Posts Tagged ‘emotional abuse’

Fire (c) Rosanne MooneyOn my blog entry entitled Freemasons and Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

I’m glad you posted this, Faith. I think that ritual abuse survivors can help each other alot by untangling their feelings about being abused by very organised, hierarchical groups of psychopaths. By whatever name they go. In my experience, this is the element of our issues with which classic child abuse therapists may have the most difficulty when you present it to them. They probably could do with the sort of skills that are used by therapists for those who have survived torture in war camps, or a sophisticated hostage situation, because the experience of being at the hands of the cult abusers is more like one of those experiences.

I agree with Michael that the occult practices of abuse have been handed down for generations, and also that it’s necessary not to accord them more power by believing them to be all-powerful, even if they do get away with such a lot of heinous crimes. ~ A x

I couldn’t have said that better myself. I just want to build on what A x already said.

The best analogy I have for explaining the difference between “regular” child abuse and ritual abuse is that “regular” child abuse is to street crime as ritual abuse is to organized crime. This does not, in any way, mitigate the trauma of “regular” child abuse. Just as being raped at knifepoint by someone who jumps at the opportunity is extremely traumatizing to the victim, all child abuse is traumatizing and needs healing.

I don’t want anyone walking away from this blog entry feeling invalidated because they were “only” abused once or twice by a neighbor. Even “only” one time is too many and traumatizing to a child.

That being said, those of us who have endured ritual abuse have issues to deal with that are not typically experienced by people who did not endure that form of abuse. As Michael and A x have both pointed out, ritual abuse is inflicted by “experts” who have been honing their skills in traumatizing children for generations. The goal is not an orgasm (versus many of the sexual abusers who “work alone”) — the goal is to dominate the child’s will. The lone sexual abuser treats the child’s body like an object to be used and then discarded. The ritual abuser seeks to break the child’s will and inflicts much more trauma than necessary to ensure the child’s silence.

Ritual abuse is systematic, not a crime of opportunity. “Regular” child abusers work alone and hope not to get caught. Ritual abusers are organized, abusing children in groups. “Regular” child abusers torture the child enough to scare him or her into silence. Ritual abusers go much, much farther than this. According to Chrystine Oksana’s Safe Passage to Healing, many ritual abusers purposely traumatize the child to point to creating alter parts (developing dissociative identity disorder – DID) so they can control different alter parts.

“Regular” child abuse only involves enough mind games to ensure the child’s silence. Ritual abusers take mind games to a whole new level. Mine instilled a phobia in me that tied into seeing my dog slaughtered and threatening my sister’s life. Ritual abusers often “program” the child to self-destruct rather than tell, which is why I managed to move through many stressful life events (father’s sudden death, infertility, adoption process, a year of recovered memories of mother-daughter sexual abuse) without ever self-injuring and then, as soon as the first ritual abuse surfaced, I couldn’t stop banging my head.

Ritual abuse is its own animal, and too few mental health professionals understand it. I strongly recommend Chrystine Oksana’s Safe Passage to Healing for anyone who has been ritually abused as well as any mental health professional who is working with someone who was ritually abused.

Photo credit: Rosanne Mooney

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Writing the blog entries about ritual abuse this week has been hard. I have a major headache right now, and I have been feeling triggered as I worked through the topics this week. The worst part is the terror – the deep-seated fear that I am going to be “punished” for breaking the silence of the cult.

Ritual abuse and terror go hand-in-hand. I suffered from many forms of abuse at the hands of many people, but none of the forms of abuse is coupled with the same level of sheer terror that I felt from the ritual abuse.

I am not worried about the cult members coming after me. For one, I have been very careful to shield my off-line identity. Also, this abuse happened back in the 1970’s, so most of my ritual abusers are either very old or dead at this point. I have not been in touch with any of my ritual abusers in decades. Also, I am not providing any identifying information, so they are safe from any sort of punishment for their actions at this point.

Instead, it is an internally-generated terror that bothers me. The terror comes with feeling very cold. In fact, whenever I have nightmares involving the cult, I have to pile blankets on top of myself in order to fall back to sleep, even in the middle of summer. The coldness permeates my bones and reaches down to the very core of myself.

Whenever I think about the ritual abuse (which is not very often), I remember the icy coldness. The abuse always happened outdoors in the middle of the night, so I was cold from that. But it was the coldness in the ritual abusers’ eyes that really froze me. It was like they were not human. It felt very much like how Harry Potter describes the dementors in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It was as if the ritual abuse tried to suck the life out of me.

However, they did not succeed, and I am very proud of that. They had all of the power, and yet they still could not control one little girl. No matter how hard they tried, they could not succeed in breaking the will of one little girl. I never became like them, and I never will. Their actions have affected every single area of my life, but they could not turn me into one of them. I can live with the terror, so long as I know that I am my own person. I have the power to make my own choices. They never controlled me, and they never will.

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Ritual abusers are masters at “programming” a child’s mind. By “programming,” I mean that they “implant” self-serving behaviors to control the child. While this might sound like a science-fiction movie, I assure you that it is very real. I know because I experienced it.

I was suicidal as a teenager. It started soon after I went through puberty. This is common among sexual abuse survivors. After reaching puberty, the child appreciates the gravity of what was taken through rape at a much deeper level. I battled suicidal urges on and off throughout my teen years.

When I would fantasize about how to kill myself, it was always by swallowing a jar of pills. I wanted to fall asleep and never wake up. I never considered another form of suicide.

This changed during my senior year of high school. My father (the “good” parent) died suddenly, and my mother/abuser started sexually abusing me again. I felt an overwhelming desire to die with a razor. The thoughts kept swirling around my head that I wanted to “watch the lifeblood flow out of me.”

I even came close to doing it. I locked myself in my mother’s bathroom with a razor and prayed for God to give me one reason not to do it. Fortunately, I fought my way out of those feelings and put my suicidal desires behind me.

I did not deal with suicidal urges again until I started recovering memories of the ritual abuse. I also did not ever deal with self-injury before I started to recover ritual abuse memories. I dealt with the pain of infertility, the frustration of the adoption process, and other very difficult life circumstances without self-injuring or considering suicide. I even made it through a year of the healing process without either, including recovering memories of my mother sexually abusing me.

As soon as I started recovering ritual abuse memories, I started banging my head as a form of self-injury. I wanted to bang my head repeatedly into a brick wall – not just any brick wall but a particular one with messy mortar that was never smoothed down. I also felt very strong urges to “watch the lifeblood flow out of me.”

Neither of these urges seemed to originate from myself. If I were to choose to self-injure, I think would probably choose cutting. I would definitely choose a less messy way to go through with a suicide. And yet, I was plagued with both of these very strong urges once I started recovering memories of the ritual abuse.

I came to recognize that these urges were programmed into me. The cult “programmed” me to self-destruct rather than tell. The brick wall I “saw” with the self-injury urges was a particular one that the cult used as part of the programming. The cult taught me the phrase “watch the lifeblood flow out.” This is not something I would have come up with on my own – certainly not at age 16.

The good news is that programming is much easier to remove than your own deep-seated feelings about yourself. As Chrystine Oksana says in Safe Passage to Healing, programming is like a foreign object, and the mind is eager to remove objects that do not belong.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Before my sister and I ever were forced to attend a cult ceremony, we were “groomed” for our role in the cult. The cult members who brought us into the cult were family “friends” who were a married couple named S & L. The wife (S) was the primary “groomer.”

S started ritually abusing my sister and me in her basement when we were around five and seven, respectively. The number one rule was total obedience at all times. We were not permitted to have wills of our own. Any deviance from immediate obedience would result in the sibling being tortured while the “transgressor” watched helplessly. This method was very effective because while I might be willing to take my own lumps after showing defiance, I was not willing to choose to have the pain inflicted upon my sister.

S would set us up to do things that violated our moral codes as a way to break our wills.

++++ ritual abuse and animal abuse triggers ++++

For example, she forced me to kill a small kitten with my bare hands. With my sister, S used a bird. To this day, I am very uncomfortable around kittens, and my sister is afraid of birds.

Ritual abusers just keep upping the ante until breaking the moral code is preferable to the alternative. For example, the ritual abuser might tell a child to kill a kitten. If the child refuses, then the abuser kills another kitten. The abuser says that the child is responsible for that kitten’s death because it would still be alive if the child had only obeyed. If the child continues to resist, then the ritual abuser kills a second kitten, then a third, and so on.

At some point, the child kills the kitten to save the lives of the other kittens. At this point, the ritual abuser “wins” because he has succeeded in forcing the child to break his own moral code. The ritual abuser also makes a point of telling the child that she “chose” to kill the kitten.

+++++ end triggers +++++

These are the kinds of abuses that ritual abusers do to break the will of the child before the child begins attending cult ceremonies. By the time the child attends a cult ceremony, he is already terrified of his ritual abuser. Add to that being abused at night in a rural area by robed people around a fire, and the child is very unlikely to disobey or tell anyone else about the abuse.

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Girl behind bars (c) Lynda Bernhardt+++ trigger warning – I discuss specific forms of severe emotional abuse +++

In my last post, Child Abuse: Severe Emotional Abuses I Suffered, I shared my two most painful memories of trauma, both of which involved severe emotional abuse. Now, I would like to discuss other forms of severe emotional abuse.

The reason I have chosen this topic is to help people who have suffered from severe emotional abuse put a label on what they suffered. When a person suffers from severe emotional abuse, he might have trouble validating that the abuse was that bad because there was no physical or sexual abuse involved. As I shared in my last post, my most traumatic memory had no physical or sexual abuse involved, but it still managed to scar me deeply.

Some child abusers traumatize children in ways that do not leave any marks on their bodies or even involve touching the child. For example, a child abuser might lock a child in a wooden box. The child might lie in the dark for hours with no access to fresh air. The child might need to use the bathroom but have no way to do so without making his situation even worse. This form of abuse does not involve touching the child physically or sexually, but it definitely inflicts deep emotional wounds.

Another method a child abuser might use is burying a child alive. He does this by forcing the child to lie in the ground with a straw in his mouth. The child abuser covers the child with dirt, and the child lies under the ground, petrified about what will happen if the child abuser removes or blocks the straw. Enduring this kind of abuse is clearly emotionally damaging.

In Martha Stout’s book, The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness, she shares the story of a man who, as a child, watched his abuser kill his brother. If one of the boys did something “wrong,” the abuser would punish the brother for the transgression. One time, after the boy had supposedly done something “wrong,” the abuser went too far and kicked the brother until the child died. Obviously, this was extremely traumatizing to the boy who watched his brother die. The abuser never laid a hand on the child, but the emotional damage was severe. If I remember correctly, this man struggled with dissociative identity disorder.

If you suffered from a severely traumatizing experience that involved no physical or sexual touching, you were still abused. You do not have to be touched for the abuse to “count.” Severe emotional abuse can be the most difficult form of abuse from which to recover. The good news is that you can heal from all forms of abuse, even severe emotional abuse. Just receiving validation that the abuse was that bad can go a long way toward helping you heal.

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Skull (c) Lynda Bernhardt

+++ trigger warning – I discuss specific forms of severe emotional abuse +++

In my post Which Type of Child Abuse is the Worst?, I stated that I believe that emotional abuse is the hardest type of abuse to overcome. All forms of child abuse include emotional abuse.

When I wrote that post, I thought about which incident of child abuse I would erase from my mind if I had the power to remove just one. I quickly narrowed it down to two incidents.

The runner up was a particularly savage gang rape. It is not the gang rape itself that plagues me so much as the resulting phobia, which came from the emotional aspects of the abuse. My abusers held up Russian nesting dolls that were all stored inside of the largest doll. The leader told me that I was going to die that night. He dramatically opened doll after doll, and I knew that something horrible was going to happen when he got to the smallest doll. While they (obviously) did not kill me, I would have preferred death to what they put me through that night. To this day, I get a severe headache whenever I come across a Russian nesting doll. Even writing this is making me lightheaded from dissociation.

However, I prefer that memory to another one. My abusers told me they were going to kill my sister, but I could choose a substitute to die in her place. Of course, I said I would choose anyone else. That is when they brought out my beloved dog and slaughtered her right in front of me. Then, they threw her body on the bonfire, so I could smell her cooking flesh. Next, they cut up her body and forced me to eat a piece of it. I still have not fully healed from that trauma, and I can feel the tears welling up inside as I write this. The pain runs so deep that I still have trouble shedding tears over it, even though I know that shedding tears would bring me an enormous amount of relief.

In this incident – my most painful – I did not experience any physical or sexual abuse. However, I find that memory significantly more painful that any other trauma I suffered. For me, emotional abuse has been the most damaging.

In my next post, I will discuss other forms of severe emotional abuse.

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Microscopic View (c) Lynda BernhardtMany child abuse survivors ask the question, “Which type of child abuse is the worst?” I guess child abuse survivors want to figure out where they fall in the pecking order of pain. Some might want to reassures themselves that their abuse really was that bad while others are still trying to convince themselves that it wasn’t.

I asked my therapist this question. He replied that there is no value in comparing abuses. Pain is pain, and all pain hurts. I agree with him that all abuse is bad and that even “just one time” is enough to damage a child’s spirit. However, the question still remains: Which type is worse?

As someone who has experienced most forms of abuse, I can speak intelligently to this question. Physical abuse is hard because it is physically painful, leaves your body sore as a reminder of the abuse, and is terrifying because a much larger person is manipulating your body. You have the fear of losing your life at the hands of a much larger person.

Sexual abuse is hard because the abuse moves inside of your body to a place where you thought you were protected. Sexual abuse feels as if the person is reaching inside of you to harm your spirit. Also, the body can “betray” you by responding with positive sensations as you are being harmed, causing you to question whether you have any right to complain.

Ritual abuse is hard because you are being abused by “professionals” who have a calculated plan of how to harm you. There is nothing impulsive about the things being done to you. It is hard to work through knowing that these people conspired to break you.

When I looked back over my child abuse memories, the emotional elements of all of these abuses have been the hardest for me to heal. While my body would heal from the physical abuse, the emotional scars remained. The sexual abuse left no marks anywhere except on my wounded spirit. What made the ritual abuse so bad was the emotional element: That is where my ritual abusers put their greatest focus.

So, my answer to the question, “Which type of child abuse is the worst?” would be emotional abuse, and emotional abuse is present in all forms of abuse. This brings us back to what my therapist said when I asked him this question: All abuse is bad.

Related Topics:

Emotional Abuse category

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Child in field (c) Lynda Bernhardt

Emotional abuse comes in all shapes and sizes. An abuser might tell a child that he is worthless or say other things that cause the child to feel badly about himself. An abuser might threaten to harm someone that the child loves or, worse, actually harm, or even kill, someone the child loves, such as a beloved pet. Even though the abuser is not laying a hand on the child, he is inflicting significant emotional abuse.

One of the most disturbing stories I have heard about emotional abuse involved a man who would abuse the sibling as “punishment” for perceived misbehaviors by the child. One time, as the abuser was “punishing” the child, his beating went too far, and the child watched his brother be literally beaten to death. As an adult, the abuse survivor had to work through years of therapy to heal from the damage inflicted by this incident. Even though his abuser did not lay a hand on him, watching his brother die for his own supposed misbehavior was severely traumatizing to the child.

Emotional abuse is also a part of any other form of abuse. Even after physical wounds heal, the emotional damage from being beaten persists. Sexual abuse inflicts emotional damage as well. Whenever a child is abused, he experiences many powerful emotions that are not safe to express. Those emotions continue to plague the child long after the abuse ends until the adult abuse survivor focuses on healing from his past.

If you were “only emotionally abused,” you suffered much more than any child should ever suffer. It was not okay for another person to damage your soul through words or by torturing you in ways that left no marks on your body. You deserve to heal just as much as any other abuse survivor.

Related Topic:

Emotional Child Abuse: The Wounded Spirit

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Looking out over ocean (c) Lynda Bernhardt

When people think about child abuse, they typically think about either physical or sexual abuse. Emotional abuse is also devastating for a child. Often the emotional abuse goes unnoticed because it leaves no scars on the body. Instead, the wounds are inflicted on the soul.

Here is something I wrote about emotional abuse before I started having flashbacks about the other abuses I suffered. This writing captures the suffering involved in emotional abuse.


Everybody acknowledges the wounds of those who suffer physical abuse; nobody grieves for the wounded spirit. There are no made-for-TV movies about those whose spirits are crushed by words day after day. There are no books about the effects of being ignored for 18 years. If your heart bleeds instead of your flesh, nobody notices.

As long as you have food on the table and clothes on your back, people assume that your needs are met. But a person is more than a physical shell. There is a spirit inside that needs nurturing. If that spirit is crushed, then you become nothing more than an empty shell—a body that breathes and eats but doesn’t feel. The person that you were meant to be is stuffed down inside an intricate maze of emotional self-protection. It is a lonely place, and it is as much of a prison as a physical one—even more so, because people in physical prisons get paroled.

This is a life sentence, yet you did nothing wrong. Your sin was being born to parents who didn’t want you, who didn’t know how to love and nurture the person that you would have become. You look out at the world through a thick glass, knowing that you are different but not knowing why. Your head tells you that you don’t deserve this, but your heart screams that there must have been something wrong with you or you wouldn’t have been rejected from the day you were born. And the lonelier you get, the more scared you are to let anybody in. After all, if your own mother couldn’t love you, who could?

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Spiderweb (c) Lynda Bernhardt

Unfortunately, there are many ways to abuse a child. No matter how a child is abused, the child walks away with a damage soul, repressed emotions (and often repressed memories, too), shame, and self-loathing. The key to healing from any form of child abuse is learning how to love yourself.

Adult survivors of child abuse often minimize the damage they suffered. My therapist once told me that “crazy” people try to convince you that they were abused, and abuse survivors try to convince you that they weren’t. I see a lot of truth in that statement. Minimizing the severity of the abuse is a coping mechanism that abused children use to survive. To recognize the severity of the abuse would cause the child to fall into despair.

Unfortunately, many abuse survivors compare what they suffered to what others have suffered and conclude that they did not have it that bad because it could have been worse. If you were ever abused, even only one time, it was “that bad.” Even “just one rape” or “just one broken arm” is traumatic to a child and is enough to sever his ability to trust.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is a part of every other type of abuse and, in my opinion, is the most damaging component of abuse. Broken bones heal, but the emotional impact of having your bones broken does not without a lot of work. Some people “only” suffered emotional abuse, but their emotional wounds look very similar to the emotional wounds of people whose abuse was also physical. Watching another person slaughter your beloved pet is going to emotionally damage you, even though you were never touched.


Neglect is abuse by omission rather than commission. Neglect can include not feeding a child or providing him with medical care.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is any form of abuse that harms your body. Many people think that physical abuse must leave marks on your body, but many forms of physical abuse do not. Suffocating a child is a good example of a form of physical abuse that does not leave physical marks but is physically abusive.

Ritual Abuse

Ritual abuse is abuse inflicted by “experts” in abusing children. While other forms of abuse seem to be “crimes of passion” as an abuser offloads his shame onto a child, ritual abuse is more of a “crime of intent” in which the method of abusing the child is well thought out. The abuser often forces the child to do things that violate his moral code with the goal of breaking the child’s will and dominating him. All of the other forms of abuse are often used to this end.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse can be perpetrated by men or women, and it is not limited to rape. Forcing a child to watch pornography is one form of sexual abuse that does not involve touching the child.

Other Forms of Abuse

Other forms of abuse do not fall neatly into any of these categories. For example, neither burying a child nor locking him in a box for hours falls neatly into any of these categories, and yet both actions are clearly abusive.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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