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Keywords:

  • ritual abuse;
  • satanic abuse;
  • assessment;
  • intervention

Abstract

Agency workers have been heavily criticized over their handling of alleged ritual child sexual abuse cases, particularly in respect of their assessments and interventions. However, a study of referrals to police and social service departments revealed that agency workers raised suspicions of ritual abuse in respect of both child ‘victims’ and adult ‘survivors’ very rarely. Furthermore, they did this only after an assessment which showed the cases to possess a number of ‘troubling’ features. While agency workers believed that all the child ‘victims’ had been subject to serious sexual abuse, virtually all of them were circumspect as to whether this had occurred in a ‘ritual’ context. Initially, agency workers were generally open-minded as to the experiences of adult ‘survivors’, but by the end of their assessments, they tended to be more concerned about their mental health and less concerned about issues of ritual abuse. Finally, agency workers appeared to act appropriately in terms of the types of intervention they used and the way in which they applied these. These results suggest that there should be more confidence in the ability of agency workers to respond to cases of alleged ritual abuse. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.