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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What is PTSD ?

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PTSD has a unique position as the only psychiatric diagnosis (along with acute stress disorder ) that depends on a factor outside the individual, namely, a traumatic stressor. A patient cannot be given a diagnosis of PTSD unless he or she has been exposed to an event that is considered traumatic. These events include such obvious traumas as rape, military combat, torture, genocide, natural disasters, and transportation or workplace disasters. In addition, it is now recognized that repeated traumas or such traumas of long duration as child abuse , domestic violence, stalking, cult membership, and hostage situations may also produce the symptoms of PTSD in survivors.

A person suffering from PTSD experiences flashbacks, nightmares, or daydreams in which the traumatic event is experienced again. The person may also experience abnormally intense startle responses (hypervigilance) , insomnia , and may have difficulty concentrating. Trauma survivors with PTSD have been effectively treated with group therapy or individual psychological therapy, and other therapies have helped individuals, as well. Some affected individuals have found support groups or peer counseling groups helpful. Treatment may require several years, and in some cases, PTSD may affect a person for the rest of his or her life.

Causes

When PTSD was first suggested as a diagnostic category for DSM-III in 1980, it was controversial precisely because of the central role of outside stressors as causes of the disorder. Psychiatry has generally emphasised the internal weaknesses or deficiencies of individuals as the source of mental disorders; prior to the 1970s, war veterans, rape victims, and other trauma survivors were often blamed for their symptoms and regarded as cowards, moral weaklings, or masochists. The high rate of psychiatric casualties among Vietnam veterans, however, led to studies conducted by the Veterans Administration. These studies helped to establish PTSD as a legitimate diagnostic entity with a complex set of causes.

BIOCHEMICAL/PHYSIOLOGICAL CAUSES. Present neurobiological research indicates that traumatic events cause lasting changes in the human nervous system, including abnormal secretions of stress hormones. In addition, in PTSD patients, researchers have found changes in the amygdala and the hippocampus—the parts of the brain that form links between fear and memory. Experiments with ketamine, a drug that inactivates one of the neurotransmitter chemicals in the central nervous system, suggest that trauma works in a similar way to damage associative pathways in the brain. Positron emission tomography (PET) scans of PTSD patients suggest that trauma affects the parts of the brain that govern speech and language.

SOCIOCULTURAL CAUSES. Studies of specific populations of PTSD patients (combat veterans, survivors of rape or genocide, former political hostages or prisoners, etc.) have shed light on the social and cultural causes of PTSD. In general, societies that are highly authoritarian, glorify violence, or sexualize violence have high rates of PTSD even among civilians.

OCCUPATIONAL FACTORS. Persons whose work exposes them to traumatic events or who treat trauma survivors may develop secondary PTSD (also known as compassion fatigue or burnout). These occupations include specialists in emergency medicine, police officers, firefighters, search-and-rescue personnel, psychotherapists, disaster investigators, etc. The degree of risk for PTSD is related to three factors: the amount and intensity of exposure to the suffering of trauma victims; the worker’s degree of empathy and sensitivity; and unresolved issues from the worker’s personal history.

PERSONAL VARIABLES. Although the most important causal factor in PTSD is the traumatic event itself, individuals differ in the intensity of their cognitive and emotional responses to trauma; some persons appear to be more vulnerable than others. In some cases, this greater vulnerability is related to temperament or natural disposition, with shy or introverted people being at greater risk. In other cases, the person’s vulnerability results from chronic illness, a physical disability, or previous traumatization—particularly abuse in childhood. As of 2001, researchers have not found any correlation between race and biological vulnerability to PTSD.

Symptoms

  • Traumatic stressor: The patient has been exposed to a catastrophic event involving actual or threatened death or injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of the self or others. During exposure to the trauma, the person’s emotional response was marked by intense fear, feelings of helplessness, or horror. In general, stressors caused intentionally by human beings (genocide, rape, torture, abuse, etc.) are experienced as more traumatic than accidents, natural disasters, or “acts of God.”
  • Intrusive symptoms: The patient experiences flashbacks, traumatic daydreams, or nightmares, in which he or she relives the trauma as if it were recurring in the present. Intrusive symptoms result from an abnormal process of memory formation. Traumatic memories have two distinctive characteristics: 1) they can be triggered by stimuli that remind the patient of the traumatic event; 2) they have a “frozen” or wordless quality, consisting of images and sensations rather than verbal descriptions.
  • Avoidant symptoms: The patient attempts to reduce the possibility of exposure to anything that might trigger memories of the trauma, and to minimize his or her reactions to such memories. This cluster of symptoms includes feeling disconnected from other people, psychic numbing, and avoidance of places, persons, or things associated with the trauma. Patients with PTSD are at increased risk of substance abuse as a form of self-medication to numb painful memories.
  • Hyperarousal: Hyperarousal is a condition in which the patient’s nervous system is always on “red alert” for the return of danger. This symptom cluster includes hypervigilance, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, general irritability, and an extreme startle response. Some clinicians think that this abnormally intense startle response may be the most characteristic symptom of PTSD.
  • Duration of symptoms: The symptoms must persist for at least one month.
  • Significance: The patient suffers from significant social, interpersonal, or work-related problems as a result of the PTSD symptoms. A common social symptom of PTSD is a feeling of disconnection from other people (including loved ones), from the larger society, and from spiritual or other significant sources of meaning.

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

Post traumatic stress disorder – stigma

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PTSD affects up to 30% of people who experience a traumatic event. It affects around 5% of men and 10% of women at some point during their life, and can occur at any age, including during childhood.

PTSD first came to prominence during the First World War after soldiers suffered harrowing experiences in the trenches. Their condition became known as shell shock or battle fatigue syndrome. It has not been until fairly recently that it has been accepted that traumatic events outside of war situations have similar effects.
As recsently as the 31 Jul 2009 there was a TV programme  (Panorama – the trauma industry) which heavily implied that anyone claming PTSD due to a none military event was mearly after an insurance claime. The programme implied that people see PTSD as an easy disorder to fake as it’s an “invisable illness”

But this is not true. After all any traumatic or life threatenng event will shatter your world view, making the “safe predictable world” that you knew a distant memory, and replacing it with a dangerous, unpradictable world with threats around every corner. This could be any event from a car crash to a rape, no one can judge what is or is not traumatic to anyone else, and noone should be seen as “weak” for reacting in this way to an event.

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