“On Ritual Abuse”

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.

24 thoughts on ““On Ritual Abuse”

  1. Thanks. It’s a good description of the split life of these cults. It expresses the stunning contradiction between public and secret activities that few people can comprehend. It brings up feelings of frustration about being forced to carry their split psyche and knowing most people don’t believe it’s possible.
    The article is from before I recovered from amnesia caused by teenage electroshock. At that time I was clueless about what happened to me.

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    1. I always knew there was something wrong with me and was on a quest to find out what. My amnesia didn’t break until I was 52. It’s like my real life began then. I used the metaphor of a two-family house – the two apartments were side by side, but the people living there didn’t talk to each other and had no idea what the other apartment looked like. I also called it the day life and the night life. There are still things I don’t know about that part of my life.

      I’m sorry about the electroshock. Your amnesia was slipping, and they did that to you to strengthen it?

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      1. I like the apartment analogy.
        I don’t know why I got ECT wiped, I assume it was for a good reason, but I don’t recall what it was like in my daily life before 14yo. Or what it felt like to be there. I have those things only back to grade 10. I have only a small part of my memory returning. Just enough to know what happened. But that’s a small % of what was wiped of my childhood. Most seems gone forever.

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  2. Thanks for finding and republishing this article! I think it is beautifully and powerfully written. I love your forthrightness and honesty in describing your family and childhood. It really knocked me out! (In a good way). I think you are a very gifted writer. I also loved what you said to other writers – knowing that your words will indeed “land” and our voices will be heard and will help others. This idea inspires me a great deal. Thanks again. XXOO Sparrow

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    1. I’m glad I added that bit at the end. It took the focus off of what I wrote and turned it back onto the unknown readers. Writing is solitary, but publishing is profoundly social. Thank you for the kind things you say about my writing – I am glad it will inspire you on a dark day.

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  3. Thank you Jean. I so appreciate your words. This time of year is the worst for me. Seem to have more flashbacks. Feel worse.
    Continue to put one foot in front of the other and try to remember I am here and now.

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    1. Baby steps. Every little step is a huge accomplishment. Put enough little steps together and who knows what mountains you will be able to move.

      And remember two things — you have lived through other Decembers and you will know how to live through this one, too.

      December is not forever – it just feels that way.

      Is there something you can do for the part(s) of you that lived through those events, those that are reliving them through flashbacks? Talk to them gently, saying it was not their fault, and you wish it had never happened? Something non-verbal, like hot chocolate?

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  4. You changed my life when you answered my email. I’ve been spending so much time thinking about much of what you just mentioned here and you put it into words so beautifully.

    I’m looking forward to sharing this with my therapist.

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  5. I appreciate your courage to speak out, Jean. Your comments reminded me of a talk given on public radio by Chris Hedges, a journalist who has worked with the author of the Franklin Scandal, Nick Bryant on “The United States of Sadism”. I couldn’t find my mp3 file but here is a link to a video https://r.search.yahoo.com/_ylt=AwrDQrYdXI1jWeQAlYgPxQt.;_ylu=Y29sbwNiZjEEcG9zAzEEdnRpZAMEc2VjA3Nj/RV=2/RE=1670237342/RO=10/RU=https%3a%2f%2fwww.transcend.org%2ftms%2f2021%2f07%2fchris-hedges-speaks-on-american-sadism-video%2f%23%3a~%3atext%3dIt%2520is%2520legally%2520permissible%2520in%2520the%2520United%2520States%2cutilities%2520and%2520the%2520rise%2520of%2520for-profit%2520mercenary%2520armies./RK=2/RS=ey0uG3Y9X37Kuq2.InLaOGAnFqU-

    Best, Pat

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  6. I totally agree with your experience of speaking out. For years when I spoke at conferences and universities and churches, I thought I had the volume turned down. But my words really did come out of my mouth, and they did change people’s lives. Sometimes I forget that. Thank you for the reminder.

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    1. Your speech at SMART changed my life, too. I was freaked out as could be. As I listened to you, I calmed down a little. I heard you say it was possible to get through to a place where you weren’t in a non-stop panic attack. It didn’t stop all the panic, but it sure did help!

      I wish I had told you at the time. My, that was in the ’80s. You were one of the first to speak up I had no idea you spoke so often – thank you for being a trailblazer!!

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      1. Thank you Jean. Yes, I was one of the first. I spoke for 16 years at the SMART Conference, starting at the very first one. When I left, people thought there would be a hole, but it was soon filled by others who had stories to tell. Each time I spoke out, I healed a little more….

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          1. Thank you,,, many times I felt as if I had no impact, then someone would tell me about something I’d said or wrote that impacted them in a positive way.

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  7. This is even more relevant today than when you first wrote it because if anything, we humans want to ignore anything that threatens our comfort. We are stubbornly oblivious.

    I am one of the less functional survivors you mentioned.
    Your words and your life are life-changing for me. And as always, when I read this, I can see your face and hear your voice.

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    1. I think that sometimes we measure ourselves by society’s standards — are we functional enough? Not are we kind and moral enough, do we try our best? You are a model for me at times, with the value you put on kindness and honesty.

      Liked by 1 person

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