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

3.5 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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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.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (October 3, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465071813
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465071814
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,014,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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?)
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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Watched the James Woods film Indictment and wanted to know more about his subject. Turns out it didn't exaggerate at all. Some of it is forgivable, if a bunch of noted doctors tell you that the children show physical signs of abuse and the psychologists of the day tell you it is impossible for kids to lie about these things then obviously you are going to arrest and prosecute the alleged abusers. People didn't realise the medical evidence was flawed and how easily kids could be influenced by suggestive interviews (the extracts from the interviews are HORRIFYING in their bias and leading nature). But when you can't find ANY corroborating evidence it's time to have second thoughts, my suspicion is they couldn't simply because of the press hysteria which meant they couldn't admit their doubts having started this circus. And sending a letter out to the parents was the dumbest idea ever, what did they think was going to happen?
When it deals with the trials this book is excellent. Where it falls down is its' attempts to deal with the psychological aspects of it all, it should have simply stuck to the reality of the investigations and the trials. Perhaps one of the most shocking things is the attitude to incest as late as the 70s where it was seen as a mental health issue where abusers were offered therapy rather than being prosecuted and psychologists seemed to blame neglectful wives for their abandoned husbands seducing their daughters as a substitute partner. Thankfully things have changed. The book is also a little out of date with thankfully virtually everyone it mentions in the Kern County cases etc having been released.
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