Ritual Abuse Survivors and Eating Disorders

The Trafficking Conference Videos Are Up!

On September 23, 2022, Donna Lyon, Jean Riseman, Mary Bolger, and Anneke Lucas presented at the International Conference for Human Trafficking and Social Justice.  https://www.traffickingconference.com

The presentation is titled “The Interface Between Sex Trafficking, Ritual Abuse (RA), and Mind Control (MC) Programming.” There was too much material to fit into 45 minutes, so it was split into two parts. The conference attendees were a very diverse group, including trafficking survivors (many were RA/MC survivors), law enforcement, ministers, therapists, researchers, activists, and more. They were eager to learn about RA/MC.

I wrote updates for the blog about our progress working on the presentation last spring and summer. Now you can see the finished product!

Part 1: The panelists, ranging in age from 58 to 85, were all introduced to sex trafficking by their families. Their experiences ranged from being exploited by a local group of pedophiles to global elite child sex trafficking rings. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=855pdTCJ4_s

Part 2: Panelists describe their escape and entry into healing, how their abusers attempted to maintain control, signs, and symptoms specific to their ritual abuse and mind control programming, and shared their recovery process and work for the survivor community. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4asQx4cecI

Ritual Abuse Survivors and Eating Disorders     

There have been two surveys (that I know of) looking at the prevalence of eating disorders in survivors of ritual abuse and other forms of extreme childhood trauma. Both were self-reporting and open to any survivor who wished to participate. One was conducted by Survivorship, a support organization for RA/MC survivors, and reached Survivorship members only. The other one, by the Extreme Abuse Survey, was open to all survivors of extreme abuse. 60% to 65% percent of respondents in the two surveys said they had an eating disorder, while less than 20% reported being alcoholic and/or drug-addicted. 

It’s not difficult to understand why eating disorders are so common among survivors. We have been made to eat and drink things that never were intended to be put in a human mouth. Food or water was withheld as punishment or to make us more susceptible to programming. And sometimes, rarely, we have been rewarded with edible food, usually junk food. 

We also may have been programmed to binge to conceal a pregnancy. Or programmed to starve ourselves to death if we are of no further use to the abusers. That’s safe for the perpetrators – it’s a murder that never will be discovered.

It’s a miracle that 100% of RA/MC survivors do not have severe eating disorders.

Severity runs on a spectrum. For me, it’s pretty mild, thank goodness. I do eat to soothe myself, but I don’t binge and purge, and I don’t overeat often enough to gain weight rapidly. I can’t remember comfort-eating in childhood, but then I had no control over what I ate. Looking back, I see that I picked it up in high school, along with yo-yo dieting. I did diet, hoping it would solve all my social problems if I lost five or ten pounds, but I was too lazy to chart my food intake or count calories. I guess you could say I dabbled in anorexia but never got hooked.

But I have gotten addicted to certain things. I count it as an addiction if a) I make sure I always have some in the house, b) I eat it daily, c) I eat more than I want to (just one more bite!), d) I minimize the problem, and d) I am ashamed of my behavior.

My weaknesses are sugar and salt, preferably in the form of potato chips. Right now, I have a serious sugar addiction, thanks to Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food. I know I can stop or cut down on it…maybe next week. 

My other current food problem is trying to eat six small meals a day rather than my usual three meals. (This is a blood pressure management technique. It’s supposed to prevent drops in blood pressure after meals.) I got so bored eating all day long that I skipped meals and started losing weight without wanting to.

I figured out how to handle this. I sometimes cook a big batch of something that would taste good cold as well as hot and spread it out over three or four days. Sometimes I serve myself a regular meal and split it in half. (When my blood pressure is high, I go back to my old pattern of three normal-sized meals a day.) There is no extra preparation time and not much more eating time, so it’s not quite as boring. Although my weight is now steady, I am angry at being out of control and at having to think so much about food.

In my mind, this problem doesn’t fall under the umbrella of disordered eating. It belongs in the sub-category of self-care – all the things that are good for me but are a pain to do faithfully. More importantly, it stirs up all the dormant childhood feelings about food, the distorted beliefs, the sense of helplessness.

I don’t feel, therefore, like I am talking from the point of view of somebody who has had the experience. I can relate to some parts of living with an eating disorder, but not most. I can still validate that, yes, it is one more thing caused by your abuse. And yes, it can be life-threatening, become all-consuming, increase your shame, anxiety, and depression, affect your relations with others, and fill you with despair.

I understand where it comes from and why it is so very hard to deal with. I admire all of you who fight for a healthier relationship with food. It is a great way to give the perps the finger!

Resource List

The first two entries are my other blog articles on eating disorders. Both titles are clickable.

Eating Disorders: (an overview: facts, research, and statistics)

Healthy Eating for an RA Survivor (HA!):

Eating Disorders in Men and Boys

An excellent page, not all dry statistics. NEDA also has articles on athletes, the Jewish community, LGBTQ+, those with disabilities, people of color, and older people. 


Resources for People with Eating Disorders

Here is a comprehensive list of resources that includes free online therapist-led and peer support groups, help lines, funding for treatment, and help with insurance companies. There is also a step-by-step guide to finding a therapist, making phone calls, etc.  


Denial and Ritual Abuse


Spencer has long, soft-as-a-cloud fur. It feels like something I can’t quite remember – not angora, not silk (well, almost), not polyester. Sometimes he lets me brush him and seems to like it, sometimes not. 

When he sheds, his fur gets stuck like Velcro on carpets, sheets, sweaters, underwear, my hair, and just about everywhere. The washing machine chops it up and spreads it out evenly. By now, it is felted balls of fur, not long white or orange hairs. If the surface of the fabric is very smooth, there are a few large clumps that are easy to remove. If it is rough, like wool, most kinds of cotton, and anything containing Spandex, there are hundreds of teeny tiny bits of fur stuck tight as if they were burrs. 

How do I get rid of it?

The Blog Will Have a New Home!

On January 30, I decided to check out SquareSpace. My commitment to exploring alternatives to WordPress is fulfilled! My friend Rishi is busy setting up the blog, and I have promised to stop trying to learn how to edit it and wait for her to finish. With the help of an easy-to-understand tutorial, she will then teach me how to use it. I’m finding it hard to hold back, but we agree that this is a sensible plan. 

I am pretending I am moving in real life. I have found a new apartment and am packing up my possessions. A dear friend is busy preparing the new place – making a list of things that need fixing, cleaning windows and kitchen cabinets, and preparing a list of nearby stores and places to visit. We are both feeling a heady mixture of anxiety and excitement. 

You’ll be the first to know when we choose a moving date.


Recently, I was discussing denial with a group of friends. I know what denial is, yet when I started to speak, I couldn’t find the words. It was annoying at the time and continues to be annoying. I am ruminating about what denial is,\ and why it should strike me mute.

After deciding to write about it, I looked it up in the online Miriam-Webster dictionary. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/denial. I learned that it is a noun meaning refusal to admit the truth or reality of something.” And that in psychology, it is “a defense mechanism” in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality.”

The definitions are interesting. In the first one, “refusal” could refer to something done or said without conscious intent or something done or said on purpose. I’ll expand on this in a moment.

In the second definition, there is no reference to conscious intent. I can’t, however, imagine how denial could be used to avoid facing a personal problem if it were conscious. If the denial is conscious, so is the problem, no?

Talking to my friends, I was groping to explain that I have two forms of denial, one conscious and the other unconscious, and they feel quite different.

The conscious kind goes like this, “Nah, that couldn’t be a memory of something real. What are the odds that, of the millions of people in the world, that happened to me?”

How does this help me avoid the possibility that my childhood included ritual abuse? It doesn’t. It makes me feel better for a moment, and then I feel foolish. But since the thought pops into my head so often, I figure I might as well welcome it and see how I can best handle that knee-jerk reaction to a previous gruesome thought. Here’s how it goes:

“Oh, there is that doubt again. I must need a resting place before venturing into that territory. I’ll remember that ritual abuse is only a hypothesis, and that, when a better hypothesis comes along, I will drop RA and adopt the new one. I’ll keep an open mind. When I feel ready, then I can delve into new memories, if there are any.”

See how I cover all bases without putting myself down? It looks easy, but a lot of experimentation went into getting it right.

There is another kind of conscious denial that has ,and they get caught? And they deny (lie) they did it when confronted? Or the medical use of the word, “Patient denies current domestic violence, childhood trauma, or previous psychiatric treatment.” 

Unconscious denial is far more interesting to me. There is conscious awareness of the symptoms, the red flags that signal that something is seriously wrong. There may even be a vague feeling that there might be something wrong with your early life. But you believe with certainty that your childhood was fine. No abuse, no major losses, no being bullied. It was fine. I was lucky to have had a good childhood. Even if it included ritual abuse, which you have been taught from an early age not to remember and not to talk about. Not to even think about it.

For all RA/MC survivors, denial developed in early childhood. It had to, for us to stay alive. Denial was as necessary as breathing. It was also heavily reinforced by the brutal training not to speak of these things, not even to remember them.

Today, we don’t need to deny so desperately. Although the need is past, we can’t unlearn how to unconsciously deny something. The best we can do is ask ourselves if there is something trying to get to the surface (part of us wants to know) and stirring up obstacles to remembering (part of us is afraid of knowing.)

I have trouble finding words when I think of this kind of denial. The conscious mind seems sharp and clear to me, but the unconscious mind feels foggy. I find myself standing there, waving my hands, looking up at the sky, waiting for words to fall down into my brain. But they are already in my brain. I just have to find them. 

Of course, it is hard to talk about. My unconscious is different from the conscious part of my mind, and I am not very familiar with it. It’s part of “me.” of course. But the part of me talking and writing is different and has never been in the unconscious. “I” am only guessing what it’s like. No wonder it is hard to find words.

When a wave of denial comes surging out from my unconscious. I try to flow with it. I tell myself it is there for a good reason, and probably information is organizing itself in preparation to reveal itself to me. I talk to my denial as if it were an alter and tell it I’m grateful for the moment of calm. And I tell whatever is pushing up towards consciousness that I do want to know, at the right time. Perhaps I need to be a little stronger, more rested, or the plants need watering first. 

Then, all by itself, things resolve. The denial lifts, and I know a little more about myself. This process used to be a huge struggle, filled with big emotions. Now, using the approach of joining with the denial, it is drama-free and anxiety-free. 

I didn’t get these miraculous results right away. I had to think out what I would say to myself ahead of time and then practice, practice, practice. I can’t just flip a switch and make a change in a minute. But it’s worth the time and energy.


A Hard Christmas Season for RA/MC Survivors


I have heard from way more than one RA/MC survivor that the 2022 Solstice/Yule/Christmas/New Year’s season has been harder than usual.

It was for me. I have been spoiled by the last two years. To my amazement, I sailed through all the holidays just as if I were not an RA survivor. I still was aware of memories and feelings about my family of origin – dislike of holiday feasts and other forms of jollity and deep disappointment in presents. Of course, all my childhood memories of holidays were tainted by cult experiences. Many gifts were triggers (like taxidermy baby chicks at Easter) or chosen to make me feel fat, stupid, unacceptable, unheard, misunderstood, and unloved.

This year, I was caught unawares around the middle of December. Suddenly, my senses were dulled and it was extremely difficult to enjoy anything whatsoever. Not my friends, not the cat, not even coffee or chocolate. I felt unconnected to others and to everything inside and outside myself. 

For about two weeks, I felt like a half-ghost, floating through the days, not thinking about what was coming. Not connected to much of anything, certainly not to my fear. I was in flashback, a feelings-flashback, a flashback to childhood dissociation.

I told myself I would get my energy back after the first of the year, but I woke up on the 28th feeling “normal.” I have more energy and I once more care about my friends and my projects. I have no idea why there was a two-week flashback this year and not last year or the year before. I have no idea if I will greet all the holidays in 2023 with flashbacks or whether I will once again shrug them off.

But I do know that whatever happens, I will cope. 

On Comparing Myself to Others

I subscribe to Anu Garg’s “A.Word.A.Day,” along with almost 4,000,000 other people. You can subscribe here: http://wordsmith.org/.  Archives are here https://wordsmith.org/words/today.html. It’s free.

Today’s email starts with these words:

“I’m such an underachiever.

“I don’t have a single world record to my name. Not only that, I have not even attempted one.

“Make it, underachiever and unambitious.

“I was reminded of this when I read about a man named Ashrita Furman. (https://www.ashrita.com/) He has made more than 700 world records. Imagine when the number of records you have made needs to be rounded. To the nearest hundreds!

“Furman has another record I had not even thought about: Having made the largest number of world records.

“That makes me: underachiever, unambitious, and unimaginative.

“…. well, I sit here in my corner of the world, playing with words.

“This week we introduce you to five words that make a record of sorts, let’s call them word records.”

I love this guy, who gives me a word every morning for six days and on the seventh gives me readers’ comments, limericks, and puns on the week’s words. 

Today’s word is eunoia, the shortest word in English with all five vowels. (A word record!) It means “a feeling of goodwill” and has inspired a really odd book. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1552452255/ws00-20. Peek inside: you will be amazed.

At the moment, I am not ashamed to say I am an underachiever, unambitious, and unimaginative. Everybody I know is. I may have met a few people in Ashrita Furman’s league, but I can’t recall who or when. And yet I keep scolding myself for not being perfect…yet.

One of my core beliefs is that I am incompetent, not good enough. No matter how hard I try, I will never be good enough. Unless I am the best in the world, I am second-rate. 

With standards that high, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. How would I even know I was the best in the world at something? If somebody told me I was, I would assume it was a trick and they were lying so they could laugh at me when I believed them. And even if it were true, and I knew for sure it was true, I would also know that somebody better than me would come along, and I would once again be second-rate. One little moment of success, snatched away almost immediately.

Looking at this situation with a jaundiced eye, I conclude that it is ridiculous to compare myself to others. It’s a no-win situation, a waste of time and energy, and a drain on my life force. I’ll never be the prettiest, the smartest, the best educated, the most accomplished, the most original thinker, the best dancer. If that is to be my life’s goal, I will fail dismally. It is better to be content with being mediocre.

It’s no secret how I came to believe I was doomed to fail over and over. In the cult, children were set up to fail and then blamed and shamed for not succeeding. We were placed in double binds, and whatever path we took, we were punished for taking the wrong one. Stripped of all self-confidence, our minds were ready to unquestionably obey any order given. We were trained to obey without thought or resistance.

At home, the methods were different, but the message was the same. My mother had a beautiful, accomplished older sister, and, on a good day, she felt second-best. I was supposed to have the life she should have had – or rather, her sister’s life. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. My genetic makeup was different and I was not born in 1895.

There was less pressure at school – until I got to college. I had chosen an Ivy League co-ed school with a ratio of ten boys to every girl. Standards were high, and competition was fierce. Girls didn’t shine in that atmosphere.

Over the years, I learned to let go of perfectionism. If a job was worth doing, it was still worthwhile, even if it had errors. A typo was not the end of the world. It was good enough, and good enough was good enough for me.

Now that I have lowered my standards, I find I am far less anxious. Instead of being mortified by everything I do, I can take pleasure in it. I enjoy the process and care much less about the finished product. And the finished product seems better to me because it is created in a calm atmosphere, not an anxious, chaotic rush.

And guess what? Now that I don’t compete with others, I enjoy them a lot more. I appreciate who they are and am happy for their success. I like myself more, and I like other people more, too.

Spencer’s News

In the olden days, I would blame myself for neglecting my cat. If I only paid enough attention to him, he wouldn’t be invisible most of the time. Now I enjoy discovering his personality in the few moments he makes a guest appearance. 

He comes up to me while I am at the computer, stands up on his hind legs, puts his front paws on my knees, and waits for me to scratch his chin. Today, for the first time, he jumped up on my lap. He stayed only long enough to jump down off the other side. I took that as a great compliment.

Some nights he comes and licks my neck for a moment. Now and then, he adds love bites. Last night, he crawled under the covers and settled next to me with one paw on my arm. He didn’t stay long, and he was completely invisible under the covers, but it made me happy.

My timid, invisible cat with soft shiny fur and pale yellow eyes is showing more and more affection. It’s slow-going, but that’s good enough. Actually, it’s great.