Expert Tells of Finding Some Physical Signs of Satanic Child Abuse
A Chicago research psychiatrist testified in a satanic-abuse trial Tuesday that he has examined about 130 patients who remember similar childhood sexual abuse and has found some physical evidence to substantiate their claims.
“If 10% of the things I hear are true, then we have a problem in our society,” said Dr. Bennett G. Braun, associate professor of psychiatry at Rush University and Medical Center in Chicago. “We are all scared of AIDS, but child abuse is the real cancer of our society.”
Braun testified as an expert witness in the trial of a 76-year-old Mission Viejo grandmother accused of abusing her daughters and her granddaughter during bloody and murderous satanic rituals. The daughters, who say they have developed multiple personalities as a result of the abuse, have filed a civil suit seeking unspecified damages.
The grandmother’s attorney has insisted that none of the ghastly tales told the jury ever took place and has noted that the daughters and granddaughters have produced no physical or material evidence to support their claims.
Braun said he has not interviewed any of the people involved in the Orange County lawsuit, adding that he has no opinion about the case.
However, Braun has written extensively on multiple personality disorders and is medical director of the Rush Northshore Medical Center’s inpatient unit for dissociative disorders, which treats severely disturbed patients from around the country.
Defense attorney Tom M. Allen said that he accepted Braun as an expert in multiple personality disorder but that “I’m not prepared to accept his expertise in satanic abuse.”
Allen is expected to finish cross-examing Braun today, and the grandmother could testify in her own defense this week.
Braun testified that he has seen more than 300 patients who suffer from multiple personality disorder. Research has shown that more than 95% of these patients report childhood sexual abuse, and up to one-third report ritual abuse with cult or quasi-satanic overtones, Braun testified.
“Most patients come in not knowing anything about ritual abuse,” he testified. While some have read popular books about multiple personality disorder and recognize their symptoms, and some suspect that they have been incest victims, “it’s rare that someone comes in talking about satanic-ritual abuse,” he said.
Braun testified that he has researched 130 cases in which patients have during psychotherapy remembered ritual child abuse with satanic overtones. Patients described incidents that included black-robed people, satanic symbols, drugs, blood, animal and human sacrifice, and violent sexual abuse--tales nearly identical to those told by the Orange County women.
Patients report confusion, losing track of time, memory loss and then denial as memories begin to emerge, Braun said. Most people who report non-ritual abuse by parents or others describe a single male perpetrator. In satanic abuse cases, the patients often report female as well as male perpetrators and abuse of multiple victims by groups of adults, he said.
“They talk about pain and suffocation, burnings, cuttings, sexual abuse,” Braun told the jury. “Then drugs, pornography, prostitution. Then you start to hear about orgies and sacrifices and things like that.”
Braun said several patients have told him that they were photographed or filmed or later videotaped, and he said he believes that some of the events described may have been made into so-called “snuff films,” pornographic films in which a victim is killed before the camera.
The psychiatrist said that he initially dismissed such tales but that he has heard consistent accounts from patients in different states who have never met and has had several instances in which patients have identified other cult members on the wards and that their stories have been corroborated.
Braun said he subscribes to “the rule of five,” meaning that he will not seriously consider such a report unless he hears it from five unrelated people.
“Some of the stuff I hear is so bizarre it defies belief . . . ,” Braun said. “I didn’t want to believe it.”
Braun testified that some of the patients have scarring and other physical evidence that appears to support their stories. Several women have been sexually mutilated and suffered severe internal scarring, while other victims have satanic words, symbols or profanity burned into their bodies, he said.
Some of the patients told him the burns or scars were self-inflicted, while others said they were mutilated in rituals, Braun testified.
Braun and other doctors and psychologists who believe that their patients are telling the truth have been extensively cited by those who believe that satanic child abuse exists.
Other experts, however, argue that the nation is in the grips of a “satanic scare” abetted by “true believer” psychotherapists who coach patients in remembering abuse that never took place. These skeptics compare the memories of satanic cult survivors to those of people who claim to have been kidnaped by UFOs.
Apparently anticipating such skeptical testimony when the defense presents its case, the daughters’ attorney, R. Richard Farnell, repeatedly asked Braun how and why he believed that his patients were, in fact, remembering real events.
Braun told the jury about two brothers, ages 4 and 5, who were hospitalized along with their mother, who exhibited multiple personalities. Though the three were on separate psychiatric wards with no contact, they began to remember and describe similar events, Braun said.
The 5-year-old described slitting a man’s stomach open with a knife, with anatomically correct descriptions that Braun recognized from his own experience in surgery.
“Where does a 5-year-old learn about this? Not many 5-year-olds have been in operating rooms.”
Another 4-year-old described the workings of a crematorium for one of Braun’s colleagues, Braun testified. The psychiatrist, who had no idea whether such a tale could be true, then visited a crematorium and came back reporting that “the kid had it down pat,” Braun said.
Braun also said several patients who did not know each other have given him names and physical descriptions of other cult members. In one case, he testified, he went to see the alleged abuser, who, in fact, matched the description.
Braun said society finds it difficult to believe reports of ritualistic child abuse, just as molestation and incest were unthinkable a generation ago. He compared such mass denial to the attitude of the German public toward rumors that the Nazis were running concentration camps.
“They could smell the burning flesh,” Braun said. “People weren’t coming home anymore. But there was terrible denial. . . .
“How many people believed what the Nazis did, or what the Cambodians did? People do horrendous things to each other.”