The headlines were spectacular, even melodramatic: “Satanic child-porn fraudster is ‘ruthless, manipulative'”; “Court to mull fate of online child-porn ring fraudster”.
No, they weren’t referring to Abraham Christie and Ella Draper (sad to say). These headlines refer to a case last year in Johannesburg, South Africa, in which a young woman named Leone Steyn was tried and found guilty of defrauding churches and an online counselling service of R592,000 (about £35,000) in a three-year-long scam.
According to the IOL news outlet, Ms Steyn was 17 years old when she began claiming to have been rescued from a satanic porn ring:
When she was just 17, Leone Steyn allegedly laid the foundations of a fictional satanic child-pornography ring.
She begged for sympathy for the non-existent children who had supposedly been saved from the ring’s evil clutches, manipulating counsellors from an online psychiatric service to solicit donations from churches and residents.
The Star reported last month how Steyn would allegedly log on to the MOBIEG counselling service using dozens of fake names, claiming to be children kept in the safe house looking for psychological guidance.
Ultimately, she allegedly created 55 profiles of fake children, using images she stole from social media.
For three years she kept up the charade, weaving tales among the counsellors at MOBIEG of suicides within the safe house, of murders and kidnappings, and begging them for assistance.
But earlier this year, she was arrested after a year-long investigation into her scheme.
From time to time, Ms Steyn would “kill off” her fictional characters via suicide, as a bid for further sympathy—and cash. Ultimately, Ms Steyn managed to dodge a long sentence despite being found guilty; instead, the magistrate opted to keep the young woman out of prison so she could work and ultimately repay the money she’d stolen.
The myth of the ‘satanic child-pornography ring’
Ms Steyn’s fraud took advantage of a widespread but wholly unsubstantiated trope: the myth that somewhere out there in the Dark Web, there is a thriving business in which children are ritually sexually abused by Satanists, who film these encounters and sell them to an eagerly waiting audience. This idea has been so widely accepted that the churches and counselling service who were duped didn’t think to question the veracity of Ms Steyn’s claims. They willingly handed over their cash, believing that they were helping young people escape from their evil sex-crazed Satanic captors.
As commenter Justin Sanity has pointed out here, the myth of the “Satanic child pornography ring” is utter fabricated nonsense:
Analysis of commercially produced and/or distributed child sexual abuse image materials, published in forensics journals, do not use “satanic” as a category nor even as a sub-category of something like “S&M”. And that is because there never was any! Ask Tim Tate…he actually watched all of the commercial productions (up to a certain point in time) as research for his book on the subject, so he would know.
Justin is referring to Tim Tate’s 1990 book, Child Pornography: An Investigation. The book currently sells on Amazon.com for the jaw-dropping sum of £233.36, so we think we’ll give it a miss. But the blurb sums it up:
An in-depth investigation into the nature, extent, production and distribution of child pornography, which is the evidence recorded in magazines, film or videotape of child molestation. It ranges from apparently innocent nude photographs to depictions of serious sexual assaults and sadistic torture. The author contends that those who buy child pornography are paedophiles. Without paedophilia there would be no child pornography, but without child pornography the myriad networks of active child abusers would collapse. Child pornography is the oil in the engine of paedophilia. The author also wrote “What’s Wrong With Your Rights?”
At the time when Mr Tate was writing the book, the 1980s–1990s Satanic panic was in full swing…and yet, there appeared to be no market for “Satanic” or “occult” child sexual abuse images.
Justin points out,
There never were any, because no one would have bought such materials. The belief that “Satanism” has some intrinsic relationship to child abuse is a delusional fantasy obsessively promulgated by Satan Hunter conspiranoids and paranoid evangelicals, it certainly IS NOT a doctrine of any organizations or communities that self-identify with that term.
More importantly, “satanic child abuse” IS NOT a distinct sexual paraphilia – as some folks ignorantly assume.
Many of our readers will be aware of Mr Tate’s role in promoting the fantasy of Satanic ritual abuse in the years since he wrote Child Pornography: An Investigation. We have no doubt that, had he found categories of commercial child sexual abuse images that matched up with the rest of his oeuvre, he would have reported it, loud and long.
More Shurter nonsense
In the Comments section of yesterday’s blog, Justin pointed out that once again, David Shurter is, to put it politely, a lying sack of shit.
David Shurter officially full of shit, yet again, caught lying about the existence of “satanic ritual abuse”-themed child pornography.
There was indeed a LAWRENCE King lll, from WEST Ocean City, convicted of possessing & distributing child sexual abuse images. In 2011, he was “sentenced to 10 years in jail followed by supervised release for life for possession of child pornography”.
King’s stash of CSA images was modest in modern terms: “law enforcement officials recovered over 600 videos and images documenting the sexual abuse of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct”. Some of these depicted abuse on the extreme end of the scale: “The images included prepubescent children as well as depictions of sadistic and masochistic activity”, but no sources of information about this case ever suggested that these images depicted “satanism”, satanic cult members, rituals, ceremonies, or anything whatsoever of a specifically “occult” nature—nor was there any information suggesting Lawrence King lll had any personal involvement or interest in “satanism”, satanic cults, rituals, ceremonies, or anything whatsoever of a specifically “occult” nature.
The source of King’s CSA image collection was specified both in the indictments against him and in his plea agreement: ”King admitted to downloading thousands of images of child pornography from the Internet, which he stored on his computer”. King’s CSA images WERE NOT given to him by a homeless relative of David Shurter, as he has publicly claimed.
Which brings us back to Leone Steyne and her version of the “Satanic child pornography ring”. Like David Shurter, Belinda McKenzie, Abraham Christie, Ella Draper, and others of their ilk, Ms Steyne made use of an old, tried-and-true public misconception to wring money out of people who were only too willing to believe her lies. We know she’s not the first, and she surely will not be the last to dine out on that pernicious myth.
This article was first published on 9 August 2017.