Patients reporting ritual abuse in childhood: a clinical syndrome. Report of 37 cases

Child Abuse Negl. 1991;15(3):181-9. doi: 10.1016/0145-2134(91)90063-j.


Thirty-seven adult dissociative disorder patients who reported ritual abuse in childhood by satanic cults are described. Patients came from a variety of separate clinical settings and geographical locations and reported a number of similar abuses. The most frequently reported types of ritual abuse are outlined, and a clinical syndrome is presented which includes dissociative states with satanic overtones, severe post-traumatic stress disorder, survivor guilt, bizarre self abuse, unusual fears, sexualization of sadistic impulses, indoctrinated beliefs, and substance abuse. Questions relating to issues of reliability, credibility and verifiability are addressed in depth, and the findings and implications are discussed.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Abreaction
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Ceremonial Behavior*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / diagnosis
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology*
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / therapy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Dissociative Disorders / diagnosis
  • Dissociative Disorders / psychology*
  • Dissociative Disorders / therapy
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder / diagnosis
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder / psychology
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder / therapy
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Hypnosis
  • Magic / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Development*
  • Psychotherapy / methods
  • Religion and Psychology
  • Sadism / psychology*
  • Syndrome