this is a first person account of surviving ritual abuse, written by a survivor. some names have been changed to avoid potential legal problems, but everything is true.
a happy family
i’m three or four years old and my uncle patrick is holding on his hip with one hand as he treads water with the other. we are in the middle of the lake. there is a possibility he will drown me tonight.
he is calmly asking me questions, and i am calmly answering yes. before he took me out into the lake, he told me that the correct answer to all of his questions was yes. But he doesn’t only ask me questions. he is also talking, rambling really, telling a confusing story that makes no sense, and adding random comments now and again. i have to keep my attention focused on him in order to make sure i understand everything he is saying, and that i answer yes at the right time. if i fail to answer correctly – yes to any questions, nothing to anything else, then he will drown me. if i succeed he will hold me under until i am forced to breathe water, but not so much that i will die.
i have already been traumatized so many times, and been put into so many potentially life-threatening situations that i’m not conscious of the terror or hurt that I am feeling. any out of control emotions will get in the way of focusing on patrick, and surviving the night. i won’t experience all of the fear, confusion and hurt until 30 years later in counselling sessions full of tears, vomit and rage.
there are at least 3 reasons i’m being forced to say yes over and over. the first is to make sure that i’m paying attention (if i answer wrong, i’ll be drowned). making sure that i am truly paying attention also means that i am taking this situation seriously – that i understand that I’m in a potentially lethal situation. finally, i was being “programmed”.
programming is done through traumatizing people (rape, torture, and life-threatening situations). traumatized people are more susceptible to suggestion, and repeated traumatization increases this sensitivity. if people are deeply traumatized they will sometimes also develop dissociated, (or multiple) personalities. And children are more suggestible than adults.
as a child who has been traumatized repeatedly with the express goal of creating dissociated identities that are obedient to the cult, there are parts of myself that are highly susceptible to suggestion, or programming. this is the reason that patrick is asking me questions, and I am being forced to answer yes (patrick is also programming himself at the same time, although not to the same extent).
for example, if patrick had asked me if I wanted to be a good boy, there would have been parts of me that would have begun trying to be a good boy. exactly how this would manifest would depend on several other factors, such as opportunity to be a “good boy” (which is limited in a cult), by my understanding if what a good boy is (kind, considerate, generous, brave), and by my conscious and unconscious desire to do whatever was being suggested to me.
of course, the questions that patrick asked me were more like this:
do you like being raped?
do you like protecting your parents?
do you like to hurt animals?
do you like to hurt yourself?
do you like to hurt others?
by three or four years old i have already been tortured and abused hundreds of times. patrick, has probably been raped and tortured thousands of times, and raped and tortured animals, children, and adults hundreds of times, maybe even thousands.
the reason for asking me out into the lake tonight is that I have, once again, chosen not to hurt an animal. i have, not for the first time, or the last time, decided that would rather die than hurt another living being. and, i said, i didn’t want to be part of their stupid family. i’m told that dying is the only way out of the cult.
after this they sent me down to the beach with patrick. we walked down, holding hands, partly a mockery of a loving, trusting uncle/nephew relationship – this man has been raping and torturing me the whole of my short life. holding my hand is partly a way of making sure i don’t run away. and it is also a way to access my programming.
walking down the path to the lake, hand in hand with a man who has always hurt me, i decide that i won’t hurt the cat no matter what, but that if i can live without hurting the cat, i will try and live. i think that maybe it was a mistake to say that i didn’t want to be in the cult. it’s true, but I’m just a little boy, and i don’t know how to escape my family. maybe it would be better to keep quiet about how i feel, at least some of the time. sometimes it is essential to publicly refuse what they want, but other times i can just refuse in my head. if i want to survive my childhood, and not die or disappear, i’m going to have to find a way to appear more or less content with being a member of the cult. by myself, secretly and solitarily I will try and escape this cult, this family I was born into.