RA: Myths and Facts
RA is a myth
There was a wave of false memories/accusations and mass panic about SRA (satanic ritual abuse) back in 1980s. Now there’s a backlash and some people believe religious abuse as a whole is a myth. However, if you strip the concept off conspiracy theories, what remains is the idea of using a system of beliefs to inflict and justify harm on somebody. This practice existed throughout human history and continues today. For example, honour deaths and FGM affect millions of people. It goes under different names: religious abuse, spiritual abuse, religious violence, etc.
RA only happens in cults
RA is common in small religious sects because their members can’t (or won’t) reach out for help, which creates an opportunity for abuse to reach extreme degrees. However, RA is not limited to cults. For example, Hana Williams (13yo, WA), Sean Paddock (4yo, NC), and Lydia Schatz (7yo, CA) died because their adoptive parents (while belonging to different denominations and living hundreds of miles apart) have all read the same book on how to raise good Christians, and followed its advice “to use a switch, cold baths, withhold food and force children outside in cold weather as punishment.”
RA is institutional
Institutional abuse comes in many forms: physical abuse in orphanages, rape in prisons, neglect in senior homes, etc. It can be religious; for example, some treatment facilities for addictions and/or troubled youth still follow Synanon or Roloff approaches, which enforce religion through physical violence, sometimes to the point of causing serious injury or death to their patients. However, not all institutional abuse is religious, and not all religious abuse is institutional.
RA is generational
People usually learn parenting from how they were raised, but every parent has a choice: to continue the cycle of abuse (and risk criminal charges) or to break it. For example, Sabrina Tetzner, a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, left the group and took her 4 kids with her, despite physical resistance of 600+ group members. On the other hand, some people perpetrate RA without having any family history of it. Chizuo Matsumoto, for instance, was peddling herbal medicines till the age of 32, when he experienced “spiritual enlightening,” changed his name to Shoko Asahara, and founded Aum Shinrikyo, the doomsday cult responsible for deaths of dozens and injuries of a few hundred (if not thousands) of people.
RA involves devil worship
Sometimes it does; other times it’s just the opposite: people perpetrate RA on someone they believe to be a devil worshipper (or a witch, a black magic practitioner, a voodoo master, etc). They ostracise, exorcise, torture, or even kill this person, to clear them of their “evil” ways. Consider the story of 15yo Kristy Bamu: his 28yo sister invited him over for Christmas, and then tortured and killed him because she felt he was a sorcerer. There were young children in the house, and the entire family used wielding hammers, pliers and chisels on Kristy till he died. She thought she was being a good Christian, protecting her family from devil.
RA involves mind control
One of the symptoms of PTSD is trigger responses. These are common in survivors of any type of trauma: rape survivors gag at dentist’s, car accident survivors jump when hearing tires screech, and RA survivors panic on Halloween. You know that you’re safe now, but can’t help getting cold sweats when something reminds you of the past trauma. In this sense – yes, RA continues to influence your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, even after you’re out of the abusive situation. Some people call it programming or mind control, but these terms are often used to describe secret technologies or paranormal phenomena, and using the same words for different things causes misunderstandings.
RA involves secret technologies
The frequently brought up example to support this theory is MKUltra, a classified research project conducted by the CIA during the Cold War (1950s-1970s). It involved experiments on human subjects, some of whom didn’t know they were being experimented on; at least one person died. It was a form of institutional abuse, but it did not discover any technologies to control people’s minds. Had it been successful, CIA would have used those technologies on its prisoners during the the War on Terror. Instead, it resorted to enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, a torture method developed by Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century, not particularly effective. Clearly no secret technologies to control people’s minds exist as of yet.
RA involves paranormal phenomena
RA often leaves victims indoctrinated with various inaccurate beliefs, e.g. that their abusers can read their mind, control their thoughts, or somehow “will” physical illnesses or even death onto them. Perpetrators of RA tell these lies to create a sense of confusion, fear, helplessness, and dependency, thus ensuring secrecy and compliance. Many people believe in afterlife, out of body experiences, black magic, extraterrestrial life, or other supernatural/paranormal phenomena. However, if your beliefs in these things cause you distress (fear, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, etc), you should really talk to your therapist about it. These distressing beliefs might be originating from the lies you were told.
If you tell someone about RA, they’ll think you’re crazy
RA and paranoid delusions might seem similar at first sight: both involve fear of some secret group perpetrating various atrocities and getting away with it. However, mental health professionals are evaluating your mental state, not your story. There are clear differences between a healthy person and someone suffering from psychosis. For example, those suffering from psychosis won’t reconsider their beliefs even when presented with contradictory evidence – while healthy people are eager to do that. It’s also possible for a person to be both, a survivor of RA and mentally ill, simultaneously.
You have to uncover all memories
The goal of abuse recovery is to stop past trauma from interfering with your quality of life. For example, if you can’t see a dentist because their chair reminds you of something traumatic that you can’t put your finger on – it’s a problem, and you need to work on it, in order to keep your teeth healthy. On the other hand, if you don’t remember large chunks of your childhood but are functioning OK in the here and now – there’s no need to dig for the unknown. Many survivors remember things in bits and pieces, on the span of many years – and it’s a great thing because this way they can manage it; had all those memories flooded them at once, they’d likely end up on the acute ward. Don’t force it, trust your mind: if there’s something you need to know – it will pop up sooner or later.
If you suspect you were a victim of RA – you were
This is probably the worst RA myth, because it indiscriminately validates both RA memories and paranoid delusions. Suspicions aren’t facts, and focusing on them can hurt you a lot more than help you. Compulsively googling suspicions of other people (not all of whom are mentally sound), can turn predisposition to paranoia into full blown delusions, hallucinations, etc. Whether you were or were not a victim of RA, what matters now is taking good care of yourself: eating, sleeping, spending time outdoors, making friends, etc. If your RA suspicions start interfering with your life, please seek professional help to balance these things out, so that your search for truth doesn’t sabotage your physical and mental health.
Let us permit nature to have her way. She understands her business better than we do.
Michel de Montaigne
This page was last updated on April 27th, 2017
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