Christchurch, New Zealand.
Monday, December 6, 1993.
City researcher's claim:
'ORGANISED' SEX ABUSE
A Christchurch researcher says that in the past three years she has identified 30 survivors of ritual abuse and knows of 11 other alleged cases.
By Kim Newth
Ann-Marie Stapp, who prefers to define ritual abuse as "organised and systematic abuse," has called for calm on the issue rather than hysteria about the perceived "Satanic" connotations of the word "ritual".
Whatever the term, she describes the abuse as physical, sexual and emotional abuse of children which also has ceremonial and public, or group, aspects.
She believes organised abuse rings of this nature exist throughout New Zealand and that the cases she has researched are the tip of an iceberg.
Ms Stapp's revelations come in the wake of a visit to New Zealand by an American ritual abuse researcher and licensed clinical social worker Pamela Hudson;
* A response by the Skeptics group that accusations of "ghoulish Satanic sex abuse" would surface in New Zealand within two months; with parents and social workers hunting for symptoms of such abuse;
* An attempt by FACADE (False Accusations of Child Abuse Damage Everyone) to meet with Ms Hudson.
FACADE was launched in September by the four women charged, but subsequently discharged before trial, in the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre hearings; Gaye Davidson, Debbie Gillespie, Jan Buckingham and Marie Keys.
Its stated aims are to change the way child sexual abuse cases are handled and to reduce what is described as "the national climate of hysteria and fear."
Ms Stapp, who describes herself as a family violence prevention consultant, has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Sociology and an Applied Masters degree in Social Work from Victoria University of Wellington.
She says: "My job, as a researcher, is not to disbelieve, but to collect stories and make sense of them."
She is urging the public to remain open minded and not to dismiss these stories of abuse as fabrication or "false memory."
Sergeant Tony Greig, of Christchurch Police's Child Abuse Team, 'says he has not heard of Ms Stapp, or from her.
"Whatever she's got to say will be news to me as much as to anyone else.
"We're not saying ritual abuse isn't happening, but it does not feature in our investigations at the moment."
In appealing for a calm approach, Ms Stapp said that survivors of organised and systematic abuse deserved a sympathetic ear rather than being labelled as "crazy."
"Originally people had trouble believing children were being sexually abused. It was so horrific they didn't want to believe it was happening.
I think we have the same situation today with this systematic abuse.
"People are rejecting that its taking place because they do not want to face up to it. It's too big and overwhelming."
Adds Ms Stapp, who talks of survivors rather than victims:
"This sort of abuse also has an extra aspect, which is mental control based on fear."
She cites examples of "survivors" fearing for their own or their parents' safety if they talked of their experiences, which included indecent acts with other children or animals.
Some were convinced objects had been implanted in their stomachs by abusers and that these objects would activate and harm them if they talked.
Ms Stapp said children abused in an organised and systematic way some years later had problems with alcohol and drug addiction which they had to work through before they dealt with the abuse.
The people she had talked to were not interested in revenge - they just wanted some understanding and support. They were unlikely to seek help in a climate of "hysteria and paranoia," she said.
Ms Stapp said that in researching the subject she had found survivors who had remembered what had happened to them and felt able to talk about it.
"Many are carrying around a lot of guilt. They may have problems with alcohol or have been suicidal.
"The question is, why would anyone want to make up these horrific stories?"