Along with Americans appropriating their culture at Halloween, witches must deal with stereotypes about child abuse and sex rituals. This week, Britain's Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) reported an increase in witch-related crimes.
Project Violet, a special task force within the UK police, has dealt with 60 cases of faith-related child abuse so far in 2015; most often, these cases involve relatives accusing the child of witchcraft or other types of evil. This is an increase from last year's 46 reported crimes, according to the Associated Press. Detective Sergeant Terry Sharpe told the AP the crimes are "small in number" but represent "a significant increase." In one case, Sharpe told the AP, parents allegedly called their nine-year-old a "devil child" and then threw him out on the street. Another incident involved a mother who allegedly tried to "bite and smother" her son because he seemed like a witch.
Considering 1,000 mass shootings have occurred in America since Sandy Hook, 60 alleged witch crimes pale in comparison. Some in the occult community are concerned that the media coverage and heavy-handed task forces around these crimes could lead to undue paranoia about witches and the occult, an already maligned community. Though sensationalized stories imagine witches as dangerous demon ladies and gay men, most contemporary witches work as artists and activists. They're basically the grown-up version of friendly neighborhood emo kids. Some members of the occult think the reported crimes say more about the parents than witchcraft.
"Anyone who uses Satan to justify or explain their child's psychological problems is probably possessed by Jesus Christ," says occult artist JJ Brine.
Brine has a point. Throughout American history, religion and morality have led to witch hunts. In 1692 and 1693, the Christian residents of Salem, Massachusetts, accused women of witchcraft and condemned them. More recently, throughout the 1980s, Massachusetts again—along with North Carolina, New Jersey, and Minnesota—accused daycare centers of sexually abusing children in witch rituals. National hysteria over witch crimes ensued. According to the Washington Post, talk show host Geraldo Rivera increased the panic with his two-hour 1988 television special "Devil Worship: Exposing Satan's Underground."
The Huffington Post reports that states investigated 311 alleged child sex rings between 1980 and 1992, which led to mass hysteria over child abuse—and, more specifically, child abuse involving Satanic rituals—in American daycares. But as the Washington Post points out, child sexual abuse is most often committed by relatives and friends, and less than one percent of sex crimes happen at daycare centers. At the time, though, witch-run daycare centers seemed like a national threat. In his book about the subject, We Believe the Children, Richard Beck proposes the 1980s witch hunt symbolized other public fears, like homosexuals and sexualized feminists.
The United Kingdom may have an increase in witchcraft-inspired criminal activities, but we're also poised for a panic about magical crimes reflecting our public fears. After all, as Donald Trump's campaign and other election news has shown, feminists, gay marriage, and immigration scare many Americans. It's the perfect time for a national witch hunt.