First Person Plural
Dissociative identity disorders association

Definition of Ritual Abuse

It is not possible to define Organised Ritual Abuse in the brief, succinct way of the dictionary. To find roots for a definition we begin with the phrase’s component words. Thus…..

  1. ORGANISED – involves a number of people doing something together in a pre-planned and/or structured way, rather than acting alone
  2. RITUAL – rite, ceremony or (pseudo-] religious service which involves a series of actions performed in a fixed order and/or at certain times; something that is done in the same way whenever a particular situation occurs
  3. ABUSE – cruel and violent treatment of a person or animal; use of rude, insulting or denigrating words and actions; use of something (e.g. object, animal, power, ritual, capacity to dissociate) in a deliberately harmful or terrorising way; for the purpose of gaining and maintaining control over the victim for the perpetrators’ gratification or protection.

With reference to these roots, researching the literature (including others’ definitions), and most importantly from what survivors and their supporters have told us First Person Plural derives our descriptive definition of organised ritual abuse thus:-

A complex mix of sexual, physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual abuse of infants, children, adolescents or vulnerable adults which often begins in infancy or early childhood. The abuse is premediated, systematic and sustained over a long period of time. It almost always involves multiple perpetrators and one or more abused individuals in group settings and further abuse outside of group setting by one or more perpetrators at the direction of the group or a dominant perpetrator, e.g. continuing abuse of the victim within the family / home / institutional setting by someone related to or closely associated with the victim. The abuse experienced by survivors of organised ritual abuse is extreme, aberrant and physically painful in nature. High levels of sadistic cruelty, sophisticated trickery, horrific practices and terrorisation gratify the perpetrators and further serve a protective function for them by minimising the risk that the abuse will be disclosed and, increasing the chances of any disclosure being erroneously dismissed as unbelievable by those to whom a survivor is brave enough to disclose.

All the abuse is justified by the perpetrators with reference to a faith or belief system and, in the group setting is performed as an integral part of that belief system’s rituals. The faith or belief system used to justify the abuse may be genuinely held by the perpetrators; or pseudo- in nature, i.e. adopted by the perpetrators solely as an excuse to indulge in extreme levels of abuse within a group without having any true personal commitment to a justifying faith or belief-system. Any one organised ritual abuse group may contain a mix of both types of perpetrator; or consist only of ‘true’ or only ‘pseudo’ believers. Organised ritual abuse based in a ‘true’ or ‘pseudo’ satanic faith/belief system dominates the literature and survivors’ disclosures but this is not the only faith/belief system used by perpetrators to justify organised ritual abuse.