While short-lived, the abuse panic that struck South Ronaldsay in 1991 included the familiar pattern of tropes seen in other cases. Unusually, the spark was an actual case of child abuse, rather than a mere suspicion. The father of a family who arrived to live on the island in 1987 was found guilty of abuse. This created an alarm in a neighbouring authority when no formal child protection order was served on the family.
Consequently, police raids took the children away from their mother, creating indignation in the community. A campaign was started to return the children to their mother. The local police found something suspicious in this campaign, and the families involved were stunned to find their own homes raided and their children taken into protective custody.