Rummaging around in my computer, I came across a large file labeled “to be filed.” Inside was the very first article I wrote on ritual abuse. It was published in “Body Memories” in the May/June 1993 issue. The collection of essays written by ritual abuse survivors emphasized societal issues. I remember being unsure if they would accept the piece because my point of view is personal, but I decided to submit it and see what happened.
They published it! I never saw another issue of “Body Memories.” I forgot all about the journal and my article.
Here is what I found in that “to be filed” folder.
“I was born into a Satanic family whose practices traced back to Europe. By day, my family was proper, even dull, with minor little human flaws. By night, they were Satanists, and like all committed parents, they raised their children to adhere to their practices. For me as a child, this meant physical and emotional sadism, lots and lots of group sex and animal sacrifices, some human sacrifices and cannibalism, and acting in pornographic films. As an adult, after I had broken free, it meant endless years of depression and fear, accomplishment sucked dry of every bit of pleasure, a dread of life, and a frustrated desire to disclose what had happened and find some peace.
“Did it really happen? Well, how do you teach a preschooler to have S/M fantasies? Where did that preschooler, who had no television or conventional religious training, learn about the devil, being buried alive in coffins, bearing the devil´s baby? What do you have to do to a child to make them believe, in 1945, that people are selfish, power-hungry, and sadistic, and that the only protection in life is to offer yourself to Satan so that you can be the predator, not the prey? If it wasn’t Satanic abuse, what did they do to me, that I organized my life around this fantasy? Must have been pretty awful.
“I was taught, threatened, and coerced into keeping my abuse secret. The times I slipped and revealed something, people outside the cult usually didn´t notice. When they did, all they saw was that I was odd, different from other children, difficult. In 1945, children’s problems were assumed to arise from within from innate flaws or badness. The expression of children’s pain required suppression and correction rather than serious attention. Is it much different today?
“My life has been blessed as an adult because I managed to escape and no longer had to be tortured or torture others. I raised my children non-abusively, and that is a miracle. And today, I am blessed because I can speak out about my experience and I can share my life with others who have lived through the same atrocities. I suffer the same old despair, but it feels a little less alone to be accepted, believed, comforted, and even (dare I say it) cherished by a few people.
“And yet, socially, ritual abuse survivors are as alone as we have ever been. We are keenly aware of the powerful voices trying to still us with accusations of being narcissistic hysterics jumping on the abuse bandwagon. We hear threats of lawsuits but do not even have the credibility to be arrested for crimes we were forced to participate in. We feel our aloneness most when we disclose and are met by disbelief, total silence, or comments about the weather.
“All who lived through ritual abuse are deeply impaired. Who wouldn’t be scarred by just one incident of the type we suffered day after day? Many survivors can’t keep a job or a relationship. Many of us are chronically suicidal and self-mutilate or cover our pain with amnesia, drugs, or alcohol. We routinely get scapegoated for our symptoms. Most of us don’t have the resources to get assistance from society, and we settle for patronizing crumbs.
“There are some brave and competent people without cult experience who try to understand and help us, but they are few and far between. So we reach within for understanding and solace, and we band together, as best we can, to create for ourselves what society withholds from us. Our deep and precarious friendships clothe our suffering in moments of beauty.
“I have never been believed by society, and I do not expect to be. For if we were to be taken seriously, we would expose that the very foundation of culture, throughout human history and in every country, is abuse, aggression, power-hunger, and sadism. If you believe in the existence of hidden ritual abuse, you will start to be able to identify open ritual abuse in every institution and family you come in contact with.
For ritual abuse is simply systematic physical, emotional, sexual, and/or spiritual abuse in the name of a defined ideology. It is abuse, rationalized as “for your own good” or “for the good of society.” Under this definition, the vast majority of ritual abuse is out in the open and sanctioned by many people. A child who is told he is going to hell for lying, a teenager who beats up people of different races, ethnic cleansing, and the list goes on and on. The difference between my experience and everyday life is only one of degree and secrecy.
If I were to be believed, people would not be able to live with themselves and continue to tolerate such horrors. They would have to change themselves and society. My life has taught me not to dare to expect so much from people.
I didn’t give any further thought to the article until, four years later, I was surprised by an email from a survivor thanking me for validating their memories.
Learning of the effect my words had on another person made a huge impression on me. I was not writing in a personal journal, I was writing for real human beings who were suffering just like myself. The stranger who was kind enough to write me became my friend, and we have remained in touch for all these years.
I have never forgotten that my words, my actions, have an effect on others. I may feel like a powerless, terrified little mouse, but that is a flashback to how I felt as a powerless, terrified little girl. In truth, some of my words, to some people, may be life-changing.
For those of you who write and feel you are shouting into a void, take hope. You do not know where your words will land. But I assure you, they will land, and your voice will be heard. Some of your words will be repeated and will reach others. They will live on past the day you first shared them publically, past the day you pushed the “send” button.
Also, it is not just you and I who are speaking out. I cannot imagine how many survivors are on the Internet. Many of them are better known than you and I but that does not diminish the importance of our voices.
The more we speak, the more people will hear us. The more we speak, the more others will be encouraged to speak. It’s possible our number could grow exponentially.