What is Ritual Abuse?
Ritual abuse is an extreme, sadistic form of abuse of children and non-consenting adults. It is methodical, systematic sexual, physical, emotional and spiritual abuse, which often includes mind control, torture, and highly illegal and immoral activities such as murder, child pornography and prostitution. The abuse is justified by a religious or political ideology.
Ritual Abuse FAQ
A ritual is an action that has symbolic meaning. It may be private, like taking a good luck charm to an exam or public (socially shared), like saluting the flag.
Rituals may be reserved for rare occasions such as births, unions, deaths, changes of social status, or may be used daily. Examples are saying grace or “gesundheit” or kissing a child goodnight.
Ritual abuse is the abuse of a child, weaker adult, or animal in a ritual setting or manner. In a broad sense, many of our overtly or covertly socially sanctioned actions can be seen as ritual abuse, such as military basic training, hazing, racism, spanking children, and partner-battering. Some abuse is private, some public.
The term ritual abuse is generally used to mean repeated, extreme, sadistic abuse, especially of children, within a group setting. The group’s ideology is used to justify the abuse, and abuse is used to teach the group’s ideology. The activities are kept secret from society at large, as they violate norms and laws.
Any ideology can be twisted or adapted to abusive ends. In the United States, Canada, and Europe, people have reported being ritually abused under the banner of Satanism, Christianity, various pagan and pantheistic belief systems, white supremacy movements, Naziism, Santeria, voodoo, etc. At the present time, Satanism is either the most common ideology under which ritual abuse is practiced or it is receiving the most attention.
Ritual abuse is perpetrated by men and women from all walks of life and geographical areas, both rural and urban. The percent of the population that perpetrates or that is victimized is unknown.
Perpetrators have been classified as:
- Family or Transgenerational: Adults, who were abused as children, in turn abuse and indoctrinate their own children. The tradition can go back for generations.
- Extra-familiar: Adults abuse non-related children. Children can be accessed at day care, schools, church, or through social groups.
- Ad hoc groups: Adults, who may or may not have had abusive childhoods, come together and form a new group with its own ideology and rituals. Teens are thought to comprise many such ad hoc groups.
Physical, emotional, sexual, and spiritual abuse can all occur. Physical abuse can occur as beatings, electroshock, torture, confinement, or forced ingestion of drugs, blood, and feces. Emotional abuse involves trickery, deceit, and blaming the victim. Sadistic sex with children and non-consenting adults, forcced sex with animals, and forced perpetration of sexual abuse are forms that sexual abuse can take. Spiritual abuse can manifest as reversal of good and evil, a destruction-based morality, and the denial of freedom of thought.
Please remember that abusive groups steal, pervert and mock the holidays of legitimate religions. This does not mean that all people who observe these holidays are abusive. Pagans, in particular, are subject to prejudice, and it is important to realize that the vast majority of modern pagans are loving and non-abusive. It is not their fault that abusive groups choose to defile their sacred days.
In Christian cultures, abusive groups pervert the major Christian holidays: Christmas, Lent, Easter, etc. The Jewish holidays may also be observed in an abusive manner, especially by Neo-Nazi groups.
Similarly, the pre-Christian pagan holidays have been stolen and perverted. Abusive groups originating in Northern and Western Europe observe the winter and summer solstice (12/21 and 6/21) and the spring and fall equinox (3/21 and 9/21). Four holidays fall between the solstices and equinoxes. They are: Candlemas (2/2), Beltane (5/1), Lammas (8/2) and Samhain, or Halloween (10/31).
(The solstices and equinoxes do not always fall exactly on the 21st of the month. Some holidays, especially Beltane and Samhain, are often observed for more than one day.)
Many groups blend traditions. Satanism is a blend of pagan and Christian traditions. Neo-Nazi cults blend Nazi beliefs and traditions with Satanism. Some groups with blended traditions may celebrate two or three sets of holidays.
In addition, secular holidays, such as members’ birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, and Independence Day (in the United States) are often observed.
Some groups mark dates that are symbolically significant to that particular group, such as a leader’s birthday, the anniversary of some achievement, or a particular year with numerical significance to the group. There is a fair amount of variation among similar groups.
First, abusive groups have a very large stake in remaining undetected, and they keep their secrets well. Second, abusive groups terrorize their victims into silence. And third, society as a whole does not want to believe that its norms and laws have been so blatantly and extremely violated, so society turns its back in denial.
In all States and Canadian provinces, there are laws against particular physical acts committed during ritual abuse. These include murder, rape, sexual contact with children, kidnapping, assault and battery, cruelty to animals, vandalism, and defilement of corpses. Other countries have laws against most, if not all, of these actions. In some States, additional penalties can be imposed if it can be proved that the criminal act was motivated by hate of a particular group.
Ritual abuse can also lead to secondary crimes, such as income tax evasion, crossing state boundaries or using the mail to commit a crime, money laundering, prostitution, pimping and pandering, creation, distribution and possession of child pornography, selling and possession of illegal drugs, and conspiracy to commit crimes.
The problem is not one of lack of laws; it is one of credibility. Police and prosecutors often believe that these cases cannot be successfully prosecuted because juries will discount all evidence once any testimony about religion, ideology, or conspiracy has been introduced. In fact, many juries have found defendants not guilty on the basis of witnesses not being credible.
Many people believe that there have been no convictions for abuse involving rituals. This is not true: convictions have been obtained in many states (OR, NC, TX, NV, FL, IA, NJ) and foreign countries. Statements that no convictions have been obtained, or that convictions are based on hysteria and a “witch hunt mentality” are disinformation tactics.
Most symptoms are non-specific to ritual abuse. Trauma is trauma, and physical and sexual abuse is physical and sexual abuse. Because the abuse is so severe, however, the symptoms may be especially severe and recalcitrant.
Symptoms that are suggestive of ritual abuse are either a fascination with or a phobia of objects, events, or symbols specific to ritual abuse and not generally encountered in other types of physical and sexual abuse. Example of symbols includes crosses, crucifixes, pentagrams (stars), eyes, “magick” and “occult” symbols, certain numbers, and certain colors. Objects provoking fascination or phobia can include blood, knives, electricity, coffins, dolls, babies, and certain animals.
Events similar to abusive events may also provoke extreme reactions. These include the holidays observed by the cult, medical and dental procedures, and childbirth or abortion.
I (speaking for myself only) do not use the words recovery and healing in this context. They imply to me that things can be repaired and thus they minimize the experience of ritual abuse. If I can be fixed, it wasn’t all that bad.
Instead, I prefer to think about how I can live with my past in a different way. I prefer to examine my relationship with extreme evil, the concepts of free will and coercion, the structure of the mind, and the nature of connectedness with life and with other humans. My goals are increased knowledge of my past and of my internal structure, increased flexibility of thought, and increased control over my own behavior.
Many ritual abuse survivors passionately declare that they have an individual path that they must follow. Others are able to grasp the guidance of religion, twelve-step movements, or therapy and to adopt these concepts as their own. Every person’s path is unique, just as every person is unique.
In general, I think that there are several factors that aid in living with the reality of this extreme kind of abuse. First is a willingness, conscious or unconscious, to break the ties that bind us to violence. Second is the strength and luck to get away, physically. And then there are imprecise terms, such as soul, or love, or guiding spirit, that cannot be defined, but which shape our stance to ourselves and to the world.
My advice for survivors
Trust yourself, whether you think you matter or not. Learn all you can, at your own pace. Discard ideas and people that feel demeaning or violent. Try and remember that, given your past experiences, every day that you do not kill, rape, or maim another person (and that includes yourself!) or an animal is a triumph. And your triumph, added to others, is the only hope we have of stopping the carnage.
If you have outside confirmation, like photographs or somebody else’s diary, or if another survivor independently remembers the same event, you can be pretty sure the events actually happened. It’s harder to decide without outside evidence.
What you remember is a terrified child’s best guess at what was happening. The accuracy of your assessment of the situation at the time depended on how frightened you were, how old you were, how drugged, how deeply hypnotized, how sleep deprived and how much pain you were in. It also depended on whether the perpetrators were trying to trick you, and how skillful they were at deception.
While any one particular feature of a memory may not be historically accurate, you would not be having ritual abuse memories unless something really did happen to you. Non-abused people do not have flashbacks or memories of ritual abuse events. They may have a nightmare after a horror film, or an image they read about or saw may haunt them for a while, but they do not suffer from persistent images with ritual abuse content.