The important autobiographical essay posted below was contributed to this website by a colleague who is both a ritual abuse survivor and a psychologist. My colleague’s hope in writing this in-depth and heart-wrenching essay is to help other survivors who, like herself, have been subjected to unthinkable cruelty and abuse in order to coerce them to harm other victims.
Coerced perpetration is a mainstay of ritual abuse, torture-based mind control, sex trafficking, and the production of sadistic child-abuse materials. It traps victims deeply, by design, into believing themselves to be accomplices of their abusers and irredeemable.
The resultant unjust self-condemnation, and the intense shame and guilt that are fundamentally the abusers to bear, work together long-term to: 1) silence and isolate victims, 2) keep the self-states within victims’ personality systems dissociated from one another, and, 3) cause victims to submit to their abusers’ ongoing control, both internally and externally, driven by shattered self-worth, often making them more vulnerable to ongoing subjugation and victimization.
My colleague and I hope that this essay will provide survivors and their support persons with enough knowledge about coerced perpetration, its devastating long-term effects, and how the parts of self within can reach toward each other with love and compassion, such that survivors will be able to find their way out of all of these psychological and spiritual traps to find freedom, internally and in the world.
Overcoming the Devastation of Coerced Perpetration and its Fundamental Role in Extreme Abuse, by an Anonymous Survivor-Psychologist
By an Anonymous Survivor-Psychologist
My hope is that this essay will foster self-compassion within survivors whose abusers coerced them to harm others and that it will give therapists and loved ones a deeper understanding of this devastating trauma.
For some time now, I have been reflecting on traumatic experiences where my abusers forced me to harm other victims, a form of abuse often referred to in the professional literature on extreme abuse as “coerced perpetration.” Memories of these experiences are held in many dissociated parts of me who formed during unbearable, unthinkable abuse. These dissociated parts have helped me to survive and to preserve my sanity.
This phase of my healing journey is relatively new. For decades, I have been utterly terrified to face memories of having been forced to harm others. As my willingness and capacity to address this grows, I am beginning to understand more about this terrible reality: my oppressors tortured me in order to force my mind to form dissociated parts whom they could then manipulate and control to harm others to further their sadistic, evil, and criminal agendas.
My perpetrators—my parents and the criminal groups with whom they are associated—did a very good job of breaking me.
Even so, my whole life has been centered around strivings to be free of my perpetrators. I have always strived to escape, to survive, and to create a meaningful life in which I can do good and help others. I have always wanted to bring more light into the world in whatever small ways I could. Forever it has been thus…. Trying to do good, be good, and take care of others.
What has also been true, is that I always knew there was a “dark side,” another place within my psyche, where “other beings” and “entities” existed. However, I long believed these “others” and this “dark side” were evidence of psychosis. For decades, I believed any memories, thoughts or voices, and expressions through art or poetry of this dark, horrific content, meant that I was psychotic. I was told this repeatedly by my perpetrators and therapists – as are many survivors of extreme, sadistic, organized abuse. It is obvious why my abusers conveyed this message to me. However, it is tragic that I also received this message from the mental health system early in my efforts to heal.
Still today, many mental health professionals regularly dismiss as delusions clients’ reports of extreme forms of abuse, such as ritual abuse and torture-based mind control, causing significant and ongoing harm to survivors like myself. The large-scale propaganda and disinformation campaign of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) is largely responsible for this widespread skepticism among mental health professionals as well as among the general public about these most extreme forms of abuse.
Unfortunately, this denial and disbelief contributed to my own avoidance and denial of this disturbing content and of the other “beings” and “entities” who live in darkness within me, who desperately needed compassion and healing.
For most of my life, I was avoidant in the extreme. I feared that learning more about these “dark” parts of me might cause me to become psychotic, or to be labeled as “crazy” by medical and mental health care systems. I feared losing touch with reality and losing the functional life I was building, all because my abusers had so deeply interfered with my ability to trust my own mind.
On a deeper level, to know these “others” within myself felt tantamount to death. These “others” felt terrifying and dangerous. I believed that to acknowledge them would mean utter chaos and the total destruction of my mind, life, and self.
Until… Until about three years ago, when I found my way back to my healing path after being forced off of it by my abusers through their systematic ongoing abuse and harassment.
The Early Years: Striving to Heal While Still Being Abused
Throughout my first two decades of therapy and painstaking attempts to heal and liberate myself, my abusers repeatedly derailed my healing efforts by subjecting me to ongoing abuse, abuse for which I was amnesiac. My abusers have stalked and harassed me throughout my life. They have made threatening phone calls and broken into my home. They have intimidated me with threats and efforts to discredit me. Early in my treatment, when I made a disclosure about the abuse, my parents reacted
by bombarding me with propaganda from the FMSF. They sent materials, books, and audio tapes of interviews with survivors who recanted their abuse. My parents bragged about being on a first-name basis with FMSF founders and even called my friends and family to inform them that I was psychotic.
Periods of progress and functioning were disrupted and sabotaged each time my abusers intruded on my life, resulting in lengthy periods of extreme suicidality, depression and terror. Their intrusions led to episodes of heightened dissociation and depersonalization in which I felt totally unreal and disconnected from myself and others. After each of their assaults, I was thrown into living in a fog, consumed with crippling disbelief of my memories of abuse, even after remembering and working on this trauma consistently for 20 years.
Abusers Have a Vulnerability After All: Fear of Exposure
As survivors heal, we pose many threats to our abusers. Accordingly, as I worked to escape and create a life with purpose and meaning, my abusers escalated their abuse and harassment to silence and control me. As it turns out, abuser networks have a critical vulnerability—they fear exposure. They also fear losing ongoing control of their victims and being unable to continue to exploit them for their own criminal gain. Abusers fear that survivors will find therapists who believe them and they fear reports to law enforcement.
The very notion that those who oppressed me so extremely could have any vulnerabilities—fear of exposure or loss of control—has been a stunning realization. Holding this awareness about my abusers’ fears and vulnerabilities is a step towards empowerment.
Now, when I make decisions to support my present-day safety, I hold in mind their vulnerability and my realistic evaluation of possible risks. For instance, I do not have a presence on social media and will not write about my experiences using my legal name for safety reasons. I am discovering that this does not mean I need to remain silent —it means that I need to be careful, strategic, and realistic about how, when, and to whom I write and speak out about these experiences.
A Tragedy: Abduction and Submission
I have dedicated myself to the long and arduous process of healing and liberating the dissociated parts of me from the control of my abusers. When my abusers realized that they could no longer manipulate dissociated parts within me to bring me back as a slave under their total control, they finally abducted and tortured me in order to try to demonstrate that healing – and escape – were impossible. They were determined to put a permanent end to my healing efforts. They tortured me and re-programmed many parts of me to believe that I, and people I care about, would be killed for any disobedience. I was well acquainted with their capacity for murder. Their threats and terrorization were very convincing.
The memories of this torture-based re-programming were held only in dissociated parts of me. The “going-on-with-normal-life parts” were not aware of what had happened. However, the injuries to my body were life-threatening and undeniable. My abusers harmed me so badly that my injuries, including a severe pelvic infection, were so critical that I was hospitalized for a week. This particular assault also left me with an incurable sexually-transmitted disease that continues to compromise my health. To this day, I do not know why hospital staff never questioned me about the illogical explanations that my abusers trained me to give for my injuries. Sadly though, even if someone had asked: “What really happened to you?,” I would not have been capable of providing a truthful response at that time. So complete was their terrorization and so devastating was the programming held within dissociated parts of me.
As the result of ongoing abuse over the years, I have sustained many suspicious injuries which are documented in my medical record. When I discussed this with my current therapist, we wondered together: why did no doctors ever ask more about these injuries that did not align with the explanations I provided? These injuries were clearly non-accidental; they were the result of abuse and violence.
Since early childhood, my abusers had programmed parts of me to provide semi-credible explanations to medical personnel for all of my abuse-inflicted injuries.
I realize now that my abusers’ manipulations had made me complicit, even as a child, in hiding my abuse as well as the ongoing abuse into adulthood. Having turned me against myself in this was is yet another layer of complexity I am just beginning to comprehend. Acknowledging this reality is a source of immense grief and growing outrage.
The life-threatening torture that landed me in the hospital for a week was highly effective. I became utterly submissive and filled with deep terror— it’s source unknown to my conscious mind. As a result, on the first day of my hospitalization, without any ability to stop myself, I found myself calling my abusive family, for the first time in a decade, “reporting in” to them and disclosing my location. I once again became their psychological hostage.
And then, just as my abusers had intended, after years of being harassed, culminating in being captured and tortured, I stopped therapy. I ended all friendships with people who knew about the abuse and lived a kind of half-life in a numbed-out state. The trauma- and torture-bound parts of me saw no option but to submit to my abusers’ rules and demands, that is, to protect their secrets with my silence and amnesia.
Re-Awakening to a Spirit-led Commitment to Heal
About ten years after being abducted and re-programmed, something shifted. The functional and going-on-with-normal-life parts of me encountered a series of stressors that triggered old and profound feelings of powerlessness and helplessness. The depth of these feelings began to re-awaken my truest self and the wish to do good in the world. These stressors propelled me to address injustices that felt intolerable. In one instance, I discovered that an employee at work was overstepping boundaries and putting children and families at risk of harm. Alongside this, I began an impassioned campaign to save and protect wildlife from harm. I felt very activated to stop the harm to children and animals.
Yet my efforts were futile.
I could not stop the harm.
Unable to effect change, I felt devastated. The helplessness associated with these experiences was unbearable. The intensity of my emotional responses at the time far exceeded the circumstances that I understood to be the source of my outrage. I now realize that this anguish awakened long-buried traumas, feelings of outrage, and unconscious longings for freedom. These deep feelings began to loosen the hold that my abusers had over me. Through my activism, I was reconnecting with my own spirit and healthy strivings to break free from my abusers and to liberate myself from their life-long control. I was desperate to protect children and animals from harm. And, although I did not realize it then, I see now that I was also desperate to save myself and all the dissociated parts within me, so very many severely traumatized young child parts.
The feelings of powerlessness and helplessness associated with the suffering of children and animals affected me so greatly that I could not eat or sleep. I could barely function at work or home. I no longer even “remembered” that I had been abused, so deep was the programmed denial and amnesia after being captured and tortured as an adult.
However, I knew I needed help. I decided to seek therapy again, an agonizing and terrifying decision, as I later came to realize that seeking therapy was strictly prohibited and punished by my abusers. I was breaking their rules without even knowing it! When I re-entered therapy, I told my therapist that I didn’t know what was wrong with me or understand why I was suffering, but I felt deeply that “seeing my family was killing me.”
Once I opened this door to acknowledge my suffering, it felt like an avalanche breaking, a house exploding, and bombs going off inside my mind and body. I endured a year of unbearable emotional and physical pain, terror, and chaos while the parts of me who had been forced into submission and silence began waking up and communicating to my therapist and to myself. Some of these re-awakened parts led me to find the boxes and boxes of old journals and artwork that parts of me had hidden in my attic years ago. I began reading and re-discovering my own history in shock and horror.
At that point, the change in my life was profound. In the deepest, wisest parts of my being, I knew that I could not go on as I had before, subject to my abusers’ manipulations and ongoing abuse, constantly doubting every memory, flashback, and the somatic re-experiencing of the pain I suffered within my abuse. Something had to change. I needed to believe the experiences and memories that many parts of me held. I had to find safe support, and I had to create distance from my oppressors. I had to be smarter this time and keep my healing work a secret from my abusers.
I also made a conscious decision to approach healing differently. So ingrained were the patterns and programs around avoidance of pain and turning away from the reality of my abuse that in previous therapy, it was hard to maintain progress. While this was largely due to ongoing abuse, programming and re-programming, it was also because the truth felt too hard to bear, too devastating, too “evil.”
With this return to my healing path, and inspired by the mindfulness practices and wisdom of Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh, I made a spirit-led commitment to look deeply into the nature of my suffering, to witness myself and the many parts of me, in order to find understanding about my
experiences. Instead of turning away, I decided to turn toward suffering with compassion, as much as possible with every step.
A Healing Surge
I am now three years into a healing surge that has allowed me to expand my healing capacities, including the ability to see and understand the previously forbidden (by my abusers) and unknowable experiences of my abuse, including the devastating trauma of coerced perpetration, i.e., being forced to harm other victims. I am finding internal and external supports that I never thought possible, including a therapist who believes me with the capacity to bear witness to the agony and grief borne by so many parts of me. I am discovering a strong sense of spirituality and am nurturing this by spending generous time in nature and practicing mindfulness and gentle yoga.
It is within nature that I am able to feel connection and deep appreciation for the source of light and wisdom within me and in the cosmos. These moments of deep connection help to create a refuge for surviving the excruciating pain and agony encountered in healing from extreme abuse.
This healing surge also feels like a race against time. Perhaps I am racing to heal enough, so that if and when my abusers come for me again (and I believe that they will), and try to terrorize and manipulate me again (which they already have many times), there will be enough strength within, enough awareness, enough healing and integration to stand strong on our healing path. I want to be able to maintain conscious awareness and memory for anything that they might do to intimidate, trigger, and re-program me, so that I can prevent them from disrupting my healing and liberation.
Now that I am once again upon my healing path, I and many parts of me have started to think for “ourselves” – for the first time, it seems! I am questioning everything. I am wondering about my self, the many parts who are healing and the many still-hidden parts of me, in entirely new ways. I am wondering with curiosity and willingness to understand.
I can finally tolerate thinking about whether the “evil others” and “dark entities” within me are parts of me. I can finally understand that these “evil others,” these memories of perpetrating harm against other children, animals, and even adults, are in fact, real events from childhood.
Being Forced to Harm Others: Seeking to Understand Coerced Perpetration Trauma
Early in this healing surge, I bought a book, called “The Alchemy of Wolves and Sheep” (2013) by psychologist Harvey Schwartz. I read Dr. Schwartz’s book and felt understood in a way I never had—though programmed and terrified parts of me initially hid the chapters that said “healing is possible.” Reading his book, I felt that someone could actually comprehend and bear witness to the degree of evil that humans are capable of perpetrating against other humans, even against children. I felt his compassion for children and adults who were coerced to harm others and his compassion began to reach parts within myself.
Reading “The Alchemy of Wolves and Sheep” helped me to realize that perpetrators who coerce victims to harm and kill other victims are trying to induce the formation of new identities who are mini-versions of their own abusive selves. These perpetrators derive sadistic pleasure from taking an innocent child, a child who is dependent on them, and twisting and perverting their natural attachment needs to induce the formation of a new part of that child’s self and mind who will be submissive to them, who will behave exactly as told, and ultimately, who they hope will become as sadistic as the abusers themselves.
Why would a child ever behave like this—as a perpetrator?
Why would a child, with a natural instinct to care for others, and with the capacity for being kind and loving, harm another child, adult, or animal?
The answer is ultimately simple. Children do this to avert torture and to survive. Torture cannot be endured. Anyone, any one of us, child or adult, can be forced to do anything under torture. We all will do anything to try to escape unrelenting, unbearably painful, annihilating torture. As human beings, we all have a basic hard-wired instinct to survive. If there is a way to appease a torturer, a way to escape unbearable, unthinkable, life-threatening pain, living beings will do whatever is necessary. This instinct cannot be overridden.
Why Didn’t They Let Me Die? Thoughts on Why Abuser Networks Keep Some Victims Alive.
I have often wondered: why didn’t they just let me die? Why didn’t I just die?
As a child, I wanted my abusers to let me die. I wanted to kill myself fiercely. If I was dead, the torture and abuse would be over. I would no longer be an instrument of theirs to wield or to perpetrate harm. But no, my abusers did not let me die. On the contrary, I have memories of being resuscitated many times– after my torturers went too far… or did they? Bringing victims to near-death was part of their sadistic “fun” and part of their “experiment” to explore the various means and lengths to which they could go to induce new dissociated parts to form.
When I wonder about why my abusers did not let me die, I suspect it has something to do with a “return on investment” and reducing their risk of exposure of their criminal network. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, they invested a tremendous amount of time and energy on creating the large system of dissociated identities within me. They then used these parts to serve various purposes. They ensured that many parts of me were very good at what they were trained to do.
A criminal network needs people with a wide range of skills and professions in order to commit and conceal their crimes. They raise and train their victims to fill these roles. My abuser network, as with other similar networks, invested this same amount of time in many children. In this way, I am not special. Tragically, there are many children exposed to this kind of tortuous and sophisticated abuse. My abusers were experimenting and studying the many means by which they could induce the formation of fractured minds and selves that they could then manipulate most effectively to serve various purposes within their criminal network.
Such perpetrators do not let their victims die. The object of this abuse and torture is not death. It is control. It is power. It is sadism. Victims are valuable assets to them. Not as humans, but as assets. As commodities.
Consistent with the abusers’ view that children are commodities, the most obvious sources of the network’s profits were child sexual abuse and human trafficking. The production of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) is a multi-billion-dollar industry. The most sought-after materials are often of a very sadistic and violent nature. My father always told me that I was “a very attractive child” and the abuser network put a lot of effort into the formation of parts of me who could be sexually exploited for sadism and for profit.
Furthermore, my parents had a very carefully constructed family façade, and a child dying young or committing suicide would not fit their cover narrative. I was born “on the grid” and have a social security number. My family was connected with government and other institutions. I was not one of the abuser network’s so-called “disposable children” born “off the grid” and exploited and murdered by my abusers and other criminal networks like these. Tragically, the vulnerable and unprotected, such as orphaned refugee children, undocumented immigrants, runaways, sex workers, and homeless children, as well as teens and adults, go missing without anyone noticing or caring. Many are sex-trafficked or killed by criminal networks in rituals and snuff films.
My abusers also believed that I possessed psychic abilities that they sought to develop and exploit toward their own nefarious ends. They tested, trained, and programmed a number of my identities to study such phenomena and to harness these capacities, which they deeply valued. Substantial historical documentation proves the existence of espionage projects that investigated remote viewing and the development of psychic capacities (Stargate and Gateway). (See footnote.)
Another likely reason that they didn’t let me die feels rather mundane. My parents are so psychologically sick that they derive sadistic pleasure from their life-long torture and control of me. It is quite possible that, in their view, I exist solely for their satisfaction and thirst for complete control of another human being.
Given the degree of torture victims sustain, I am amazed that any of us survive into adulthood—but we do. There are many survivors like me who are alive and actively seeking healing. I think we are all bravely and courageously seeking to heal ourselves and to put an end to this evil and to stop these often-intergenerational cycles of abuse.
However, even among survivors of extreme abuse who are actively working to heal, discourse about the realities of coerced perpetration is rare. It is rare for so many reasons—the shame, disbelief, the soul-shattering devastation, and the false belief the abusers induced in us—the false belief that we are as bad as them.
The Role of Torture in the Coerced Formation of Dissociated Identities Used to Harm Others
As I encounter parts within myself that were forced to harm other victims, I am struggling to understand these experiences and to hold compassion for myself.
Again, I ask: What would cause a child-victim harm another victim? Why would a child behave as a perpetrator?
Being tortured to the brink of death or kept in a state of excruciating pain are key methods that psychologically-sophisticated and dissociation-savvy abusers use to induce the formation of new identities for the purpose of harming others. Through terrorization, threats to torture and kill people they love, imprisonment, and the use of cunning, sophisticated set-ups and deception—tricks, lies, and illusions, children are tortured, coerced, and manipulated to behave as perpetrators and made to believe that they are intrinsically evil.
One young part of me (one of many such parts) was given painful injections that she was told contained a substance from her abuser’s body which resulted in countless dark bruises all over her body. She was then told that these bruises were “proof” that her perpetrator now lived inside of her and of her evil nature.
“Look at the black evil oozing out through your skin, evidence of evil. Blackened blood
Evil is your master
Evil is who you are
Just like me
I live inside of you forever You are me
Just like me
Of course it hurts. That’s the magic happening. You are becoming me. I live inside of you.”
This form of abuse and manipulation can be thought of as “spiritual programming.” The purpose was to deceive this part into perceiving herself to look just like her abuser, to cause other parts inside to perceive her as the abuser within, and then to use her to terrify and threaten so many other young parts inside.
The effect was, I was wholly invaded mind, body, and spirit by the machinations of my abusers. While it was sickening and devastating to discover how my abuser “engineered” this part of me to form in “his” likeness, becoming conscious of how this part of me was formed and manipulated has allowed her to see the truth behind these deceptions and to break free of her implanted identity.
Flashbacks are Part of Healing: Breaking Free from an Abuser-Implanted Identity
Initially, this terrible memory about being made to believe my evil abuser was inside of me and that I was becoming him, became conscious through flashbacks of the trauma.
While flashbacks are extremely disturbing and disorienting, they are often the first experience that brings devastating trauma into awareness so that it can be understood and worked through. Flashbacks are one way that our body and mind releases trauma and makes it available for processing. Flashbacks can help trauma-bearing parts express their pain and can propel survivors to seek understanding and support from another human being.
The support and compassion of a loved one, a friend, a therapist, are critical. That which was fractured within abusive relationships longs to heal within a safe relationship. In healing relationships, such as the therapy relationship, I and the many parts of me find the deepest healing and self-compassion in the relational experiences of accompaniment, compassion, attunement, respect, and empathy.
Following a series of flashbacks, this young part of me, who was made to believe she contained evil, was able to write in our journal. She wrote not only about the abuse, but, also the exact words that her abusers spoke to entrap and define her. This allowed my mind to pull back the veil of confusion to reveal the abusers’ charade. I could now see how I was so horribly manipulated, tortured, and deceived.
By abuser design, this young part’s self-representation was that she looked just like her abuser and believed herself to be this abuser. In reality, she was just a little child – a child who never would have chosen to be a part of any of this. She was a child who would have wanted to climb trees and draw pictures. She was a child who was horrified by the actions of these cruel adults; a child who was horribly abused physically, psychologically, and spiritually.
Over the course of several weeks and rounds of flashbacks, more and more of this experience became conscious and then witnessed by other parts of me and by my therapist. While highly distressing, this process allowed me to discover how the abusers implanted this misperception. Once I saw and truly understood what had been done, this part appeared to me within my internal landscape in her true form, as an abused child. She was a terrified little child, curled up in a ball, naked and covered with bruises, terrified of being terrifying to others inside and longing to belong with parts of us who are caring and kind.
Witnessing and processing this part of her abuse allowed her to shed the programmed costume of her abuser and to reclaim her humanity. Seeing beyond my abusers’ calculated machinations exposed the deception for what it was—tricks and lies about who this girl, this part of me, was and who she really is.
At first, this small bruised child didn’t know if she was a girl or a boy. She didn’t even think she could be human. She wanted to be a tree. She thinks trees are beautiful, tall, and strong. Wise parts of me invited her to think about the qualities she loves about trees; she said that she loves the way trees reach for the sky and grow toward sunlight.
As often happens within my system as trauma memories are processed, this little bruised girl found her way to choosing a new name for herself; a name that represents the qualities she wants to grow within herself that allows for continued healing. Her new name is Aspen. The others within are no longer fearful of her and are reaching out to her, offering comfort and connection. She has clothes now and her bruises are fading.
The Devastation of Spiritual Abuse: Reclaiming Spirituality and True Self
As I live with new awareness about this particular traumatic experience, I realize more about the complexity and also the enormity of the betrayals I was subjected to by my abusers. Not only was there torture. Not only was there cunning manipulation of attachment needs, by forcing terrified, helpless child parts of me to depend on, bond with, and trust particular abusers. Not only was there physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and incredible violence. There was also spiritual abuse. My abusers’ efforts to deceive Aspen into believing she was inherently evil is a form of spiritual abuse.
Many parts of me were deceived and tricked through similar and various other means into believing that they were evil and that they reside in hell or that their “souls” had been stolen and defiled.
The terms spiritual abuse and “spiritual programming” are not concepts one hears a lot about—I don’t see these terms referenced often in books or articles. However, I believe that spiritual manipulation and abuse are fundamental to coercing victims to harm other victims. Parts of me have been tricked, deceived, and manipulated to believe that their very spirit, their essence, has been stolen or corrupted and contaminated. Spiritual abuse is a core form of programming used to indoctrinate and inculcate children with the belief that they are intrinsically evil.
Once a child is deceived into believing one’s self to be evil, the sense of self is so deeply corrupted that one feels that there is nothing of one’s humanity left. Some of these parts of me feel empty, dead, and perceive themselves to be zombies or robots. These parts feel that there is nothing of value, nothing of hope, nothing human, within them. They feel there is nothing left to “save” – nothing left to “protect.”
These parts feel beyond all redemption—rejected and abandoned by all sources of Light or goodness in human or spiritual form.
I am struggling to find words adequate to describe the devastation of this and the far-reaching impacts it has had on my life. For example, I still am not able to pray for those I love when they are ill for fear that my prayers will kill them – a belief was calculatingly programmed within me. And, because of the abuse I endured, I cannot stand the thought of joining a spiritual community.
My body carries a legacy of scars from years of self-harm—scars reflective of self-hate, self-disgust, self-condemnation, and self-punishment for my perceived “evilness.” Self-injury was also a desperate effort to see if my blood was truly black, as I was programmed to believe by my abusers, and to find out if I was actually human.
It has been a lonely and confusing process to find my way to a spiritual path. I now have moments when I feel the presence of the divine and embraced by nature. In these moments, I weep and feel a grief that goes beyond words at what was stolen from me—and what was not stolen, after all.
I know now that my “soul,” “spirit,” “essence” was not, in fact stolen. The great lengths to which my abusers went to convince me that I was evil attests to the fact that my “spirit” and connection to light and goodness was then, and is now, alive within me. My “spirit” is present and capable of growing, evolving, and even flourishing. I am learning that many survivors with similar abuse histories miraculously find and nurture something of their spiritual self that was always there, often hidden, sometimes protected, that can now support their healing process.
In fact, there is a continuum of humanity within me, that includes both a continuum of evil and a continuum of goodness. I believe this exists within everyone, a very painful notion to accept. The surprise, for me, is that in the face of all of these terrible acts, I am discovering parts of me who embody light and are capable of generating goodness and wisdom.
I use the word light to mean: source, soul, essence, spirit, and true nature. There are many parts of me who feel care and compassion for external others and also for parts within me. There are parts of me who share life-affirming wisdom and guidance with the many other parts of me. It feels miraculous to find that, in the face of such evil, parts of me survived or developed who now nurture my (our) connection with light, with one another within, with nature, and with caring others. For so many years, I could never have imagined that I would discover compassion, tenderness, and true caring within ourselves, for ourselves.
If there is a message here for other survivors, especially for those who have been forced to harm and kill other victims, it would be to consider that your true essence and source of goodness is preserved, deep within many parts of you, even if and when you fear it is lost or destroyed. I now believe and understand that our true essence is present within all parts of us, no matter how completely we were deceived by our abusers to believe otherwise. These sources of goodness and true nature, in whatever concept or language fits for you, can be nurtured and developed as a resource for healing.
New Perspectives and a Willingness to Understand
A few experiences have expanded my insight about how abusers coerce perpetration, which has fostered a willingness to learn about these “others” inside. New insights have helped to dial back the utter terror of understanding my own self and system, a terror calculatingly implanted by my perpetrators, so that I can begin to consider that these “others” may actually be parts of… me.
In 2020, I attended a webinar by psychiatrist Richard Loewenstein through the ISSTD on the demystification of perpetrator tactics. His words have been percolating inside all this time.
First, he described programming as torture. Plain and simple. And boy, did that hit home. As he spoke, I found myself recalling various “lessons,” “programming,” and “training” experiences…. They were torture, as in true, mind-bending, horrifically pain-inducing, crazy-making torture. After this presentation, I dreamt repeatedly about adults being tortured and seeing them “break,” and each time I woke feeling shocked that one could “break” an adult so completely.
I learned that even trained soldiers can be forced to break. If you could “break” an adult so completely, what chance does a child have, what chance does a 3-year-old, or a 5-year-old, or an 8-year-old or even a teenager have against an army of adults bent on “breaking” them, using extreme methods of torture? These abusers apply similar methods and worse, even more sadistic and brutal, to children.
The next thing Dr. Loewenstein said that stayed with me was his description of “introjects,” those parts that identify with the perpetrator, as “Underground Freedom Fighters.” This term helped me to find a sense of respect and honor for the parts of me who had to do terrible things in order to avert torture and to survive… especially those parts who did what they did, not because they liked it, but because our survival depended on it. The term, “Underground Freedom Fighters” also helped me understand that these parts withstood things that other parts of me could not bear to do or to know.
Dr. Loewenstein called to mind the extremely dangerous dictatorships of Nazi Germany and Saddam Hussein. He reminded us that working under Hitler or Saddam meant obedience or death.
I understand this equation: Obedience or Death.
I am starting to see that the parts of me that my abusers induced to form in their likeness had no choice. My abusers convinced these parts of me that they made a choice to do horrifying acts. In fact, these scenarios offered no real options. The abusers exploited the illusion of having made a choice to make false claims that these parts of me had freely chosen to these things and then defined them as evil. This is a sadistic and effective form of indoctrination.
These parts of me had no voice in what they would do or how they would think or feel or behave. They were completely entrapped.
To my great sorrow, one part of me became very good at killing. This was the job my abusers systematically forced upon him (they formed him as a male). Initially, he followed orders to kill to protect others parts within from having to do this “job,” as well as to protect a sibling who my abusers threatened to kill if he did not submit to their directives. As time went on, under continued manipulation, coercion, and direction by my abusers, he performed his job with increasing automaticity, like a trained soldier. He could no longer afford to feel. The deeper truth is, he formed after many, many other parts of me who felt horror, heartbreak, and soul-crushing guilt could not bear this devastation anymore. They finally broke and submerged within, and that is when this other part formed. When I first met him, he told me that he did not feel bad for what he did. He did what had to be done. My abusers praised him for his skill and he found a certain pride in doing his job well. He did not have mystical moments of connection with those he killed (he has read other survivor accounts about these).
He doesn’t yet experience feelings within his own consciousness, but other parts of us can sense that feelings are beginning to grow within him. He has done so much damage – not of his own free will, but rather, as a tool of my abusers. Recently, he had a brief moment of insight, a thought that: “if I had had a different family, I would not be a killer.” This awareness shone through like a beam of light to him and inside my system as a whole. The challenge this presented to his sense of identify (tough, invulnerable) must have frightened him, and so he shut the door to it, for now. But to me – this insight is a step toward healing for him, a step toward connection with the rest of us and with our true essence.
I also know that this part of me holds my true essence and care for humanity because he is so very suicidally distressed now about his actions in the past. This part of me, who was systematically forced into violence against others, who has done so much damage, often feels that the only solution to his existence, to who he believes himself to be, is to kill himself.
In his important book, Dr. Schwartz explains that this suicidal wish in dissociated identities forced to harm others is so often an anguished scream of profound moral injury: “the screaming expression of his moral injury” (personal communication, 2022). This fits.
His soul has been crushed and he does not know how to deal with this pain. However, I and other parts of me are helping him. I know that the process of healing this perpetrator-identified part of me will be a slow and excruciating process for both of us, requiring great gentleness and compassion, qualities so opposite his own experience. I am committed to this process.
None of What Happened Was Your Fault: You Were Just a Little Child
A few months ago, I went back to Dr. Schwartz’s book and read those chapters that were previously hidden from my view by parts of me because they suggested that healing was possible. Most powerful was his chapter, “The Child Soldier as a model of internalized perpetration.” This chapter resonated within and across barriers. It helped many parts of me to understand the level of manipulation I – and sadly, many children around the world – have been subjected to in the name of power, greed, and ideology. Reading about the rehabilitation of child soldiers who had both experienced and committed atrocities, I felt understanding and compassion for them.
I next read the courageous memoir, “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier” (2007), by former child soldier, Ishmael Beah. Once at the rehabilitation center, Esther, an incredibly kind nurse, helped him. Esther said, over and over again, “None of what happened was your fault. You were just a little boy” (p. 160).
Esther’s words bear repeating here as well. I felt profoundly the healing power generated by a caring person bearing witness and saying, again and again and again: “None of what happened was your fault. You were just a little boy.” None of what happened was your fault. None of what happened was your fault. I thank Ishmael Beah deeply for his brave voice and courageous spirit. My heart breaks for his suffering and rejoices in his redemption.
For some time now, I have been learning to tolerate glimpses of what the “dark others” inside me hold, the “others” who were forced to harm others. I have flashbacks revealing the truth of my abuse. I now know I was never psychotic. If these parts were external entities, separate beings, flashback material would not have ever crossed over to “my” consciousness.
I have begun wondering if some of the “others” inside of me, who I once rejected, might be genuinely interested in participating in this “healing” work, or even, just breathing fresh air. Some are terrified of even that, for fear of what that might mean: to breathe fresh air.
For to breathe fresh air… means freedom, foremost. To breathe fresh air means also: being human, being part of the natural world, being alive, and being someone… worthy of breathing at all.
To breathe fresh air also means: defiance. Breaking the abusers’ rules. Breaking taboos. Breaking silence.
I have begun sensing that some of these “others” might want to see what this life is like. So many have been “entombed” and trapped within the memories of their trauma and many still perceive themselves to be stuck in the concrete rooms where they were originally tortured or in the remote areas where rituals took place. My hope is that, in time all of them will be able to come over to join the known parts of me in the healing internal landscape that I have been able to create.
Some of these “others” have broken through to my consciousness, unexpectedly, and some have appeared momentarily and then retreated. I believe that the “word’s gettin’ out” to these “others” inside, that whispers of another way of life are reaching them. Fragments of light and even specks of hope are filtering through barriers which have been rock solid, until now.
The dissolution of these barriers has been terrifying because of the memories, heartbreak, pain, and terror that these parts of me hold and what they protect me from knowing. They hold the unbearable. They have protected me from “The Horrors” – the most horrific and depraved acts of abuse, unthinkable and unspeakable deeds, and having been in such close proximity to human evil. What these parts of me hold had to be kept separate and remain dissociated from so much of my system, so that I could survive and live a life, hold a job, function in society and preserve my sanity. For so long, these horrors needed to be kept separate so that parts of me could hold a desire to do good and seek healing.
Even seeing, learning, remembering a little at a time, what they know, what they have done and seen, is so devastating that I am not sure I can survive the knowing of it. So many of parts still perceive themselves as inhuman, irredeemable. Already the grief and anguish that comes with seeing even the tiniest glimpse of what I was forced to do feels unending and oceanic.
As I understand and learn more, I have begun thinking about how to work with and manage these “others” within. For example, about a year ago, I had a re-living experience of torture. I re-lived and re-lived and re-lived the moment, the exact moment when you feel you are going to die and you will do anything to make the torture stop. Absolutely anything. I and the known parts of me felt that torture and terror, the torture that the “others” on the “dark side” of my system endured and still experience on the inside. That state of collapse. That annihilation. That agony. That capitulation. And I felt it over and over again within an all-consuming flashback.
I believe that reliving that torture originated in programming placed in childhood to punish and prevent me from remembering and fighting to heal. However, what happened instead was: I found compassion – compassion for the part of me who endured that experience. She, that part of me, endured that experience as an 8-year-old child. Of course, she (and whatever parts they induced to form from her with further torture) did whatever they told her to do. Of course, she did.
She had no choice.
Is that child evil? Is that part of me truly evil? I’ll tell you what is evil: Breaking a child. Making a child believe they are evil, loathsome, rotten to the core. What is evil is breaking a child into a million pieces so you can control their every function and make them do this, do that. Think this, think that. Like an army of puppets or robots or slaves (or zombies, says someone inside). The real evil is sadists with psychological sophistication in manipulating children to perpetuate their evil agenda.
Creating an army of children. THAT is the evil. Perpetrating this harm on children. Taking away their innocence, their self-hood, their sovereignty.
Continuums: Self-Generated versus Abuser-Induced Identities
For so long, I have thought that these “others” inside, that I feared so intensely, were all-bad, and totally evil. And, while I believe some of them finally came to embrace evil—because they were pushed so far, broken so many times, that they could not tolerate the torture or experience of being a victim of terror and complete helplessness any longer—I am finding that even these “others,” who live in darkness inside, actually exist on a continuum of good and evil. While some finally embraced evil, others remained terrorized and were “just doing their jobs” out of fear of further torture. Some do not like their jobs. And, many, who once thought they were purely evil, are increasingly interested in all of this healing work that has been going on and long for human connection.
Among these “others,” there are parts who hold tremendous rage, the rage that other parts of me were too terrified to feel based in realistic fear of retaliatory torture and death. For me to feel rage or any anger toward my abusers has always felt much too dangerous. Any expression approaching defiance, rage, or even hesitation to obey, was reliably followed by torture by my abusers.
My abusers also cultivated rage within parts of me to exploit this rage for their own use. They calculatingly turned this rage against other victims and other parts of me.
There are times when these rageful parts would like to kill every other part of me and completely stop all progress. They have not yet found their way to reclaim the kind of rage that I am slowly coming to understand to be (only abstractly at present) a very righteous outrage at being so terribly used and abused. I know these parts of me are there, filled with rage, and I now understand the atrocities they were forced to commit that inculcated such rage. At this point in my healing, I am curious about what might it may mean to overcome the fear of feeling righteous rage on my own behalf. I suspect that doing so will be a powerful turning point.
As I develop a deeper understanding of the sadistic methods my abusers implemented to coerce parts of me to harm other victims, more and more parts of me are realizing how they were manipulated and enslaved. More and more parts of me are no longer willing to submit to the perpetrators’ agenda. More and more parts of me are questioning and defying everything they were taught. More and more parts of me are breaking all their rules. Breaking silence, breaking amnesiac barriers.
During this healing work, I happened upon an article by psychologist Ellen Lacter, “Work with ‘Abuser Personalities.’” You can find it here: Work with “Abuser Personalities” — End Ritual Abuse . In this article, I found a lot of clarification about my experiences. I was stuck in the wondering about these “internalized perpetration parts,” wondering if this or that part is “me” or something “they” created? Is this part an “organic” creation of my own mind/system, or something the perpetrators induced or implanted? What the hell is an implant? Why does it seem like there is everything within – from pure evil, to parts doing “jobs,” to parts who are just traumatized children holding implanted beliefs, such as being dead and/or living in actual hell?
I am learning that there is a continuum of organically-generated parts at one end to perpetrator-engineered parts at the other end. It is not black and white. There are parts my mind created to survive. There are parts the perpetrators induced and engineered for their own uses. There are parts I manifested organically that the perpetrators then capitalized on. There are parts the abusers induced to form that didn’t work so well for them, and, parts they induced to form that I am now healing.
Accepting That These are All Parts of Me: Grief and Heartbreak
I am beginning to accept that the “others” inside are actually parts of me. I am starting to comprehend that my perpetrators induced and programmed parts of me to form to do evil, to do harm. The perpetrators did this to try to make me like them, to satisfy their sadistic desires and cravings for power, “in the name of science,” or to force me to perform “jobs” for their criminal networks.
There is a particular heartbreak and shame that comes with not being able to hold on to your own mind and self, to be forced to “break” and to form a new self-state. The abuse created a terrible paradox for many parts wherein they wanted to disobey but also felt a need to comply. Compliance was driven by so many needs: attachment, appeasement, to stop torture, and so on. But when the task became too evil or the torture became too unbearable, another part formed in response who could do the task as ordered or who could endure the torture.
To know that so many parts of me tried not to be broken in order to protect others – both inside parts and outside victims – and to have been forced to break anyway feels like failure. The experience of breaking, the moment when it happens…. There are no words that do justice to express the anguish of this.
The experience of “breaking” is one of utter hopelessness and despair. The utter loss of self. The complete and total loss of control. When a victim is forced to harm another, all sense of goodness within self and other is annihilated. It is a profound cruelty, calculated to destroy all sense of innocence, the child’s right to a sense of peace and safety within and to trust that adults will be kind and care for them.
The utter heartbreak of this feels intolerable because, deep within, so many parts of me have only ever wanted: to be good, to do good, to protect other children, to protect others within, to protect animals, to help others heal, and to make the world a better place.
A Letter of Understanding
A wise part of me—possibly a spirit guide—expressed the following message to my system and to the “dark others.” This message has been very helpful for many parts of me:
“What comes next is not you. Is not who you are.
What they made from you is not who you wished to be or become. These parts of you did not have a choice. You did not have a choice.”
This essay is, in a strange way, like a love letter, a letter of understanding, to all the parts of me who were broken and forced to act in ways opposite to our true nature. This letter is for many parts within and especially for the part of me who is grieving and struggling right now, who tried to hold out for so long against the torture, who tried to retain some tiny piece of her goodness, who was willing to die to make things stop… but couldn’t.
Dear one, you couldn’t die because they wouldn’t let you. You didn’t die because your human brain
is built to survive at all costs. You couldn’t protect other children or prevent other parts from being split off from you—because you were just a child. You were only 8 years old.
I am feeling how hard you tried, and how huge the sadness is, this tidal wave of grief. It is too big and I and other parts of me will share this burden with you so that you do not have to feel the full weight of this unbearable grief all alone.
And, no matter what horrible abuse comes next in our knowing, no matter who did what and who got hurt, I know you did not want to be or become that. I know: It is not who you are. Being a perpetrator of harm is not your – and is not my – true nature. It is not something we carried into adulthood or passed on to future generations. It is something the perpetrators forced upon us, and formed carefully, sadistically, and intentionally through torture, terrorization, manipulation, deception, and overwhelm.
Dear one, you – and all of us, even the “others” within who I could not bear to know for so long – have a spark of creation energy, of cosmic light, and together we will find our way to connection and healing. We will find our way to releasing pure evil. We will find our way to transforming that which is not true self or spirit in the service of healing the many abandoned parts of us who were forced to harm others.
We are growing beautiful together as we find healing for even those parts of us who believe they are beyond all hope of redemption or humanity.
Together, we will find our way to understanding and compassion and connection – with nature, with ourselves, with the goodness in the world.
And, dear little one, I see your goodness. It shines through all that they made you do.
In reflecting on this essay and letter of understanding, it feels important to acknowledge that my healing work is deeply embedded in a relational context. I would not be able to understand, find compassion for myself and the many parts of me, and take steps on this healing path were it not for the care and support of those who have been supporting me on this part of my journey. There are not many whom I have let in– when you grow up as I did, it is hard to trust, and connection with humanity feels impossible. But sometimes, when one is met consistently and for me—surprisingly—with kindness, warmth, and compassion, more healing happens and is made possible with each shared step.
I am so deeply grateful for my therapist who sees the good and the evil of my experience, and who holds hope and such a strong and tenacious faith in my goodness and capacity to heal, even when I cannot. Your fearlessness in the face of the depth of my destruction and with the complexity of my attachment needs is an ongoing gift. Your attuned presence and bearing witness are healing in and of themselves. I know your love, that feels like Light, is helping me to find my own.
I am so grateful to my therapy consultant, for your generosity of spirit and compassion, and your wise guidance borne of your own wise spirit as well as years of supporting survivors like myself. You hold such deep appreciation for what it means to be a true ally for healing and also understand the value of the transpersonal and spiritual, which are so critical on this path. Your capacity to truly understand the extent of this evil and hold alongside this, the possibility of my healing, goodness, and redemption, feels miraculous.
Thank you to Thich Nhat Hanh, for the gift of your being. Thank you for your life-saving teachings on suffering and, most of all, for dedicating your whole life to growing peace and compassion. Your wise and beautiful voice is helping me find compassion and my true nature.
Thank you to Michael Salter, for your incredible capacity to see the evil that operates in this world, your absolute determination to make a difference, and for listening with compassion to survivor voices. Thank you for writing about organized abuse, for educating, training, and for being a safe and inspiring voice striving to wake up the world to the harsh realities of organized and extreme abuse.
Thank you to Ellen Lacter, for your steadfast support and advocacy for survivors and for bringing light to the issue of coerced perpetration trauma in ritual abuse, in the production of child sexual abuse materials, and in other extreme and torture-level abuse. Thank you for bearing witness to the devastating psychological, moral, and spiritual trauma that victims of coerced harm endure. Thank you also for your work to educate therapists working with survivors of extreme, sadistic abuse.
Beah, I. (2007). A long way gone: Memoirs of a boy soldier. Sarah Crichton Books.
Lacter, E. (2021, May 2). Work with “Abuser Personalities.” End Ritual Abuse. https://endritualabuse.org/work-with-abuser-personalities/
Loewenstein, R.J. (2020). A Demystified, Pragmatic Approach to the Treatment of Patients with a History of Organized Sadistic Abuse. [PowerPoint slides]. https://www.isst-d.org/training-and-conferences/webinar-library/
Schwartz, H. L. (2013). The alchemy of wolves and sheep: A relational approach to internalized perpetration in complex trauma survivors. Routledge.
Project Stargate was a remote viewing project sponsored by the USA Central Intelligence Agency.
Here are three documents from the CIA website that discuss the project (there are many more):
https://www.cia.gov/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP96-00791R000200190028-7.pdf https://www.cia.gov/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP96-00789R002600150005-3.pdf https://www.cia.gov/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP96-00789R002500240008-1.pdf
Analysis and assessment of Gateway Process:
An earlier version of this essay appeared on Jean Riseman’s Blog: RitualAbuse.Wordpress.com: