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Satanic ritual abuse
| Christ died so that we may|
write articles about
|A multi-chef broth|
|Devil's in the details|
|The pearly gates|
| Why, for the glory|
of Satan of course!
|God's own scapegoat|
|Trolling the divine plan|
“”[...] From my perspective, the U.S. appears to be witnessing its third great wave of hysteria. The first, the Salem Witch Trials, in 1692, lasted only a few months. Nineteen people were hanged before it became apparent that the accusations were suspect. In the 1950s, at the time of the McCarthy hearings, hysteria over the communist threat resulted in the destruction of many careers. Our current hysteria, which began in the early 1980s, is by far the worst with regard to the number of lives that have been destroyed and families that have disintegrated.
|—Richard A. Gardner, February 21, 1993, for the Wall Street Journal|
A major moral panic in the 1980s, the Satanic ritual abuse scare posited that there was a large underground of Satan-worshipers organized into multigenerational cults who habitually sexually abused and murdered children (and sometimes animals) in Satanic rites. "Satanic ritual abuse" was part of the Satanic Panic scare over widespread alleged Satanism. It included claims that do not stand up to the test of reason much less any actual statistics to back them up, such as the claim that Satanists conduct over 1 million human sacrifices per year, often of children born into these supposed families.
 Promotion and fraud
The panic was promoted heavily by Christian fundamentalists, particularly author Mike Warnke and his fraudulent "autobiography" The Satan Seller, Rebecca Brown and her equally fraudulent He Came To Set the Captives Free, Lauren Stratford and her gory (and fraudulent) book Satan's Underground, radio talk show host Bob Larson, book writer Hal Lindsey, and comic writer Jack Chick.
Many American feminists also pushed the panic, causing leftist Alexander Cockburn to rail against Katha Pollit, Gloria Steinem and what Cockburn described as "countless psychotherapists, social workers, doctors, lawyers, and writers who call themselves feminists." Cockburn stated that "belief in ritual abuse has become so ensconced in this wing of feminism that the arrest, trial by ordeal, and lifelong incarceration of accused women have occasioned hardly a blink from its proponents." In Sweden, the panic was promoted by feminists such as sociologist and gender theorist Eva Lundgren.
An early book that gave impetus to the spread of this myth was Michelle Remembers by Michelle Smith in 1980. This book was proven to be a hoax (noticing a pattern?), but the widespread belief continued in multigenerational Satanic cults ritually abusing children. John Todd and Lauren Stratford also claimed to have been born into such multigenerational Satanist families, with Stratford claiming particularly horrific abuse, but both their testimonies were also found to be complete fabrications. The spread of the hoax continued into the 1990s with two Bob Larson novels, Dead Air and Abaddon, which were at least published as fiction but nonetheless tapped into the popularity of this belief among evangelical Christians.
 False memories
The ritual abuse movement was intimately linked to recovered memory and multiple personality, two borderline theories within psychology. Significantly, almost no alleged SRA survivors remembered they had been abused until the intervention of therapists, concerned parents, or police interrogators. This eventually led psychologists to understand that the memories of abuse were being created, not recovered, by therapists. One woman remembered abuse happening to her before she was one year old though memories from before the age of three are rare and memories from before the age of one are unknown. 
Although the popular panic over Satanic abuse has largely faded from view, a minority of researchers and practitioners continues to plug away at it. Aiming for greater respectability, many now believe that the fanciful, Satanic aspects of the alleged abuse were a cover devised by ingenious paedophiles to confuse their victims and make them less believable, or a confabulation caused incidentally while recovering memories of actual abuse.