What is satanic cult panic?
The North American satanic panic of the 1980’s and 1990’s, often called a “moral panic”, is well documented on several sites that you can ‘google’ up.
Here, however, I’m using the phrase “satanic cult panic” in reference to a specific phenomenon that some professionals in academia, social work, psychiatry/psychology and law enforcement experienced during that period.
As a result of repeated contact in their personal or professional lives, with other adults falsely claiming to have knowledge about or experience with (imaginary) secret murderous satanic cultists, who might strike at any time “in your own neighborhood” ala the Manson Family – some people allowed themselves to believe such cults really did exist. Obsessive contemplation about this imaginary ‘threat’ to themselves and their loved ones could trigger extended fight-or-flight ‘panic’ response – causing them to say and/or do irrational things.
‘Radical’ criminologist Hal Pepinsky:
Hal Pepinsky taught criminal justice at Indiana University in Bloomington for 30 years, retiring in 2009. He called himself a “radical criminologist” because of his professed radical feminist beliefs and dedication to women’s social justice issues. Pepinsky believed in researching social subcultures by immersing himself in that community, forming personal relationships with member-participants and getting them to “speak for themselves, about themselves”, directly to him as they interacted.
Pepinsky’s “radical” interests led him into contact with, and involvement in, a criminal underground of non-custodial parental kidnappers and the secret social network that facilitated them in committing these crimes. This network included self-professed Satanic Ritual Abuse survivors, who seduced women into believing their partner was a secret satanic cultists planning to sacrifice them & their children, and then helping the mothers to kidnap their kids and flee the country – run by an SRA urban legends obsessed woman named Faye Yeager. Pepinsky was delighted to help out, naturally, and eventually invited some of the “survivors” to attend one of his classes and tell their tales to his students “in their own words”, and some became regular ‘guest lecturers’ in his classes right up to his retirement 20-something years later. Pepinsky also joined and attended S.top M.ind-control A.nd R.itual-abuse T.oday conferences. There has never been objective evidence, let alone proof, that any of Pepinsky’s SRA friends were raised in or abused by a genuine child-abusing child-sacrificing cult – but Hal chose to believe them anyway.
An imaginary satanic cult – a genuine panic
Pepinsky has said, at conferences and on his Peacemaking blog:
“By 1996 my classes were already filled with accounts of intergenerational, essentially satanic ritual torture and murder.
It hit me particularly hard when, three years after I started teaching the seminar, I wandered through some woods. I’d lived in Bloomington for twenty years and a couple of blocks from where I lived, I’d walked through these woods. I was enjoying an early spring day in March and as I was out in the woods I suddenly saw what looked to me, now that I’ve heard so much and seen so much about ritual abuse, like what used to be a ritual altar. [In reality, Pepinsky couldn’t have identified a genuine “ritual altar” to save his life]
And I went exploring further. It went on for hundreds of yards down the creek bed. I called a survivor and had him walk through it with me. We came upon what appeared to be a human grave [but wasn’t] covered over with cement in the creek bed…
The people who own that particular property kind of own it in little packages. They all live on one-half street and this included some pretty prominent people in town. Then I found out that one of the co-owners of that property was my someone I had sought for professional services. I got scared. It was scary enough to begin with, but suddenly it got really personal. It wasn’t just something that survivors from out of town were bringing to me; it was right next to me. It could involve people who were very close to me”.
There was no secret murderous satanic cult in Bloomington of course, but Pepinsky convinced himself that there must be – and his SRA survivor friends encouraged this fantasy. And so, he obsessed on this fantasy until he drove himself right out of his mind.
“I was so scared for my family that I was having paranoid psychotic episodes, and I signed on for over a decade’s therapy…”
And he continued to experience paranoid psychotic episodes from time to time throughout that decade.
That’s not all that satanic cult panic cost him. Read Bob’s comment, under Pepinsky’s blog post here: