FVPCC (Family Violence Prevention Coordinating Committee)

(1991. September 16).


Family violence: Prevention in the 1990s.

Christchurch, New Zealand.


Conference Proceedings,

Two Volumes. Wellington, FVPCC.


Vol.2. Pages 8-10.






  -  Explains the process by which individuals, organisations and society as a whole discount abuse

  -  Describes the awareness required by individuals, organisations and society as a whole to provide effective protection for all children

The process was first described in relation to the sexual assault of children and is applied here to ritual abuse.



Its four stages are -





Firstly, we need to recognise that abuse exists. To refuse to accept the very existence of abuse is to sabotage any possibility of taking action. It is easy to deny that ritual abuse exists. To accept that secret, organised groups of people could ceremonially, repetitively and publicly abuse others, particularly children, challenges anybody's beliefs.


To suggest that people who tend to be middle-class, chuch-going and community minded, would actively participate in bizarre acts that amount to the systematic torture of others, particularly children, is to invite disbelief and denial.


At this stage in the process, people discount by saying:


"Ritual abuse is a fantasy in the minds of people who have been working with sexual abuse too long" or "Ritual abuse has been invented by people who are paranoid and see conspiracies everywhere" or "No one can programme and then control another's mind" or No one would do such terrible things to children - it must be just sick or perverted people"


AWARENESS  The awareness required to go beyond this stage in the process, is to accept that the ritual abuse of children does exist. Children can be and are being, ritually and systematically abused through their childhood. Their minds can be programmed and they are likely to be confused and terrorised into silence.





The second stage at which ritual abuse is discounted is to deny or minimise its significance. This may be apparent in the refusal to see that ritual abuse happens in Aotearoa/New Zealand, or that because at this stage there are few known survivors, that the incidence of ritual abuse is so rare that it is unimportant.


Another way to discount the significance of ritual abuse is to deny its effect. Any person who has been ritually abused will have been made to abuse others. A child who has been ritually abused will have been subjected to a systematic process of de-humanisation - their bodies invaded through their eyes, ears, nose, mouth, vagina/penis and rectum. They will likely have been forced to have sex with animals, had their bodies smeared with excrement, drink blood and urine, forced to watch and participate in the sacrifice of animals, eaten the flesh and organs of animals, often their own pets, and seen photographs of themselves doing all of this.


They are in effect, tortured, systematically and publicly in groups that might well have included their mothers/fathers, grandmothers/grandfathers and their extended family. Their sense of themselves will usually fragment into at least two, and a cult personality emerge. If the children are young (under 7) when the abuse starts, their sense of self might well fragment further and a system of multiple personalities develop.


AWARENESS The awareness required is to accept that ritual abuse does occur in Aotearoa/New Zealand and it has a significant effect on its victims/survivors.


It would seem that ritual abuse is where child sexual abuse was ten years ago. Few could accept that it happened or could acknowledge its effects. Likewise with ritual abuse, we are beginning to see the merest tip of the iceberg.






The third stage of discounting ritual abuse is to decline to see that anything can be done. Comments might be:


"It's too big" or "The cults are so secret, what's the point of even trying" or "Some groups are right through the schools, we'll never be able to stop them" or "If the victims/survivors are so damaged there's no hope of recovery" or "There's no one to work with these people anyway"


These are some of the ways of discounting solvability.


AWARENESS The awareness required to move through this stage is to simply accept that there are solutions to the problem - be they individual, organisational or societal.


"It is an occult truth that positive energy is more powerful than negative, that simple good can overcome evil: but it must be mobilized" Motherpeace




 4.  SELF


The final step in discounting is to believe that there is nothing that I can do about it. Many workers, parents, organisations and community groups come through the first three stages but have difficulty in taking the last step. They opt out.


"Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral"  .................  Freire


AWARENESS  The awareness required to take the final step in responding to the problem of ritual abuse is to recognise that there are things that I can do as a worker and an adult in this community.


It is up to each of us to work out what they are.


The discount process provides a framework to look at yourself, your organisation, the family or groups you belong to, and society as a whole


So where are you in the discount process -

  Denying the existence of ritual abuse?

  Discounting or minimising its significance?

  Stuck at the solvability stage?

  Working out what you can do?





Adapted from the work of Peg West, New South Wales


Ritual Action Group

Wellington, August '91