Coming Out as a Model for Dealing with Ritual Abuse Memories 

* ZLibrary offers 4,836,367 free ebooks and 75,268184 articles. (That’s of today – it’s probably more by now.) Search for “ritual abuse” in books; the first page contains many good titles and a few more interesting ones are scattered through the following pages. Haven’t yet explored the article section, but there must be many articles on ritual abuse.

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My first job as a newly graduated social worker was “Drug and Youth Program Coordinator” for a three-town area in the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. There was a tiny bit of clinical work every now and then, but mostly it was administrative. My goal was clinical work, being a therapist for individuals and families and running groups.

By chance, one of the program directors was gay, and for some unknown reason, he was “outed” widely by one of his program’s Board members. I was incensed. I couldn’t do much of anything for him, but I could perhaps do something for the gay and lesbian community. I wrote a letter to the Director of an organization called the Homophile Community Health Center offering to volunteer, got interviewed, and was accepted. I was open about being straight and was given all the family work because it was assumed I would be able to be supportive of parents who had just learned that their child was gay or lesbian. It was a good fit, and when a position opened up, they hired me.

I loved that place. The Clinical Director was wonderful, and we did all sorts of things together – writing grants, designing an educational program for graduate student interns and volunteers, and forming groups for our clients. Many of the clients were young and having trouble navigating their entry into the dating scene and the community as a whole. It was there that I really became a clinical social worker, not a hope-to-be-someday clinical social worker.

I got to see people in every stage of coming out and so was able to reassure my younger clients that their reactions were normal and that it would get easier. Little did I know that what they were teaching me would be helpful to me not only in my professional life but in my personal life as well.

About ten years later, my memories came. I know that the process of remembering is different for different people. For me, the realization that I was a ritual abuse survivor was like having a ton of bricks fall on my head. Images filled my mind and flooded me with emotion (mainly fear and horror) every waking moment. They infiltrated my dreams. The only time they let up was when I was working, and I thanked them for that as if they were kind friends.

Metaphors came to my rescue, giving a small sense of normality and hope to this weird experience. It was like culture shock, like being plunked down in Japan, alone, with no money, not understanding a word of what people were saying. “It’s okay,” I told myself. “You will find somebody who speaks English, and in time you will learn Japanese and understand the culture.”

I remembered my gay and lesbian clients and reassured myself in the same words I had used to reassure them. “This is the first stage of coming out – I am coming out to myself, and I am overwhelmed. I have already come out to the two people I trust the most in this world. They still love me and want to help me. In time I will get used to my newly-discovered identity, and I will have friends like myself. Be patient – coming out is a process.”

In writing this, I tried to think of ways that finding out that you are gay is different from discovering you have ritual abuse in your background. It was really hard. I thought maybe I was clinging to the metaphor because it had been with me for so long and had helped me so much. I didn’t want to risk losing it!

Well, there are differences, I think. I doubt if many people realize they are gay without having had hints and conscious doubts about their sexuality. Maybe I am wrong. Perhaps it is only in retrospect that they can see things that should have alerted them to the possibility that they were not straight. But how could you miss the meaning of having had grade-school crushes on kids of the same sex? Or those dreams at night that were so exciting?

And how could I have missed the peculiar fears? Fear of forgetting how to breathe, fear of suddenly going blind, fear of people in general. Or the weird fascination with bones, rifle shells, raw meat, snakes. Or the content of dreams and fantasies not based on anything I had heard or read.

Easy. There was no context to put them in, so they remained isolated mental experiences, accepted as normal but never to be spoken of. And, when I was a child, it was widely known that some people were homosexual, but it was also widely known that incest occurred in only one out of a million families. And ritual abuse? Totally unknown.

Still, the metaphor was so apt, so powerful, so helpful. It gave me a map and a compass, both sorely needed. It told me what lay ahead, and it was invariably right.

I knew from the start that knowing I had a ritual abuse background, knowing my identity was that of a ritual abuse survivor, would last a lifetime. That living with it would have stages, and that this first stage would not last forever. That I would lose some friends and make others. That I would be ecstatic at being with people like me, that I would fit in as I never had before. That, when the rose-colored glasses slipped from my eyes, I would find that survivors were just like everybody else – some were loving, some bitter and vengeful. I would like some and not others, and some would like me, and some wouldn’t. That one day being a survivor would be “the new normal,” and I would be comfortable in my own skin.

I am so grateful for having this model and grateful to the people who taught me about the process of adaptation to a new minority (and stigmatized) identity. I would have had a far harder time if I had no framework for my experiences. I hope that others may find it useful and feel a little more grounded and hopeful.



Upcoming Holidays

9/2 Labor Day (US)
9/5 – 9/7 Feast of the Beast/Marriage of the Beast
9/13 Full moon
9/13 Friday the 13th
9/23 Fall equinox
10/13 Full moon
10/13 Backward Halloween
10/14 (?) Columbus Day
10/31 Halloween/start of Celtic New Year/start of the dark half of the year
11/1 All Saints’ Day
11/2 All Souls’ Day
11/11 (?) Veterans’ Day
11/12 Full moon
11/28 US Thanksgiving

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
9/1 Start of WW2
9/29 – 10/1 Rosh Hashanah (New Year, Day of Judgement)
10/8 – 10/9 Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
10/16 Death of Rosenburg
10/13 – 10/20 Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles, harvest festival)
10/19 Death of Goering
10/20 Hitler’s actual half-birthday
10/21 Hitler’s alternative half-birthday (Note: Hitler was born on Easter, so Nazis celebrate his actual birthday and half-birthday on 4/20 and 10/20. His alternate birthday is celebrated on Easter of the current year and his alternate half-birthday six months later.)
10/21 – 10/22 Simchat Torah (celebration of the annual cycle of the reading of the Torah)
11/9 Kristallnacht (State-ordered pogroms against Jews in Germany and Austria)
(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices and the equinoxes)

5 thoughts on “Coming Out as a Model for Dealing with Ritual Abuse Memories 

  1. I tend to look in many places to find a road map to what is happening to me and what to expect…I think so I can say…ok, this is what’s happening now…soon you will be here instead…you are ok…I haven’t found anything that reassures me yet, but having a metaphor I think could be very helpful. I get overwhelmed by the memories and the pictures in my head. I don’t always know what to do with them. This is definitely a process.


    1. I found my coming out metaphor to be a great road map. Unfortunately, there were no driving times! What I really wanted was a complete instruction manual. I’m still looking.

      You sure are right about it being a process. It’s even more complicated when you have discrete alters with different memories, different needs, and at different places in the process.

      Do you think the coming out metaphor could be of any value to you?

      Liked by 1 person

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