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 18-24.






Mind control is the cornerstone of ritual abuse, the key element in the subjugation and silencing of its victims. Victims of ritual abuse are subjected to a rigorously applied system of mind control designed to rob them of their sense of free will and to impose upon them the will of the cult and its leaders. Most often these ritually abusive cults are motivated by a satanic belief system.


The mind control is achieved through an elaborate system of brainwashing, programming, indoctrination, hypnosis, and the use of various mind-altering drugs.


The purpose of the mind control is to compel ritual abuse victims to keep the secret of their abuse, to conform to the beliefs and behaviours of the cult, and to become functioning members who serve the cult by carrying out the directives of its leaders without being detected within society at large.


A key element in the survivor's recovery from ritual abuse consists of understanding, unravelling, and undoing the mind control which usually persists for a long time, even in those who no longer participate in the cult. Undoing these controls is critical, for survivors may remain unable to disclose their abuse, or be vulnerable to cult manipulation if the systematic programming is not dismantled. As more ritual abuse survivors are able to free themselves from cult mind control, the amount of information about this important aspect of ritual abuse continues to grow.


Satanic cults focus their initial efforts to achieve mind control most frequently and strenuously with children under the age of six. Just as in developmental psychology, satanists understand that people are most susceptible to having their character, beliefs and behaviour moulded during this early period of development. This review of the mind control techniques used by satanic cults will focus primarily on the techniques used on very young children, both those in ritually abusive families, and those in extra-familial settings, such as day-care and pre-schools. Children who are abused in intra-familial settings are subjected to ongoing mind control that is often sustained in extreme forms throughout their childhood and adolescence.


There is a growing volume of research into the indoctrination techniques which are used by a wide range of destructive cults. It is helpful to consider how satanic cults make use of these and other techniques to control their victims.


In CULTS, QUACKS AND NON-PROFESSIONAL PSYCHOTHERAPISTS, West and Singer have described elements of cult indoctrination as follows


1  Isolation of the recruit and manipulation of their environment


2  Control over channels of communication and information


3  Debilitation through inadequate diet and fatigue


4  Degradation or diminution of the self


5  Induction of uncertainty, fear and confusion, with joy and certainty through surrender to the group as a goal


6  Alternation of harshness and leniency in the context of discipline


7  Peer pressure generating guilt and requiring open confessions


8  Insistence by seemingly all-powerful host that the recruit's survival -  physical or spiritual -  depends on identifying with the group


9  Assignment of monotonous or repetitive tasks such as chanting or copying written materials


10  Acts of symbolic betrayal or renunciation of self, family and previously held values, designed to increase the psychological distance between the recruit and their previous way of life


Satanic cults use many of the same techniques, but apply them in unique ways to indoctrinate and control very young children. To begin with, they impose a variety of PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL and COGNITIVE CONDITIONS which are conducive to indoctrination.






1  Hunger and Thirst

Ritually abused children are often deprived of food and water for extended periods of time, and are told they will be left to die. Their deprivation and fear of dying make them willing to comply with virtually any behaviour or belief necessary to be given food and water again. The cult member who finally does feed the child is seen as an ally and benefactor. The child feels deeply grateful and is thus susceptible to bonding with that cult member. This increases the child's vulnerability to identifying with the cult and its beliefs and practices.



2  Pain

Ritually abused children are physically tormented and sexually abused in very painful ways. The pain can cause them to dissociate and, like prisoners or war subjected to torture, they become willing to do whatever is demanded of them in order to make the pain stop. For a young child who is ritually abused in an out-of-home care setting, even a brief encounter with intense pain profoundly impacts that child's susceptibility to cult mind control. For those children raised in cults, the use of pain and threat of pain continues for as long as they are submitted to the cult, causing an ongoing and deepening subservience to the cult.



3  Drugs

Both child and adult survivors of ritual abuse have described being abused with mind-altering drugs. Some drugs are injected or administered in suppositories. Others are hidden in food or drink or simply swallowed under duress.


The drug effects include hypnotic and paralytic effects, causing victims to experience mental and emotional states ranging from confusion to drowsiness, to passivity and helplessness. Memory distortions occur as well. Additionally, in such drug-induced states, young children are even more pliable that they would otherwise be, and more open to the belief system into which the cult is attempting to indoctrinate them. Cult leaders capitalise on drug-induced reality distortions to create the illusion that they have absolute power to which the child must submit.


Survivors tend to recall very real and painful experiences only with difficulty as though they were unreal or even just dreams.



4  Exhaustion

Ritually abused children are often deprived of rest and sleep. In the extra-familial settings in which ritual abuse occurs, children are frequently deprived of rest periods. In ritually abusive family settings, children may be deprived of sleep for extended periods of time. The influence of repeated drugging further deepens their sense of exhaustion. People in a state of exhaustion are more open to mind control because fatigue saps their normal coping capacities. This effect is especially pronounced in young children.



5  Isolation

Ritually abused children are put into closets, holes, cages, coffins and other confined, usually dark spaces. The children are often isolated there and told they will be left to die. The sensory deprivation that may result can cause disorientation. The isolation causes the child to feel desperate and overwhelmed with fear and dread. An abusive adult who subsequently releases the child from confinement is seen by the child as a rescuer, often causing the young child to bond to that cult member. The child's bonding with one or more cult members increases the degree of the child's identification with the values and beliefs of the cult. In other works, both the isolation and the rescue make the child more susceptible to indoctrination into the destructive beliefs and practices of the cult.



6  Sexual Abuse

Ritually abused children are subjected to brutal sexual abuse which involves severe pain and may involve sexual arousal with which the children are neither physically nor emotionally prepared to cope. Sometimes the sexual abuse is performed with symbolic instruments (eg penetration with a crucifix or want) which reinforces the satanic belief system of the cult. The pain, especially in combination with arousal, is extremely disorienting and overwhelming, again making the child willing to comply with the demands of the cult members in order to make the feelings stop. The sexual arousal can contribute to the formation of distorted bonds with the abusers, leading to identification with the abusive cult.



7  Bright Lights

Adult and child survivors of ritual abuse describe having harsh, intensely bright lights shined in their eyes immediately before and during indoctrination. The lights seem to disorient them and to induce a state of trance which lowers the victim's resistance and heightens the openness to indoctrination.






1  Terror

Ritually abused children have been terrorised and are profoundly afraid of their abusers. They have endured physical torture and painful sexual assaults. They have witnessed the terror, torture and murder of other children and adults in group settings, experiences which greatly intensify the child's own fears. Their terror is heightened by what they perceive as the all-knowing and all-powerfulness of their abusers, including what they believe are their abusers' abilities to control them through the use of demons and evil spirits.


Ritually abused children have also been threatened repeatedly with death to themselves and their families should they disclose. This state of terror causes the child to be willing to do or believe anything to appease the abusers. It also ensures their silence.



2  Guilt and Shame

Ritually abused children have been forced to engage in humiliating and degrading activities such as handling, smearing and ingesting urine, feces, blood and human flesh. They have been photographed pornographically and may have been made to view these pictures. They have been forced to participate in the abuse, torture and killing of animals, and the murder of children and adults.


They are then made to feel responsible for their actions as though these actions were freely chosen by them. They are threatened with exposure as perpetrators, and fear being rejected completely by their families or even being arrested and jailed. Their feelings of guilt and shame contribute to a perception that through their actions, they have already shown their loyalty to the cult and its beliefs. They are made to feel that the abusive group itself is their only refuge of acceptance. By turning to the abusive group for a sense of acceptance and protection, these children are open to even further indoctrination.



3  Emotional Isolation and Despair

Children who are ritually abused are made to feel cut off and rejected by their families are the rest of the world. They are often told that their "real parents" have died or have abandoned them, and that the people they live with are pretenders. Sometimes they are told that cult members are their "real parents" who will someday "rescue" them from their homes. These children often come to feel emotionally estranged from their families. The deep loneliness which results opens them to bonding with abusive cult members, identifying with them, and open to being indoctrinated into the cult's system of beliefs and practices.


In addition, children who are ritually abused are profoundly sad. They experience tragedy and horror, as well as isolation, at an intensity which would induce an overwhelming sadness in a mature adult. They may come to feel utterly hopeless, and in their despair they are likely to feel that cult abuse and cult membership are all that they deserve and all that they can imagine for their future. The cult convinces them that there is no place to turn for help, and thus no way out of the cult.



4  Rage

Ritual abuse provokes children to feel enormous rage, because the violation which they experience is so great. This rage within the child contributes to the cult's efforts to indoctrinate threat child into a belief system in which the violence and rage are valued and encouraged. A child who has been repeatedly violated by the cult over time, and not permitted to express any emotion about their abuse, may be eager to vent their rage by striking out and victimizing others. The assultative behaviour which ensues is encouraged and rewarded by adult cult members, and is used to make the child feel they are just like the abusive adults who have provoked the rage.






1  Lack of Information

Young children who are being ritually abused lack sufficient information and experience to know that much of what their abusers tell them is untrue. They lack the cognitive development to perceive the contradictions in some of the lies they are told. They are likely to accept the misinformation offered by the cult members as part of the mind control process.


2  Confusion

Ritually abused children are confused by the infliction of pain, the extreme sexual arousal caused by the sexual abuse, the incessant directives to do things they feel are wrong, the extensive lying and deception by cult members, and the perceived loss of control over their own behaviour and the behaviour of those around them. Children in such situations long for explanations from adults to reduce their confusion about what is happening to them. The result again is an increased vulnerability to indoctrination as are open to any explanations offered by adults in the cult.






These conditions - physical, emotional and cognitive - exacerbate the impact of the child's ritual abuse, especially in combination with the use of trance states. It is important to look at the role of trance states in achieving mind control over the ritually abused child. When children are in a state of trance, they are more open to indoctrination and other techniques for attaining control over their minds and behaviour. For example, a child who hears any adult say repeatedly "Satan has the power" is much more likely to incorporate that as a deeply held belief if the child is in a state of trance, than if the child is in a waking state.


There are many means by which trance states can be achieved with children during the course of ritual abuse. The rituals themselves contain many trance inducing elements. These include chanting, isolation, sensory deprivation, pain and other forms of extreme physical discomfort. Trance states are also induced in ritual abuse victims using hypnosis and hypnotic drugs.


Traumatic experiences which occur while the victim is in a trance state can be used to indoctrinate victims. These experiences have a profound and long-lasting impact on the beliefs, feelings and even the behaviour of the victims, despite the fact that these experiences cannot always be remembered consciously. Only later in life, usually with help, are some ritual abuse survivors able to painstakingly reconstruct what happened to them while they were in various states of trance or dissociation.


That certain events are not remembered does not mean that they do not have a significant impact on the life of the individual. Until the memories are surfaced and worked through in a safe environment, the survivor of such abuse is still controlled to some extent by the past. Typically, the survivor will react most strongly when triggered by an event which is a reminder of it. For example, if the survivor was abused in childhood by a cult that conducted abusive rituals on every full moon, they may feel compelled as an adult to seek out a cult and participate in rituals when the moon is full. Or they may be triggered to perform a physically or sexually assaultive act on the full moon without seeking out a cult. Alternatively, they may act out in some other compulsive way to cope with the anxiety associated with the dissociated memory of this traumatic event.


Survivors experience triggering of certain beliefs into which they were indoctrinated, or certain behaviours that they are programmed to enact. They are usually unaware of what it is that is triggering them. With help, a survivor can bring the triggering events to conscious awareness, and then become empowered to free themselves from these compulsions.


Behaviours can be triggered spontaneously by cues that by chance happen to remind the individual of past indoctrination or programming. Cues may be implanted by the cult during indoctrination which can then be used deliberately by cult members to elicit particular behaviours from the victim. For example a survivor who was ritually abused and indoctrinated in early childhood can often be called back to the cult years after the indoctrination occurred when approached by a cult member who knows what trigger words, signs, colours or numbers to use to access that individual's programming and gain the desired response.






RITUAL ABUSE Report of the Ritual Abuse Task Force, Los

Angeles County Commission for Women


Accounts of survivors of ritual abuse, Wellington, New



Ritual Action Group

Wellington, August '91