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Satan's Silence: Ritual Abuse And The Making Of A Modern American Witch Hunt Paperback – October 3, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (October 3, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465071813
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465071814
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,630,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Journalist Nathan and lawyer Snedeker, both involved in debunking ritual-abuse cases, have produced a thoughtful investigation of how and why such cases have led to "moral panic" over the past 15 years. They trace how emerging theories about sex abuse?which proclaimed children's truthfulness?led to a situation in which social workers supplanted police as investigators, and how changes in family and gender relations (including victimology feminism) fueled social preoccupation with demonology. They look closely at several cases, including the notorious McMartin case in California, which led to paranoiac attitudes toward public child care and to a growing "ritual-abuse industry." Reproducing case transcripts, the authors show how children's testimony was led; nevertheless, civil libertarians shied away from challenging such cases: "demonization of child sexual abuse as society's ultimate evil has rendered it so holy as to be virtually immune to reasoned analysis." The authors believe that real sexual abuse, especially incest, is underreported, and recommend that investigators be better trained as well as granted only limited immunity from malpractice. More broadly, they see a need to educate children in such a way that they develop psychological and sexual integrity.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

A powerfully written book that goes beyond documenting individual abuse cases to sound a general alarm about a dangerous national hysteria. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 95 people found the following review helpful By Katha Pollitt on October 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book was a real eye opener for me. It documents the trumped up charges against daycare workers,"sex rings" of parents and grandparents -- accused of the most elaborate and unlikely--even impossible-- crimes against children. None of the charges came spontaneously from children, who in fact insisted nothing had happened. Rather, children were subjected to highly coercive and manipulative interviews by true-believer therapists, repeated over weeks and weeks. the therapists fed the kids the stories they wanted to hear -- and eventually got what they wanted. What was presented as physical evidence of abuse --microscopic bumps and skin tags on genitals --have turned out to be as common in nonabused kids and abused ones. Over a hundred people went to jail, and around a dozen are still there --even though the justice system has tacitly admitted the flaws in the original prosecutions. After all, no one has brought a daycare ritual-abuse case in a decade. What I particularly like about this book is that--unlike some of the other books debunking ritual abuse, repressed memory and the like-- it's written from a feminist perspective. Nathan argues that what women and children need to be safe from abuse is more equality within the family, and more equality for women socially and economically. For her the tragic turn in feminism was the turn toward psychologizing incest and sex abuse and presenting therapy as the remedy, instead of social change. This perspective sets her apart from the dominant strain in the movement against intrusive child advocacy, the "parents' rights" movement, which tends to see children as family propoerty with no rights of their own, and tends to be extremely conservative politically. A wonderful book.
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31 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
Skeptical books? I mean books like this one that question our culture's holiest beliefs - in the continuing and ever-worsening oppression of victimized classes, the coming environmental doom etc. Most of the reviews tend to be positive; after all, interested persons have purchased the book or are shopping for the book. Their point of view is already formed. Then there are the other reviews - usually giving no stars, usually short and scabrous: "This book is part of a conspiracy to trivialize a very real problem. This book has been discredited. It has shoddy research etc." "Discredited" is a great word - applied not to shoddy research but to research that challenges our sacred beliefs.

To get more specific, negative reviewers of this book and its many cousins miss the point. Nathan and her co-authors are not excusing abuse or dismissing it as a possible occurrence. Nor are they denying that memories can be repressed. They are simply arguing two points:
1. People are innocent until proven guilty. (Right?)
and
2. Memories recovered through hypnosis or by other means are not strong enough evidence to convict an accused "perp." As evidence, they are simply unreliable.

Lots of libertarians are on the internet and obviously are disposed to like books of this kind. Then there are others... the true believers, steeped in ideology and unconcerned about the facts in any specific case. Their only concern is with broader principles - "victims must be protected!"; "abuse is a terrible, growing problem!" These principles are fine, but they should not be brought to bear upon the process of determining guilt or innocence. This process should retain its clear focus on evidence and facts. That is the essence of Nathan's argument, as well as those of Ofshe, Terence Campbell, Willard Gaylin and Dorothy Rabinowitz.
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31 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Frank Smith on March 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Co-author Snedeker has been a psychologist, a writer and an appellant's attorney since the mid-70s, so is remarkably well qualified to write on the subject. The book's dissection of the nonsense that prevailed in mid-80s "satanic, ritualistic, child abuse" witch hunts should be required reading for persons in the child protection field. Were it so, the fevered investigators' imaginations which created these travesties might have been cooled, and innocent people spared from allegations of perpetration.
I am retired from that field, so am terribly familiar with the pervasive incompetence it harbors.
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19 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Ellis on January 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
If you grew up in the '80s, you probably remember that, for a while, stories about evil Satanists were all the rage. At times, it seemed like every crime committed in America between 1984 and 1990 was somehow linked to Satanism. Of course, as time went on and Americans found other unseen threats to fear, it became rather obvious that the majority of these crimes were not part of any larger conspiracy and that what was once considered to be "evidence" of a Satanic conspiracy was really just a combination of panic and people choosing to see only what they wanted to see. Eventually, the whole Satanic panic of the '80s faded into the background and even became something of a shared joke between those of us who lived through it. Unfortunately, it's often forgotten that -- at the panic's peak -- a countless number of innocent people were accused and often convicted of Satanic crimes on the flimsiest of evidence. While many of these people saw their convictions later overturned, many more remained (and remain) in jail. Even as the rest of us forget about just how serious the Satanic Panic of the '80s actually was, those victimized by it continue to suffer even today.

That is why Satan's Silence is an important book. Starting with the infamous McMartin Preschool case, this book shows how that case, with its ultimately unproven accusations of Satanic Ritual Abuse, eventually created a moral panic that engulfed the entire country.

The book makes a powerful case that the Satanic Panic was the product of a dangerous combination of urban legend and well-meaning but untrained social workers who were so determined to prove allegations of abuse that they blatantly manipulated the same "victims" that they believed themselves to be protecting.
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