There are many different ways that young children can become involved in the activities of a group practising ritual abuse. Frequently, the members of a group deliberately produce children for the group to use. They use the women within their groups, either willingly or unwillingly, as vessels, which they impregnate and thus, in time, provide live babies. The woman may be kept hidden as her pregnancy develops so that no one outside of the group will know that she is even pregnant. Providing she is not a person who would be missed by anyone, it is relatively easy to keep her out of circulation for a few months. On other occasions, a woman may carry the child openly and later tell people that she miscarried the child or that the child was stillborn. Certainly no one would ever think to check her story.
Other women may be so totally controlled by the abusive group that they are rendered permanently silent. They may be in the position of being so controlled that they are allowed little or no access to the outside world. They may be so traumatised that they cannot talk about what happened for many years, if ever. They may suffer from learning difficulties or be so damaged by the abuse that they are not capable of ever telling. They may even simply believe that there is no one they can ever tell, have no trust in anyone and/or believe that it is useless to try and tell about the child.
Many children produced in this way are subjected to extremes of torture, mutilation and eventual murder with no one ever able or willing to admit that they ever existed. Few of these children ever live longer than the first few years of life and it is very rare for one of them to reach adulthood.
Children Born into itSome children are born into the culture and tradition of ritual abuse. One or both parents may be active members of a group and be quite accepting of involving their children in the activities of the group. Not only do they allow their child to be actively used in terrifying rituals and ceremonies involving extremes of physical and sexual abuse, but also usually, they reinforce the message of silence and compliance within the home setting on a daily basis. Parents such as this, no matter what belief system they employ to justify their behaviour, benefit financially and personally from the abuse that their child suffers. Like most abusers, particularly those who belong to organised groups, these parents will rarely be brought to justice. Currently, the best that can be hoped for is that the child, somehow, for some reason will be removed from them before too much damage is done to them.
Children born into and raised in such families are taught from a very early age that the lives they are leading are right and proper. Long before they reach school age they have been taught the rules of silence and the many traditions of the group. In the same way that any child growing up within a religious family are taught and conditioned to accept the faith of their parents, so too are these children. They will be taught the group version of history, the philosophy of their religion, languages, what is expected of them and the implications of ever telling about the group or the religion. They have absolutely no choice in any of this. Neither can they ever know or begin to understand while young that what they are experiencing is completely unacceptable within society. To these children their lives are normal to them and they have nothing else to begin to compare it with.
It is only when the children get older, if they are able to have enough freedom that they are able to begin to question whether or not there is any other way to live. By then, they are so thoroughly silenced and conditioned, that it is unlikely they will ever try to tell anyone or seek help from anyone. They have absolutely no choice in how they live and no matter whether they question what is going on, or not, they are well and truly stuck in the situation while young.
Depending on the family these generational children are born into, the child may feel that they have too much to lose by telling. Some, even while still quite young, will have given in and accepted their roles and position within the group. Few consider what is happening to themselves and others to be abuse but rather they accept things as right because their parents and their faith dictates it as such. For some, they have too much to gain from the group to ever risk exposure. If they themselves are destined to win a position of power within the group, they very quickly reap the rewards of behaving as they have been taught to behave. Some of these children grow up to be the next generation of abusers.
Some of those children born into the faith are regarded purely as property to be used by the parents and the group in whatever way they want. They are not destined to gain in power or position and are taught from an early age that they are completely worthless and should be grateful for ever being allowed to live. These children are very much controlled by the family and the group to the extent that they may be kept totally dependent on the group for all things.
Single Parent Marries into Ritual AbuseThere are, these days, an increasing number of single parent families as it is now more acceptable to leave partners and bring up children alone. Abusers often actively seek out and pursue a relationship with single parents in order to get access to their children. So too with those abusers who are involved with ritual abuse. Single parent, who are usually women, sometimes become involved with men who are, unknown to them at the time, involved with an abusive group. These women, over time, may become victims themselves of the brainwashing and abuse that frequently characterises domestic violence and become less able to protect their children. They may be totally taken in by the man and not know that he has set out to abuse the children.
The children in such a situation quickly become isolated from their mother and are carefully ‘groomed’ and prepared to becoming involved in the group activities. Usually, the abuser takes everything very slowly and gently at first so as to gradually introduce and accustom the child to its new situation. Over time, as the child becomes accustomed to accepting more and more in the way of abuse and ritual, the child is exposed to more and more until they accept anything that is done to them and others. As the silencing of the victims is always an absolute priority so as to ensure the safety of the abusers, long before any extremes of abuse takes place; the children will know not to talk to anyone about what is going on.
Close Relative or Family Friend takes them into Ritual AbuseSome children are introduced to ritual abuse through close relatives or family friends. As the parents trust these people, they can often have easy access to the children from quite an early age. Like many child abusers, they ingratiate themselves into families with young children and are quickly regarded as being ‘good with children’. They offer to look after the children, take them on holiday and generally succeed in spending a great deal of time alone with the children. This provides them with adequate time and opportunity to begin to abuse the children. Again, silencing the child is the key to allowing this to continue to happen and they generally progress slowly to more frequent and more extremes of abuse.
As the parent trusts the abuser, the child can easily be persuaded that the parent has permitted all of what is going on. Young children are seldom able to work out for themselves the validity of this. All they will know is that they are repeatedly handed over to the abuser and their parent seems quite happy with this. They will also see that the parent is friendly with and accepting of the abuser. Few young children would ever seek to question this. A child in this situation does at least have a sense of normality at home but this can serve to make everything all the more confusing as the child slips from one reality to another.
Foster CarersFor a variety of reasons children are sometimes placed in foster care for a period of time. Some can be in foster care for quite a long period of time from infancy until they move on to other carers, back to their parents or are placed for adoption. Some abusers gain access to these children by becoming foster carers. Although all foster carers have to pass stringent safety checks by social services before being allowed to care for children, some abusers can easily pass these checks as they have never been caught, reported or prosecuted for any abuse of children. Many abusers appear on the surface to be upright and respectable people until such time as a child or adult survivor finds the strength and courage to speak out against them.
Those foster carers who are part of groups who practise ritual abuse usually involve their foster children in the abuse also. It is a case of too good an opportunity to miss. Though the abuse experience by these children is extremely traumatic, because there is involvement with outside agencies and the possibility of the child moving on to a new home at some point, the abusers are careful to abuse the children in the more subtle ways. Abusers are careful to make certain that the children can be thoroughly silenced before and after abuse and a huge emphasis is placed on ensuring continuing silence. These children are often repeatedly drugged and hypnotised, subjected to extreme sensory deprivation and tricked and confused by constant deceptions. The end result is an often a silent overly fearful child who is unable to make any sense of what they have experienced.
It is often a long time before these children can begin to remember or talk coherently about their experiences. Often their memories are very shattered and confused and the pieces they do remember are unable to fit into any order or make much sense to them or anyone else. Because of the confusion and lack of clear and coherent memories, the children can rarely give adequate details of what actually happened to them. Also, because the abusers will have deliberately deceived them, much of what the child is able to say sounds so bizarre that it is unlikely to be believed or be clear enough for any non-abusive adult to begin to understand what actually happened to the child. The only thing that may be really clear is that the child is so traumatised that something terrible must have happened to them.
Often children who have gone into foster care are distressed to start with and sometimes the assumption is made that a distressed or disturbed child in care is nothing to do with the lack of care they receive but more to do with their troubled backgrounds. Seldom are there any thoughts by anyone of suspecting the foster carers of abuse. Yet many adult survivors of a range of different abuses talk about being abused while in foster care. Abusers can be in any position and what better position could an abuser get into than being the foster carer of a vulnerable child.
Child MindersMany children go regularly, and increasingly these days, sometimes for long periods of time to child-minders as their parents work full-time. The vast majority of these child-minders are very good and caring of the children and would never permit harm to come to the children in their care. As with foster carers, registered child-minders in this country are carefully checked out and vetted by the authorities and this is, to a point, a good safeguard for children. However, abusers come from all walks of life and few are ever caught and convicted of offences against children. Just because someone has been checked out by local authorities does not necessarily mean that they may not involve a child in abuse.
Some adult survivors talk about having been involved in ritual abuse through their regular child-minder. These people may not be as likely to be able to take the children into all of the activities of the group, and they have to be very careful to make sure that the child will not talk, is not bruised and that there is no visible evidence that might make a parent suspect abuse. On occasions, some children do tell their parents what has happened to them, but the things they say can be so bizarre that they are often put down to children’s fantasy and imagination.
Though children abused in this way are usually out of it by the time they get to school age and often have the advantage of having good parents and a good home to return to, the trauma to them is no less for this. In many ways, it can be very difficult for the survivors as they get older and remember what went on, to believe themselves that such strange things could have happened to them. They often doubt their own memory of the events even as adults. They remember what happened in a very small child fashion sometimes with no language to know what was actually being done to them or why it was happening to them. They also have no context to place it in or any understanding of what the abusers were doing and why. All they have is a jumble of memories in which adults acted differently from others and sometimes hurt or frightened them.
Traumatised young people can be extremely difficult to live and work with. Their behaviour can become very extreme and very challenging. They may act abusively towards others. They may exhibit criminal behaviour. They may cause harm to themselves through drugs, drink or self-injury. They may withdraw into themselves and refuse to communicate with anyone. Being an adolescent is difficult enough at the best of times, but being an adolescent who has been severely abused can be so much more difficult. While it is perfectly understandable that abused young people are reacting strongly, it is also difficult to help them to help themselves while all this is going on for them.
Perhaps the best way to begin to reach out to a young person who has been severely traumatised is to find someone who can take the time to begin to build a relationship of equality and trust with them. A friend of the family, a youth worker or a worker from a voluntary organisation can be approached for help in this matter. Providing the person is trustworthy, honest and genuinely caring of the young person, they can often begin to make some headway with the survivor. Though it will take some time for a relationship to build, it is worth taking this time, as it will pay off longer term. It also helps a lot if this person does not report everything said by the young person back to the parents or carers but keeps a high degree of confidentiality.
For young runaways, because they are so mistrustful of adults, it can be difficult to reach out to them with any offers of help. Sometimes the police pick up these young people and, either take them back home if they know their identity, or take them into care if they refuse to let the police know anything about them and no missing person report is filed for them.
In a care setting, if they stay long enough, there is a chance that they may eventually relax enough to begin to trust someone. If the young runaway looks old enough to possibly be a young adult or close to it, the police on noticing them sometimes leave them alone. Occasionally, police officers take the time to build a relationship with these street kids and this can be invaluable in terms of the young person realising that some adults, even those working with the police can be okay.
Although leaving young people living on the street can seem like an almost uncaring thing to do, in many ways, some survivor’s are safer on the street than at home. The reason many young people become runaways is as a result of abuse at home. At least if they are lucky enough while on the street to have a police officer keeping a friendly eye on them, the young person can benefit a great deal from this. Street workers, from a variety of organisations, can also be invaluable in helping young survivors who have run away from home make safe links and safe contacts with responsible and caring adults. In time, the young person may begin to trust, talk and begin to get appropriate help.
Non-abusive parents and carers can suffer great stress and anxiety through trying to care for an abused young person. Unlike a younger child, who will throw tantrums, but can be controlled and comforted with a cuddle, young people are usually too big and far too sophisticated for this sort of thing. Parents and carers often have to endure screaming matches, trashed bedrooms, running away, dangerous behaviours, mental health problems, suicidal youngsters and a great deal more. Unlike most parents who may have to occasionally deal with some of these things in ordinary teenagers, the parents of ritually abused young people have to endure this day after day and hour after hour.
While they may be very understanding, if they know about the extent of the abuse the young person has experienced, understanding in itself, is simply not enough to get through each day with their sanity intact.
Even the most understanding parent or carer would find it hard to cope alone with such a distressed and traumatised young person. Add to that if the parent or carer has other children to care for, the difficultly of looking after the needs of the non-abused children alongside the needs of a traumatised young person. Sometimes too, as the young person feels let down by adults, yet feels safe enough to vent their frustration on parents or carers, these poor people face the brunt of all the anger and distress.
Sometimes parents end up in the position of listening to disclosures. If there is a good relationship between the parent and young person, despite outbursts and tantrums, the young person sometimes feels safe enough to begin talking. Often a great many of these disclosures come immediately after outbursts and tantrums. While it is good that the young person is beginning to talk, the things that the young person talks about can be very difficult for a parent or carer to hear. A lot of what the young survivor says will be unbelievable. A lot will be horrible to hear. All of it will be unacceptable to a loving parent.
Parents and carers have to deal with this without any specialised training or support and frequently with no awareness of the issues at all. The fact that so many manage it is a testament to their love and willingness to care for the young person.
Parents and carers in this position need to get all the help they can to support the whole family, not just the abused young person. Many turn to the psychiatric services or social services for help but often feel let down by the response, or lack of response they get. Parents often need to battle long and hard with agencies and keep on demanding practical and emotional support for themselves as well as help for the traumatised young person. So few people in all the different professions understand, believe or are prepared to work with survivors of ritual abuse that getting help for the young survivor is seldom easy or straightforward.
Parents and carers have to become extremely demanding and be prepared to keep up the pressure until they get the help they need and deserve. They also need to recognise their own expertise with their own child and not be taken in by people who, by virtue of their position, assume or indicate that they know better. Just because someone is a consultant, a social worker or a doctor does not mean that they understand ritual abuse or the particular difficulties of the family. They are not living with it, never have lived with it and probably never will live with it. The parents, siblings and young survivors become the ones with the expertise.
Non-socialised: Many young survivors do not know how to behave normally around other children. They may not know how to play or join in playground games. They may fear children’s group games such as hide and seek, pass the parcel, etc. These games are often turned around by abusers and used to hurt children. These children often do not actively or willingly join in such group games. They may appear fearful, uncertain and uncooperative.
Fear: Many things frighten children but with ritually abused children, there can often be a fear of things out of all proportion to ‘normal’ childhood fears. They may show fear of singing, circle time, paint, colours, making things, animals, stuffed toys, masks, religious items such as crosses or bibles, etc. Ritually abused children may show fear in a different way from other children. Rather than screaming, running away or crying, some children will freeze or even pass out with terror. They may hide in a corner or under a desk. Any unusual reaction to fear in a child should be noticed and gently explored further.
Running away: Most adult survivors report that as children they tried to run away on more than one occasion. Though severely punished for this, many kept on trying. Unfortunately, even on the occasions when police or social work become involved in a child running away from home, the real reasons for running away often remains hidden.
Adults need to recognise that children and young people only run away from home for a reason. The fact that police and social work continually return the children to the abusive home, in the eyes of the child, places them firmly on the side of the abusers. Understandably, these children will not readily turn to these agencies for help.
Touch: Ritually abused children often fear being touched. They are seldom used to okay hugs and the word hug may hold a different meaning for them. If touched they may freeze, flinch, try to get away or not respond in a ‘normal’ child-like manner. They may appear to be afraid of touch or of touching others. Even a simple thing like being told to hold another child’s hand may cause them difficulties.
Drawing: Ritually abused children often find drawing difficult. They may not be allowed to draw or only allowed to draw some things as dictated by abusers. They may be unable to use particular colours in drawings and will react strongly to suggestions of using a colour they are not allowed to or are afraid of. Textures of some drawing or painting materials may also cause problems. Drawings are often mis-interpreted by teachers or play leaders. Adults could learn a lot just by asking the child about their drawings and exploring the use or lack of use of some colours or materials.
Places: Children may show extreme fear of particular places e.g. churches, cinemas, libraries, and graveyards. They may be unable to enter these places without being sick, passing out or becoming very distressed.
Sexualised Behaviour: Some children react to their experiences by becoming sexualised. They may act provocatively, use sexually explicit language, insert objects into themselves, try to touch other people sexually, invite sexual contact with adults, offer sex for money or behave in a sexually abusive way to other children. It is never normal for any child to behave in a highly sexualised manner.
As with young children there are several different ways that teenagers can become involved in ritual abuse. Young people tend not to be as easily taken in to an abusive group situation as younger children are. With young people, unless they have been born into a group, getting them involved in the group activities is done in different and much more subtle ways.
It is much less likely that, with teenagers who have never experienced ritual abuse before, they will end up involved in it at home. Even in the case of their parent marrying into it, it is a great deal harder for the abuser to get older children, who already have the notion of right and wrong firmly set in their minds, to cooperate enough to involve them in an abusive group. Though, in the case of a parent bringing an abusive partner into the home, they almost certainly will experience some form of abuse and domestic violence, it is very unlikely that they will be used in rituals and group events. There is far too much chance that an older child will talk to someone and expose the abusers.
Young people who have led lives relatively free from abuse are not quite as easily silenced and controlled as much younger children are. They usually know too much about the real world to be tricked in the way that younger children are. Teenagers are also not as dependent on the adults in their lives as younger children are and are therefore much more likely to have outside interests and a circles of friends. This sometimes saves them from any approach by members of groups. It is much more likely with young people that they first approach ritual abuse willingly and completely unwittingly, through not knowing exactly what it is they are really getting into at the time.
Young People Born into Ritual AbuseYoung people may already be involved in an abusive group because they were involved as children by their carers or family and have never been rescued from it. For them it may be all they know and to them it is very much a normal way of life. They may never have questioned the lives that they live and they may have very little to compare their life with. From their own perspective, their lives are completely normal. Some of these young people are very controlled by their families and have no easy way of finding out about how other people live.
Those who have been born into it by the time they become teenagers are already well conditioned not to talk and though some may be beginning to act out and rebel outside the home, this is usually put down to typical teenage behaviour. Though many of the signs of abuse are already present in their behaviours, it is rare for anyone to pick up on these signs in a positive way. Young people are a very diverse group and a too quiet and obedient teenager is all but invisible in school while a disruptive and troublesome teenager is often rendered invisible by being excluded from the school. Neither will usually be noticed as a survivor. Even constant running away from home, which to many with some awareness would indicate a problem at home, is usually put down to the young person being seen as the problem rather than being seen as a young person who has a problem.
By the time young people who have been born into ritual abuse reach their teens, they will have been involved fully in most of the group rituals. Many will be so indoctrinated in the faith and beliefs of the group that there can be no question of betrayal of the family and the group. Most will be completely unable to trust anyone else, especially adults, and they will have learned that they are totally powerless to resist against those who are stronger than them.
Young DabblersYoung people are, by nature, curious and as part of the process of growing up and becoming adults, they can sometimes be rebellious and look to do completely the opposite to their parents. When they discover through other young people, adults they admire or, more and more these days, via the Internet, that there are such interesting things as secret societies, the occult and pornography, some of them begin to express an interest in it.
Young people drawn toward the occult, paganism, secret societies and religious cults are already moving in a general direction, which can lead them into trouble. While a great deal of this type of thing is completely harmless to anyone, abusive groups are really well disguised and may appear to be completely harmless at first. Unwittingly, a young person may end up close to the fringes of a group looking to recruit young fresh blood. The young person will be carefully cultivated by members of the group, taught some of the principles of the group and initially pampered and made to feel important. Abusers will begin a brainwashing process, which, as they begin to be able to control the young person more, will increase in intensity. Often there is also heavy use made of drugs to make the young person more dependent and complacent. Gradually the young person becomes drawn in and involved in the fringe activities.
Many young people who get close to the fringe of a group and begin to become involved in criminal activities find this very exciting at first. They feel important and daring and are usually provided with money for the illegal tasks they carry out. Fringe members of the group encouraged them in these activities and begin to test them out to see how far they will go. In this way, the group begins to get an idea of the young person’s moral code. At the same time, the young person will get getting some teaching in some of the areas they were first interested in.
One of the first things that a group will do once they have a bit control is to ensure that the young person is quickly involved in a more serious crime so as to implicate them and thus silence them. The group will make sure that they hold the proof of what the young person did and this can be a useful lever. At first these young people will not be abused by the group but will soon begin to be involved in the abuse of others. They may also be encouraged into other crimes such as trafficking in drugs, stealing vehicles, and distribution of counterfeit money or pornography.
Vulnerable Young PeopleYoung runaways are very much at risk from all abusers. These young people are already missing from home with no one knowing where they are at any one time. Runaways most often rely on theft, prostitution and handouts from others to survive on the streets. It therefore becomes very easy for an adult to pretend to be sympathetic, build up a relationship with the young person and persuade them to go somewhere with them. As they are already reported missing, these young people can easily be taken by an abusive group and can quite simply disappear from the world. As there is rarely any intention of ever releasing these young people, the abusers can do as they please to them from the start.
Young people in care are also vulnerable to abusive groups. Authority of any kind often disillusions these young people and many feel aggrieved by the very system that was supposed to care from them. As such, they are often socially excluded, may have been already been abused and many begin to drift towards crime, drugs and prostitution. Abusers when they get near them, carefully cultivate some of these vulnerable young people and through a pretence of caring about them, can begin to pull the young person into the fringes of the group. Many young people in care, in Scotland at least, are thrust abruptly out of care and left to fend for themselves at the age of sixteen. These young people are extremely vulnerable and become easy prey for those abusers who want to recruit young people for their own uses.
If you think that your child may have been abused, it is important not to keep this to yourself. Talking to other people can help you to work out the reason you are beginning to think the way you are and may help steer you in the right direction to get some help. It is important not to jump to any conclusions about abuse based on limited knowledge as children vary so much in how they present and they all react differently to different things in their lives. Sometimes their reactions are nothing to do with having been abused but are to do with something else entirely. It is always better to be as clear as possible about what you are dealing with before you take action.
If it turns out that your child has been abused get help sooner rather than later. Try not to quiz your child based on something you have read or jump to conclusions about what type of abuse your child has suffered. Children get very mixed up and confused quite easily and if you have made too many assumptions you can easily put the idea into your child’s head that what they suffered was more complex than it really was. Try instead to love and care for your child in a way that is not seeking information, but rather, helping them to recover from the trauma. The child will begin to talk in its own time and in its own way. Even if what your child says sounds a bit off the planet, remember that sometimes children use fantasy as a means of coping and expressing what they are feeling.
If your child has been apart from you for quite long periods of several days or a few weeks, or you have recently taken on to look after a child who has lived elsewhere, and you find the child to be very traumatised, something major may have happened to the child. They may have been bullied, frightened or abused in any number of ways and investigative agencies such as the police and social services can help you to get to the bottom of it. Ritual abuse is certainly not the most common form of abuse carried out on children and it takes many different forms. Be open to hearing about anything but keep a firm hold on reality and common sense with anything you hear.
The sorts of things that may alert you to the possibility of ritual abuse of your child are:
For some parents and carers it is even more difficult as, over time, the child begins to disclose the almost unbelievable fact that they were ritually abused. Often this comes out many years after the abuse has stopped and the parent is sometimes able to think back to strange behaviour exhibited by their child at the time or soon afterwards. This can lead to a great deal of self-blaming as the parent struggles with not having noticed the signs of abuse or with their own lack of basic awareness. The main thing that every parent and carer must keep clearly in mind is that the abusers are the only ones to blame in any abuse situation.
It is not essential to get a child to talk about the details of what happened to help them to heal. Unless the child wants to talk about it in such a way, or if they need to talk to an investigator, it is better to leave them alone. What most children need is to be comforted, reassured and continually told that they are now safe from harm. Essentially, the only people who really need to know the finer details of what actually happened are the child protection practitioners who may work with the child during an investigation. These people are the ones with the skills to find out what the child is trying to say. Parents trying to get information out of the child can sometimes get in the way of investigative agencies. Telling about abuse is never easy and just because a parent may want to know the detail of something, is no reason to put a child through it.
Some children do not remember the abuse for a long time and when they do begin to remember, it is very frightening and confusing for them. It is also difficult for parents to begin to understand how the child could possibly have forgotten what happened to them. Yet, it is quite common for severely traumatise children to put their terrible memories so far away from themselves that they become buried very deeply inside. Only with time, care and sometimes a memory trigger to remind the child of what happened, the memories may begin to surface. Sometimes the memories come back slowly over a long period of time and they are almost always very distressing and painful to the child.
Other children never forget but are unable and/or unwilling to talk about what they experienced. The enforced silence and the fear can be too great an obstacle for them to overcome for a long time. Also, as the child gets older and leads a more normal life free from abuse, they realise that what they experienced was wrong and in many ways unbelievable. Sometimes they feel to blame for what happened to them and their perceived part in it and sometimes they find it hard to believe their own memory and begin to take refuge in denial themselves.
If you suspect that your child has been ritually abused don’t try to force them to talk about it. Try to keep an open mind, as you may be wrong in your suspicion of abuse or ritual abuse. Instead, work at building up trust with your child and let them know that you are there to listen to them if they ever want to talk to you about anything. Make time available for your child and encourage them to share their feelings with you when they want to. Try talking through your fears with another adult and write down the reasons that you are beginning to suspect abuse of any kind. You can call the police or social services for advice and information or, if this is too big a step to take, you can call a helpline.
If your suspicions are realised and your child begins to talk unprompted about being abused by one or more people, being taken to strange places, people dressing up, animals hurting them, people chanting, torture and child murder and things that sound a bit like rituals being carried out (they will not use the words abuse or ritual), they are possibly talking about ritual abuse and you should contact outside help as quickly as possible. In the case where the child suggests that these things are still happening to them, remove them immediately from the people they are naming or indicating are responsible. It is better to believe the child in the first instance than to take any risks. Investigative agencies will hopefully soon work out if any of the allegations might be true.
You can help the child by:
Letting your child know that it is safe to talk to you about how they are feeling. Keep telling them that they are now allowed to talk and tell about what happened and that if they want to, they can even tell the police about it.
Letting them stay in control of the process as much as possible by talking when they want, about what they want and to the person they choose to talk to.
Try not to rush to the police or other investigative agencies. Your child may not be ready to do this yet and the process of investigation may frighten them and make them retract what they are saying. Be aware though that the best agency to investigate allegations of abuse is the police and you should avoid too much questioning of your child. By questioning your child you may make the work of the police much harder. Focus instead on making certain that your child is now safe from harm and letting them say the things they want to in their own way and time. Encourage them to talk about how they feel and reassure them that they are doing nothing wrong by telling about things that happened to them. Leave the getting of the details and facts to the child protection professionals.
Obviously if your child or other children are still at risk, you may need to inform someone in authority quite quickly. Give yourself time to calm down first though so that you will be able to support your child effectively through the investigative process. Waiting an hour or two to give yourself and your child time to think will not generally make any big difference to a child or the investigation. If you must go to the police, if you can, hold back on the less believable aspects of the abuse at first. Try to keep the things you say in terms of, ‘I think my child may have been abused’, give the reasons you think this and let the police find out the details of it from your child. In most cases the abuse happened many years before and there would be no real proof other than what your child says.
Find out as much as you can about the subject of abuse rather than jumping to conclusions about it. Find out all you can about trauma and posttraumatic stress and how to help traumatised children. Remember that much of what you read will be theories and the ‘one-size fits all’ approach may not suit your particular child. Children, just like adults, are unique individuals with different needs and you may need to shop around to get the most appropriate help for your child.
Don’t assume that your doctor will have all the answers for you. Most doctors know nothing about the subject of ritual abuse and therefore nothing about the effects of ritual abuse on individuals. If you are lucky enough to have a doctor who is prepared to learn about it and admit what they don’t know, you may be able to get a referral to someone who really can help.
Find out what extra support is out there for your child and let your child know about it and how to access it.
Avoid if you can any programme offering to help survivors recover memories. Your child can decide whether or not they want this, as they get older. Memories are often suppressed in survivors for very good reason and to protect the survivor, they will be recovered quite naturally when, and if, the survivor is able to cope better with them. There is no need to force the process of remembering and it can be dangerous for the survivor as they may not be able to handle knowing it all. There is also the danger that later on there will be an accusation of a therapist implanting false memories in the child.
Find out what support is out there for you and the others in your family and reach out for it. The more support you are able to get for yourself and your family, the better able you will be to continue to provide support for your child through this.
Beware self-proclaimed experts! Some people do have expertise in dealing with trauma and abuse. Some even have expertise in working with ritual abuse survivors. On the other hand, you know your own child better than anyone else and it is your child who has lived through the trauma and needs to develop their own expertise in directing their own healing. No one else can do this for them and people will often help best by providing practical support and being there for the child and the family. On occasions quality psychiatric help can assist with more specific problems such as problems with flashbacks, panic attacks, depression, mental health, eating or self-injury. Often though, you will find that your child and yourself gain a great deal of expertise yourself and will end up teaching the practitioners rather than learning very much from them.
There are occasions that adult survivors talk about, when, if only the people they met had had awareness, it might have been possible for safe adults to notice them as children and perhaps have found a way to help. Although it is difficult for children to tell about abuse, children can easily slip up and reveal a little of their lives. Adults having a raised awareness of the possibilities of what might happen to a child and keeping an open mind, might just spot some of these children. Adults who take the time to build a strong relationship with a child stand a better chance of gaining the child’s trust.
Children and young people living with ritual abuse do not have many of the choices that most adults have. They do not have access to information except through adults. As they have no money, or access to money, except through adults, even making a telephone call to get help can be impossible. Few young people would even know who they could phone for help.
Children are totally dependant on the adults in their lives for all of their basic human needs. They usually love their parents, even if those parents are hurting and abusing them. They have, and are taught to have, great loyalty to their families. They also know beyond any doubt, and it will have been proven to them, what will happen to them if they betray their family by talking to outsiders. Unlike some abuse situations, in which the abuser threatens the child, children living with ritual abuse know that threats are very real and will be carried out.
Children are not as good as adults at covering up and the younger they are, the more likely it is that adults with awareness can notice them. The main problem at the moment is that safe adults completely fail to notice the signs that are there. In fairness to these adults, if ritual abuse is not considered a reality in our society, then no one can ever notice these children.