Ritual abuse has been defined as:
a brutal form of abuse of children, adolescents, and adults, consisting of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, and involving the use of rituals. Ritual does not necessarily mean satanic. However, most survivors state that they were ritually abused as part of satanic worship for the purpose of indoctrinating them into satanic beliefs and practices. Ritual abuse rarely consists of a single episode. It usually involves repeated abuse over an extended period of time. The physical abuse is severe, sometimes including torture and killing. The sexual abuse is usually painful, sadistic, and humiliating, intended as means of gaining dominance over the victim. The psychological abuse is devastating and involves the use of ritual/indoctrination, which includes mind control techniques and mind altering drugs, and ritual/intimidation which conveys to the victim a profound terror of the cult members and of the evil spirits they believe cult members can command. Both during and after the abuse, most victims are in a state of terror, mind control, and dissociation in which disclosure is exceedingly difficult.
WHAT IS RITUAL ABUSE? (BROAD DEFINITION) Ritual abuse is the abuse of a
child, weaker adult, or animal in a ritual setting or manner. In a broad sense, many of our overtly or covertly socially sanctioned actions can be seen as ritual abuse, such as military basic training, hazing, racism, spanking children, and partner-battering. Some abuse is private...some public. Public ritual abuse may be either open or secret.
WHAT IS RITUAL ABUSE? (NARROW DEFINITION) The term ritual abuse is generally used to mean prolonged, extreme, sadistic abuse, especially of children, within a group setting. The group's ideology is used to justify the abuse, and abuse is used to teach the group's ideology. The activities are kept secret from society at large, as they violate norms and laws.
Origins of the term
Pazder introduced the term "ritualized abuse" in 1980, describing the experiences of an adult survivor that was disclosing satanic abuse memories. He defined the phenomenon as "repeated physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual assaults combined with a systematic use of symbols, ceremonies, and machinations designed and orchestrated to attain malevolent effects." Later definitions came mostly from professionals addressing ritual abuse in child care settings. Finkelhor, Williams, Burns, and Kalinowski elaborated on Pazder's definition, defining ritual abuse as "abuse that occurs in a context linked to some symbols or group activity that have a religious, magical or supernatural connotation, and where the invocation of these symbols or activities are repeated over time and used to frighten and intimidate the children." Kelley referred to ritual abuse as the "repetitive and systematic sexual, physical, and psychological abuse of children by adults as part of cult or satanic worship".
There is a great deal of evidence supporting the existence of ritual abuse crimes as a worldwide phenomenon. Bottoms, Shaver and Goodman found in their 1993 study evaluating ritual abuse claims that in 2,292 alleged ritual abuse cases, 15% of the perpetrators in adult cases and 30% of the perpetrators in child cases confessed to the abuse. "In a survey of 2,709 members of the American Psychological Association, it was found that 30 percent of these professionals had seen cases of ritual or religion-related abuse (Bottoms, Shaver & Goodman, 1991). Of those psychologists who have seen cases of ritual abuse, 93 percent believed that the reported harm took place and 93 percent believed that the alleged ritualism occurred....The similar research of Nancy Perry (1992) which further supports (the previous findings)…Perry also conducted a national survey of therapists who work with clients with dissociative disorders and she found that 88 percent of the 1,185 respondents indicated ”belief in ritual abuse, involving mind control and programming.”
Recently an online survey of over one thousand people answered questions about ritual abuse and extreme abuse crimes. In a summary of the survey , it was found that ritual abuse/mind control is a global phenomenon. Fifty-five percent stated they were abuse in a Satanic cult. Seventy-seven percent of the adult survivors that responded "had been threatened with death if they ever talked about the abuse." Also, "257 respondents reported that secret mind control experiments were used on them as children." Eighty-two percent reported being sexually abused by multiple perpetrators.
Anne Johnson Davis in her book Hell Minus One reported that her parents confessed to her abuse in writing and verbally to clergymen, and to the detectives from the Utah Attorney General’s Office. Her suppressed memories started when she was in her mid-30s, which were fully substantiated by her mother and stepfather.