Michael Salter PhD: Part II


In Part I, I described Michael Salter’s frequent use of cryptic language in his work on “ritual abuse,” arguing that his efforts to avoid using the word “Satanic” are for the purposes of maintaining legitimacy, though most readers can fill in the blank. Perhaps just as concerning as Salter’s attempts to lend scientific credibility to the conspiracy theory of Satanic Ritual Abuse is his cozy relationships with numerous figures who continue to perpetuate the Satanic Panic.

In 2017, Salter co-presented an “In-Depth Exploration of RAMCOA: Five-In-A-Day Webinar Series” for Survivorship (since removed from their web site), purported to be “one of the oldest and most respected organizations supporting survivors of extreme child abuse, including sadistic sexual abuse, ritualistic abuse, mind control, and torture,” according to their website. Survivorship is headed by Neil Brick, a licensed mental health counselor in Massachusetts who claimed on his website that he was a brainwashed Illuminati super-soldier who committed murder and rape. But this didn’t deter Salter.

Salter’s co-presenters — Eileen Aveni, Lynette Danylchuk, Alison Miller, and Valerie Sinason — are some frequent flyers in the Satanic Ritual Abuse space. They also have some bizarre conceptions of mental illness.

Aveni, a Christian psychotherapist in private practice, claimed in 2014 that around 80% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia actually have Multiple Personality Disorder (renamed Dissociative Identity Disorder) and that, unlike Jesus, she can’t determine with certainty whether a given ailment in a patient is “demonic.” “I do deal with deliverance ministry in my practice,” she stated, before going on to claim her belief that sin can be a contributing factor to mental illnesses. Lest there be any doubt as to whether she believes in mind control and Satanic Ritual Abuse, Aveni’s presentation at this year’s ISSTD conference was described as follows:

“Organized perpetrator groups often deliberately create DID in the ritually abused client and then install mind control (MC) to train parts to work for them and stay silent. Common MC systems can include Monarch programming, generational satanism, witchcraft groups, and others. Removing MC systems presents major challenges to the therapist and client.”

Miller, also a psychotherapist, recently presented at Survivorship on “Confronting the Spiritual Issues in Ritual Abuse,” in which she discussed “demonic attachments” and a hand gesture that may indicate mind control.

And Sinason has stated that “the cruelty of past and present witch-hunts does not mean that there is no such thing as an evil witch.” She ignited something of a Satanic Panic in the United Kingdom in 2002. According to Damian Thompson, a reporter for The Telegraph,

“Last September, the torso of a five-year-old black boy was found in the Thames. Valerie Sinason, a psychotherapist at St George’s Hospital in London, told the press that the case bore all the hallmarks of a ritual murder. “Sadly, I do not think this is a one-off,” she said.

“Of course she doesn’t. Miss Sinason, the main speaker yesterday, is on the record as saying that Satanists are breeding babies for ritual murder, a practice she described to the Catholic Herald as “an Auschwitz in peacetime”. Until now, not one body has surfaced to corroborate this theory, which explains why the ritual abuse lobby is so eager to claim the Thames torso for Satanism. But this, too, is nonsense. The little boy may have been ritually killed – but by an African witchdoctor harvesting body parts for the magical medicine known as muti. It has nothing to do with suburban devil-worship.

“Prof La Fontaine’s verdict on Valerie Sinason goes to the heart of the problem. “It’s depressing to find someone who has a position at leading London hospitals who is so cut off from what research methodology is, and what rational evidence is,” she says. When Miss Sinason announces that she has “clinical evidence” of infanticide and cannibalism, she means that her patients have told her stories about them. The implication is that, because the suffering of these people is real, their “memories” must be accurate.”

For all of his professed reverence for rational discussion of evidence, Salter’s silence on the questionable and downright delusional beliefs of those he collaborates with leaves us wondering. Salter frequently cites in his work articles and books written by other, possibly more dangerous, figures.

In Finding a new narrative: Meaningful responses to ‘false memory’ disinformation, a chapter in Sinason’s book Memory in Dispute, Salter cites Colin Ross, Bessel van der Kolk, and Corydon Hammond — all prominent figures within the ISSTD. And all with a rather horrendous record of treatment of women, according to allegations.

Ross, for example, “treated” Roma Hart, who claims Ross implanted fabricated memories of ritual abuse during childhood. She began to doubt such memories. She has since gone on television and provided interviews about her experience, which she claims was not an isolated one. Much more can be read about Colin Ross, including his beliefs in CIA mind control, here.

Van der Kolk was recently fired from his position as medical director for the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute (JRI) in Brookline, MA, which he founded, “over his alleged mistreatment of female employees,” according to the Boston Globe. He has referred to these circumstances as a “recent trauma” in an attempt to paint himself as a victim, even accusing JRI of “trying to steal $2.5 million” he allegedly raised in donations.

More troubling is a complaint filed in 2007 with the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine which details disturbing allegations against van der Kolk by a former patient. The complainant reports that van der Kolk diagnosed her with PTSD, and that, together, “we’d soon learn that a series of traumatic events which I survived in 2000 where [sic] the root of my problems,” including being “abducted and held captive by individuals who committed multiple felonies, including numerous murders.” The former patient expresses gratitude for van der Kolk’s apparent help in recovering these memories. However, once the patient began to get back on her feet, finish school and landing a job, van der Kolk allegedly “took resentment to my rapid and independent success.” The patient, seeking closure, was planning to petition the police to open an investigation when van der Kolk allegedly introduced her to a woman (and current patient of his) from the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance and an active police officer (and former patient of his) who was also a private investigator. An odd dynamic ensued, according to the complainant, in which van der Kolk allegedly insisted the private investigator charge her more for his services, and all communication between the three parties go through him. From there, the complainant details how her relationship with van der Kolk fell apart, eventually ending in her sudden termination from therapy. It appears that van der Kolk’s distancing from her came about as a result of her intentions to go to the police in Arizona, presumably where the alleged abuse took place. The complainant re-enrolled in therapy at JRI with a different therapist, in preparation for the anticipated investigation into her allegations of abuse in Arizona. Despite the fact that she insisted that van der Kolk not be involved, she alleges that he was closely supervising her therapist’s interactions with her. In response to these allegations, van der Kolk claimed to have been skeptical of his former patient’s recovered memories; a claim that runs in direct contradiction to the implication from the complainant that van der Kolk assisted her with recovering them. More about van der Kolk’s antics can be read here.

Hammond delivered in 1992 what has been dubbed the “Greenbaum Speech,” which alleges that techniques used for mind control of sexual abuse victims — causing them to repress memories of said abuse — were brought to America by a Hasidic Jewish Nazi named Dr. Greenbaum. The Nazi doctors, of course, were Satanists, he says. More information about Hammond, can be found here.

Salter wrote Out of the Shadows: Re-envisioning the Debate on Ritual Abuse, a chapter of a book entitled Ritual Abuse in the Twenty-First Century: Psychological, Forensic, Social, and Political Considerations, co-edited by Randy “Lil’ Knob” Noblitt. Noblitt is another major figure in the ISSTD and Satanic Ritual Abuse space. He has a laundry list of alleged moral offenses, not least of which is testifying for the prosecution in the Fran and Dan Keller day care center case as an “expert” on ritual abuse. In an interview after the trial, he claimed that Dan Keller used a hand signal to mind-control others in the courtroom. The Kellers served 21 years before their release last year; they were awarded $3.4 million for false imprisonment. For the Kellers’ successful appeal, Dr. Evan Harrington, Associate Professor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, wrote a letter to the 14th District Court in Travis County, TX, detailing Noblitt’s scientific ignorance. That letter, and more about Noblitt, can be read here. Perhaps most dangerously, Noblitt gave a talk in which he claimed that, once given anti-psychotic medication, his patients’ “helper personalities” stop giving him information about secret Satanist handshakes and signals, and as a result does not recommend long-term use of anti-psychotic medications in those reporting Satanic Ritual Abuse. A rather revealing 1993 television clip, featuring both Noblitt and Hammond, can be found here.

In the chapter, Salter cites Richard Kluft, a past president of the ISSTD who has settled two malpractice lawsuits and had his Dissociative Disorders unit shut down. In 2014, Kluft stated: “I remain troubled about the matter of transgenerational satanic cults.”

Salter also cites Bennett Braun, one of the founders of the ISSTD who settled several malpractice lawsuits. The story of a former patient, Particia Burgus, who received a $10.6 million settlement for Braun’s so-called “treatment,” can be found here.

And then there’s Roberta Sachs, whose work Salter also cited. In addition to writing an article titled “The Role of Sex and Pregnancy in Satanic Cults,” which is every bit as absurd and fantastical as you’d expect, Sachs was also the subject of a disciplinary order by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which found her responsible for manipulating a family into inappropriately committing all of their children into a psychiatric hospital, convincing the children they were abused by “transgenerational satanic cults,” and inappropriately prescribing psychotropic medications, among other ethical violations. She was found guilty of numerous charges, including Gross Negligence; Unethical, Unauthorized, and Unprofessional Conduct; a Pattern of Practice or Other Behavior Which Demonstrates That Respondent Practiced Beyond Her Competency; and more.

It should be noted that the Satanic Ritual Abuse field is a rather small and incestuous club. They tend to cite each other’s work and attend the same conferences. It stands to reason that they know one another — and their beliefs — quite well. Therefore, Salter’s associations with members of the ISSTD, and the Satanic Ritual Abuse field more broadly, surely extend far beyond the connections illustrated here.

While Salter aligns himself with alleged victims of ritual abuse and paints those worried about a modern-day Satanic Panic as apologists for abusers, he associates comfortably with some characters whose notions of mental illness and beliefs in Satanic Ritual Abuse can and have caused significant damage to the very same women and children he claims to be helping. Indeed, the vast majority of DID patients are women, while their psychiatrists are often men; for someone so preoccupied with the role of power and gender in abuse, it’s a wonder why he does not recognize — or does not care about — what is happening in the therapy sessions conducted by his collaborators.

As mentioned in Part I, when asked whether he shares former ISSTD RAMCOA Special Interest Group chair Ellen Lacter’s beliefs about grand Satanic/Illuminati conspiracies, Salter claimed that he is not responsible for what other people believe. Of course, that’s true. However, when you associate habitually with people who hold such beliefs, never question or publicly doubt those beliefs, and your work concords quite nicely — or even enables — those beliefs, it’s an uphill battle to argue that you don’t hold them as well. Perhaps this is why Salter never made this claim, instead stating that he is an “open book” while walking away.