Abuse Survivors

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Ritual Abuse


Ritual abuse is defined as a combination of severe emotional, physical, sexual and spiritual abuse used with symbols, ceremonies and/or group activities that have a religious, supernatural or magical meaning. The abuse is recurrent with the purpose of terrorizing and silencing the victims. The abusers are usually a group, which places value on abusing and harming children. Torture, drugs and pornography can also play a part in the abuse. Animals and other objects also play a role in creating the desired affect for the abusers to get what they want from the children.


It is very difficult to pin down an exact definition, as all child abuse usually involves some form of ritual – either for grooming or for controlling purposes, and ritual abuse seems to have some elements in common with the activities of paedophile rings (for example: secrecy; involvement of people with “respectable” professions; excellent communication networks). However, there are enough distinguishing characteristics to treat ritual abuse as a category of abuse in its own right – and this obviously has implications for the support of survivors of ritual abuse.

Ritual abuse is highly organized abuse, which involves a group or groups of people, often in a pseudo religious context. The rituals are not always Satanic, although “evil” plays a big part in ceremonies and in the abuse. “Rituals”, “ceremonies” and “services” involve a great deal of planning and organising, and are often held in rural areas. We have been told of ritual abuse taking place in churches and graveyards, in country houses and in remote farm buildings.

Ritual abuse is very sadistic (it is designed to cause a great deal of pain for the pleasure of the observers and those participating more directly in the abuse) and misogynistic (woman hating). Infanticide (the murder of babies and children) is sometimes incorporated into the ceremonies, and animals may be included in the abuse and/or “sacrificed” too – these things are specifically designed to add to the level of terror experienced by survivors, and are particularly common images in the flashbacks they suffer later on.

There is a general level of denial/disbelief in society, that ritual abuse happens, and this also has enormous consequences for survivors.

Things Commonly Associated with Ritual Abuse

  • Big church style candles
  • Stones/slabs
  • Altars of some description
  • Crosses (often upside down)
  • Knives/swords/daggers
  • Symbols – sometimes using existing, and well known, images like the pentangle, sometimes completely made up for the purposes of the group.
  • Chanting/”masses” – sometimes using Latin, or drawing on existing religious services, but often completely made up for the purposes of the group.
  • Hooded robes – the “elders” or leaders often have different coloured robes to the “congregation” in general.
  • Marking of victims in some way, through tattooing or scarring.
  • “Curses” and superstition – often used to create fear (of disclosure or of escaping)




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