Ritual Abuse: The Definitions and Characteristics

The information that you see below came from a wonderful book called “Safe Passage to Healing – A Guide for Surivors of Ritual Abuse.” It is a wonderful that has helped a lot of ritual abuse survivors. Although this book is out of print, there is a rumour that the 2nd Edition will be out soon. I hope so because its a good book and gives a lot of insight and tools for ritual abuse survivors to cope with the pain that we carry.

Definition of Ritual Abuse

A ritual is an established procedure or series of steps followed in order to achieve a transformation. There are many different types of rituals, ranging from secular to religious.

Abuse is anything that injures, damages, or interferes with a person’s healthy or normal devolopment – physical, emotional, sexual, mental, or spiritual.

Ritual abuse, therefore, is a methodical abuse, often using indoctrination, aimed at breaking the will of another human being.

Satanism and Ritual Abuse

There is a mistaken impression that all ritual abuse dogma is based on the worship of Satan. Ritual abuse may exist as the shadow or underside of religion. However, while elements common to Satanic doctrine are reported in other types of ritual abuse, many survivors report little or no focus on Satan. Ritual abuse can also be the underside of other belief systems beside Christianity.

Satanism and ritual abuse may be manipulated by organizations with completely different aims. Ritual can create an environment in which participants can satisfy extreme addictions.

Who Practises Ritual Abuse?

Ritual abuse is most commonly practised by the following:

  1. Multigenerational families
    • Some family members may own, operate or work in estabilishments that give them ready access to potential new recruits and victims.
      • Examples include daycares, homes for the disabled, church organizations, etc.
  2. Self-styled groups
    • Ritual abuse may spring up spontaneously. This may occur when a person or group feels overwhelmed, powerless, or disenfanchised and perceives society or another person as the cause of their pain.
  3. Lone Operators
    • Example: Serial killers
  4. Dabblers in Ritual Abuse
    • Adults or teens fitting in either two profiles:
      1. troubled, disillusioned people looking for answers, or
      2. people experimenting with power

Characteristics of Cult Perpetrators

  • Most frequent misconception is that “respectable” people are not involved.
    • “respectability” is judged by almost exclusively by external things in our society – employment, education, family, a pleasing personality, appropriate behaviour, and good grooming.
  • May try to blend in with conventional society
  • No hard or fast rules, but there is common patterns.

Abusers may show signs of emotional underdevelopment.

  1. Developmentally Immature
    • may be suffering mental, emotional, or spiritual damage, or all three
    • may hide damage through rigid emotional control, humour, extreme politeness and so on.
  2. Exploiter or Dependent: Mutual Dependency (Severe form of co-dependency)
    • Find security by either taking power or aligning themselves with someone powerful.
    • Look to control or to be taken care of
    • Characteristics are interchangable
    • Attract charismatic people looking to fill their need for power by exploiting others.
  3. Polar Opposites
    • There is potential for good and bad (evil) in all of us and is blended but for some people, its polarized – to split apart.
    • May see themselves and others as all good or all bad
    • Example: Jekyll and Hyde

Ritual Abuse, Cults and Organized Crime

The following comparison, contrast and characteristics may be helpful in putting ritual abuse into familiar concept.

  1. Traditional Ritual Abuse groups
    • based on dogma, more important then people and is enacted through ritual
    • radical separation between good and evil
    • demand for purity and loyality
    • established guilt and shame among its members
    • regular rituals being observed which uses supernatural intervention
    • staged events such as planned spontaniety and mystical manipulations
    • capitalizes on fear and ignorance
    • sense of separation between us and them mentality
    • seige mentality with paranoid view of outside view
    • humour is forbidden and resistance is worn down through physical and emotional manipulations
    • original identity is destroyed in order to create a new one
    • no autonomy in exchange for approval and acceptance
    • mind control is used
    • individuality is suppressed
    • well-defined hierarchy
    • are exploited for the benefit of the leader or leaders
  2. Ritual abuse cults similar to organized crime
    • both engage in criminal activity
    • perps are above the law
    • operates as a secret society
    • secrecy protects both activities and perps
    • expert at hiding or dissposing evidence
    • well connected to people of influence
    • rarely discovered or prosecuted
    • organized within an actual or conceptual family
    • family expects offspring to continue the practise
    • loosely associates with other common interest groups
    • may include non-related “outsiders” but are less trusted and more expentable then “family”
    • live in dual existence, maintain respectability in outside society
    • leadership is totalitarian and ruthless
    • transgressions punishable by death
  3. Ritual abuse differe from organized crime
    • abuse is the organizing principle of the group
    • extraordinarily cruel and and extreme
    • constant fear of death
    • begins in infancy
    • follows a systematic course of mind control

Cults and Secret Societies

  • Where are they found?
    • While all secret societies undermine the establishment, not all secret societies exists to pervert or destroy it. Following is the types of secret societies that can be found in the following:
      • Religious
      • Criminal organizations
      • Political/Military
      • Mutual dependency and Underground industries
    • It is important to state that a vast majority of organizations do NOT practise ritual abuse.

The Basic Principle of Recovery

Ritual abuse is the attempt to destroy who you are and redefine you in terms of your perps. A ritually abuse child gets the message – “I do not exist” – recovering is affirming the truth – “I exist.” It is the process of discovering the “I”. This means reclaiming your own experiences and so discovering your entire self.

Basic steps of recovery:

  • Reconnect with knowledge (What happened)
  • Complete the experience (associate your emotions, beliefs, and bodily sensations/feelings)
  • Affirm your wholeness (I exist) through self expression
  • Reclaim your own life (transformation) through creativity and growth

General Safety Tips

  1. Safety comes from growing increasingly strong through recovery. This means identifying sources of internal strength and calling on them often. It means having a solid support system of friends, and calling on them as needed. It also means getting in touch with your creativity and spirituality and using them for self-affirming growth and expression. By enjoying safe activities such as playing, drawing, writing, and outings with friends, survivors reaffirm safety in their life.
  2. Co-consciousness is the most important safety tool for survivors with amnesnc a1ters. Some survivors may not know whether or not they are continuously co-conscious. Signs of intermittent amnesia or amnestic alters may include losing time, having unexplained items in your possession, being greeted by people you don’t know, etc.
  3. Activities that occur during periods of amnesia may or may not pose a safety threat. However, this cannot be assessed until you achieve co-consciousness. Achieving continuous co-consciousness is a process that takes time. In the meantime, if you know or suspect that you have amnestic episodes, you need to take stay-safe precautions. Work with your therapist to develop a stay-safe plan. It may include things such as calling in to a designated safe person at regular intervals, journaling your activities, limiting your social interactions to specific, trusted, and safe people, etc.
      It’s a good idea to take notice of every time, everything, and everyone that makes you feel unsafe (this may include a therapist). Use the tools that the therapist has given you to help you determine the source of your fears. As you work through them, you may begin to notice patterns. Recognizing the patterns will give you information to help determine your present-day risk. Your awareness will improve with practice.
  4. Cults thrive by neglecting the needs of children and later keeping them in a dependent gate. When survivors break away, one tactic in trying to keep them dependent on the cult is to offer them financial or emotional help.
  5. To empower yourself, determine your own needs and approach people for help yourself. If you need to approach your family for help, do so on your own terms. Being able to identify needs yourself and finding ways to have them met is a step towards recovery. Remember, not everyone is going to be able to help you, and you shouldn’t consider this a rejection.
  6. Associate with people who are emotionally healthy and make you feel good about yourself.
  7. Associate with survivors who are making good progress in their own recovery.
  8. In support groups and in therapy, work only with people whose purpose is to empower you-encourage your self-esteem and, self-confidence. (Avoid people who try to do things for you, or offer you “help,” which is in fact making you dependent on them.)
      Making these determinations improves with time. You will find that the more you recover, the easier it will be to differentiate between people who are emotionally healthy and those who are not. It is helpful to talk to other recovering survivors about their experiences with safety issues. You are likely to learn that most survivors go through varying levels of fear, but few are actually harmed or threatened.

      While it is important to give all safety-related issues top priority and take safety precautions seriously, at the same time it is important to keep possible risks in perspective.

      This perspective becomes clearer as you become increasingly adept at separating the present from the past. Until you are able to manage this yourself, work with your trusted friends, your support group, or your therapist to stay safe.

Remember the three C’s of healing: Courage, creativity and compassion, mostly towards yourself.

You will find yourself growing in courage to face the issues involved and expanding your creativity to find ways to heal your pain, and you will learn to extend towards yourself with God’s help, the compassion most of us are able to find for others but cannot feel for themselves.


Oksana, Chrystine. Safe Passage to Healing – A Guide for Surivors of Ritual Abuse. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1994.