Most abuse is ritualised in some way and generally people accept that children can be subjected to a range of terrifying and repetitive abusive experiences.
One definition of ritual abuse is when one or more children are abused in a highly organized way, by a group of people who have come together and subscribe to a belief system that, for them, justifies their actions towards that child. This usually extends into family involvement and may have been practiced as a religion or a way of life for years
Although survivors speak of differing experiences, many elements are common:
Elaborate rituals, 'games' set ups and 'ceremonies'
Systematic emotional, physical and sexual abuse
Being used in child pornography and prostitution
Being forced to take drugs and alcohol
Being tortured almost to the point of death
Being forced to participate in the abuse of others
IF YOU ARE A SURVIVOR OF RITUAL ABUSE YOU MAY FEEL
Trapped: you may feel that you cannot escape. Although it can be difficult to get away from such abuse, it can be done. Many survivors have successfully escaped and lead normal lives.
Fear: that you or someone else may be killed, that you may be re-involved, fear of talking, of reprisals, fear that they have power over you, loneliness, disbelief, etc. These fears are understandable and are based on past or present experiences. It is possible to overcome this though it takes time and courage.
Distrust: You may feel that you can trust no one at all. This is completely reasonable given that you have never had someone trustworthy in your life. Trust has to be earned by people and in time you may feel that someone has earned it enough to be trusted a little.
IF YOU ARE SUPPORTING A SURVIVOR OF RITUAL ABUSE
Believe: Why would they lie? Only two parties know what happened, the abusers and the survivors. Survivors must be allowed to tell and be believed. Believe what they are saying, even though you may find it difficult especially as the memories they are telling may at first be fragmented and confusing.
Listen: To what they have to say and let them take their time, it will not be easy for them to start talking about events that they have kept silent about for a long time. It may be difficult for them to begin to feel trust in you or safe enough to talk to you.
Respect: Both their feelings and decisions. Remember they have their own coping mechanisms that have helped them survive the abuse. They may still need these.
Remember: It is not their fault - No-one asks to be abused and they cannot be blamed for any part of it. They cannot be blamed for participating in an act that they did not understand, was forced into, or in which they had no choices that weren't abusive. The blame lies only with the abusers.
Recognise: The courage it takes for a survivor to speak must be recognised. It takes a great deal of courage to face fears and also to talk about the abuse particularly in a climate of disbelief. You must recognise that this abuse really does happen.
About your own feelings when supporting a survivor:
You may feel shocked, horrified, upset, sick, etc. by what you are hearing. The feelings you are experiencing are justified, but may add to the upset for the survivor. They may feel responsible for upsetting you and you must remember that you are hearing this but they have lived through it and survived. It is important to seek support for yourself and further support for them if required.