Doug (61) has experienced ritual abuse in Australia. Among other things, he talks about the consequences of ritual violence in his daily life: “When my daughter was born, I couldn’t look at her without having overwhelming feelings of death.”
How or through whom did you come into contact with ritual abuse?
Well, for me, it’s an unfolding. I didn’t realize it when I was a child because of the mind control, because of the disassociation and because of the trauma I went through. So, as I get older in life, I remember more. So, I had to leave home at 18 to escape because my life was repeatedly in danger. At that stage, I remembered all of the physical abuse, or not all of it, but a lot of the physical abuse, which was extreme. But it wasn’t until I went to the police when I was about 30, when my daughter was born. So when my daughter was born, I couldn’t look at her without having overwhelming senses of death. And it was totally encompassing when I went to the police. And then I started having memories of being in a ritual abuse ceremony where my hand was held on the knife, while a little girl was killed. And I was three and she was three. So when I went to the police, it was the police who said to me that sounds like ritual satanic abuse. And I was quite shocked. So that was the beginning of my journey. Through that, I went back to my mother, who tried to discredit me and immediately went to my father’s associates to tell them what I’d remembered. And so since then, I’ve been getting more and more memories coming back and understanding that I was actually born into this. But it’s a process, because how they traumatized and abused me was so that I don’t remember. And that’s why. It’s something that happens in talking to other survivors. It’s something that seems to happen more and more as you get older.
What are the typical experiences you have had as a victim?
One was that the remembering was incredibly traumatic. So I was going to a group of survivors of sexual assault, and a woman came up to me at one of those meetings. This was after I started remembering, and asked me if I knew what dissociative identity disorder was, and I said no. As she explained it to me, I basically ran screaming from the room, ran straight to the bathroom, almost threw up, was shaking uncontrollably, almost passing out, sweating, had to use a toilet. Everything in my system was just on overload. For the next three months, I felt like I’d gone totally insane and I threw myself into work to cope because I felt like I was hanging by a thread. After three months, my subconscious had got to the point where I could finally start to accept it. Because what had happened is I’d spent all my life up to that point living in denial. All of a sudden, the dissociative parts were connected and I booked myself in and I did ten years of therapy with a psychologist, and working on the disassociation. And he was brilliant. He could tell exactly when I was switching. And that was very, very difficult, because in terms of my body, the trauma in my body is profound. I’m still having to work on the trauma on a daily basis because I have so many freezes and blocks in my body, or clenches, from all the trauma I’ve been through. And so it’s a daily practice for me to keep the energy in my body flowing rather than it being trapped. And then it was, as I said, a lot of my memories were horrific already, the ones that I had remembered. But the ones that I’ve started… or that I blocked, were even more horrific. And I started seeing things from a different angle too. Like when I was about ten, my parents took me and my siblings to the beach one day. And we never went on outings, they never took us anywhere. And we lived a long way from the beach. I didn’t know how to swim, and all the beaches were closed along Sydney. Signs up everywhere, “do not swim, dangerous surf,” all the rest of it. So my father took me out into the surf where the rift was and dropped me into the rift, hoping that I would be drowned. So I’d gotten to the age where I was no longer of use to them. And it was just that a guy walking along the beach, a surfer, saw me and went out to help save me, and both he and I almost drowned. But my parents were very disappointed and upset when the both of us ended up getting washed up on the shore. I never got taken to a doctor. I got plonked in the car and taken home. And my siblings just sat there staring at me blankly because they were dissociative as well. So this was normal for all of us. We knew how to block things out.
How do the perpetrators get the children to comply?
They traumatize us. I’m starting to shake because I’ve got trauma coming up in my body, but they traumatized us so bad that our system dissociates. So I remember being plunged in cold water repeatedly, thinking I was going to be again drowned. I had knives held at my throat. The whole process of being in these rituals where your hand is forced to murder another child is incredibly dissociative. And both my parents were and are incredibly dissociative. My father could basically kill someone in one second, and five minutes later, if you confronted him over it, he would deny that he’d done it because he was so dissociated. He would believe that he’d never done anything, when, in fact, he’d done a lot. Same with my mother. When I’d confront even in recent years with my mother, and I’d get up to 20 examples, and she would finally admit things, and yet the next day, she’d call me up and say, “I’m not like that at all.” Because she couldn’t accept. I mean, they’re more extreme than me. I watched my parents because one of my survival mechanisms as a child was, I had to know when I was going to be abused, as much as I could, in order to prepare for it. So I could normally tell 3 or 4 hours ahead with my father before I was going to be raped and things like that. And normally when he did that, the moment he started penetrating me, I’d dissociate. So I’d go straight out of my body, and next thing, I’d wake up, he would be gone, and I’d get up and go to school in the morning as though nothing had happened. And so for me it’s this abject trauma where they take you beyond your ability to cope or survive or deal with something. They have to get you past the extent of your coping mechanisms and then, once they do that, then they imprint different parts of themselves on your dissociated system. And so I’ve had to do … The whole process of assimilation for me has been an absolutely fascinating one, where I’ve had to go down and start to recover parts of myself that I hated or were buried or that were separated and it’s still an ongoing process. I’ve been working on this now for 30 years, and there’s still a way to go, but it’s a trauma, it’s the absolute trauma. And before they get you to force you to kill another human being or another child, they will put you with that child, so you develop an emotional bond, so that the trauma is even more exacerbated. And at home I had no emotional bonds. My parents never touched me, they never hugged me, they never expressed love towards me in any way, and that was highly intentional. So that if I met another human being or another child where there was a bond, then I would desperately crave that. But then, straight after that, you’d be subjected to the most horrific things.
What was your worst experience?
For me it was a nightmare from beginning to end. From the time I was born till the time I left home, it was just a total utter nightmare. It never stopped. The only way I escaped was to go to school. Thankfully I excelled at school. School was very easy for me and I loved it. Nothing worried me at school because nothing at school was comparable to what I went through at home. But I didn’t know how to ask for help, I didn’t know how to trust anyone, I didn’t know how to reach out and say, “help me, help me!” Because I was never taught that. And back when I was young, there were no support services. One night my parents were very violent against each other as well. One night my father bashed my mother. She was covered in blood and I ran out of the house to go to the neighbors. We were very poor, we didn’t have a phone. So I ran from neighbor to neighbor to neighbor begging them to use their phones to ring the police. No one wanted to get involved. So that was the middle of winter. One neighbour eventually let me call the police. They came, I was petrified to go home. So I creeped home because the loungeroom light was on. I thought my father was waiting up for me, so I tried to sleep underneath the side of the house. I started getting hypothermia, and so I eventually had to go inside because I was getting so sick. I was only a little kid in pajamas, no warm clothes, and my mother was just sitting there reading a book. She hadn’t come looking for me or anything. So it was just instant after instant. It was relentless. It was nonstop. In my family, I was a scapegoat, so my siblings were taught to take it out on me. I was taught to be blamed for everything. It was just nonstop. And so, as a child, if someone sneezed three blocks away, I’d think it was my fault. I couldn’t say “no” to anything. There were just so many horrific things. It’s hard to isolate anything.
Finally, do you have a personal concern or message?
Probably two of them. One of them is, as a child, — and I’m not religious, I’m more spiritual — but as a child, I picked up a Bible in the cupboard, an old torn one, and started reading it. And I developed the faith, and I found hope in the spiritual realms because I had none in the earthly realms. And that was very significant for me. That helped me get through when everything else was hopeless. And then, later on, I got married and had kids and then got divorced. And the divorce was very vitriolic. And I remember during that time, I thought I’ve got to survive this, because with the stress of everything, I was starting to be in and out of hospital. My body was starting to hemorrhage, my heart and lungs were shutting down. And I had to work it out. So what I decided to do was, rather than fight myself, rather than get angry with myself, rather than be furious about all these things, I decided to respond to myself with love and understanding. And so I began a practice of whenever something would happen with me that I didn’t like in terms of how I responded because I had all this trauma in me, I would try and sit down and respond to myself and understand myself and love myself. And that was the beginning of a journey, where rather than getting in my own way, I helped myself. And so now, I love myself intensely. I know how to care for myself, and I’m still learning how to do that. But that was something else that for me, as a survivor, really, really helped me. And I don’t entertain guilt or shame or those sorts of things. If I’ve done something wrong, I acknowledge it and learn from it and deal with it and just try and move on in a loving way in this world towards myself and others.