Sunday, 23 November 2014
Friday, 14 November 2014
About ritual abuse
- What is Ritual Abuse?
- Who perpetrates Ritual Abuse?
- Impacts of Ritual Abuse on Survivors?
- Surviving in a Culture of Disbelief?
The term ‘ritual abuse’ was first used in the early 1980’s, to describe a particular form of abuse, (predominantly of children), involving organised ritual as a central feature. The term first appeared in North American literature and was used in Australia from 1984 onwards (Scott, Sara. 2001. The politics and experience of ritual abuse: beyond disbelief. p1). Since this time, the term ritual abuse has been defined in various ways, by various people, including survivors, academics and workers from professional fields that come into contact with survivors and perpetrators e.g. Police, social workers, psychologists etc.
Ritual abuse has existed for longer than the last twenty years. Survivors talk of their childhood experiences of ritual abuse, occurring in the 1950’s and 60’s. Ritually abusive practices within families are often trans-generational- meaning they are practised by various generations of family members over many years. Evidence, derived from court cases and personal accounts, indicate ritual abuse existed as far back as the 16 th century (Ritual Abuse Survivors and Supporters, Australia , “Extent” at http://www.heart7.net/ritual-abuse-ss.html).
The extent to which it is practised in Australia is hard to determine due to a number of factors, including the highly secretive nature of ritual abuse practices and a culture of disbelief which further hides it and, which influences and impedes political and social institutions’ responses toward it.
The 1989 Report by the Ritual Abuse Task Force of Los Angeles County Commission for Women, defined ritual abuse in the following way:
Ritual abuse usually involves repeated abuse over an extended period of time. The physical abuse is severe, sometimes including torture and killing. The sexual abuse is usually painful, sadistic and humiliating, intended as a means of gaining dominance over the victim. The psychological abuse is devastating and involves the use of ritual indoctrination. It includes mind control techniques which convey to the victim a profound terror of the cult members and of evil spirits they believe cult members can command. Both during and after the abuse most victims are in a state of terror mind control and dissociation. (ASCA 2002. Healing from Ritual Abuse: Also known as Organised Sadistic Abuse. Information Package. P3)
Survivors of ritual abuse may give varying descriptions of their experiences. However, a number of factors generally feature across accounts including:
- The abuse includes physical, sexual and psychological abuse;
- The abuse constitutes a range of criminal acts;
- It is systematic, can be ceremonial and often occurs within a group setting (usually more than one perpetrator at a time, but not always);
- Like all abuse, ritual abuse is about power and control, but is designed to more expressly meet the needs of a group, with the specific purpose of indoctrination into that group’s belief system or ideology;
- Mind control techniques or programming plays a significant part in keeping group members faithful to the group and its needs. Much of this programming is about engendering a sense of terror within group members, so that they will not leave the group or expose the group’s criminal practices to outsiders.
Survivors’ accounts of their experiences of ritual abuse also include attempts to clearly distinguish this kind of abuse from other kinds of abuse they may have experienced. For example, in Sara Scott’s book, The politics and experience of ritual abuse: beyond disbelief (2001, p62-80), women survivors of childhood abuse, including ritual abuse, clearly distinguished between their experiences of more “regular” forms of familial abuse, and their experiences of abusive cult ritual, prostitution and child pornography. However, all of these women’s accounts illustrated that the different kinds of abuse and exploitation they survived were interconnected within a culture where the abuse of women and children is normalised - a daily reality.
Survivors have also questioned the fact that the term ritual abuse has become too broadly applied. For many survivors ritual abuse, where a belief system or ideology plays a key role in abusive ritual, must not be confused with “ritualistic abuse” –abuse which is perpetrated in a habitualised manner, such as the sexual abuse of a child perpetrated on a daily basis (Ritual Abuse Survivors and Supporters, Australia. “The Abuse/Criminality”, at http://www.heart7.net/ritual-abuse-ss.html).
The term and practice of ritual abuse has also been closely linked with other categories and practises of abuse, including: -
a) “organised abuse”, which refers to the abuse and exploitation of children through organised crime (prostitution and pornography) and paedophile rings;
b) institutional abuse, which refers to the abuse of persons within political and social institutions, such as within schools, orphanages and mental health facilities etc;
c) “organised, sadistic abuse” which is often used as an umbrella term across these kinds of abuse, wherein ritual abuse features as a more extreme example.
Initial discussion of ritual abuse in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s predominantly implicated satanic cults in the perpetration of ritual abuse against children. However, not every group or cult dedicated to satanic worship practices ritual abuse.
Moreover, ritual abuse is not exclusively practised within such groups. Groups or cults organised around other religious or quasi-religious belief systems, including Christian cults, have been associated with the use of abusive ritual to maintain control over members. Ritual abuse which occurs within religious groups is often called “cult-based ritual abuse” (Kelley, S J. “Ritualistic Abuse of Children: Dynamics and Impact” Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 5, No.2, 1988, p229).
Religion is not always a defining factor of groups who practice ritual abuse. White supremacy groups such as Nazi cults and the Klu Klux Klan have been associated with such practices. Groups involved in organised crime and paedophilia have also been identified as sites of ritual abuse. Ritual abuse which is not part of a developed belief system, but which is primarily about the sexual exploitation of children has been called “pseudo-ritual abuse” (Kelley, S J. “Ritualistic Abuse of Children: Dynamics and Impact” Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 5, No.2, 1988, p229).
Groups who practice ritual abuse are always hierarchical – the abuse is used to maintain this hierarchy and to benefit those at its higher levels. Benefits may include power and prestige, sexual gratification and financial wealth.
Ritual abuse may be practised within family groups across generations, or it may be associated with groups or institutions external to survivors’ families. For example, some reports concern the recruiting of children from orphanages and day-care centres, for abuse within paedophile rings. Ritual abuse may be perpetrated through connections between families and external groups.
Ritual abuse has profound effects upon the lives of child and adult survivors. The range of psychological symptoms and emotional effects survivors may experience include:-
- Trauma related symptoms such as flashbacks, dissociation, amnesia and triggered flight or fight reactions to circumstances which in some way remind the survivor of abusive experiences;
- Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) or Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD);
- Self harm and eating issues;
- Suicidal thoughts and attempts;
- Confusing concepts of good and evil;
- Preoccupation with death;
- Memories of ritualistic practices such as Black Masses and sacrifices to Satan and those which involves gang rape, murder, the abuse of animals and being buried alive;
- Memories of symbols and ceremonial objects used in rituals such as inverted crosses, swastikas and chalices.
- Memories of perpetrators dressed in ceremonial and bizarre costumes;
- Memories of being tortured and/or deprived of sleep, food and water;
- Memories of being drugged during rituals;
- Phobias of symbols associated with rituals, blood, certain colours, drugs, incense, candles and being confined in small spaces.
- Shame, guilt and blame;
This list is not exhaustive, but simply gives us some idea of the immense impact that ritual abuse has on survivors. It also illuminates the tremendous strength of those who survive ritual abuse.
Added to the immense impact of ritual abuse on survivors, is the frustration and despair of attempting to survive within a wider culture where ritual abuse experiences are disbelieved and denied. It has only been in the last 30 years that the idea of sexual violence perpetrated within families has been acknowledged by society. Today, as a society we still struggle to adequately support those who have experienced incest. We continue, as a society to harbour and reproduce myths, which blame survivors for their experiences of rape. We continue to witness the situation within the criminal justice system where perpetrators get away with their sexual crimes, or receive minimal punishment, and where survivors receive little justice and recompense. This is the situation with more regular or common forms of sexual violence.
Therefore, it is little wonder that society struggles with the very idea of ritual abuse. Its practices sound bizarre and are very disturbing. It is difficult for people to believe that members of their own society would dream of gaining personal benefit and gratification from extremely sadistic and systematic abuse of others, especially children. It is hard for people to face up to the fact that people can be so cruel. However, ritual abuse is an unfortunate reality for some - it does exist.
The culture of disbelief is further compounded through the very social and political systems and institutions, which are supposed to promote the best interests of survivors, as those requiring special personal support and legal protection and justice.
Australian Governments have been unwilling to acknowledge that ritual abuse exists. It has been suggested that the association of ritual abuse practices with government institutions (for example, orphanages and mental health facilities) has rendered governments afraid of litigation, should they fully acknowledge its existence. For whatever reasons, governments have not encouraged adequate responses toward the issue from those systems which come into contact with survivors and perpetrators. This includes the criminal justice and health-care systems, which are responsible for the provision of services that promote the health and wellbeing of survivors of sexual violence.
Because of this culture of disbelief, ritual abuse survivors’ disclosures, as part of attempts to seek support, protection and justice, are often not met with an appropriate or respectful response. One survivor told how disclosures to health professionals about her experiences of ritual abuse were met with either responses of, ”Have you been taking your medication” or “What’s ritual abuse?” The impact of this culture upon survivors, includes further silencing and isolation.
The lack of social and political recognition of ritual abuse, means that support organisations for ritual abuse survivors are few in number and frequently struggle to acquire adequate funding.
Another great article on Ritual Abuse can be found HERE
Monday, 10 November 2014
Saturday, 8 November 2014
Ten Stages of Recovery
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE STAGES OF RECOVERY
This section was copied from the book: Rebuilding Your House of Self Respect: Men recovering in group from childhood sexual abuse 2nd edition (2008) by Tom Wilken.
Many men who were sexually victimized as children find themselves faced with a perplexing challenge as an adult. The skills they used as a child tend to be counter productive as an adult. The perils of silence became more painful than the risks of transforming and healing.
Outlining the stages of recovery can be a misleading message to someone who is looking for a systematic, definitive plan that specifically tells them what their journey will entail. Every individual's recovery process is unique; no two are identical. However, most journeys have commonalities. The ten stages of recovery outlined here may give you an overview of what some men have experienced in their pilgrimage towards wholeness. Healing is not linear; it is back and forth and all over the place, resembling an upwardly spiralling design moving towards a destination determined by the individual. It can also be like a spider web that has many connections travelling in differing directions. Each person has a different web and follows a different path. People can be in various stages, or dealing with several of them at the same time. A person can be at one stage in one aspect of their lives and at a completely different stage in other areas.
The stages outlined here can help people design their own plan, based on the experience of others. This model typifies the journey of most but not all men. This is a brief summary and these topics will be expanded upon later in this book.
Stage #1: Denial
It is not unusual for people to be trapped in this stage for many years after the physical nature of the abuse has ended. There are many good, valid reasons why denial exists and persists. Resurfacing "ghosts" from the past is not easy to deal with. Even though the mind suppressed these memories for a good reason, there is a cost involved with keeping unresolved issues away from conscious awareness. Denial, whether it is conscious or subconscious, takes up a lot of emotional energy. Men talk about stuffing or burying feelings through the overuse of alcohol, chemical substances, prescribed medications, and other addictions.
These men were concerned about their inability to trust anyone, including themselves. Control can become a key concern for many men. They often find themselves in one of two extremes: either they feel totally controlled by others, or they try to totally control themselves and everything around them.
Having a positive connection with themselves and others seems unattainable for many sexually abused men. Due to the lack of educational material and health programs available for male survivors, many men choose secrecy and isolation until life becomes unmanageable. Others stay in denial forever, choosing to live with the associated costs involved with keeping the "ghosts" from the past in the closet.
There is a big difference between privacy and denial. When someone is in denial they are not attending to concerns that are affecting their quality of life. However, everyone has the right to privacy and the choice of how they work through issues in their lives.
The single biggest concern that survivors express is the inability to connect with themselves and others. By staying in denial and creating a false self, they limit the healthy connection they so desperately desire. When men step out of denial and start to acknowledge how childhood sexual abuse has had an impact on their adult lives, they enter stage two.
Stage #2: Confused awareness
This is the point when men start to take an honest look at their lives. For years, they have tried to forget all uncomfortable memories without success.
Many men are jolted into disclosure for various reasons. When men are emotionally overloaded with feelings connected to a present event, it becomes much harder to keep feelings connected to the past at bay. It is not easy to face the past, but most people start this stage when overloaded with other concerns, and especially when seeing the connection between the pain from the past and the hurt in the present. Perhaps a marriage has failed or they are having difficulty relating to others. Maybe the perpetrator has passed away and they feel it is safer to speak. Addictions may be destroying connections with people or things they love. This new awareness puts them into shock as they experience anxiety, panic and fear. When beginning to deal with unwanted memories, people become confused, doubting their own perceptions.
There are a lot of inner negotiations going on at this stage, and some men wish they could just forget and move on. But once "the cat is out of the bag", it is much harder to stuff it back in. When people are emotionally overwhelmed, they either engage more heavily in old habits or make a decision to heal. A decision to heal brings men to the next stage.
Stage #3: Reaching out
Coming out of a fog is not easy when you are unsure what is on the other side. At this stage, men understand the abuse happened, but they also struggle with inner shame and embarrassment. Finding someone safe and supportive to tell their stories to is not an easy task. If people are fortunate enough to connect with someone supportive, a decrease of guilt and shame will result. Unfortunately, many men seek or get advice from someone who minimizes their pain and promotes an approach that puts men back into denial. One common damaging statement victims hear is "that happened a long time ago, so just forget about it." If it were that easy, they would have. Besides, they already tried that approach, and it did not work. Reaching out and telling their stories helps men define their core issues, along with identifying losses.
Once men step out of their "cocoon" and begin sorting through the feelings and emotions connected to the past, they often enter the next stage.
Stage #4: Defining masculinity
Most men would like to grieve from a purely intellectual perspective, but healing emotional wounds from the past means feelings must be processed and included. How men view masculinity will either hinder or enhance their journey. There are many myths surrounding being a man that are simply obstacles in the recovery path. If people feel that "real" men are not victims, then they often view themselves as not being "real" men.
This stage gives men an opportunity to become real. It allows a man to become a person who is free to explore a wide range of feelings and emotions. Vulnerability and reaching out for help can be viewed as masculine, as a strength and not a weakness. Often, this is when men start to realize the abusive situation was not their fault and they step into the next stage at full speed.
Stage #5: Anger
This is a stage of explosive feelings; it creates anger, rage, and a desire for justice. Disclosures and confrontations seem to preoccupy the thought process. Reaching this stage is a reason for celebration, but watch out for the fireworks. Group members talk of an intense, highly charged energy that can spark rage and vengeful thoughts. They are standing up to abuse and no longer want any part of the trauma bond that may be keeping them connected with the abuser. Anger is like gasoline. If used wisely, it will drive you to where you need to go. If used unwisely, it could blow up in your face.
Anger is an emotion that is essential to the healing process. People often confuse anger with behaviour, particularly when people respond to anger with violence. It is not anger that determines the healthiness of one's choices, it is the behaviour, or how one responds to anger, that determines if anger works for or against a person. Once someone works through their anger, they will enter the next challenging stage. Nobody wants to go there, but it is an integral part of the growth process.
Stage #6: Depression
When men speak out, they are in a process of intense growth. For this new growth to happen, they often give up portions of their "old-self." Behaviours that may have worked for them as children may hinder their quality of life as an adult. The coping skills that were once useful may be outdated and counter productive. Old patterns are not always healthy, but they are familiar, and a natural reaction to giving up old and familiar ways of living is depression. If depression helps people recognize the parts of their lives that need adjusting, then there can be a healthy component to this process.
This stage is a time of transformation and integration that brings all the parts of the person together. Throughout this stage, there seems to be a death of the old "self" and a birth of a newer, healthier self. Although this is an intense period of positive growth, it can be filled with feelings of helplessness, guilt, remorse, and despair. This stage includes grieving a loss that can leave someone feeling a great sense of emptiness and sadness.
Men in this stage often find themselves giving up a need for control. This is only a stage and it will help pave the way to a better place. This next stage can be an eye opener that will positively change people's lives forever.
Stage #7: Clarifying feelings and emotions
This stage is closely linked to the stage of depression. By gaining clarity to feelings and emotions, men are automatically working through other core issues that have plagued them for years. The more people process their feelings, the more they step out of depression. This is a wonderful, struggling, confusing, and insightful stage that helps men to come in contact with the hurt inner child they left behind. Grieving losses from the past helps facilitate learning that will help people grieve present day losses as they occur. Many men have not learned to acknowledge or identify the wide range of feelings and emotions that we all experience. This growing period usually requires help from someone outside their present environment, possibly individual counselling or a support group. Clarifying feelings and emotions is an integral part of the healing process, but it is especially useful when stepping out of depression and into the next stage.
Stage #8: Regrouping
Although all stages are important, this is the phase that entails a lot of hope. Regrouping is a transforming stage, where people start learning to trust appropriately, and most importantly, they learn to trust themselves. They are developing skills to assist them in getting their needs met in a healthy fashion. By taking responsibility for their lives they feel empowered, with enhanced feelings of self worth.
People have worked very hard to get to this point and are starting to like the new person they have become. They are learning to find their own voice. A voice that is able to speak their truth. In the previous stages, group members would characterize themselves as existing and not living. This stage is a time when the search for meaning is fuelled by a desire to live life. Many victims do not plan for a future because they never thought there would be one; others expected to die young. Regrouping includes putting joy into the journeys.
Redefining friendships leads to improved intimacy and love. Loneliness is converted into enjoying their own company and being comfortable with themselves. This great stage opens a person up to a new world full of opportunity.
The next stage is a process that many people are hesitant to talk about, but from my experience, when some people reach this point; their recovery seems to take off at a speed that can only be called miraculous.
Stage #9: Spirituality
As many people grow and mature through the stages, they get a sense of power within themselves that is also greater than them self. Some group members say it is like describing the indescribable. A sense of inner peace is connected to what can be viewed as "true reality." They talk about an emptiness lifting, and they feel they will never feel alone again. This spiritual connection is often viewed as unconditional love and acceptance.
Some men have concerns that others are more advanced in their spiritual beliefs than they are. Where people are spiritually, at any given point in time, is exactly where they should be. Spirituality is an individual, experiential journey that develops over time. It is a process, and as people work through their recovery, their views on spirituality often change. A person does not have to be spiritual to heal. RYHSR groups are based on the principle that people have the right to establish their own spirituality and beliefs.
Men often talk about the healing powers of forgiveness at this stage. People do not have to forgive the abuser in order to heal, but it is important to forgive yourself. For a more in-depth look at forgiveness, please read the chapter on spirituality.
People who have travelled this far have fought a long, strenuous, rewarding journey. Finally it is time to enter the last stage.
Stage #10: Moving on
This stage includes the rest of their lives. It would be unfair to think people become "home free" and will never feel vulnerable again. In fact, many men go back and refine some of the stages at some time in their lives. How someone views their abusive experience changes from a subjective experience to an objective experience. The thought process becomes more objective than subjective. They have memories that exist independently of painful feelings and emotions.
This stage is a much more comfortable place, which includes deep and lasting changes with a sense of stability. If people seek help to improve their connection with themselves, others, and the world they live in, then moving-on must include maintaining the connections they desire.
Find More HERE
Tuesday, 4 November 2014
The fiasco surrounding the Woolf inquiry suggests the Home Office still doesn't grasp the size of the problem.
How could this happen? Almost four months ago, the Government announced a wide-ranging inquiry into explosive allegations of historical child abuse. Since then, two chairs have been appointed; both have resigned and the inquiry hasn't even started work. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, will face uncomfortable questions from MPs when she makes a statement in the House of Commons tomorrow.
On Friday, the embarrassment spread to David Cameron when he backed Fiona Woolf, the current Lord Mayor of London, only hours before her resignation as head of the inquiry was announced. She lost the confidence of victims when it was revealed that she is a friend of the former home secretary Lord Brittan, who was at the Home Office in the 1980s when, it is alleged, a dossier on child abuse compiled by a Conservative MP went missing. It emerged last week that a letter setting out her contacts with Brittan went through seven drafts.
The inquiry needs to be exceptionally wide ranging, shining a light into just about every area of the establishment. Yet the Home Office seems not to have realised that the usual approach – announcing an inquiry and picking one of the great and the good to chair it – would be entirely inappropriate in this instance. Woolf's predecessor, Baroness Butler-Sloss, had also faced questions about her connections to a senior political figure in the 1980s; her late brother, Lord Havers, was attorney general when reports of child sexual abuse were allegedly not examined properly.
It was Baroness Butler-Sloss, as it happens, who offered an insight into the process of setting up inquiries when she gave a lecture in 2003. When she was asked who instigated a previous inquiry into child abuse (which she chaired) in the late 1980s, she made this off-the-cuff remark: "I think it was my brother actually as Lord Chancellor." Butler-Sloss said her brother suggested a woman judge should chair the inquiry, and she was one of only three female judges at the time. The other two were unavailable, so "I found myself doing it".
The fate of that inquiry, which reported in 1988, offers a fascinating piece of background. It came about because a Labour MP in the North-east, Stuart Bell, was outraged by the number of children who had been taken into care in his constituency following diagnoses of child sexual abuse. Bell painted doctors and child protection professionals in Cleveland as fanatics who saw sexual abuse everywhere; he even compared their behaviour to the Salem witch trials. Butler-Sloss was critical of the mechanisms used to take the children into care, but a TV documentary later claimed that nearly three-quarters of the diagnoses were correct. The feminist author Beatrix Campbell described the Butler-Sloss report as "compromised by establishment guile and bad faith".
Monday, 3 November 2014
I wish to make an apology. I've been guilty of neglecting this blog for some time. I have been busy working on a book project with a good friend who is a therapist from Canada. On top of this some life changes have meant I have had less time to myself.
The new book is to be a self help guide for both male and female survivors of abuse. It comes from an unique (I believe) viewpoint of being written by both therapist and survivor, from two different countries and one being female, the other male. The book will offer an alternative viewpoint with regards moving forward and away from the ghosts of the past. It will teach that "recovery" is possible for everybody, that you can learn to love yourself and respect yourself, that not only is there life after disclosure but a good and rewarding one.
With luck it will be published in 2015.
In the meantime I want to get this blog back up and running as an active resource for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I am not promising daily updates as I previously used to do, but a minimum of four a month should be manageable,
As before, I am more than happy to have guest bloggers who want to share their experiences, their journeys and advice as well as from survivor support groups etc.
Please contact me via this blog if you would like to contribute.