I have written before about cases of people who were incarcerated for long periods of time even though they were innocent of the crime. On a broadcast of the radio program Latino USA I recently learned of the case of four women who were convicted of Satanic sexual abuse and rape of two young nieces of one of the women. This was at the height of the hysteria over Satanic acts perpetrated on children in day care centers and the like.
In the case of these four women who were friends, the fact that they were lesbians was used by prosecutors as a motive for their actions to persuade the jury of their guilt, exploiting the prejudice that gays and lesbians are more likely to be sexual predators. The testimony of the two girls describing the abuse was pivotal.
The allegations in 1994 rocked San Antonio and made national headlines, becoming the subject of the documentary “Southwest of Salem.” In an era when more gays and lesbians were coming out and mainstreaming, many saw the allegations as an indictment of the women’s sexuality, especially as the case against them began to unravel.
“I think the only reason that the investigation was seriously pursued, why there wasn’t more skepticism about the preposterous allegations in the first place, was because these four women had recently come out as gay, that they were openly gay,” attorney Mike Ware told CNN’s Jean Casarez in April..
The four refused plea deals but were found guilty. The aunt of the girls Elizabeth Ramirez was sentenced to 37.5 years and the other three to 25 years. They were finally exonerated in 2016 after spending nearly 15 years in prison.
The convictions began to unravel several years ago when one of Ramirez’s two nieces, now in her twenties, stepped forward to say she had lied.
Members of her family coached her, she told authorities, to make up a story because of their anger toward Ramirez’s sexuality. Her father in particular coerced them so he could gain leverage in a custody battle, she said.
Soon after, Kellogg recanted her testimony based on new science that showed her findings regarding the girls’ injuries were medically inaccurate.
Peg Aloi writes about the Satanic hysteria that existed at that time, fueled by the hit film Rosemary’s Baby, encouraging people to indulge in the worst kind of conspiracy-mongering.
Arguably the first mainstream American film to portray contemporary occultism in depth, Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby — released 50 years ago this month — premiered as a palpable fascination with the occult was taking hold. Based upon Ira Levin’s bestselling novel, various real-life occurrences surrounding the film added to its aura of evil, fueling fears that later spun into an all-out obsession with Satanic cults that ultimately attracted the attention of the FBI. The rise of the Moral Majority had something to do with this also. But how did one film set the stage for the histrionic phenomenon known as the Satanic Panic?
The clear message of Rosemary’s Baby was that the devil-worshipping witches live right next door, on the other side of the wall of your charming flat on Central Park West. They’re like family: They act as surrogate parents by giving you healthy herbal drinks and silver pendants to protect you, but they’re actually planning to consecrate your baby to the devil. Even your doctor is in on it; heck, your own husband signed his firstborn over to Beelzebub so he could get a juicy part on Broadway! You try to convince people of the plot you’ve uncovered, but they just cluck their tongues (poor thing, you’re just exhausted) and tranquilize you. Even when you’re proven right, that they were there all along, the witches next door who contrived to make you give birth to Satan’s spawn, no one helps you.
Despite overwhelming evidence that most acts of violence against children are perpetrated by family members, the tendency is to look beyond the home, to suspect a shadowy outsider, someone with a taste for heavy metal music and black T-shirts, or a penchant for goddess worship and tarot cards. Rosemary’s Baby masterfully other-ized the evil that lies within (and without), making us hide our children away from any and all possible dangers, including public schools, the internet, the outdoors. It seems clear: Another wave of panic looms on the horizon.
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