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:
- 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.
- 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).
- Police look into some of the more feasible claims, discover no evidence whatsoever.
- They close the case.
- Now all those other ridiculous allegations become “neither proven nor disproven” by police.
- 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.