Ritual abuse. What is it? (potentially triggering)

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Many people with DID suffered some form of ritual abuse either in a cult or in some other organisation during childhood. As such I thought it might be a topic I should touch upon in this blog…

A cult is a group of people who share an obsessive devotion to a person or idea. Some cults use violent tactics to recruit, indoctrinate, and keep members. Ritual abuse is defined as the emotionally, physically, and sexually abusive acts preformed by violent cults, many of these cults do not openly express their beliefs and practices, often living separately from the general public, isolating and alienating their members from outside influences.
Some victims of ritual abuse are children abused outside of the home by non-family members, often in public settings such as day care centres and Sunday schools. Other victims are children and teenagers who are forced by their parents, or other family members, to witness and participate in violent rituals. Adult ritual abuse victims often include these grown children who were forced from childhood to be members of the group. Other adult and teenage victims are people who unwittingly joined and organisation or social group that slowly manipulated and blackmailed them into becoming permanent members of the group. All cases of ritual abuse, no matter what age of the victim, involve intense physical and emotional trauma.
Violent cults may sacrifice humans and animals as part of religious rituals. They use torture to silence victims and other unwilling participants. Ritual abuse victims say that they are degraded and humiliated and are often forced to torture, kill, and sexually violate animals or other helpless victims. The purpose of the ritual abuse is usually indoctrination. The cults intend to destroy these victims free will by understanding their sense of safety in the world and by forcing them to hurt others.
In recent years a number of people have been convicted on sexual abuse charges in cases where the victims had reported elements of ritual abuse. These survivors (mainly children) described being raped by groups of adults who were wearing costumes or masks and said that they were forced to witness religious-type rituals in which animals and humans were tortured or killed. In one case, in 1989, the defence introduced in court photographs of the children being abused by the defendants. In another case, the police found tunnels etched with crosses and pentagrams along with stone alters and candles in a cemetery where abuse had been reported. The defendants in this case pleaded guilty to charges of incest, child cruelty, and indecent assault.
There are many myths concerning the parents and children who report ritual abuse. Some people suggest that the whole idea of ritual abuse is nothing more than “mass hysteria”. They say that the parents of these children who report ritual abuse are often just on a “witch hunt”. These sceptics claim that the parents fear Satanists and used their knowledge of the Black Mass (a historically well-known sexualised ritual in which animals and humans are sacrificed) to brainwash their children into saying that they have been ritually abused by Satanists.

The practice of ritual abuse is a difficult topic for many to confront or even comprehend. The children are tortured and brainwashed in order to assure compliance and loyalty to the group. The memories of ritual abuse survivors are often so graphic and perverse that some people question whether any of the stories could be true. Yet ritual abuse survivors experience overwhelming pain and trauma related symptoms as they remember the abuse: flashbacks; body memories; dissociation; anxiety; fear; etc. all of which are also seen in torture victims from wartime incidents, prisoners of war and war crimes.

Ritual abuse is a real, systematic and brutal practice happening today

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Trauma, Memory and the Brain

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Trauma changes our brains on a fundamental level, the psychologically traumatised brain causes inscrutable eccentricities which can (and do) cause it to overreact – or misreact – to stimulus and the realities of life. These neurological “misreactions” become established in part due to the effect that trauma has on the release of certain stress-responsive hormones, such as norepinephrine, along with the effect upon various areas of the brain involved in memory – particularly the amygdale and the hippocampus.

The amygdale is the part of the brain responsible for communicating the emotional importance and evaluation, via the thalamus, of sensory information to the hippocampus. In accordance with the amygdales evaluation the hippocampus will activate to a greater or lesser degree, and functions to organise this information and integrate it with previous similar sensory events. Under a normal range of situations and conditions this system works well and effectively to consolidate memories according to their emotional priority and content. However, at the extreme upper end of this hormonal activation, as with traumatic situations, a breakdown occurs. Overwhelming emotional significance registered by the amygdale actually leads to a decrease in hippocampal activation, this results in some of the traumatic input not being organised properly, not being stored as a unified whole, and not being integrated with other memories. This results in isolated sensory images and bodily sensations that are not localised in time or even in situation, nor integrated with other events. In effect these fragments of memory float about in the mind, ready to reappear at any moment.

To make matters even more complex, trauma may temporarily such down Brocas area, the region of the brain which translates experience into language, the means that we more often use to relate our experience and feelings to others and even to ourselves.

Regular memories are formed and are subject to meaningful modification, they can be retrieved when needed and can be conveyed to others through language and expression. In contrast, traumatic memories include chaotic fragments, which are sealed off from modification or modulation. Such memory fragments are wordless, placeless, and eternal. Long after the trauma has receded into the past the brains record of them may remain a fractured mass of isolated and confused emotion, images and sensations which can ring through the person like an alarm at any moment.

These sensations and feelings may not be labelled as part as belonging to memories from long ago, in fact they may not be labelled at all, as they may have been formed without language. They merely are, they come forward to take over the body giving no explanation, no narrative, no place or time, they are free-form and ineffable.

The traumatised brain has, effectively, a broken warning device in its limbic system. A bit like an old fuse box where the fuses tend to melt for no reason, reacting to an emergency when there is none.

Syptoms of PTSD

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Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be terrifying. They may disrupt your life and make it hard to continue with your daily activities. It may be hard just to get through the day.

PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not happen until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than 4 weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work or home life, you probably have PTSD.

There are four types of symptoms: reliving the event, avoidance, numbing, and feeling keyed up.

Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms):

Bad memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. You may have nightmares. You even may feel like you’re going through the event again. This is called a flashback. Sometimes there is a trigger: a sound or sight that causes you to relive the event. Triggers might include:

  • Hearing a car backfire, which can bring back memories of gunfire and war for a combat veteran
  • Seeing a car accident, which can remind a crash survivor of his or her own accident
  • Seeing a news report of a sexual assault, which may bring back memories of assault for a woman who was raped

Avoiding situations that remind you of the event:

You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.

  • A person who was in an earthquake may avoid watching television shows or movies in which there are earthquakes
  • A person who was robbed at gunpoint while ordering at a hamburger drive-in may avoid fast-food restaurants
  • Some people may keep very busy or avoid seeking help. This keeps them from having to think or talk about the event.

Feeling numb:

You may find it hard to express your feelings. This is another way to avoid memories.

  • You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships
  • You may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy
  • You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.

Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal):

You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. This is known as hyperarousal. It can cause you to:

  • Suddenly become angry or irritable
  • Have a hard time sleeping
  • Have trouble concentrating
  • Fear for your safety and always feel on guard
  • Be very startled when someone surprises you

What are other common problems?

People with PTSD may also have other problems. These include:

  • Drinking or drug problems
  • Feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair
  • Employment problems
  • Relationships problems including divorce and violence
  • Physical symptoms

To remember or not remember, to repress or not to repress

Quite often people tell me that I am lucky to not remember a lot of the abuse… But I’m not sure…

I do remember most of the abuse when I was a teenager, I remember the rapes and the beatings… But before the age of 14 is mainly blank, and as most multiples split before the age of 8… well put 2 and 2 together I guess…

I remember bits,it comes to me in flashes… not like flashbacks (I get them of my teenage years) but literally split second images in my head, or overwhelming emotions for no reason, or even sounds and smells… but I don’t know what any of these relate to…

My earliest memory it went I was very young, living with my grandparents. I only really remember being in the garden jumping from rock to rock over the flower beds before trying to climb across a pipe over a river lol. After that I remember being locked outside at about the age of 4, but I don’t know why… And I remember cold water being poured on me when I cried…

I don’t remember my mum and step-dad getting married when I was 5, nor my brother being born when I was 6. But I do remember my mum  attempting suicide not long after my brothers birth… I remember her laying on the floor in her own blood… apparently I called for an ambulance and went with her to the hospital, but I don’t remember this…

I have a scar on my stomach, it’s always been there and I’ve always wondered why, all I knew is when I looked at it I got a sharp burning sensation theere and felt intense fear… but then a few months ago I put my hand over it and *FALSH* I was 10 years old, in my parents kitchen, and my mum was coming at me with a knife… she stabed me… next thing I knew I was laying in our shower 22 years old with the water running again crying… but at least now I know where it came from.

I used to keep a dream diary, in the hope that it would uncover some of these memories, but no such luck… there are other things like that scar, things that I feel pain or fear when exposed to, but I don’t know why… I guess the main point its that it’s hard to recover when you have no idea what you are recovering from… that and thanks to the false memory people noone believes the memories anyway, so then you start to doubt them yourself… and then because you doubt the “recovered” memories you start to doubt ALL of your memories… I don’t know what is and isn”t real, I have no way to be sure… I’m not even sure that I am real, I mean meybe I have no memories because I am not the core/host as I thought, but an alter created to replace the host when they were 14?

this book is  a fantastic one about repressed memories, it’s one of the only things that has helped me regain any degree of confidence in who I am and what I remember.

The alternative of course is to remember everything, and to be haunted by it… I do remember my abusicve relationship between ages 16 and 19 fairly well, there are a few months and weeks missing here and there but it’s almost in tact. From this I get flashbacks and nightmares often…

The problem is I can never be 100% on which symptoms/effects are from what I do remember and which are from what I do not… Makes a comparison kind of difficult… That and I am so so so scared of the false memory syndrome people coming and telling me I’ve made it all up, etc. and belittling me…

In conclusion I guess…the options are both ****, I think it’s a bit like comparing apples and oragnes… there are good and bad points to each, or maybe it depends on the person, maybe some people cope better with knowing and some with repressing…

The “cycle” of child abuse

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What makes some people capable of acts to children that most of us regard as “unimaginable”? How can a mother be so insensitive to her own child’s suffering?

Psychologists talk much of attachment theory. This revolves around the fact that the “higher” parts of a baby’s brain (the parts, if you like, that make us human) are relatively unformed at birth. They develop in a child’s crucial early years, as they develop an idea of who they are, how other people feel, how what they do affects other people, and how they sometimes have to control their impulses. This occurs through them being stimulated by new challenges, overcoming them with help from parents, and from them getting a sense of “normal” behaviour by being exposed to it.
None of this happens if a child is battered, frightened or ignored. In fact, such a child is likely to detach itself from feeling any emotion at all. It’s a way of protecting itself from further hurt. The skills of dealing with emotion and other people’s feelings are never learnt. They find it hard to feel.
That’s why many adults who maltreat children are those who have been neglected or badly treated themselves as children, they never learnt to understand empathy. So they are alarmingly tolerant to suffering, even that of their own children.

Recent research has explored the science behind this. When a child is cared for, the pleasure it feels results in stimulating hormones being released into the pre-frontal cortex, the brain area crucial in social behaviour and awareness of feelings. Social interaction also stimulates nerve connections in this area.

Babies who are frightened or neglected, on the other hand, will have higher levels of stress hormones in the brain. This may adversely affect the development of the orbitofrontal cortex and hippocampus – brain parts involved with managing emotion. Brain-scanning work in Britain and America has revealed that the brains of deprived children look different from those of loved children. In some cases, they are actually smaller.

The cycle is not inevitable, though. Not all maltreated children become maltreating adults, and there’s evidence that with the right sort of psychological support, which provides self-awareness and helps to break down the barriers to emotion, abused children can grow into loving parents. In fact often an person abused as a child can make a better parent as they are more sentitive to the felings and vulnerbilities of their child, as well as being more aware of the signs of distress.

Also not all parents and caregivers who abuse their children, were abused theirselves. There are normally some personal or situational factors that drive them to abuse the children who are in their care, but this is not always abuse in their own past. Below are some of the common reasons why parents/caregivers abuse their children.

* They were abused or deprived as children
* Lack of parenting knowledge
* Expecting too much from children, and not understanding the developmental stages and needs of children
* Financial problems and unemployment, which create frustration and stress, which are then transmitted to the child
* Insecurity and immaturity, particularly among teenaged parents
* Alcohol or drug problems, or other forms of addiction, such as gambling
* Inability to manage children
* Their self-image is defective
* They see physical punishment as a means of disciplining child
* They are trapped in an “old fashioned” way of thinking that children (esspecially sons) must be taught to be “tough”

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