Elisabeth Schäfer (65) experienced ritual abuse at the age of 11 in Hesse (Germany). She was accidentally caught up in an ongoing ritual and had to witness the mutilation of a newborn and ultimately kill the baby.
How or through whom did you come into contact with ritual abuse?
That happened in the village where I grew up. We had an acquaintance who lived a few houses away and would drop by from time to time. And my mother sent me and my sister there to bring her something.
What are the typical experiences you have had as a victim?
The experience I had there was rape, torture, and murder. And I walked in on a ritual there. We were supposed to deliver something to the neighbor and we came into the house, the door was open. We were standing in the hallway, there was some light, and we called out, and at first there was no one there. And then we somehow got into the living room, maybe we heard that someone was there. And there was twilight there, there were candles, and that’s where the ritual took place that we accidentally walked into. They kept us there and forced us to stay, we weren’t allowed to leave. We had to witness and watch everything. A baby had just been born there. The baby was from another 13-year-old neighbor. She was the girlfriend of … So this neighbor, her partner and her son, who was in his early 20s, were at the ritual. They were there. And his girlfriend. This young man’s girlfriend was no more than 13 years old, she was another neighborhood girl, and she had just given birth. What I experienced there, they raped the little girl and I had to watch. And I just kept screaming, “Don’t kill her, don’t kill her!” I was only 11 years old at the time. They then took the baby in the barn … So it was partly in the living room and partly in the barn. They also raped me in the barn, several people. Then they hung the baby up in the barn and beat it, hung it on a rope and whipped it. They always just beat it, they beat it with a stick. And then, in the house, they scalped the baby. And then they put it in hot water, really hot water, the skin was all scalded, and it still didn’t die. Then the woman, the neighborhood girl who had just given birth, started screaming. Then they gave her medication. And then the partner of this woman, the neighbor, wanted to get close to the girl who had just given birth and wanted to rape her. And his son got so angry — it was his girlfriend — that he strangled him. They cut off the tongue of the man they had just murdered and gave it to the chickens. His partner kicked him contemptuously. Afterwards, she stood in the yard and cried her eyes out. Before that, the young woman who had just given birth was bleeding from her vagina. They collected the blood and made a ritual with it, so everyone had to drink it, including us. The worst thing of all was that I had to murder the baby. Despite all the torture, it still hadn’t died. And she led my hand, and I had to ram a dagger into the vagina. The woman, the neighbor, then put me in a turquoise tub, a laundry tub, and washed me off. Blood was running down my legs, they had raped me in the barn. She washed me off and then sent me home. And then we went home together. My sister and I. I didn’t know anything the next day. I remember my mother looking out of the window and seeing another child from that family — they had even more children — and saying: “I heard your dad died. What was wrong with him?” And then he said: “An asthma attack.” And I didn’t remember what had happened, but I knew it wasn’t true. I thought, how can you believe that? I still remember that very clearly. And I felt so bad afterwards that my mother noticed. She then sent me to a spa for six weeks. And that was during school. Of course, that was particularly bad for me, that no one really helped me. But I didn’t know what had happened either.
How do the perpetrators get the children to comply?
They led my hand with the dagger. And before that, I didn’t have to do anything but watch. They held me down. When I screamed, they covered my mouth. And I had to watch. They wanted me to watch it all.
Finally, do you have a personal concern or message?
I think it’s important that people who have experienced something like me are finally taken seriously. That I’m believed that it happened, even if it sounds so unlikely. And also that it’s possible to report it, and that the people who do it are punished. I also want rape to be punished much more severely. Also rape in a different context, but this ritual abuse even more. And that people take better care of their children and pay attention to how they are doing. You should also pay a bit more attention to your gut feeling as a parent. Don’t send your children to people where you can tell that something is not right. I remember realizing as a child that something was wrong with this woman. She was always funny and cheerful and always laughed. But she had a gloomy appearance and her skin was kind of gray. I don’t know, I just realized it didn’t fit, something was wrong with the woman. But I couldn’t understand it as a child.