Ritual abuse is characterized by dogmatic, extreme repeated abuse typically within a group setting. Children are frequently targeted and ideological beliefs are used to justify the crime and promote the belief system. It often involves secrecy, elements of mind control and indoctrination. The types of extreme abuse may be physical, sexual, emotional as well as spiritual.
There is a wide variety of ideologies used to justify ritual abuse. Perhaps the best known and sensationalized is Satanism but many other belief systems are used as a guise including:
- White Supremacy
Children and vulnerable adults are at the highest risk of being sought out for ritual abuse.
Symptoms experienced by survivors are similar to those of trauma survivors. However, in the case of ritual abuse it may also include a fixation on objects and/or symbols related to the ritualistic nature of the abuse. Some examples include phobia or unusual interest in items such as crucifixes, symbols used in occult practices, coffins, knives and so on. In addition, certain times of the year, holidays or other meaningful dates used by the abusers as part of the ritual abuse, may cause extreme reactions.
- Dissociative Identity Disorder
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD)