in poverty, seniors, differently-abled persons, etc.

    Exactly how spreading rumors of SRA in our society would further such goals, is something I wouldn’t even speculate on. But I’m very confident that women who were engaged in that, from feminist activist communities, believed that was their motivation.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Nice work Spiny. You seem to have covered the main responses that are given when these people are asked questions.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Yes, I think that’s an important point to make, Justin. In critiquing and reporting what the Hampstead hoaxers have done over the past three (!) years, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that many people who promote SRA aren’t doing so out of malice or greed. They genuinely believe that what they are doing is “for the children”, and that it’s their moral duty to keep talking about SRA and attempting to bring its perpetrators to light.

    The difficult thing about this, of course, is that (as the name of today’s post suggests) SRA is one of those things which can be neither proved nor disproved, and so it hinges on belief and faith.

    I think one reason that we never hear about “disenfranchised / powerless SRA practitioners”, rather than “elite” ones, is that the well-meaning people who promote the myth are doing so from the position of “empowering the powerless”.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Well said Meredith Collins. I had to laugh when Angie said that her page is high profile, delusions of grandeur.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. I’m thinking it is more likely a village hall type building that doubles up as a nursery/parent toddler group in the daytime.

    It’s probably on their FSF list of places they are visiting.

    I can’t make head nor tail out of what he is saying, which is good thing as far as I am concerned.

    He does seem very pleased with himself though.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. You may be right about the village hall, CM.

    The FSF disinfo tour roadshow, though, doesn’t start until March:

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  21. Poor Johnny Puke seems to think that ‘bots’ somehow act on their own and aren’t a real person behind a handle.
    Sort of sums up the shallowness of these nutbags. Surfing the net to find websites that re-enforce their craziness is called “research” and whatever a new meme is launched, it gets soaked up and melded into their twisted beliefs.
    Thus as exampled by #pizzagarbage which emanated in early 2017 and was spread for partisan political reasons is quickly absorbed into their beliefs and they ramble on about it as though they have been discussing it for years.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. @arthur – two observations, about your observation:
    “It strikes me as odd that a lot of these stories about SRA involve rituals being carried out in churches…”

    1) Some stories, myths & rumors from the 1700-1800’s, about the “reversed Christianity” satanism depicted in horror movies, etc., require the “black mass” to be performed in a Catholic church. In fact, it should be officiated by a defrocked Priest who has devoted himself to the service of Satan. Part of the point to using a church, an ex-priest, all the traditional Catholic paraphernalia, is supposed to be; betrayal and desecration. These stories depict Jesus and the Christian community betrayed by turn-coat heretics from inside their own congregations – these are not outsiders or pagan heathens, they are the people who sit next to you on a pew every Sunday. Extra ooo-eee-ooo! The betrayers use Catholic paraphrenalia because that will ‘desecrate’ them turning the holy into unholy. That is their primary motivation, desecration.
    Why? What does this accomplish? How does it all contribute to the ultimate over-throw of Heaven and installation of Satan-Lucifer on God’s throne in his place? Obviously, it contributes nothing. It is stupidly pointless and futile., childish even. These satanists are like Dr Evil. – so trapped by his devotion to a cartoonish ideology of ‘evil’, that he is compelled to squander all his resources on ridiculous projects that are doomed to fail. They could not exist, for very long, in real life because there is nothing to their motivation beyond giving God “the finger” metaphorically.

    2) Most of the SRA victim stories of the 1980’s followed Pazder’s script at least to the point where the Ritual abuse villians were always a satanic cult, usually a family-based one. But an academic named Stephen Kent opened up the field by publishing an analysis of various Christian & non-Christian religious-spiritual belief systems that were not satanic, where he purported to identify elements of those traditions that could be said to play a role in SRA victim narratives. This has since inspired Ritual Abuse victims to claim their abusers were a ritual abuse “cult” composed of persons whose practices really do exist – like Mormons, Freemasons, any other tradition you care to name…but this very blatantly took place AFTER Kent’s paper was published and discussed by SRA survivor networks.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I’m always suspect of anyone who “discovers” their sexuality late in life. While everyone should be encouraged to come out of the closet there is a difference between those who were in the closet because of the pressures of society and those who discover they are lesbian, gay or heterosexual in their 20/30s.

    It indicates to me a person who has abnormally suppressed one of the most important aspects of their life and therefore one can question many of their statements, beliefs or actions.

    Sort of re-enforced by a book I just read: “Getting Away with Murder” by Duncan McNab about nearly 80 murders around Sydney in the 70s-90s that are believed committed by organised gangs of youths and in some cases, off duty policemen.

    One who regularly went on missions at night to beat up gay men turned out to the Duty Sargent at a police station on the so-called Gay Mile of bars and clubs. After he was charged & sentenced he finally “came out” and became a regular at a so-called ‘clone’ leather bar and led an active sex life finally settling down with a man (while not forgetting this bloke viciously metered out brutal punishment to other gay men sometimes with life threatening injuries).

    So I think it’s worth pointing out that Campbell is a lesbian in this case as Campbell as a journalist was a promoter of SRA and especially the case where innocent people’s lives were upended and which resulted in her becoming the lover of one of the main instigators of the false claims. While an army of Freuds may be needed to investigate how the sexuality of these people drove them to demolish the innocent families and attempt to destroy them on false claims, all these cases (as is Hampstead) are about sex.

    And we regularly ponder ( I think correctly) on what drives the fanatical promoters of cases like Hampstead where the main instigators seem absolutely obsessed with pedophilia to the point where they are best friends with some who have been convicted.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. “Unregistered” children ?.
    It’s virtually impossible to cover up the birth of one child let alone 100s or 1000s as these people claim.
    They forget it’s only in the last 40 years that single mothers have been able to exist without being shamed.
    Before that an unmarried pregnant woman was usually sent off by parents to have their child in another location and it was done quickly before it became obvious she was pregnant.
    The idea children could be bred en masse for some “devil worshipers” is so fanciful as it would require an amazing organisation to stop word leaking out.

    Easily exampled by Neelu claiming she witnessed dozens of baby carriages being wheeled into a North London church one Wednesday morning (and of course the neighbours in a quiet middle-class suburb failed to notice this regular event- I guess not one baby cried at the time) . She never went back the following week to perhaps film this weekly event nor did one of her fanatical pals bother doing so : they simply absorbed Neelu’s claim into the mix and it becomes fact, just because it was said.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Ah, so the “sidekick” is Meredith, whom I’d never heard of until a few hours ago and to whom I’ve only posted one comment. JournoAngie – worth every penny 😀

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  26. That leaflet looks more odd every time I read it. It also has freeman on the land tropes “cause no loss or harm” common law, grand juries.

    I feel quite sad reading this “it may be used for prosecution”. Are survivors supposed to believe this made up court has legal powers?

    Liked by 1 person

  27. @tdf – yes. I believe I commented on this one at length either here or on another blog’s comments. The lack of explicit documentation from that time rather stymies me from doing any research not covered by the guy writing the book. I think I noted before, that hanging up the deceased boy “in a cruciform” and placing instruments of the communion below him, is much more suggestive of a desire/intention to beatify him, than a desire/intention to desecrate or blaspheme. But since the perpetrator is apparently known I guess he could explain his motivations himself.
    16 year old teens acting out something which strike them as “satanic”, based on popular culture depictions or some book they picked up from a New Age bookstore perhaps, may have tragic consequences. There have been a number of these as I’m sure you know, over the decades. If there is no evidence of adult accomplices or other teens involved with him in a plot, I can’t see any reason to focus on a “satanic” motivation. Murder is murder, I would think, and our justice system is certainly capable of dealing with it appropriately even if the perp is a 16 year old who thinks he’s a devil worshipper.

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  28. it’s like trying to prove that unicorns (very shy towards humans) don’t exist.
    No one’s ever seen one “well you dont know that, maybe someone somewhere has, there’s a reason we even have a description of what unicorns are”
    no one’s ever seen one, if they did we would have evidence, like camera pictures, or tracks, or hair or something “well they’re very shy, and most likely anyone who sees one is too caught off guard to do anything in the few seconds til they get away. maybe their tracks look like other animals, or they’re very light. they dont shed their hair”
    what about the bodies, what happens to them once the unicorn is dead? “they are eaten quickly and decompose, or have magic and just disappear”
    etc

    there’s no point arguing with people who’ve decided unicorns exist despite the gaping lack of evidence and all logical evidence towards their nonexistence. If you show someone these things and they still decide unicorns Must exist because there can’t possibly be any other explanation.. give up on them.

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