The Armchair Activist

You can find information on Candlemas at and Valentine’s Day at

Most everybody thinks of activists as rare, brave, incredibly talented individualists like Ralph Nader, Cesar Chavez, and Mother Teresa, or as loners with a burning desire to change the world. They are larger than life, their scope is far grander than anything we could imagine, and their actions have nation-wide or even worldwide consequences.

Well, folks, people like that comprise about 0.0000000000000001% of all activists. The typical activist is an ordinary person stuffing envelopes for a few hours or objecting to an offensive joke. Of course there are some headline catchers, but the vast majority of activists are unknown individuals consistently acting on their beliefs and values.

These days, it is easier than stuffing envelops. You don’t have to leave the house, you don’t even have to leave your desk chair. There are all sorts of things to do on the Internet that count as activism.

What do we survivors collectively want to do? We want to heal from the ravages of ritual abuse, and we want others to heal, too. We want to see people escape from abusive groups. We want to stop passing on evil from generation to generation. We want an end to ritual abuse.

Here’s how we can work toward these goals. By educating ourselves and the general public about ritual abuse and about the process of getting free and healing. If we are free, we can be a role model for all those who are still being abused. By demonstrating, not only in words but in our lives, that being free is better than being enslaved, making choices is better than obeying, loving is better than hating. If we are not yet free, we can still be role models of courage and determination

Activism starts small, at home. It starts in the heart, with a decision to reach out to others even though we feel incompetent and insignificant. We tell ourselves that at least somebody may see that we are lost, lonely, and suffering in the depths if despair and may see themselves reflected in us. We have given that person the gifts of validation and of easing their loneliness.

Now here is a small something you can do to help. Find a survivor blog and write a comment on the latest post. (Just search WordPress for “ritual abuse”or pick a blog from the list at Read a bit of the blog, and, if you like it, check the box that allows you to follow it. You would be surprised how much this means to the blogger. This little action makes your voice be heard for a moment and strengthens the ties that form our community. If you keep on commenting, you will find you have joined a welcoming, supportive group of survivors.

For a card-carrying activist, I am extremely lazy. I love it when others have great ideas! (Saves my brain cells.) And I really love it when  we all get involved. Last night I fell asleep dreaming of a thousand new blogs. Hundreds of submissions for workshops submitted to An Infinite Mind, Ivory Garden, First Person Plural, S.M.A.R.T., Survivorship, ISSTD, IVAT, therapist study groups, Christian ministries – the list of places is limited only by our imagination. I even envisioned handing out pamphlets in a supermarket parking lot!

Please remember that the majority of us, whether we are survivors struggling with our pasts or therapists, activists, or supporters of survivors, feel under-educated and inadequate to the challenge. The reality is that we all have something to offer each other and that our community is hungry for connection and information. Whatever your experience, it is valuable to the rest of us.

Of course, you can take many of the suggestions here and apply them to other causes you feel strongly about.

What We Could Call Ourselves

Here are two pages about my personal feelings about Christmas:  (The images disappeared – I don’t know why.)

This page is about the source of winter holiday customs. I wrote about Yule and the winter solstice but a great deal applies to Christmas, too.

Stay safe, everybody!


There have been many discussions over the years about changing the name we call ourselves so that we could become more credible and could ally ourselves with survivors of other kinds of abuse. The idea was that we’d become stronger and more influential if we joined with others.  By and large, the idea fizzled, as we were afraid we would be swallowed up and lose our identity.

However, we have an awful lot in common with survivors of child prostitution, child pornography, gov/military mind control, and child soldiers. Taking a broader look, ritual abuse can be seen as incest, physical, sexual, and spiritual child abuse, domestic abuse, and human trafficking. Think of the number of people who have suffered these abuses!

What if we all could come together under some common umbrella? We could use our common name when we were fighting for recognition and justice and still use our chosen name when we talk among ourselves or to those who know something about what we have been through. We could have the best of both worlds.

Michael Salter is a sociologist and criminologist at Western Sidney University, Australia. In an interview with Borne Press in 2014, he stated: “A lack of health services and limited access to the criminal justice system are common to victims of child sexual abuse, rape and domestic violence. These are indicative of major systemic failings that can only be changed slowly, over time, through collective social and political pressure. I know many survivors of organised abuse are working within organisations that aim to address these problems and I’d encourage others to think about the kinds of partnerships they can strike up with like-minded social movements.”  (

Michael is very knowledgeable about ritual abuse and knows well that claims of RA are greeted with rejection. He believes that using the term “organized abuse” brings real advantages, one of which is that it lessens rejection. People can understand and believe what he is saying and not get freaked out as they would if they heard about ritual abuse without preparation. Once they have understood the concept of multi-perpetrator and (usually) multi-victim abuse (e.g. organized abuse) they are more open to accepting ritual abuse as a type of organized abuse.

On 10/9/2016, in a private e-mail, Michael Salter explained his approach: (quoted with permission)

“Rather than ‘mind control’ or ‘programming’, I generally talk about the ‘deliberate induction and manipulation of dissociation’. Mainstream audiences can understand what this means. It’s also a more inclusive term since it describes the conduct of a range of perpetrators and groups, including those abusers who aren’t particularly sophisticated or knowledgeable about DID.

I don’t like the term ‘programming’ since a) I find it sensationalist and dehumanising (human beings are not computers! …. and b) ‘programming’ sounds quite mechanical and underplays the emotional/attachment aspect of the control that perpetrators have over victims. Instead, I prefer to talk about ‘phased’ and ‘strategic’ forms of torture. Again, mainstream audiences can grasp this fairly well.

I use the term ‘ritual abuse’ specifically where ritual has been used in sexual violence, and the term ‘organised abuse’ to describe the broader category of abuse involving multiple, coordinated offenders. The two terms sometimes get conflated but this is a mistake in my view. A significant group of organised abuse victims have never been exposed to ritual abuse, although they’ve experienced overlapping forms of sadism and sexual exploitation.”

Much as I cling to the term “ritual abuse,” I believe I could adopt this approach without feeling I had lost my identity. And I believe others could, too. The name “organized abuse” should be freely chosen by ritual abuse survivors, not something imposed from outside. We would have to be flexible, choosing which name to use in a range of different settings. We had to learn to be flexible very early in life to survive and we have not lost that ability.

I’ve been daydreaming about connecting with people who have undergone forms of extreme abuse which did not include adherence to a particular ideology as either the goal of the abuse or a rationalization on the part of the perpetrators. I imagine it would be like meeting other RA survivors. “That happened to me, too!” “That’s a lie to control you!” “We were both used and degraded.” I also imagine that my family, my tribe, would expand and therefore I would be lots more comfortable in the world.

That in itself makes it worth trying. But if we became more powerful and could actually, together, change society? Wow!!!!!

I’d really love to have somebody write a powerful song that could unite us – something along the lines of “We Shall Not Be Moved” or “Solidarity Forever” or “Which Side Are You On?” Is anybody out there a singer-songwriter?

In Memory of Dana Raphael

Upcoming holidays – 6/6 D-Day, the invasion of France in WW2 (Nazi): 6/19 Fathers’ Day (US and Canada): 6/20 is both a full moon and the summer solstice

I had planned to finish the eating disorders series, but let too much time slide by. It will come in June, I promise.

Dana Raphael passed away on February 2 of this year. She was one of the pioneers in the field of women’s and children’s health and ritual abuse as it affects the bond between women and their children. I knew her personally and she followed my work closely. I didn’t think of her as a mentor, but rather as a cheerleader. Since there hadn’t been many cheerleaders in my life, I was very, very grateful.

I knew that her life’s work was the Human Lactation Center, which she had co-founded with Margaret Mead in 1975. I didn’t know that she introduced the word doula and that she wrote “The Tender Gift: Breastfeeding,” which people called “the Bible of breastfeeding.” It addresses stigma and medical concerns as well as giving advice and encouragement to new mothers. Pretty damn good for 1973.

Dana’s interest in breastfeeding as important to the well-being of both mothers and infants broadened to include oppression of women, child sexual abuse, and ritual abuse. She became known at the United Nations because The Human Lactation Foundation participated in a large study of lactation and infant growth sponsored by the World Health Organization and co-funded by NIH and USDA. From this work came a strong connection with the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women.

Here is an article in which she describes how she came to be involved with ritual abuse issues–torture.html. In it, she speaks of attending the 2003 S.M.A.R.T conference and being very moved by being in the presence of so many ritual abuse survivors. I was at that conference and witnessed the moment when Jeanne Sarson and Linda MacDonald said they wished they could present on ritual abuse at the United Nations. Dana said, “I think I can help. Speak to me afterwards.” That was the beginning of a yearly meeting on ritual abuse at the United Nations Conference on the Status of Women.

One year – I think it was 2005 – she asked me to be part of the panel. I was honored, I was overwhelmed, and I was scared of having flashbacks, as most of my abuse had taken place in New York City. Despite mixed feelings, I asked Dana what to wear (she said anything that makes you feel like a million dollars), took a deep breath, and accepted. After the presentation, I stepped out onto the street and started having non-stop flashbacks. That dress no longer fits but I cannot bring myself to give it away.

Dana’s accomplishments were many and her interests far-ranging. At the time of her death, she was Executive Director of the Eleventh Commandment Foundation, a NGO that researches the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse on women’s experience of pregnancy, labor, childbirth and lactation. She was an adjunct professor at the Yale School of Medicine and lectured all over the world. She received two Fulbright awards, was involved in more than fifty conferences and symposiums, and wrote or edited five books and over fifty articles.

As if she didn’t have enough to do, she was also on the Board of Directors of the Club of Rome, which is working on climate change issues. And then there was her family, the New York City Ballet, the Connecticut Ballet, the American Museum of Natural History, the Audubon Society, and more I will never find out about.

Here is a picture of the Dana I knew; bright, curious, eager, open to whatever is in the moment. I am grateful that I knew her and wish she were still with us.

DAna Prof photos (8)