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Ritual Abuse-Torture Within Families/Groups

NCJ Number
Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma Volume: 16 Issue: 4 Dated: 2008 Pages: 419-438
Jeanne Sarson; Linda MacDonald
Date Published
20 pages
Case studies are used in order to identify common themes in family/group ritual abuse-torture (RAT) victimization, which involves pedophilic parents and transgenerational family members, guardians, and like-minded adults who abuse, torture, and traffic their own children and other children.
RAT also organizes violent group gatherings that use “rituals and ceremonies.” RAT families/groups manipulate rituals for a complex array of purposes. As mothers, fathers, and kin, they present a front to the community as a normative family. They serve as volunteers, members of civic groups, and participants in mainstream church-going. Behind this normalized front, however, they perpetrate socialized sexual victimization and aggression under the strict enforcement of gender-based roles. The most powerful environment, method of indoctrination, and training in the hidden family culture is the use of group rituals. Socializing girls into the role of perfect victim, perpetrators associate being a woman with submitting to rape. A boy child is socialized to be an aggressor, as he is forced into sexual acts with other children as part of the ritual of “how to be a man.” These group rituals are ordeals that destroy the child’s connectedness to an identity beyond what is imposed by the dominant patriarch. The ritualistic gatherings reinforce gender-based identities. Pedophilic perpetrators assert their adult positions of power and domination over child victims, shaping the adult-perpetrator/child-victim relationship. Bestiality is also included in the rituals, as are pornographic photographs. This article advocates recognizing RAT as an emerging form of nonstate actor torture, stopping the use of language that sexualizes adult-child relationships, and promoting human rights education. The latter should include the exposure of all forms of violence, gender inequality, and sexual exploitation while promoting empathic, responsive, and humane interactions between adults and children and males and females. 4 figures and 22 references


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