The letter from the Committee for Ritual Abuse (23 January) appears to be conflate two types of claim, one presumably based on solid evidence, the other on extremely dubious evidence. There is little reason to doubt that within certain communities the use of exorcism rituals against children is on the rise, given recent tragic court cases. The letter goes on, however, to bemoan the fact that claims of ritual abuse involving white middle-class children and adults are not taken seriously. The latter are not taken seriously because there is no convincing forensic evidence to support them. Instead they are based upon dubious techniques for "recovering memories" ? the same techniques used to "recover" memories of alien abductions and past lives. Furthermore, the former involve misguided beliefs of religious fundamentalists that a child is possessed, in contrast to the latter "recovered" memories, in which the alleged perpetrator is said to be a member of a Satanic cult. The two should not be confused.
Professor Chris French
Goldsmiths, University of London