Italians are reeling from the revelation that a crime ring, which includes a mayor, doctors and social workers, had been brainwashing children to say their parents abused them, so as to easily sell them on to foster families.
So far eighteen people, including the mayor of the town of Bibbiano, near Reggio Emilia in northern Italy, have been arrested.
They were suspected of working together to brainwash the kids, who were taken from disadvantaged families under false pretexts, into believing they’d been abused at home. This was later used as a justification to seize the children and, basically, to sell them to foster parents at a high price.
The psychologists at the Hansel and Gretel Association in the town of Moncalieri, near Turin, have used a variety of bizarre techniques to achieve their sinister goal.
They relied on persuasion to make their victims believe that their parents hurt and sexually abused them; showed fake, childlike drawings with added sexual details and even enacted plays, dressing up in scary masks to represent their moms and dads as being vile and dangerous.
The police said the children were also subjected to small electric shocks, referred to as “the little memory machine” by the shrinks.
An affected girl told La Repubblica paper that when she said that she couldn’t remember and was asking why she couldn’t see her dad anymore, she was told: “But don’t you remember you said you didn’t want to see him? I remember this.”
The psychologist then explained: “Yes, you said you didn’t want to see him because you were afraid that he would hurt you… that he might seek vengeance… or take you away. Do you remember the fear you felt? Do you remember now?”
But the child insisted that she couldn’t remember anything of the sort and that she cried over being separated from her father.
The police also said that they discovered dozens of letters and gifts from biological parents, which the perpetrators had never passed on to the kids.
The people to whom the boys and girls were handed over reportedly included sex shop owners, persons with psychological disorders and parents whose children had committed suicide. It was under this ‘foster care’ that at least two of the victims suffered actual sexual abuse, according to reports.
The separation from their parents and the psychological torture have taken a heavy toll on the affected kids, with some losing hope for a future and resorting to self-harm.
The criminal organization was busted by police as part of an operation codenamed “Angels and Demons,” which was launched in late summer 2018 after an unnaturally high number of child sex abuse reports were spotted as coming from an area in the Reggio Emilia province.
Those arrested, as well as 27 others under investigation, have been charged with mistreatment of minors, violence, abuse of office, fraud and falsifying public records.
Italian PM Giuseppe Conte called the crime “frightening and shocking”, while Minister for Families and Disabilities, Lorenzo Fontana, described it as a “shockingly serious” development and promised a probe into the country’s adoption system.
Italians on the internet said they were praying for the estimated 30 kids who were affected, and demanded an appropriate punishment for the wrongdoers, whom they branded as “animals.”
“Forgive us for what was done to you, dear children. You are our future. I believe in the fairness of our judicial system,” one of the users wrote.