Hysteria

When adults are accused of unthinkable crimes against children, what’s fact and what’s fiction can get lost in translation, as in the following cases.

A child sex ring in which kids were trained to dance sexy and have sex with each other at a sex kindergarten. A club where they were put onstage to dance and have sex with each other in front of a bunch of swingers and swappers. This month, we feature a story (“ Across the Line”) on the Mineola child sex ring cases prosecuted in Smith County last year, in which three Tyler residents were convicted of running just such a child sex ring. As I point out, the convictions in these cases were highly questionable. Prosecutors brought forth no physical evidence and no adult witnesses, relying exclusively on the inconsistent words of young children taken from highly suggestive interviews. The interviews weren’t just inconsistent; they were downright bizarre, with claims of witches and animal sacrifice.

Sound familiar? The Smith County cases remind many researchers of the Satanic ritual abuse ( SRA) cases of the eighties and nineties, when all over the country, as if caught in a frenzy, children accused adults—often those who ran child care centers—of horrible acts of child abuse, usually in tandem with dark, bloody acts of Satan worship such as animal sacrifice, witchcraft, and murder. The cases mostly involved false memories put in the children by suggestive interviews by social workers or police; sometimes there was outright manipulation of the kids, other times the kids themselves just started fantasizing and were taken so seriously by authorities that the stories got weirder and weirder. Though no real evidence was ever found, many innocent adults were convicted. In the most famous case, the 1983 McMartin preschool case in Manhattan Beach, California, a mother went to police saying her toddler had been abused

More Texas Monthly

Loading, please wait...