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What is Ritual Abuse?
- The term ‘ritual abuse’ was first used in the early 1980’s, to describe a particular form of abuse, involving organised ritual as a central feature.
- 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.
- 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)
Factors within survivors’ accounts of ritual abuse include:
- 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.
Who perpetrates ritual abuse?
- Satanic cults- not every group or cult dedicated to satanic worship practices ritual abuse.
- Groups or cults organised around other religious or quasi-religious belief systems, including some Christian cults.
- 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 may be practised within family groups across generations, or it may be associated with groups or institutions external to survivors’ families.
Impacts of ritual abuse on survivors
Ritual abuse has profound effects upon the lives of survivors. Survivors may experience:-
- 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;
- Confusion of 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 being drugged during rituals;
- Phobias of symbols associated with rituals, blood, certain colours, drugs, incense, candles and being confined in small spaces.
Surviving in a culture of disbelief
- 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.
- The culture of disbelief is 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 and have not encouraged adequate responses from systems which should support survivors, including from the criminal justice and the health-care systems.
- The lack of social and political recognition of the issue, means that support organisations for ritual abuse survivors are few in number and frequently struggle to acquire adequate funding.
Advocates for Survivors of Child Abuse (ASCA)
Support Line: 1300 657 380
Telephone: 02 8920 3611
Myriad Support Group (for women with DID/MPD)
Phone: 3399 3340
Contact Person: Diana Hunt
Mental Health Association of Qld
Address: 473 Annerley Rd, Annerley 4103
Phone: 3426 8440
Mental Health info Line:
Trauma and Dissociation Unit
Street/Postal Address: Belmont Private Hospital , 1220 Creek Road Carina 4152 Phone: 3398 0280
Comments: Inpatient and day patient programmes. Admission based on referral by psychiatrist or refer to Admissions and Discharge to arrange on 1800 700 274.
Esther Centre (for survivors of institutional abuse)
Street Address: 26 Merrivale Street South Brisbane 4101
Postal Address: PO Box 3449 South Brisbane 4101
Phone: 1800 035 588 / 3844 0966
Comments: Supports people who have been abused institutionally – state and church (foster, detention centres etc) but not psychiatric institutions. Has a drop in centre and various activities for people to be involved in.
Aftercare Resource Centre (for survivors of institutional abuse)
Street Address: 26 Merrivale Street, South Brisbane, Qld 4101
Phone: 3255 2848
1800 501 560
Comments: A program which provides support and counselling service for persons who have experienced physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse whilst in an institution, orphanage, detention centre or foster care in Queensland .
ASCA 2002. Healing from Ritual Abuse: Also known as Organised Sadistic Abuse. Information Package.
Kelley, S J. “Ritualistic Abuse of Children: Dynamics and Impact” Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 5, No.2, 1988.
Ritual Abuse Survivors and Supporters, Australia at http://www.heart7.net/ritual-abuse-ss.html
Scott, Sara. 2001. The politics and experience of ritual abuse: beyond disbelief.