Satanic Panic Alive and Well in North Carolina

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I was going to do an update on the Pagan fence controversy today, but another story I’ve read, the more I think about it, the more it bothers me (I’ll get to the fence thing tomorrow). It involves five people, the local Democratic party, accusations of kidnapping and rape, and Satanism. The more you dig into it, the more it seems like the beginnings of a witch-hunt. At first it seems like a straightforward crime with a hint of Satanism thrown in for spice.

“Prosecutors have charged three people, including two ranking members of the Durham County Democratic Party, as part of an investigation into allegations of rape and kidnapping that prosecutors said involved satanic worship … Authorities have said little about the case outside of the information included in arrest warrants, which allege that [Joseph Scott] Craig beat a man and a woman, raped the woman and that [Joy] Johnson watched as he did so. Durham County Assistant District Attorney Mark McCullough said earlier this week that charges stemmed from some sort of satanic ritual.”


Joseph Scott and Joy Johnson

Now hold on, this is going to get a bit complicated. The three people arrested, Joy Johnson, Joseph Craig, and Diana Palmer are all New Agers. Joy and Joseph run/ran a web site (now down) called “Indigo Dawn”, which provided spiritual healing services, past-life regressions and the like. Joseph Craig, on the site, claims to be a practitioner of magick. Meanwhile, Joy and Diana are both chairwomen of the Durham County Democratic Party. Joy and Joseph are the ones accused of rape and kidnapping, Diana is accused of helping to hide evidence after the fact. All have been accused of participating in a “Satanic ritual”. Diana Palmer claims no involvement or knowledge of any illegal acts or cult activity.

“The warrant for Palmer’s arrest states she put the evidence in her trunk and “drove her vehicle to another location in an effort to conceal those items from detection of the Durham Police Department.” “She denies knowing about any crime, being connected with this crime or having anything at all to do with Satanism or any assault of any nature whatsoever,” Thomas said, describing his client as a New Age Christian.”

Still, this could have been a straightforward case of rape and kidnapping, with Palmer as an innocent dupe, or willing accomplice. However, it looks like the charges of “Satanism”, along with the charges of rape and kidnapping might not be as it appears.

“But the attorney for Joseph Scott Craig, 25, has questioned whether authorities misunderstood what was taking place inside his client’s home. “It sure seems to look like sadomasochism or some kind of consensual activity that maybe went too far,” defense attorney Woody Vann told The News & Observer of Raleigh. “While it may not be normal activity for our everyday population, that doesn’t mean it’s criminal.” … Authorities allege that Craig beat a man and a woman, raped the woman and that Johnson watched as he did so. Court documents filed this week accuse Johnson of “instigating and encouraging” her husband as he handcuffed the man and forced him “into a dog cage, leaving him there for hours, terrorizing him.” The documents said the incidents occurred in December 2007 and in January and May.”

Let’s deconstruct this for a moment. One couple meets another couple, allegedly through “a shared interest in Satan worship”. They then engage in, on three occasions, what sounds very much like cuckold play, a very, very common kink. The basic scenario, in short, is that a man (or woman) is restrained (mentally or physically) and “forced” to watch his (or her) partner sexually gratified by a stranger. While I’m not ruling out mental coercion, or that the final instance may have been done without consent, we may also be dealing with what sex columnist Dan Savage calls “drastic, disgusted, after-the-fact denial” (NSFW language at link).

“I’m familiar with drastic, disgusted, after-the-fact denial … the moment a closet case gets what he came for … his tone changes dramatically. Not only does he stop begging to be ******, he will deny he ever wanted to be ****** in the first place. The truly messed up ones would even deny that they had been ****** at all…”

So far the police have been tight-lipped about details of the case. As I have said before, this could very well be what they say it is. A kidnapping and rape. If so, the accused should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. However, if this is a case of guilt/shame after the fact, or self-protection from being labeled as perverts, two (or three) innocent people could be facing jail time and a lifetime on the sexual offender lists. Worse, by spinning tales of Satanism, and by the police releasing those details, we face a new wave of “Satanic Panic” in the region.

Will people start looking out for more “cultists” in the New Age or Pagan communities? Will there be more arrests? Will vigilante justice ensue if the accused are cleared of wrongdoing? We can’t be sure, but one thing we do know is that justice has been marred by the Durham police engaging in sensationalism. We can only hope that justice prevails here (whatever that may be), and that this doesn’t spark any further witch-hunts. What do you think? Real crime with a touch of sensationalist Satanism thrown in, or a smear of innocent people who believed they were engaging in a consensual act?