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Satanic Ritual Abuse (sometimes abbreviated as "SRA" for short), sometimes known as Ritual Abuse, Ritualistic Abuse, Organized Abuse, or Sadistic Ritual Abuse) was the subject of moral panic (often referred to as Satanic Panic) and it is an urban legend created by fundamentalist Christian groups to demonize cults, the concept has since become common in fiction dealing with the occult and revolves around Satanic cults using children to commit black magic rituals, involving human sacrifice, spiritual abuse and other crimes.
Nearly every aspect of this idea was controversial, including its meaning, the source of the accusations and proof thereof, testimonies of alleged victims, and court cases involving the allegations and criminal investigations. The panic affected lawyers', therapists', and social workers' handling of allegations of child sexual abuse, which were initially brought together widely dissimilar groups, not just religious fundamentalists but also police investigators, child advocates, therapists, and psychotherapy clients as well. The movement gradually secularized, dropping or deprecating the "Satanic" aspects of the proclamations in favor of names that were less overtly religious such as "sadistic" or simply "ritual abuse" and becoming more associated with dissociative identity disorder (or DID) and anti-government conspiracy theories.
Initial publicity of this notion emerged via Canadian psychiatrist Dr. Lawrence Pazder's 1980 book "Michelle Remembers" and was sustained and popularized throughout the decade by the notorious McMartin preschool trial. Testimonials, symptom lists, rumors, and techniques to investigate or uncover memories of SRA were disseminated through professional, popular, and spiritual conferences, as well as through the attention of talk shows, sustaining and further spreading the moral panic throughout the United States and beyond. In some cases, allegations resulted in criminal trials with varying results; after seven long years in court, the McMartin trial resulted in no convictions for any of the indicted, while other cases resulted in lengthy sentences, some of which were later reversed. Scholarly interest in the topic slowly built, eventually resulting in the conclusion that the phenomenon was a moral panic, which, as one researcher put it in 2017, "involved hundreds of accusations that devil-worshipping pedophiles were operating America's white middle-class suburban daycare centers.".
Official investigations produced no empirical proof of widespread conspiracies or of the slaughter of thousands; only a small number of verified crimes have even remote similarities to tales. In the latter half of the 1990s, interest in SRA declined and skepticism became the default position, with very few researchers giving any credence to the existence of Satanic Ritual Abuse.
This infamous phenomenon was very common during moral panics but has been proven false by experts on the field, though it continues to crop up among conspiracy theorists and mass media.
- Black Mass (a dark magic ritual often associated with Satanism, considered a blasphemy of the Mass).
- Human Sacrifice (ritualistic murder of humans to appease demons).
- Deals with the Devil (making pacts with the Devil or higher demons).
- Demon Summoning (the actual summoning of demonic forces).
- Satanic Ritual Abuse is a type of propaganda, similar to the ancient practice of Blood Libel.
- It is also known as "Satanic Ritual Abuse Syndrome" (or "SRAD" for short) as mentioned in the 2001 psychological horror mystery movie Session 9 which later inspired the videogame sequel Silent Hill 2.