Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-1-2024

Faculty Advisor(s)

Dr. Jan Osborn


During the 1980s, moral panic erupted nationwide as allegations of satanic abuse of children were made public, sparking inflammatory headlines and sensational news stories that drove fear and doubt into the hearts of many. Known as Satanic Ritual Abuse Hysteria, this mass hysteria is now widely acknowledged to be absurd, as allegations were proven false and the mistakes made by those in positions of power were brought to attention. However, this still leaves us to question how society within this era so easily came to believe these now-proven falsities and outlandish claims of mass ritual abuse. Using Van Dijk’s “Ideology and Discourse Analysis” (2006) as a framework for understanding language and ideology, and using James Paul Gee’s tools for discourse analysis, this paper investigates the language used both within and around Satanic Ritual Abuse Hysteria in order to discover what ideologies are reflected in the discourse that surrounds this once majorly contentious topic. By analyzing the language used in historical, editorial, legislative, and other data resources, I examine how these sources contributed to the creation and reinforcement of public belief toward Satanic Ritual Abuse through fear and polarization. giving insight into how society both perpetuated and fell victim to its own claims. Conversely, I also examine how several sources, from the 1980s and onward, denounced, rejected, or cast suspicion upon the claims of Satanic Ritual Abuse, in order to understand how the language we use affects how we see this issue today.


Presented at the Spring 2024 Student Scholar Symposium at Chapman University.