Survivors instinctively use many different tactics to survive ritual abuse and the aftermath of such abuse when they get away from it. Many people think that when the abuse ends survivors will be okay and just be able to get on with their lives. Unfortunately this is not very often the case. There are many different factors involved in how survivors cope with the ending of abuse including how long they were involved, what position they were in. if any and what their individual experiences were. Survivors are individuals who have individual responses to what has happened in their lives. Not all survivors need treatment or help to deal with the effects of abuse, but many do. Sometimes the effects of being abused can be extremely debilitating for the survivor and it can take some people a long time to recover.
Survivors may experience extremes of flashbacks, panic attacks, paranoia, hearing voices, anxiety, sleep problems, eating problems, seizures, etc. All these things can be going on pretty well at the same time and the effects are debilitating in the extreme.
Recovery from the effects of ritual abuse is possible and survivors are not always damaged for life, as some people seem to think. Some of the problems survivors may be left with for a while afterwards are as follows:
Dissociation is a normal way of coping with a severe trauma. For some survivors, they learn to dissociate from a very young age and carry on dissociating long after they have left the abuse. Dissociation can be mild or severe and survivors can be aware of it or even completely unaware. For some, it serves a useful function and does not become problematic for the survivor but for others it causes huge problems. Some survivors become unable to live a normal life because of the dissociation they continue to experience.
Self-injury can become a way of trying to cope with the difficulties of life. Contrary to what some people think, self-injury is not an attempt to die, it is an attempt to live. Self-injury can take many forms and survivors do it for many different reasons including letting out feelings, staying in control and feeling real. It is not a sign of mental illness in itself and is a normal human response to distress and trauma.
Physical health problems can last a long time after a survivor has escaped from the abuse. Some injuries are permanent. Often survivors have difficulty approaching doctors with specific injuries or health problems particularly if it would be difficult to explain how the injuries or problems came about. On top of this, approaching doctors is often a common difficulty for survivors of this sort. Health problems may include sexual health problems, infections and chronic pain from old injuries, to name but a few.
Mental health problems or illnesses of all kinds can develop as a result of the abuse. A variety of labels and diagnosis are given by doctors to describe the illness or problem and the common thread is that they usually have the word disorder as part of the title. Survivors can overcome these problems with help and understanding. Whether there ever is an actual illness or a disorder caused by the abuse or the person is having a normal reaction to extreme trauma is debatable.
Survivors to help them cope with the aftermath of abuse may use drugs and/or alcohol. Sometimes, this can lead to an addiction problem for the survivor but at the time, it may work well for the survivor in helping them suppress the effects of trauma. Some survivors end up addicted to prescription drugs, which doctors with little awareness or knowledge have unwittingly provided.
Returning to the abuse is a very common survival tactic that survivors use. Some get creative with it and deliberately put themselves in dangerous situations. As a tactic for survival, few people can understand this one but it makes sense if you realise that the survivor who has never known anything other than abuse knows how to cope with it but not the absence of abuse. Sometime they return simply to feel ‘normal’ again.
Prostitution can be a survival tactic and also on occasions become a problem for some survivors. If the survivor has no resources to live independently and cannot, for whatever reason, claim social security or work for a living, prostitution can provide a relatively straightforward income. Some survivors also use prostitution as a means of self-injury from time to time.