The Satanic Panic, SRA, and the rhetoric of "Think of the Children"
TRIGGER WARNING: Cult Abuse Discussion, Discussion of CSA, Discussion of Racism/Antisemitism, and a blanket trigger warning for upsetting content.
This post was prompted by a very bad tweet that I will not link because it is bad and I don't want to give the creator any attention. Here's the gist: The Satanic Panic was good, actually, because there was sexual abuse taking place throughout America during the 1980s.
For anyone with a cursory knowledge of the Satanic Panic, this is an insane tweet. The Satanic Panic was a moral panic that led to several false accusations of CSA and several people's lives being ruined in the name of a moral crusade. What most people may not be aware of, however, is the origin of this panic and how it resonates throughout political rhetoric to this day. The Satanic Panic still has hands in American politics and this has only gotten more obvious.
Most people's first thought when they think of a moral panic will be the Salem Witch Trials and associated fears around witchcraft that were prominent in Colonial America.
The Satanic Panic is, in all honesty, a direct result of this moral panic. They were both based in a central tenent that remains relevant to this day: The "Other", a vague group that you should be afraid of, want to harm you and your children. The use of children in particular in these panics is one that is interesting but makes sense from the standpoint of getting people on your side. Children are seen as the ultimate innocence, and parents' worst fear is often their children being harmed in some way. Moral panics lean almost everything on this concept.
We can see this in targets of the Satanic Panic. Most people associate the Satanic Panic with the pop-cultural fears of metal music and video games (which were very popular with youth at the time), but there were also several other targets. Schools were targeted for teaching things like yoga or mindfulness to children, these concepts being labeled as 'occult.' In fact, much of Eastern religion was thrown under the 'occult' label in a blatant display of racism and xenophobia. Essentially, everything that was not Christian, or particularly the type of Christianity palatable to White Americans, was occult and associated with Satan. If your child is taught stretches and breathing routines at school, then by god they're being indoctrinated.
This leads to another major element of the Satanic Panic: The fact that most of the places seen as dangerous were schools, daycares, and places where you would leave your child throughout the day to be attended to by other adults. This is also tied in with the fact that, during the 1980s, there was a massive rise in women entering the workforce which led to an increase in need for daycares and similar.
If you'll allow me, I'd like to posit that the Satanic Panic was also targeted towards women in an attempt to get women out of the workforce and back into being homemakers. The message that Christian America was sending was clear: You're the only person that your child is safe around, and leaving them around other adults is going to end up with them being indoctrinated into a cult and abused.
Of course, stranger danger is also a direct result of this, and recent years have not been kind to the concept. As this article states, children abducted by strangers only account for 1/100th of 1% of all missing children. Statistics also show that 90% of CSA cases involve someone that the child knows and trusts. The message that your child is safer with family than strangers is not only untrue, but something that only benefits sexual abusers. Children will go unbelieved about their trauma because common myth says that it must be a stranger, it can't be a coach, a preacher, a family member, etc that harmed this child.
This attitude only allows deflection, which was the name of the game for the Satanic Panic in many ways. As you can imagine, churches and evangelical Christians benefit a lot from attention being diverted away from them in regards to CSA allegations. One only has to look at the fact that the Catholic Church started recieving attention for their coverups of abuse in the 1980s, around the same time that they would start peddling the Satanic Panic in full force.
So, yes, there was widespread sexual abuse taking place during the 1980s: From the people who benefit most from the Satanic Panic and the rhetoric it spread.
Of course, this rhetoric has not gone away. The recent re-obsession with the idea of LGBT+ people as "groomers" is nothing new and much of the fear around it comes from the Satanic Panic. Much of the Satanic Panic focused on the idea that these Satanic cults engaged in homosexual activity and that your child was being indoctrinated into Satanism by LGBT+ people, particularly gay men. Of course, Satanism is passe to mention now, so Christian Conservatives have to put a new coat of paint on this idea.
That's really the case with much of the recent moral panics: Only the most niche of conspiracy theorists will say the word "satan" or "satanism", but the most subtle will just mention CSA as an immediate way to get people afraid.
This is an unfortunate consequence of the Satanic Panic. Sexual abuse becomes nothing more than a rhetorical device. If you disagree with these people, then you're implicitly saying that sexual abuse is okay, right? That you approve of children being abused? Of course, this is insane, but this is what they rely upon. After all, they aren't homophobic/transphobic/x-phobic, they're just concerned. Think of the children, won't you?
The thing is, the "children" they want you to think of don't exist. At least, they're a completely fake group. These "children" are a device and nothing more, a gaggle of blonde-haired, blue-eyed Americans that are being attacked by the socialist, leftist, globalist, gay agenda. Children who are poor, children of color, LGBT+ children, disabled children, etc, they don't matter because they're not relevant to the narrative. They need you to imagine the poor, sweet little child being snatched up by evil and abused while they also ask you to ignore the cases of abuse that occur from inside their own groups. They need you to ignore the children they are perfectly comfortable throwing under the bus for whatever reason.
I wish I could end this on a positive note about how we've moved past religious extremism and moral panics, but this isn't the case. We're still fighting these battles, the arguments are just dressed up differently. So when people say that the Satanic Panic is a thing of the past, or even a good thing, I roll my eyes. We are still feeling the aftershocks of it to this day and people's lives are still being affected negatively by these narratives. The only thing I can ask is that you think critically about when CSA is used as a rhetorical device by people online. When they ask you to think of the children, ask yourself: Do these children really exist? Or are they a fabrication meant to push a narrative?