“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.

Thanksgiving and Dissociation

I’m sitting here not knowing what to write. My mind feels blank, empty. I’ve been in this place before, many, many times. I have always come up with something, and most of the time I was satisfied with what I had written. That doesn’t mean I’ll be able to pull it off today, of course.

It’s a very familiar feeling. There is a pane of glass between me and the world, and whatever is “me” has stepped back, several steps behind the glass. Quiet, unengaged, just looking outwards toward the world. No judgment, no reaction, no words, no thoughts.

It’s dissociation, of course. At this time, for whatever reason, I am more dissociated than usual. If I fight it and scold myself for being so unengaged, so uncaring, it is unpleasant. I start brooding on what might be wrong with me, and why I haven’t fixed it once and for all after all these years. This leads to a fair amount of self-hatred.

If I just experience it without all that useless self-improvement chatter, it isn’t all that unpleasant. It’s nothing – no pain, no anxiety, no pleasure. Isn’t this what you are supposed to achieve when you empty your mind during meditation? Just observe the thoughts as they float by, don’t try and catch them and remember them, just observe without judgment, and then let them go. When the thoughts have gone, isn’t this what is left? Probably not, but it’s the closest I can come to describing what being dissociated feels like to me.

Dissociation, of course, takes many forms. It simply means that things that were once together have gotten separated. One’s self can be split into separate parts, each holding a part of the original self. A memory may be split, and parts stored separately so that only a smell is recalled. Or an image, like a still photograph. Or the emotion that was felt at the time the memory was formed.

We all learned to dissociate as very little kids. It was the only way we could survive what was done to us. We learned how to ”leave our bodies;” that is, we separated our bodies and our minds so that we could be unaware of the pain and the threat to our very lives. We floated up to the treetops and looked at the stars, or floated into an angel’s arms, or became a little bird perching on a branch, ready to fly away at any moment. Or, like me, we became nothing.

Thanksgiving has always been difficult for me. I think that is why I am so disengaged. I am re-experiencing the state I was in during those childhood Thanksgivings.

It’s interesting – I only have one memory of a Thanksgiving up until my twenties. A little glass bowl was filled with celery stalks and olives. I have memories of Christmas, Easter, and my birthday, all difficult days for me throughout adulthood. But Thanksgiving remains a blank. The celery and olives have no meaning, as far as I can tell. They are neutral, neither liked nor disliked, with no attached symbolism. Probably that is why they are remembered. I focused on something banal to protect myself from whatever was happening around me or to me. As neutral as leaves on a tree.

Today, despite feeling totally detached, I am making a point to see that the plants are watered. The cat will be fed every day this week, and the litter box will be cleaned. I will pet him every time he asks for attention. I may feel that I don’t care about the plants and the cat, but the plants won’t notice, and the cat probably won’t either. I will try to get a few things done, just not as much as usual.

And I will try and accept this eerie, quiet feeling. Not accept as in, “fuck it, it’s here, so I shall put up with it until lit goes away.” More like, “Gee, this has some advantages. The little voice that says, ‘hurry, things need to be done, important things. Stop daydreaming!’ is quiet. It feels sort of nice to float along, not caring or worrying so much.”

Thursday will come and go, and I will come out of this stasis and start feeling again. Meanwhile, I have ordered 120 bulbs on sale for my spring garden, cooked four artichokes, and eaten one. I made my bed and my laundry is done. I have actually been taking care of myself without thinking about it. Friday, I will feel good about the things I did while I was sleepwalking. Today, it is enough to just notice them.

GrassRoots RA/MC Collective Gives Me Such Joy!

Three Fun Survivor-Led Workshops for RA/MC Survivors

All these free events are held over ZOOM. Register for them at https://grassroots-ra-mc-collective.org/events/

Slow Flow Yoga with Toshia

An hour of gentle movement, breathing techniques, and guided relaxation to create mental clarity and increased body awareness. It can be done in a chair, on the floor, or on a couch or a bed.

Let’s approach our body, mind, and spirit with curiosity. This is a safe way for us to befriend our bodies, where past trauma is stored.” 

Sunday, November 13, 4:00 – 5:00 PM Pacific Time 

Come join Chris as she shares how to make  “paper dolls” for each of your others. This has been a very helpful tool for her because it encourages her parts to come forward. It is then easier for them to talk, tell their stories, and get to know you. Making the dolls is easy! Chris says she is not an artist and anybody can do this.

Saturday, November 26, 1:00 – 3:00 PM Pacific Time 

Heart and Soul Cards of Hope For the New Year  – Creative Arts Workshop

Soul Affirmation Cards Jen will show you how to create a personal “Heart and Soul’” affirmation card for the New Year. What are your hopes and dreams? What is that one word or phrase that opens up your heart and gives hope to your soul? How is that word or phrase held in art form? Celebrate the closing of this year with Jen as they teach us how to create a personal heart and soul card of hope for the year to come.

Saturday, December 31, 1:00 – 4:00 PM Pacific Time 

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GrassRoots is such a joy! In the beginning, there were just three of us, Rivers, Leni, and me. We put on a couple of poetry readings, starting on July 2021. We asked everybody who came to them to tell their friends about GrassRoots. We told our own friends, and I guess their friends told some other people. Those of us who have a blog wrote about it. Word spread. Only sixteen months have passed, and look at all that is going on!

On October 15, 2022, we hosted our first workshop. Until then, everything had been much-needed and much-appreciated ongoing groups. Drop-in support groups, plus art and writing groups. Now we are branching out, growing like a healthy tree.

Shana Dines was the trailblazer. She is a watercolor artist – you can see a couple of her paintings on our webpage. She also, in 3-D life, teaches watercolor techniques. I always assumed that watercolors were unforgiving because once they were on paper, you couldn’t change anything. Shana taught us how to layer color and how to paint one thing and then place another thing over it. She gave us some basic theory, like how to use complementary colors. We all worked on a scene of the sun setting over the ocean, and, toward the end, some of us did our own thing. I painted my fear and added these words from Litany Against Fear from “Dune:” 

“I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone, there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.” 

Shana was the first. Now three more survivors are giving workshops on very different subjects this year. They don’t conflict with anything else GrassRoots offers, so you can go to all three without missing anything. Who knows how many will happen during 2023!

Looking to the future, we’d like to have a speaker series. Once a month, a survivor would give a talk about some aspect of their life – healing, activism, whatever interested them. We are the experts because we have lived through ritual abuse and mind control.  We know what was done to us and how it has affected every corner of our being and every moment of our lives. 

It’s easy to record ZOOM sessions, so we could post the talks on the resource page. (Don’t automatically think “I can’t.” Think “I can’t…yet.”) If anybody is interested, contact me or, better yet, post in the comment section so you can inspire others. 

GrassRoots makes me so happy! I feel like a little rabbit hopping around in a field of wonderful ideas. There are lots of other rabbits to play with, and I like each of them more than all the others. The sun is warm, the breeze is soft on my fur, and there are lots of yummy things to eat. Bliss.

But it hasn’t always been like this. When I first realized what my childhood had been like, I thought I would die from the pain. I could hardly breathe. It was a huge struggle to get through each day, but I did. I sure wasn’t happily hopping around; I was slogging through molasses at midnight. Slowly, all too slowly, the days turned into weeks, months, and then years. I finally became able to feel more than numbness or pain.

I was very lucky to be able to suffer in the company of other survivors. Some were deeper in pain and fear than I was, some had come to a place where they could feel a little hope, a little love, a tiny bit of pleasure. Being among survivors gave me instant perspective. I was not the only one who had been tortured and used, then tossed aside, as a child. Others had escaped enslavement, then gotten through tsunami waves of pain and despair. There was hope of something different in life, after all. What I was feeling would not necessarily last forever.

I cannot imagine what it would have been like if I had not been able to meet and talk to others like myself. Nobody would have understood me the way other survivors do. I would have been alone, doubted and doubting, confused, with no idea of what to do, where to turn, or how to manage. There were only a couple of books on ritual abuse available in those days, and not a whole lot written about trauma or childhood abuse. I doubt if those books were available in small-town libraries. There was no Internet.

And, sadly, that is what it is like today for innumerable survivors.

When I first remembered, though, it was very different. In the late 80s, we were not afraid to speak to each other. There were feminist bookstores that sold books, journals, and zines about RA and conferences to go to. Many cities had 12-step meetings just for RA survivors, and some had a meeting almost every day of the week!  

Then the False Memory Syndrome Foundation came along. The members made up pseudo-scientific theories, claiming that children do not forget traumatic events. The stories they told had been suggested to them, and they had fallen for them. If one child disclosed, that child was mentally ill and disbelieved. If a group of children all told the same story, it was a case of mass hysteria. All their memories were false.

The FMSF also claimed that children were coached to tell false stories about one parent, usually the father, to please the other parent. This they called “the parent alienation syndrome.” One parent, usually the mother, was painted as manipulating and vengeful, willing to use an innocent child as a weapon against the other. 

They hired lawyers to go after therapists who “implanted memories” in clients to get their money. (Never mind that survivors are disproportionately unable to work, unemployed, or underemployed.) They provided lawyers to parents accused of sexually or ritually abusing their children. They even sued Ellen Bass, author of “Courage to Heal, claiming she put ideas into countless people’s heads. Ellen is reputed to have said, “Gee, I read a book about plumbing, but I never thought I was a plumber.”

The FMSF hired excellent public relations people and articles were published in respected journals and newspapers. In the 27 years of its existence (1992 – 2019), their disinformation campaign successfully swayed a large number of people. We are understandably reluctant to believe the worst of others, especially of people like ourselves, our neighbors, or our friends. It is more comfortable to believe that atrocities happen in other countries and not in our own backyards.  

And so survivors and their helpers became once again isolated and silenced.  

I was very lucky to have had support and a sense of community for four or five years before the FMSF turned the tide. I’ve always been sad that those times didn’t last longer. I want to recreate that atmosphere, both for others and for myself. I can’t change world opinion, but I can try to carve out a little green field in my own corner of the world.

That is what GrassRoots means to me – a return to belief, trust, and love in our relationships with our fellow survivors.  Watching GrassRoots, and the people who make up GrassRoots, grow and blossom makes me very, very happy.