Satanic ritual abuse, or SRA, is the abuse of a helpless person (most often a child) in rituals performed in the worship of Satan. These rituals, as reported by survivors, include physical violence, sexual violence/molestation, or emotional and mental trauma, e.g., forcing the subject to watch violent or disturbing acts. Ritual abuse has also been reported in association with other religious cults outside of Satanism.
Satanic ritual abuse is often associated with the “Satanic Panic” that occurred in America during the 1980s and ʼ90s. A book called Michelle Remembers, published in 1980, told the story of a woman who suffered satanic ritual abuse as a child. The author, Dr. Lawrence Pazder, was Michelle Smith’s psychiatrist and, later, her husband. In their sessions, Dr. Pazder helped Michelle access repressed memories of her experiences with satanic ritual abuse. Many people believe this book led to the so-called Satanic Panic, which was also fueled by media hype and popular Christian speakers of the day. Was there a cultural epidemic of satanic ritual abuse in a variety of settings? Or was the Satanic Panic a witch hunt that resulted in false memories, conspiracy theories, unfounded allegations, and unjust imprisonments? The general consensus today is that ritual satanic abuse was not as widespread a threat as many had alleged.
There is perhaps no subject more inflammatory and frightening than the issue of child abuse. Protecting children is a natural human impulse, and when children are abused, we instinctively feel the degradation of the society where that abuse has occurred. The idea that child abuse for the purpose of devil-worship could happen in our own society—in our own neighborhoods—is especially horrifying. This fear and horror, plus the sensational nature of the subject, have likely led people and media sources to amplify the prospect of satanic ritual abuse. That is not to say that satanic ritual abuse did not or does not occur; there may well be genuine instances of satanic ritual abuse among the false or distorted reports on record. But it’s doubtful that an underground network of cultic child predators exists.
Many individuals have reported being victims of satanic ritual abuse, and it is not up to media stars, social commentators, or bloggers to say whether or not those experiences are real. Satan is a liar and a murderer (John 8:44), and committing ritual abuse is well within the realm of possibility for those whom he influences. Christians live in light of Christ’s victorious work on the cross (Colossians 2:15) and do not fear what Satan can do.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of any kind of abuse, including satanic ritual abuse, please report it to local law enforcement. Also, seek help from your pastor or a counselor—someone you trust. God “hates the wicked and those who love violence” (Psalm 11:5, ESV). He is “a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day” (Psalm 7:11, ESV). People who abuse others will not go unpunished (Proverbs 20:22).