Oct 6, 2002 – © Ellen P. Lacter, Ph.D.
D. Children’s Service’s Bureau and the Treatment, Evaluation, and Resource Management (TERM) Team
Many Children’s Services Bureau (CSB) (formerly Child Protective Services) social workers and investigators know that ritual abuse occurs and are appropriately concerned in response to reports of suspected ritual abuse. Reports to the Children’s Services Bureau are automatically filed with the law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction.
Nonetheless, since the mid-1990s, reports of suspected ritual abuse to CSB by mandated child abuse reporters have tended to be discounted or not investigated by CSB and law enforcement. In some cases, mandated reporters have been harshly criticized for making these reports. No additional detail can be provided here due to concerns for therapist-patient confidentiality, concerns for the safety of the ritual abuse victims, and the desire for anonymity by the reporting therapists.
Pressure to avoid reports of suspected ritual abuse has been brought to bear on CSB from the San Diego County Grand Jury reports (no. 8 and 1994), negative reports on CSB from the San Diego Union-Tribune, and from County agencies that seek to avoid financial losses stemming from lawsuits against the County based on County responses to ritual abuse cases.
One case of alleged ritual abuse resulted in a judgment for $750,000 against the city of Escondido (San Diego County). The Escondido police took two children into protective custody following a suspected report of ritual abuse. The children’s parents filed a lawsuit in 1992 against Escondido police, county social workers, and a physician for violating their constitutional rights to be free from “unreasonable intrusions on their privacy, person and home.” On November 2, 2000, Mark Sauer wrote in the San Diego Union-Tribune that the children’s parents won a judgment against the city of Escondido. A lawsuit remained against the three individual police officers who picked up the children (Article: http://www.holysmoke.org/wicca/san-diego…
This judgment against the city of Escondido binds the hands of CSB. Cities and CSB are placed at significant financial risk every time parents can make a case in court that a child taken into protective custody was probably not abused. To guard against financial damages from lawsuits for taking children into protective custody in the case of false positives (findings of abuse when no abuse occurred), no action will be taken to protect children in thousands of cases of false negatives (findings of no abuse when abuse is in fact occurring)! CSB experiences the greatest pressure to avoid false negatives in cases of the most controversial form of abuse; ritual abuse.
In September of 2000, an important official at Children’s Services Bureau (name withheld) said; “Years ago, we had a lot of stuff written about it [ritual abuse]. Right now, we have nothing. I think what happened with the county was that there was a big lawsuit about a ritual abuse case. We had a person considered an expert, but she left the agency.” This official also said that clinicians in the community no longer make reports of ritual abuse to the Child Abuse Hotline.
Between the mid-1980s and late 1994, the San Diego County Juvenile Court served the function of approving therapists to treat Juvenile Court Dependency cases. The June 1, 1994 San Diego County Grand Jury Report recommended that the Juvenile Court; “Monitor all CAPF therapists to guard against possible liability suits due to their culpability in administering care.” (CAPF stands for “court-appointed, publically funded therapists”).
In late 1994, the County Board of Supervisors transferred responsibility for monitoring CAPF therapists from the Juvenile Court to a “Treatment, Evaluation, and Resource Management (TERM) Team. The TERM Team was essentially mandated to perform two functions that are sometimes in conflict; 1) Ensure good practice by clinicians treating and evaluating Juvenile Court cases, and, 2) Ensure clinicians do nothing that could result in lawsuits or embarrassment to county agencies. The greatest risk of embarrassment and lawsuits exists in treating and evaluating cases involving possible ritual abuse. In one case, a mandated reporter came under intense scrutiny of the TERM Team simply for making a report of suspected ritual abuse and trying to get law enforcement to take the report seriously.
Therapists treating victims of ritual abuse are in a terrible bind. They can choose to report suspected ritual abuse and face harassment by CSB, the TERM Team, the District Attorney’s office, the Grand Jury, the San Diego Union-Tribune, and also risk possible complaints by public agencies to their licensing boards. Or, they can not report the suspected abuse and thereby violate the Child Abuse Reporting Law.
CSB also unfortunately appears to have colluded in a serious conflict of interests in early 1996 with Carol Hopkins, Deputy Foreperson for the strongly-criticized 1991-1992 No. 8 Grand Jury Report, as follows.
In the mid-1990’s, Hopkins created what she called “the Justice Committee”. Under these vague auspices, she interjected herself into the Wenatchee, Washington, sex ring case to organize multiple protests on behalf of parents convicted of sex crimes against their own and other children, including an apple boycott of Washington in 1995 and a candlelight vigil in Salem, Massachusetts in 1997.
After the apple boycott, Hopkins obtained guardianship in her San Diego home of “Sam” Doggett, teen-age daughter of Mark and Carol Doggett, both convicted at trial of sexual abuse of Sam’s younger sister in the Wenatchee case. Moving a child from Washington to the San Diego home of someone attempting to overturn the parents’ convictions is a dangerous conflict of interest that should not have been permitted by San Diego CSB.
Sauer documented in a San Diego Union-Tribune article on 6-18-96 that once Sam Doggett resided with Hopkins, 17-year-old Doggett joined Hopkins, Akiki, and others in multiple media events, claiming her parents were innocent and touting the positions of Hopkins’ ‘Justice Committee’. The convictions of Mark and Carol Doggett were later successfully overturned.
On Dr. Lacter’s website, “Karen Curio Jones” writes the following; “Ms. Hopkins then claimed [in 2000] on the Witchhunt list that Ivory Johnson, the ex-director of Child Protective Services in San Diego County, personally monitored this placement, and Ms. Hopkins refused to have a home study” (see: http://truthbeknown2000.tripod.com/Truth… The “Witchhunt List” is an e-group: [email protected]
A home study is an evaluation of the suitability and safety of a family and home as a foster-placement. There is no justification for the then-director of Child Protective Services (now CSB) to dispense with the normal procedure of a conducting a home study of a placement of an out-of-state child, especially in a case involving such a serious conflict of interests. Important questions must be asked about how this was allowed to occur.
E. Law Enforcement
Law enforcement officers are generally very committed to their work, and are particularly devoted to protecting abused children. Most law enforcement officers in San Diego and elsewhere acknowledge on a one-to-one basis that they have investigated crimes with occult elements and have encountered ritual crime victims and scenes.
Yet, law enforcement agencies in San Diego experience the same types of pressure as child protective agencies to side-step reports of suspected ritual abuse. Great pressure has been brought to bear from the aforementioned San Diego County Grand Jury reports (no. 8 and 1994) and lawsuits, as in the costly suit against Escondido described above. Local law enforcement detectives and higher police officials have stated that they “cannot investigate” reports of ritual abuse “because of Akiki”.
Law enforcement is also affected by negative media attention on officers investigating occult crimes. In Mark Sauer’s September 21, 2002 article, “Abuse or Unfounded Fear”, he ridicules “two San Diego police detectives, who also subscribed to the ritual-abuse theory, that the murderous cult was operating out of a Clairemont area church.”
Sauer also stated in the same article; “The detectives requisitioned bulldozers and prepared to excavate church grounds before police brass stepped in and halted the unlikely investigation.” Detectives can have no incentive to investigate reports of ritual crimes when their superiors halt their investigations.
F. Family Court
Family court judges, Family Court Services, mediators, attorneys, and psychologists performing custody evaluations, have all been affected by negative media attention and political pressure to avoid reports of ritual abuse. Protective parents who have reason to believe that a co-parent ritually abused their children are routinely advised by their attorneys to say nothing about this to the court or evaluators or they run the risk of being viewed as crazy and losing custody of their children. Custody has been lost on this basis in the San Diego Family Court.
II. Goal: Call for Policy to Increase Protection for Victims of Ritual Abuse
The San Diego public, ritual abuse survivors, the mental health community, child protective agencies, law enforcement agencies, the district attorney’s office, the Grand Jury, and legislators need to work together to create a county and state where victims or ritual crime can begin to be protected. There is no ritual abuse law on the books in California now. Laws will be needed to adapt to the special circumstances in investigating and prosecuting cases of ritual abuse and to protect individuals and agencies from lawsuits as they do this work.
Four critical starting points toward these objectives in San Diego County are:
1. A county policy that reports of ritual abuse will be investigated by San Diego County law enforcement agencies, Children’s Services Bureau (CSB), and the District Attorney’s office.
2. A county policy that the District Attorney’s office, CSB, and the TERM Team, will support mandated reporters in filing Suspected Child Abuse Reports of ritual abuse.
3. A San Diego county policy of not interfering with the academic freedom to teach about ritual abuse and treatment of ritual trauma.
4. The convening of a task force to study the problem of ritual crime and to develop an interagency coordinated response.
It is time for San Diego County to review its position regarding reports of ritual abuse. To accomplish this, many segments of the community must join together and support each other in much-needed reform.