It seems there’s truth in the old saying, “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it”.
Yesterday one of our readers pointed out to us that BBC Radio Orkney was helping to promote the highly questionable Fresh Start Foundation’s latest SRA-pushing roadshow, to be held today in Kirkwall, Orkney.
Surprisingly, no one at BBC Radio Orkney nor at the event venue seemed aware in the slightest of the tragic history surrounding the last episode of Satanic panic on the island of South Ronaldsey in 1991.
At that time, in a dawn raid nine children from four families were taken from their beds in the tiny community of fewer than 1,000 residents. Over-eager social workers, newly exposed to methods of interrogation imported from the United States, convinced themselves that the children had been the victims of Satanic ritual abuse.
The children were held on the mainland, unable to contact their parents for five weeks, until the SRA claims were dismissed by a sheriff as “completely unfounded”, and the social workers’ conclusions “fundamentally flawed“.
This opinion was borne out later by a nine-month public inquiry into the Orkney scandal, led by Lord Clyde.
It was also confirmed by at least one of the children involved, who is now grown up.
‘It was designed to break a person down’
One woman, Esther W., testified as an adult that she believed she could have stopped the Satanic panic. She stated that while her father had brutally abused her and her siblings, both physically and sexually, there was no “Satanic” element to the abuse.
She believes that, had she been able to speak out at the time, the SRA scandal could have been averted.
In 2013 Esther was interviewed by the BBC:
Esther, who says she had a mistrust of social workers engendered by her father’s hatred of them and her own experiences, knew they were wrong but thought it was “just the kind of things these bad people do”.
Her brothers and sisters, the youngest of whom was just four, underwent “disclosure therapy”, although Esther says it would be better described as “interrogation”.
It was this process which led to the the satanic sex abuse allegations against the four families whose children were taken away.
Esther believes her brothers and sisters were being “coached” into revealing something which had not happened at all.
She says: “Sheriff Kelbie himself (the man who threw the allegations out of court) said it amounted to repeated coaching. It was pummelling and pummelling over and over. Even an adult would have been broken by that type of interrogation.
“It is designed to break a person down, so a four or five or six year old does not stand a chance.”
Why didn’t Esther say something to stop it?
She says at the time she thought the situation had gone too far.
“It was a monster completely outside my control,” Esther says.
“It had evolved into these satanic sex abuse claims.
“They had tried to look for evidence of sibling sex abuse and they had failed on that. But then, not content with that, because they didn’t want to return the children home, they looked to satanic sex abuse allegations.”
‘You’re being very good’
The lead social worker behind the Orkney scandal, Liz McLean, was a figure of fear for the children involved. One stated in a 2006 interview:
“I was terrified of her. She was very intimidating, very controlling. I was always small when I was a child but she would lean over me. She got very angry. She would want me to agree with what she was saying.” Which was? “They were mentioning about private parts, things like that. Asking me, did one of the grown-ups touch you and touch your brothers and sisters in your private parts? They would want me to agree with it. And when Liz McLean couldn’t get me to agree with it, she would ask me to draw a picture. So I drew a picture of my pony. That wasn’t right. Then I drew a picture of us playing football. That wasn’t right. Eventually, she pulled this piece of paper out which had a circle on it, and she said, ‘Copy that.’ So I drew a circle and she said, ‘Draw little stick men round it,’ and that’s what I did. And she said, ‘You’re being very good.’ And that was the meetings.”
McLean is also mentioned by several of the children in the subsequent Orkney scandal as a terrifying figure, fixated on finding satanic abuse. Other children also described being urged by McLean to draw circles and faces, presumably as evidence suggestive of abusive rites. She was later sharply criticised in the Lord Clyde’s judicial inquiry into the latter case, and in another investigation into similar allegations in Ayrshire. She resigned in 1992, and has since disappeared.
So the Orkney children denied the allegations of SRA all along. Why didn’t the social workers believe them?
We would suggest that while the mantra of SRA-hunters is “we believe the children”, in fact they don’t believe the children at all, and never have.
Rather, they believe in SRA. And if those they target refuse to admit in words that it happened, they will find some other way to drag the “correct” story out of them: drawings, play with “anatomically correct dolls”, signs and wonders such as the discredited “reflex anal dilatation”, or, if all else fails, their own intuition.
As commenter Justin Sanity noted some time ago,
They believe they are justified, because they believe that they know “the real truth”. I’ve said this many times, the basis of SRA allegation cases is – adult persons deducing that something bad is happening to a child, and then deducing the nature of that bad thing and deducing who is responsible for the bad thing, without the child ever having made a complaint to anyone, about being abused by anyone. And having decided that they know “what happened” to the child, nothing the child or anyone else subsequently tells this adult, and no facts or evidence presented to them, will ever persuade them that their intuitive deduction was not correct.
‘Fresh Start’? Not quite
Today’s “Fresh Start Foundation” meeting is anything but a ‘fresh start’ for the people of Orkney. Rather, it’s a regressive attempt to re-ignite an old flame which was extinguished nearly three decades ago, and which should have remained that way.
As we’ve written here in the past, the FSF is attempting to revive and publicise the efforts of the SRA hunters of the 1980s and 1990s. They aren’t coming to Orkney to help survivors of child sexual abuse—they are hoping to find adult SRA claimants, who they can hold up as trophies.
They are motivated by a combination of fundamentalist evangelical Christian belief, and their own devotion to conspiracy theories which include allegations of organised Satanic paedophile rings. Their goal is to initiate a reign of terror, which will be familiar to any who survived the bad old days of the Orkney scandal.
While it’s utterly shocking to us that nobody at BBC Radio Orkney thought to check the bona fides of the FSF before posting their advert on Facebook, it’s even more disturbing to think of the damage that they and their kind could wreak on an unwary community.
We must not let it happen again.