This is a wonderful article on helping trauma survivors
Ron Patten, Co-Worker
A woman who I worked with came to me in the late 1980s because she heard that I had done some research on religious cults. She told me that her parents and grandparents were part of this religious group.
This obviously distressed woman talked about having gaps in her memory and feeling like she was a different person at different times. Since I had no frame of reference or experience with dissociative disorders at the time, all I could recommend was that she discontinue her affiliation with the group and distance herself from those people who had a negative influence upon her life. She agreed, felt relieved and was most appreciative of the advice. As the days, weeks and months passed, however, she was not able to break free from the cult and actually married another member. When I asked her why she didn’t follow my advice, even after she agreed with me, she replied, with a glazed and withdrawn look, “I can’t do it and I don’t know why.” Thereafter, she seemed to withdraw and was reluctant to talk with me.
Her reaction didn’t make sense and was something I pondered on for several years until I met someone around 1992 with expertise regarding mind control and ritual abuse. Once I became more knowledgeable about this subject, my experience with others in bondage to cults provided me with a better understanding as to why a person feels helpless and unable to turn away from the bondage of an obviously unhealthy belief system. The disturbing information I became privy to brought me to the realization that ritual abuse is one of the biggest secrets in our society and that help for individuals subjected to such atrocities is extremely lacking.
Because of my growing interest about mind control and ritual abuse, I began to correspond with several survivors and was often able to gain their trust. My wife, who was also empathetic to their plight, and I eventually assisted some victims by welcoming them into our home and providing safe housing for them. This proved very difficult for our family as we were ill-prepared for all of the so-called, “baggage” inherently attached to these profoundly wounded individuals. Eventually, my wife and I agreed it was not a good idea for us to continue helping people in this way. I felt pretty discouraged.
Fortunately, a survivor helped me understand that there are other ways to help survivors. This person, who had become a close friend of both my wife and I, pointed out that I lost objectivity because I was too sympathetic and became caught up in the complex and convoluted realm of the victims’ programming. The more I thought I knew, the less I really understood. It seemed like no matter how hard I tried to help, it would eventually backfire.
Our friend pointed out that I needed to focus on helping in those ways and areas that worked well for me, such as doing research, networking and providing information to the interested public, survivors and therapists. She pointed out that individuals sympathetic to the plight of victims and the struggles of survivors, sometimes try to do more than they are capable of. This made good sense to me and I took heed of her advice.
Now, I publish a magazine that exposes coercive mind control, ritual abuse and invasive human experimentation. I set up a website, a radio show and am producing a public access television show – all dealing with this very suppressed but important issue.
So what have I learned from my experiences in interacting and trying to help survivors of traumatic abuse? First, and perhaps most important, I’ve learned to listen carefully and assume nothing; setting aside my preconceived notions, while not totally dismissing intuitive feelings. Second, it’s important not to take things personally. Sometimes, a survivor has “programming” that is self-sabotaging when others try to help. One day, they might act like I’m a savior to them and the next day their worst enemy. So patience and understanding are important.
Third, I have learned to set boundaries and both be and demand accountability. As a man, it is important that I not try to counsel women on a one-to-one basis. This puts both of use in a vulnerable position and can set us up for compromising the supportive relationship with the survivor and others close to one.
Finally, and already touched upon, it is important to stick with your strong points and not do more than you are capable of doing, lest you get “burned-out.”