And thou hast taken thy sons, and thy daughters, whom thou hast borne to me: and hast sacrificed the same to them to be devoured. — Ezekiel 16:20
In the early 1600s, rumors spread across the kingdom of Hungary that the Countess Elizabeth Bathory was abducting and killing young girls in occult rites. Although a minister complained directly to the crown, an investigation didn’t start until several years later, after the countess ran out of local peasants (who learned to hide from her) and began to kill daughters of the nobility whom she invited to stay with her to learn courtly etiquette. When she and her servants were finally arrested in 1610, the investigators found dead, dying, and tortured girls locked in her castle. Around 300 people testified against her at her trial. Her associates were executed, but the countess was too connected to nobility for that. She was bricked up in a room of her castle, with just a slit for passing in food, where she died four years later.
In 1986, a Belgian named Marc Dutroux was convicted of kidnapping and raping five young girls. He served three years of a thirteen-and-a-half year sentence. A couple years later, he abducted and abused two 8-year-old girls, recording the acts as pornography, and soon kidnapped a 17-year-old and a 19-year-old. His wife at the time knew about it all, and he had at least one accomplice. He was arrested again, but for involvement in stolen cars. When police searched his home, they failed to find two girls locked in his basement dungeon, even though a locksmith said he could hear someone calling. Those two girls starved to death while Dutroux was in custody. After being released again, Dutroux kidnapped more girls, until he and his accomplices were caught in 1996. A vast quantity of pornography was found in his homes, along with buried bodies. Dutroux claimed to have been supplying a sex ring that included influential members of the government and the police force. The original judge on the case requested armed guards and a bullet-proof car because of evidence that contracts had been taken out on the lives of the judges. About 450 people testified at the trial, and the jury found Dutroux and his accomplices guilty, but the investigation was inconclusive beyond that. Many Belgians still think a much larger criminal circle was covered up.
In the mid-1990s, social workers in the area of Rotherham, England, began to notice a large number of child sexual abuse and prostitution cases. Local officials investigated, but higher-up authorities balked because the suspects were predominantly Muslim men from Pakistan, and they didn’t want to cause a racist backlash. A 2002 report suggested there were more than 270 victims, but there were no arrests and trials until 2010, when five men were convicted of rape and trafficking in girls as young as twelve. More arrests followed, and by 2015, 300 suspects had been identified. Reports estimate that 1400 children were sexually abused by this ring of Pakistani gangs. The investigation continues — slowly, because it doesn’t fit politically correct wishes.
In a span from the 1970s to the 1990s, hundreds of Catholic priests molested thousands of minors, mostly teenage boys. This happened in dioceses all across the US and in some other countries. It was frequently covered up by bishops, diocesan officials, parish councils, local police, and even the boys and their parents. While it’s likely that no one person knew the full extent of the scandal, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of people knew of at least one of the crimes, and kept silent. Many others suspected this or that priest, but did not investigate.
Last week, a massive pedophile ring was uncovered by European police, after a three-year investigation. As of last Wednesday, they’ve identified 670 suspects, arrested 184, and taken 230 children to safety in 30 different countries. They expect to find more children, and think the ring could have as many as 70,000 members who partake of the child pornography produced by the central culprits.
I could go on with many other cases, recent and historical, but that should make the point. And what is the point?
The point is, when stories like this first come out, don’t shrug them off as conspiracy theories too fantastical to believe. Don’t say, “That could never happen here.” It has and it does. Don’t say, “They could never cover up something that big.” They can and they do. After the fact, it always seems like people should have known sooner. Don’t say, “Why have no victims come forward?” Sometimes they can’t, sometimes they do come forward and aren’t believed; but it always seems like there aren’t any victims until suddenly there are, sadly, more than anyone imagined.
Don’t assume that such stories are true, but don’t assume they’re false either. Keep an open mind and watch for the evidence. I think a story of this sort is about to break in the U.S., and there will be a great deal of pressure on people to disbelieve it. It will be compared to crackpot conspiracy theories, and likened to the fears of Satanic kidnappers that were popular in the 1980s, so that everyone will laugh it off. Don’t fall for it. Keep an open mind, keep the cases above in mind, and judge for yourself.