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One of the most healing things I have ever done was to join a Twelve-Step group for perpetrators. My therapist at the time was adamant that I shouldn’t do it. She hadn’t gotten very far with my belief in the lies they had told me about myself and was afraid that it would cement my guilt and embed it even deeper into my mind. I thought about what she was afraid of, took her objections seriously, and then decided to go.
As I had hoped, it was entirely liberating to be with others who had the same issue. There was one other ritual abuse survivor; the others all had different backgrounds and felt awful about different things that they had done. Some had done things as children, some as adults. Some had actively done things, other had caused harm by ignoring a situation. But everybody wanted to face their issues and nobody was going to try and talk anybody else out of their feelings.
Despite our differences, I found I could relate to every single person there. As I felt compassion for them, I started to feel a little compassion for myself. I can’t remember how long I went and whether I stopped going or the group disbanded. That tells you that it was back in the early ’90’s. If I knew of one today near me, I would go in a flash.
What a relief it was not to be told, “It wasn’t your fault.” In some contexts, this a fine thing to hear, in others it is like chalk on the blackboard. I felt misunderstood and diminished, as if my deeds were not important or the feelings I had about what I had done were somehow wrong. I should sit up and smile and say, “Oh, thank you! I’m glad to learn it wasn’t my fault. I feel so happy now that’s been taken care of.”
I remember once, in a peer support group, somebody told me I didn’t kill a cat. I mean, she said I had been tricked into killing it, but I did kill it. A snarky part of me came out and said, “So who killed it? Eleanor Roosevelt?” (When I was a kid, blaming Eleanor Roosevelt was a popular pastime for my parents and their friends.)
But she did have a point. She told me that I had been used as a tool and that I had had no desire to kill and no choice, any more than the knife had. That has stuck with me….but. The knife had no moral sense. If I were only a tool, why did I feel responsible?
I also don’t like to be told, “You were only a child.” At what age do you stop being a child and become accountable for your actions? The Catholic Church says six, the age of first communion. Many other Christian groups say at the time of conformation, which is usually around twelve or thirteen. In Judaism, it is when a child turns thirteen. The law says you can vote and sign a contract at eighteen, except that children under eighteen can be tried as adults for crimes they have committed. There seems to be no one magic age when some fairy godmother waves a wand and showers you with sparkles and poof! you are an adult.
So I could find no age at which I could, rationally, consider myself accountable. Being responsible for my actions just sort of crept up on me.
The context is important, too. Say the abuse is by your neighbors and it stops when your family moves when you are six. That’s real different from your handler dying when you are thirty-five without telling anybody else the passwords for your various programs. In both cases the abuse stops, but the path to healing looks very different. It is also different if some outside event made the abuse stop or if you fought hard to free yourself. There is still guilt but the shape and weight and flavor of the guilt is different.
I’d like to point everybody to an article that Ellen Lacter wrote and posted on her website. It is “For Those Who Condemn Themselves for Acts Coerced Under Torture” https://endritualabuse.org/coerced-under-torture/ It is a dense article and some parts can bring up disturbing memories and/or feelings that need to be absorbed and processed.
I’d suggest you take it slowly and allow each section (or even sentence) to really sink in before continuing. Usually, I give this advice feeling like a hypocrite because I have been known to devour whole books on ritual abuse in one sitting. This time, though, I could not zip through it. It took me weeks to finish it, as I kept coming back to parts that had that had struck a chord deep inside me. Like that Twelve-Step group for perpetrators, it has had a profound effect on me and I am very grateful to Ellen.
8/26 Full moon
9/3 Labor Day
9/5 – 9/7 Marriage to the Beast (Satan)
9/7 Feast of the Beast
9/22 Fall Equinox
9/24 Full Moon
10/13 Backwards Halloween
10/24 Full Moon
10/31 Halloween/Samhain/All Hallow’s Eve/ Hallomas/All Souls Day/Start of the Celtic new year
11/1 All Saints’ Day
11/22 US Thanksgiving
11/23 Full Moon
12/21 Yule/Winter Solstice
12/22 Full Moon
12/24 Christmas Eve
12/25 Christmas Day
12/31 New Year’s Eve
Dates important to Neo-Nazi groups
9/1 N Start of WW2
(Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lamas, Halloween, solstices, equinoxes, and full moons.)
4 thoughts on “What is Perpetration?”
Very tough subject. Years ago I had to deal with the fact that I had to sexually abuse and procure boys for the cult. Horrible. I never have dealt with what happened to them and I probably never will.
This may also be one of the reasons why I have been celibate for many years. Not the only reason but part of it.
I have known others who had to procure children for the cult and their guilt was heavy. Usually they were used sexually.. Somehow it seemed that boys born into the cult were too valuable to be used in pornography or prostitution. I don’t know.
In any event, I am so sorry you were forced to do this. It is horrible to live with.
Very fine and thoughtful post….
Thank you, Erik.