So Halloween is around the corner again. Ghosts, goblins and creatures large and small. For most people this is a fun cultural ritual that gets everyone out meeting their neighbours and sharing good treats. For others this can be a triggering time, especially if they are ritual abuse survivors. Now I am not going to go into the heinous crimes that ritual abuse survivors are subjected to, however, I think that it is useful for you to know that the Sexual Assault Support Center of Waterloo Region has information on Ritual Abuse and therapists who are trained to work with survivors. And as people in this community we can't pretend that this stuff doesn't happen or that we would 'know' if someone had had 'that sort of past'. Survivors of severe forms of abuse need to split off the memory from their conscious psyche in order to survive the experience. When they are strong enough their mind/body will get triggered by external stimulii that reminds them of the unresolved trauma. So the dates between Oct 29th and Nov 4th are highly triggering for people with these sorts of events in their history.
So what do you do if you are the one with the memories being triggered? Breathe. Look around you and ground yourself into the present and remember that you are safe and it isn't happening anymore. Find people to be with that you know are safe. Plan activities that keep you engaged in the moment that you enjoy. Talk to people who are close to you that believe you and will support you and tell them what you need in terms of support. Spend time in nature. Don't expect a lot from yourself or have a lot of agendas. Call the Sexual Assault Support Line and talk to someone. It's 2018 and it isn't happening anymore and you are not alone!
If you know someone and want to know what to do to help or someone discloses having been ritually abused then here are some things that are helpful:
Always believe the survivor. Never blame the survivor. Don’t talk about religion of any kind unless the survivor brings it up. Never patronize the survivor, no matter what their age. As previously mentioned many ritual abuse survivors have developed dissociation as a coping mechanism. Providing open and accepting support for someone disclosing or identifying dissociation is an important first step. Try NOT to use common ‘support phrases’ as they may have been used in cult programming, for example: • You’re safe now • It’s going to be okay. • It’s all over now. • They can’t hurt your now/anymore. Stick to current phrases: it is 2005, you are in your home, look outside it is snowing/raining/sunny… Many ritual abuse survivors find journaling or drawing to useful when moving through a memory or intense feelings. Listen, accept and learn.
I'm not intending this blog to be a downer blog post, however, many ritual abuse survivors won't see their story 'mirrored' back to them by society because society can't handle the truth that these horrors occur. I have met ritual abuse survivors and have heard the stories. There is no question in my mind that they are telling the truth. The stories ARE horrific and these people are some of the funniest, smartest, kindest people I know. They deserve the validation and support of a blog post and to hear that we can survive the supporting!
If this hasn't been your story, well then, that is something to be truly grateful for. Buy some Halloween candy and make some kids day when they come to your door!
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