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Archive for May, 2010

*******trigger warning – ritual & sexual abuse*******

It is not possible for me to tell the tale of the ritual abuse in a linear fashion. What I experienced was so terrifying and traumatizing that the memories and emotions were immediately fragmented and stored in different parts of my brain. I can piece together that certain events happened before others, but trying to string together a linear story is next to impossible.

Let me begin by talking about the big picture of what I remember. The cult “meetings” were generally late at night. My mother would pull me out of my bed, place me in the front seat of her car while my sister slept in the back, and drive us to these meetings. I have no idea where my father was, and I never saw my mother other than as the transportation person.

She delivered us to a scary place in the woods late at night. There was a wooden cabin that I visited a few times, where men and some women would drink alcohol and probably do drugs, although I did not know what drugs were when I was six or seven.

My “role” was as part of the ceremony. We were in the woods, but there was a clearing with a large bonfire in the middle. (I am phobically afraid of bonfires.) Around the bonfire were both chairs and folding tables. If the bonfire was in the center, my position was due west, and my sister’s position was due north, so we were able to see each other during these ceremonies.

We were both typically naked and lying down on our two separate tables. Everyone in attendance wore black robes except for the new initiates, who wore white. They kept their hoods over their faces, so I could never tell who was male or female until the person spoke or abused me with a gender-specific body part.

In what I presume are the earlier memories, my sister would be vaginally raped, but I would not be. I was forced to perform oral sex on men and women while, at the same time, giving hand jobs to both genders. To this day, transsexuals or anyone who does not display an obvious gender trigger me because, without being able to tell the gender of the person beneath the robe, I had no indication of which form of sexual abuse was coming.

I remember lots of bodily fluids – blood, semen, urine, and feces. I don’t know if the blood was real or manufactured. Through the eyes of an adult, I have come to recognize how much of what they did was a “stage show” to make my story sound unbelievable. Who was going to believe a 7-year-old kid who had the “boogie man” dressed in robes and hurting her in the middle of the night? I also believe that the robes hid the identities of these people, and that all of the cloak and dagger crap was really just a cover for an active child pornography and prostitution ring. Despite the “Satan worship” rumors that go around, I don’t think devil worship had a thing to do with this. I think the motivation was money – money for raping children in a way that nobody would believe, which made it a “safe” way for pedophiles to have access to kids.

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Photo credit: Rosanne Mooney

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*******trigger warning – emotional abuse*******

This story is actually a year later (in third grade, when I was 8). I am jumping ahead because this is another S story. After this, my next several posts will center on the ritual abuse, which is what S was grooming me for with all of her torture in her basement.

In the 1970’s, a movie came out called Baker’s Hawk, and I was dying to see it. For whatever reason, my mother would not take me to see it. So, I bought a copy of the book.

The teacher assigned book reports, and I really wanted to write my book report on this book. The problem was that the book was not developmentally appropriate for an eight-year-old child, but I begged and pleaded until the teacher relented. Sure enough, it was too difficult for an eight-year-old child to read. I made it through most of the book, but I still had 25 pages to go the night before the book report was due, plus I had to write the book report.

If this had happened to my son (who is nine), I would have told him how much I love him and how proud I was of him for reading as much as he did. I would have cuddled with him on the couch and read him the remaining 25 pages. That is not what my mother did. Instead, she berated me for being irresponsible and locked me in my room until I finished reading the book. I was crying so hard that I could not read the words through my tears. I lied about the ending, and she busted me because she, herself, had read the last 25 pages, and my ending apparently did not line up.

My mother grounded me for two weeks. In addition, so she told S about my “irresponsibility,” who took it upon herself to “teach me a lesson” about finishing my homework. What she did to me is a big flat blank, which is never good. I only know that it was extremely traumatizing.

When I turned in my book report, the teacher asked me if I really read that entire book because it was so much longer than any book that any other child in the class had read. She said it was okay if I did not. I looked her straight in the eye and lied. I had paid enough.

That experience taught me that I must be perfect. It does not matter if everyone else only reads 50 pages. If I don’t read 200 pages, then I am a failure and will be punished. I have been working hard for many years to dismantle this flawed thinking and accept that it is okay to mess up sometimes. Most of the time, I have a hard time believing it.

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*******trigger warning – ritual, sexual, and emotional abuse*******

From here forward, it is difficult for me to tell the story in a linear fashion. After the ritual abuse started, I split into complex dissociative identity disorder (DID), and I did not recover the memories in a linear fashion. I will do the best I can to tell my stories in the order they happened.

S made it painfully clear that telling anyone about the abuse was not an option. However, I knew that my father had stopped my mother’s abuse, so I had hope that perhaps he could stop S. S’s biggest threat was harming my sister, so I made my move when my sister was not present. I don’t remember where she was – perhaps spending the night at a friend’s house. Regardless, my parents planned to bring just me over to S & L’s house.

I begged not to go. I said that I did not have fun there and that I really did not want to go. Both of my parents shrugged it off, touting how I got to swim in S & L’s swimming pool and play Connect Four in their basement. (That game still triggers me.) They disregarded my pleas and made me come with them.

When we go there, my parents laughingly told S & L about my reluctance to come, acting like it was such a joke that I wouldn’t want to be there. S did not take this well. She told my parents that she was setting me up to watch a movie in the basement. Instead, she made me take off my clothes, and she tied me spread eagle and naked to a bed in the downstairs guest room.

Then she taunted me as she took photographs of me in that degrading position. She mocked me: “So, you want to tell your father? He already knows! Who do you think these pictures are for?” It is a blur what else she did except that she left me tied naked to the bed for two hours. She told my parents that I feel asleep watching the movie, and it didn’t occur to them to come down to the basement to check on me.

I had recently gotten into making latch hook rugs, and I was very proud of one I had almost finished of an owl. Although I loved it, I knew I had to give it to S as a “peace offering” of sorts. I had put countless hours into this project, and my parents told me that I did not have to give it to her, but I knew that I had to. I had no choice. It was the overwhelming compulsion inside, probably to show submission so she wouldn’t hurt my sister, who came along for the next visit. I never saw the owl rug again. The b@#$% probably just threw it away.

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*****trigger warning — ritual and sibling abuse*****

S instilled a phobia in both my sister and me, but she made sure they were two separate and unusual phobias. She instilled a phobia of trolls in my sister. My sister was so frightened of trolls that my mother had to get rid of the book “The Billy Goat Gruff” because she would go berserk at the mention of a troll. I have no idea what object S used, but I am sure her method was similar to what she did to me.

I was drawn to S’s Russian nesting dolls, which was a very expensive, authentic set. I suspect I was Russian in a prior life because I am very drawn to Russian architecture, Faberge eggs, stories of Russian history, etc. Regardless of why, I loved those Russian nesting dolls, so she used them to instill a phobia in me.

She showed me how each doll opened to reveal another … and another … and another. When she got to the smallest one, she told me that, if I ever told anyone about the abuse, she would shove the smallest doll down my sister’s throat and kill her with it. Considering that S had already suffocated me with a pillow, I knew she was quite capable of doing this. I was too young to understand that she could not easily just kill a kid and get away with it. From my perspective as an abused 6 or 7-year-old child, this woman had complete power, and I had no hope of being saved from her power.

She then did things to me that I cannot as yet remember. They were so bad that I have continued to repress them. I just know that it was bad enough for me to become severely triggered by the presence of a Russian nesting doll, doubly so if it is displayed with the smaller dolls out.

From this day forward, S and the cult would use the Russian nesting dolls to frighten me. They would dramatically remove an inner doll, and then another, and then another, and I would become more and more fearful because the one I feared was the smallest one, which I believed had the power to kill my sister.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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*******trigger warning – ritual and animal abuse*******

At first, most of S’s abuses were when my sister and I were together. However, she would sometimes separate us for our torture sessions. I have no idea where my sister was, but S had me alone in the basement with a new litter of kittens. They were so tiny that their eyes had barely opened. She let me hold one of the kittens and play with it. S then told me to break the kitten’s neck.

Of course, I had no intention of breaking that kitten’s neck, but I also knew what S was capable of. I knew that I had no choice to but to obey, but obeying was so against the grain of who I was, that I simply could not do it. I held that tiny kitten in my hands but could not do it, no matter what S said or how cruelly she taunted me. I was determined that she would not win this battle of wills: she could not force me to take this innocent kitten’s life.

She got in my face. She used all of her tactics, and I was so terrified of her that I could not possibly put it into words. The woman had almost killed me. She had tortured my sister and me. I was frightened to disobey, but I simply could not hurt that kitten. As she continued to badger and berate me, I knew that I had no choice, but I still could not do it. Then, she leaned very close in to my face and said in a stage whisper, “Pretend it’s me,” and I snapped that kitten’s neck as I flooded with rage.

To this day, I am triggered by kittens. Whenever I see one, I think about how fragile they are and how easily their bones can snap. It didn’t occur to me that this was not a normal thought process for a young child, but it was mine … every time.

S did the same thing with my sister, only she used a bird. To this day, my sister is phobic of birds. She fears how breakable they are, and she also fears that they will attack her. She once hid in a closet for 30 minutes as a teenager because a friend’s tame bird was loose in the house. She also went into hysterics whenever my mother told her to go into the henhouse to collect eggs.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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*******trigger warning – sexual, physical, and sibling abuse*******

An odd thing about S was that I do not have memories of her doing sexual things to me directly. Instead, she forced my sister and me to do sexual things to each other, such as “play doggie” and have the “male” dog insert objects in the female dog. At this point, I was still a virgin but my sister was not (thanks to the male babysitter), so I was always the “male dog” in this sick game. When I first recovered these memories, I questioned them because I had not read about this form of abuse anywhere. I also did not understand what S was getting out of forcing one child to hurt another.

If my sister or I did not obey completely, then the sibling would suffer. For example, if I showed any sign of resistance or anything short of completely obedience, S would torture my sister and vice versa.

One time, my sister was not completely compliant, so S smothered me with a pillow. She held the pillow over my head too long, and I passed out. What’s weird is that, even though my body was passed out, I have a memory of the entire experience from the perspective of the ceiling. Once S realized that I had passed out, she checked and found that I was not breathing. She dragged my body to the basement’s bathroom (the torture was almost always in the basement) and laid me down to look like I had fallen and hit my head. She told my sister to run upstairs and get my parents. She gave me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and told me in an angry voice that she wasn’t going to jail for a worthless piece of $@#% like me.

I came to, coughing because of the taste of cigarettes in my mouth and lungs. S had been smoking a cigarette before her torture session, and the taste of tobacco was still heavy on her breath. My parents got there as I was coming to, and S explained that I was playing too wildly, slipped, fell, and hit my head on the toilet. My parents told me to be more careful and went back upstairs to do whatever they had been doing.

I don’t know who was more traumatized by this experience – my sister or me. I have suffered from flashbacks of tasting cigarette smoke throughout my life, even though I have never smoked. Until I learned that any of your senses can hold memories and release flashbacks, I was perplexed by this recurring taste of cigarette smoke in my mouth.

What really disturbs me is that I have a difficult time calling myself a physical abuse survivor, even though almost being smothered to death is clearly physical abuse. I don’t know why I have such a hard time with that label. I guess I keep thinking that other physical abuse survivors had it worse.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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*******trigger warning – sexual and ritual abuse*******

As I shared in my last blog entry, S & L were a wife and husband who were my most sadistic abusers. I always put S’s name first because she did the bulk of the grooming for the ritual abuse. It is her face that haunts me, not his, although he did his share of crap, too.

My first abuse by S was incredibly traumatizing. Up until this point in my life (I was either 6 or 7), my abuse experience was my mother sexually abusing either my sister or me. Also, at some point during this time (the timeline is vague), the 17-year-old male next-door-neighbor on the other side raped my sister while “babysitting” us. All abuse was adult to child. That changed the first time that S struck.

My parents invited S & L over for the afternoon. My father and L watched a football game in the living room while S and my mother were talking in the den. My mother told my sister and me to go play, but I said I wanted to stay with them. (It was quite the novelty to have company.) S got a queer look on her face and said, “You want to play a game? Let’s play a game.”

S laid my sister on her back on an ottoman and remove her pants and underwear. She then to me told do things to my sister. My mother was standing right there with a completely blank expression on her face. She neither encouraged this nor tried to stop it. It was like her mind/soul/spirit had simply shut down. Her body was there, but there was nothing inside. This is one reason I suspect that she suffered from ritual abuse herself and that she was “programmed” to be submissive. I suspect she has dissociative identity disorder on top of her mental illness and that she simply “fled” her body when S made her move.

Regardless, my father was in another room yelling at the TV, and I could hear the football game in the background. My mother was standing there like a statue. My sister was lying helpless without pants on the ottoman, and S was hovering over me telling me that I had to perform oral sex on her. I didn’t want to do it, but S forced me to do it. I touched my sister’s private area for half a second with my tongue and then cried. S stood over me and said, “You are one of us now.”

When I recovered this memory, I was suicidal. The only thing pulling me through was a montage of memories of my sister being forced to do the same things back to me. This helped me recognize that I was not one of my sister’s abusers and that S was responsible for this, not me.

I have always also hated football since that day.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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