Could it be…. Satanic Ritual Abuse?

The following is a list of signs and symptoms of Satanic ritual abuse claimed by various members of the conspiracy therapist community. Many of these have appeared in articles by licensed mental health care professionals published in ostensibly academic journals. They are presented here in the spirit of mockery, as well as warning.

Most of these are, no doubt, real symptoms of actual patients. The abuse histories of these patients likely vary considerably, but the one thing the patients certainly have in common is having fallen into the care of credulous and opportunistic therapists steeped in the discredited narratives of the Satanic Panic.

Publishing these as symptoms of Satanic ritual abuse (SRA) lends an air of credibility to such narratives that should, by now, be considered quaint. Worse, given that these are often presented as a part of diagnostic and treatment guidelines, it risks spreading this fantasy to the larger mental health care community. Most of the symptoms are so pedestrian as to be experienced by almost everyone. A conspiracy-prone therapist with a troubled client and this list is an extremely dangerous combination - especially for the client. Moreover, sometimes these symptoms are common to medical disorders that could go unrecognized and untreated while the therapist hunts for evidence of trauma inflicted by non-existent Satanic cults.

 

  • Preoccupation with the phases of the moon.1 [How's that for a horoscope?]
  • Panic disorder/agoraphobia.2
  • Being "relatively normal and highly functional."3 [No comment necessary.]
  • Vague memory of childhood 2, 3, 4 and/or inability to recall childhood home.5 [A vague memory of childhood is the rule, not the exception.]
  • Saying "I don't know" (which they interpret to "really mean": 'I can't bear to say').6
  • Severe PTSD.7
  • Depression, anxiety, problems with sex or substance abuse.3, 7
  • Feeling that there are inanimate, mechanistic, mathematical, or laboratory-like objects "in the mind" or elsewhere in the body.5 [This is common in schizophrenia.]
  • Repetitive, robotic statements that do not make sense in context of dialogue, e.g., “I want to go home”. [This is common among individuals with autism spectrum disorder.]4, 5
  • Complaints that there are shadows in their mind controlling them.1
  • Belief that sex is pain and pain is pleasure.1
  • Belief that pain is good.1
  • Sexualization of sadistic impulses.7
  • Flinching at green or purple objects (the colors of the high priest and priestesses' robes).6
  • "Haunted or hunted" look.1
  • Obsession with numbers, sequences of numbers, singing the same song, robotic thoughts.5 [Symptoms of autism, again.]
  • Preoccupation with death or dying.1 [Can you even imagine being afraid of dying?]
  • Fear responses to indoor lights and mirrors, colors, shapes, animals, hearing one's name called, cartoon characters, etc.5
  • Telephone reactions; e.g., strong fear or startle response to the phone ringing, many hang-up calls coming to the home, a compulsion to make calls (often toll-free), finding the phone in one’s hands in the early morning hours without any memory for having made a phone call.4
  • Psychic driving feeling (coming from when the person was subjected to a continuously repeated audio message on an endless looped tape to alter their behavior, a method developed by Ewen Cameron, MD).5
  • Unexplained behavioral compulsions, such as a strongly-felt need to eat or drink a particular thing, go to a particular place, perform a particular act, etc.5, 6
  • "Dissociative states with satanic overtones."7 [Huh?]
  • Abreacting to, dreaming of, or having flashbacks of, people wearing robes in rituals.5
  • A pattern of suddenly leaving home for the evening or weekend, or longer, to a motel or park, etc. The individual may create a conflict with loved ones that is understood later as having been driven by the need to leave. This indicator is of greater weight if these sudden trips occur yearly at the same times, or if the person has no continuous memory for how he/she spent the time.4, 5

Potential symptoms aren't just behavioral or emotional. There are plenty of physical signs to watch out for - just not what you might expect...

  • Ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome.3
  • Chronic stress-related disorders (fibromyalgia, lupus, arthritis, eczema, asthma, etc.)5
  • Recurrent bladder, yeast infections, and skin irritation in genital region.3 [Obligatory.]
  • Frequent and severe migraine headaches.3, 5
  • Tremendous sensitivity to indoor lights, often needing bright lights to be turned off or dimmed.4, 5
  • Special complications during pregnancy and labor (for women who were breeders in Satanic cults).9
  • Exhibiting symptoms of electroshock abuse.5

As one might expect, people obsessed with looking for evidence of Satanic ritual abuse are hyper-focused on blood...

  • Fear or panic of blood.1, 3 [This affects an estimated 5% of the population - that's a lot of victims!]
  • Frequent nosebleeds.1
  • Fear of menstruation.1 [???]
  • Abhorrence of partner's menstrual flow.1 [?????]
  • Sitting in a buddha-like position while discussing menstruation (“which enables the menses to flow out of their genitals without interruption, into a waiting container to be used in the ceremonies”).1 [?????????]
  • Knowing the difference in taste between human and animal blood.1 [And how might this be determined?]
  • Playing with blood from cuts, including by using it to make upside down crosses on walls.1
  • Knowing the feeling of coagulated blood on one’s hands, feet, face, or body.1

Problems with food and eating also fit a wide range of possible disorders, conscious choices, or just plain pickiness:

  • Avoiding foods that reminds one of being forced to perform oral sex on females who have their menses.1 [See what we mean about the fixation on blood?]
  • Revulsion towards tomato juice and/or ketchup.1 [Why? Because it looks like - yep - blood.]
  • Phobia of brown foods (reminds them of bodily processes).1, 3
  • Fasting, purging, anorexia, or obesity.1,3
  • "Ritualized eating" such as eating only certain foods or in a particular order.1, 3
  • Vegetarianism/revulsion to meat.2,3,5,7

Everyday fears and nightmares are also cited as "evidence":

  • Confined spaces.1, 5
  • Darkness/nighttime.1, 5
  • Drowning.3
  • Doctors, dentists, hospitals, and/or syringes.3
  • Being placed underground, in coffins, in dark holes, or underwater.4, 5
  • Weapons, including knives, guns, and ropes.3
  • Police, jails, and cages.4, 5
  • Demons.5
  • Body fluids and excretions (e.g., feces, urine, saliva, and vomit).3
  • Circles.1
  • Baths, water, and rain (may feel as if it is burning).3, 5

Sometimes hatred of or attraction to a subject can mark you as an SRA survivor:

  • Nazis and white supremacy groups.3
  • Metaphysics and "the occult." including:3
    • Halloween.
    • Masks.
    • Witches.
    • Vampires.
    • Astrology.
    • Full moons.
    • Psychic abilities.
    • Astral travel.
    • Extraterrestrials, etc.

Animals are another recurring theme when searching for Satan. Being an animal lover1, 3 can be a sign you've been ritually abused; on the other hand, you might also kill animals to "make Satan happy."1 Fear of cats and "creepy crawlies" such as bugs, spiders, ants, snakes, earwigs, rats, etc.1, 3 also marks you as a potential survivor. Many of these animals reappear in lists of troubled subjects in artwork, such as:

  • Snakes or reptiles.1, 4
  • Cats, cats' eyes, and cats that appear to be frozen, scared, wounded, etc.1
  • Spiders.4
  • Rats.4
  • “Hounds of Hell.”1
  • Earwigs, maggots, and worms.1
  • Goats, horns, beard, slit eyes, cloven hooves.1
  • Obsession with the butterfly image (tattoos, drawings, etc.)5
  • Fish.1
  • Water.1
  • Eyes with eyelashes.1
  • Evil eye or third eye.1
  • Enucleated eyes.2
  • Watching eyes, faces, figures, or entities.4
  • Stars.1
  • Black moon or black half moon.1
  • Blood, gore, or syringes.1 [At this point, do we even need to say it?]
  • Pentagrams.1
  • Circles, such as the circle-A, swastika, and/or an upside down cross inside a circle.1
  • Saturn.1
  • Numbers such as 13, 666, 18, and 26.1
  • Battles with weapons - often swords, sometimes guns.4

Because the SRA conspiracy theories focus heavily on allegations of gruesome abuse against children - don't worry, we're not going to repeat what they claim - they are given their own special categories of potential "signs":8

  • Extreme switches in mood and behavior.
  • Denying their behavior.
  • Having memory problems.
  • Denying being told to do their homework.
  • Behaving differently at times.
  • Changing their preferences.
  • Changes in eyes.
  • Hearing voices or seeing people.
  • Talking to themselves.
  • Having imaginary friends.
  • Having a stern look.
  • Having vocal changes. [Is it puberty, or something far more sinister?]
  • Making contradictory statements.
  • Being confused.

Of course, no good conspiracy therapist would miss the opportunity to draw inferences from one's family and social relationships, regardless of the client's age, such as:

  • "Overpraising" their family.6
  • Idealization of parent figures and superficial descriptions of their qualities.3
  • An inability to disconnect from relationships that the person deems harmful to the self, often including uncontrollable urges to re-connect with these people, call them, see them, etc.4
  • Need to be constantly reassured.1
  • A strong sense of social justice and victim advocacy.3

Finally, how might an SRA survivor react to therapy? According to even the conspiracy therapists4 themselves, the results may be grim:

  • Progress in therapy or memory recovery increases suicidality;
  • Self-harm (burns, drug overdose, cuts, esp. in patterns);
  • Depression, and anxiety;
  • Cancelled sessions and urges to stop therapy during therapy sessions;
  • Sleepiness, lost time, feeling “stuck”;
  • Feeling “called away” for most of session;
  • Inability to speak to the therapist or hear the therapist.

This community would do well to remember one of the basic tenets of health care: do no harm.

 


References

[1] Edwards, Louise M (1990). Differentiating Between Ritual Assault and Sexual Abuse. Journal of Child & Youth Care, Spec Issue – ISSN 0840-982X

[2] Fraser, G. A. (1990). Satanic ritual abuse: A cause of multiple personality disorder. Journal of Child & Youth Care, Spec Issue, 55–65.

[3] Lacter, Ellen. Adult and Adolescent Indicators of Ritual Trauma

[4] Lacter, Ellen. Some Indicators of Trauma-Based Mind-Control Programming

[5] Aveni, Eileen. The Complexities of Identifying Ritual Abuse and Mind Control in Your Client

[6] Storr, Will. The Mystery of Carole Myers. The Guardian. 10 Dec 2011. Quoting Valerie Sinason

[7] Patients reporting ritual abuse in childhood: A clinical syndrome. Report of 37 cases - Walter C. Young, Roberta G. Sachs, Bennett G. Braun, and Ruth T. Watkins.

[8] Healing the Fractured Child - Frances Waters

[9] Van der Hart, O., Faure, H., Van Gerven, M., & Goodwin, J. M. (1991). Unawareness and denial of pregnancy in patients with MPD. Dissociation: Progress in the Dissociative Disorders.

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