Ritual Abuse

Ritual Abuse

(2024 webpage update TBC)

What is Ritual Abuse?


The term ‘ritual abuse’ was first used in the early 1980’s, to describe a particular form of abuse, (predominantly of children), involving organised ritual as a central feature. The term first appeared in North American literature and was used in Australia from 1984 onwards (Scott, 2001). Since this time, the term ritual abuse has been defined in various ways, by various people, including survivors, academics and workers from professional fields that come into contact with survivors and perpetrators e.g. police, social workers, psychologists etc.


Ritual abuse has existed for longer than the last twenty years. Survivors talk of their childhood experiences of ritual abuse, occurring in the 1950’s and 60’s. Ritually abusive practices within families are often trans-generational, meaning they are practised by various generations of family members over many years. Evidence, derived from court cases and personal accounts, indicate ritual abuse existed as far back as the 16th century.


The extent to which it is practised in Australia is hard to determine due to a number of factors, including the highly secretive nature of ritual abuse practices and a culture of disbelief which further hides it and, which influences and impedes political and social institutions’ responses toward it.


The 1989 Report by the Ritual Abuse Task Force of Los Angeles County Commission for Women, defined ritual abuse in the following way:


Ritual abuse usually involves repeated abuse over an extended period of time. The physical abuse is severe, sometimes including torture and killing. The sexual abuse is usually painful, sadistic and humiliating, intended as a means of gaining dominance over the victim. The psychological abuse is devastating and involves the use of ritual indoctrination. It includes mind control techniques which convey to the victim a profound terror of the cult members and of evil spirits they believe cult members can command. Both during and after the abuse most victims are in a state of terror mind control and dissociation. (ASCA, 2002).


Survivors of ritual abuse may give varying descriptions of their experiences. However, a number of factors generally feature across accounts including:

  • The abuse includes physical, sexual and psychological abuse
  • The abuse constitutes a range of criminal acts
  • It is systematic, can be ceremonial and often occurs within a group setting (usually more than one perpetrator at a time, but not always)
  • Like all abuse, ritual abuse is about power and control, but is designed to more expressly meet the needs of a group, with the specific purpose of indoctrination into that group’s belief system or ideology
  • Mind control techniques or programming plays a significant part in keeping group members faithful to the group and its needs. Much of this programming is about engendering a sense of terror within group members, so that they will not leave the group or expose the group’s criminal practices to outsiders.


Survivors’ accounts of their experiences of ritual abuse also include attempts to clearly distinguish this kind of abuse from other kinds of abuse they may have experienced. For example, in Sara Scott’s book, The politics and experience of ritual abuse: beyond disbelief (2001, p.62-80), women survivors of childhood abuse, including ritual abuse, clearly distinguished between their experiences of more “regular” forms of familial abuse, and their experiences of abusive cult ritual, prostitution and child pornography. However, all of these women’s accounts illustrated that the different kinds of abuse and exploitation they survived were interconnected within a culture where the abuse of women and children is normalised – a daily reality.


Survivors have also questioned the fact that the term ritual abuse has become too broadly applied. For many survivors ritual abuse, where a belief system or ideology plays a key role in abusive ritual, must not be confused with “ritualistic abuse” –abuse which is perpetrated in a habitualised manner, such as the sexual abuse of a child perpetrated on a daily basis.


The term and practice of ritual abuse has also been closely linked with other categories and practises of abuse, including: –

a) “organised abuse”, which refers to the abuse and exploitation of children through organised crime (prostitution and pornography) and paedophile rings;

b) institutional abuse, which refers to the abuse of persons within political and social institutions, such as within schools, orphanages and mental health facilities etc;

c) “organised, sadistic abuse” which is often used as an umbrella term across these kinds of abuse, wherein ritual abuse features as a more extreme example.


Who Perpetrates Ritual Abuse?


Initial discussion of ritual abuse in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s predominantly implicated satanic cults in the perpetration of ritual abuse against children. However, not every group or cult dedicated to satanic worship practices ritual abuse.


Moreover, ritual abuse is not exclusively practised within such groups. Groups or cults organised around other religious or quasi-religious belief systems, including Christian cults, have been associated with the use of abusive ritual to maintain control over members. Ritual abuse which occurs within religious groups is often called “cult-based ritual abuse” (Kelley, 1988, p.229).


Religion is not always a defining factor of groups who practice ritual abuse. White supremacy groups such as Nazi cults and the Klu Klux Klan have been associated with such practices. Groups involved in organised crime and paedophilia have also been identified as sites of ritual abuse. Ritual abuse which is not part of a developed belief system, but which is primarily about the sexual exploitation of children has been called “pseudo-ritual abuse” (Kelley, 1988, p.229).


Groups who practice ritual abuse are always hierarchical – the abuse is used to maintain this hierarchy and to benefit those at its higher levels. Benefits may include power and prestige, sexual gratification and financial wealth.


Ritual abuse may be practised within family groups across generations, or it may be associated with groups or institutions external to survivors’ families. For example, some reports concern the recruiting of children from orphanages and day-care centres, for abuse within paedophile rings. Ritual abuse may be perpetrated through connections between families and external groups.


Impact on Survivors 


Impacts of ritual abuse on survivors ritual abuse has profound effects upon the lives of child and adult survivors. The range of psychological symptoms and emotional effects survivors may experience include:

  • Trauma related symptoms such as flashbacks, dissociation, amnesia and triggered flight or fight reactions to circumstances which in some way remind the survivor of abusive experiences
  • Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) or Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD)
  • Self-harm and eating issues
  • Suicidal thoughts and attempts
  • Confusing concepts of good and evil
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Memories of ritualistic practices such as Black Masses and sacrifices to Satan and those which involves gang rape, murder, the abuse of animals and being buried alive
  • Memories of symbols and ceremonial objects used in rituals such as inverted crosses, swastikas and chalices
  • Memories of perpetrators dressed in ceremonial and bizarre costumes
  • Memories of being tortured and/or deprived of sleep, food and water
  • Memories of being drugged during rituals
  • Phobias of symbols associated with rituals, blood, certain colours, drugs, incense, candles and being confined in small spaces
  • Shame, guilt and blame
  • Addictions.


This list is not exhaustive, but simply gives us some idea of the immense impact that ritual abuse has on survivors. It also illuminates the tremendous strength of those who survive ritual abuse. Surviving in a culture of disbelief adds to the immense impact of ritual abuse on survivors, is the frustration and despair of attempting to survive within a wider culture where ritual abuse experiences are disbelieved and denied. The culture of disbelief is further compounded through the very social and political systems and institutions, which are supposed to promote the best interests of survivors, as those requiring special personal support and legal protection and justice.


Australian Governments have been unwilling to acknowledge that ritual abuse exists. It has been suggested that the association of ritual abuse practices with government institutions (for example, orphanages and mental health facilities) has rendered governments afraid of litigation, should they fully acknowledge its existence. For whatever reasons, governments have not encouraged adequate responses toward the issue from those systems which come into contact with survivors and perpetrators. This includes the criminal justice and health-care systems, which are responsible for the provision of services that promote the health and well-being of survivors of sexual violence.


Support for Ritual Abuse Survivors


Blueknot Foundation
Support Line: 1300 657 380
Telephone: (02) 8920 3611
Website: www.blueknot.org.au
Email: [email protected]


Qld Association for Mental Health
Street Address: Fleming House, Orford Drive Wacol
Postal Address: PO Box 475 Sumner Park BC 4074
Phone: (07) 3271 5544
Email: [email protected]


Trauma and Dissociation Unit
Street/Postal Address: Belmont Private Hospital , 1220 Creek Road Carina 4152

Phone: (07) 3398 0280

Comments: Inpatient and day patient programmes. Admission based on referral by psychiatrist.


Lotus Place (for survivors of institutional abuse)
Street Address: 46 Cleveland Street, Stones Corner, 4120
Postal Address: PO Box 3449, South Brisbane, 4101
Phone:  (07) 3347 8500
Website: https://www.lotusplace.org.au/

Comments: Supports people who have been abused institutionally – state and church (foster, detention centres etc.). Outreach, advocacy and support, historical abuse network, National Redress Scheme support.

Comments: A program which provides a support service for persons who have experienced physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse whilst in an institution, orphanage, detention centre or foster care in Queensland .



  • ASCA 2002. Healing from Ritual Abuse: Also known as Organised Sadistic Abuse. Information Package.
  • Kelley, S J. “Ritualistic Abuse of Children: Dynamics and Impact” Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 5, No.2, 1988.
  • Ritual Abuse Survivors and Supporters, Australia at http://www.heart7.net/ritual-abuse-ss.html
  • Scott, Sara. 2001. The politics and experience of ritual abuse: beyond disbelief.
DisconjugatedBy Emma Le Strange(2022) 1920 x 1080p 60fps, digital mixed media.

Truth... lies... they are not joined or are they? Here lies the disconjugation of public comment. Do you believe her or do you distrust her?
Will I be believed or will I be condemned to the level of lies?

Emma is a multidisciplinary artist who draws on life expirience to guide out strong emotions held within the viewers of her art.
Her art practices include drawing, illustration, etching, costumery, singer songwriting, writing, poetry, digital media and animation.

Artwork DescriptionAbout the artistNot for sale.
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and 45.5 x 92cm, mixed media on canvas.

The beginning (home). The tree - from a repressed memory, a letter to my cousin. Addiction - The illusion of control. Bloom - I have always been her, but now I bloom.

Artwork DescriptionFor sale. $30 each.
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I have always been creative and drawn or painted all my life. I believe and feel that to create art is magicaland I hope each of my pieces people are able to feel that magic by stepping into another world through that piece. Which is why I sign all my pieces with a dragonfly so everyone can have a little piece of magic. After surviving a crime early in life I focused on work, usually more than one job at a time. So I never had time for letting my creative side out. I realised that this was not feeding my creative side. I feel that my art is immature because of taking me a long time to get here, after working on it full time for 2 years I am excited at how far I have come and am excited to see wjere my gift will take me. Being a person who likes a bit of this and a bit of that I don't like to put my art in a box and restrict myself. I like to explore different mediums, different art, use recycled items, any subject and make what I feel. Bring to life that feeling.

About the artistNot for sale.
HURTBy Camilla Strand(2022) 59.4 x 84.1cm, acrylic and paint pens on card.

Inspired by the interaction of my body during the art process, HURT was created by using large sytreaks of black paint pen on pink card. I wanted to find a way to express my rage of the never-ending trauma of woman-hood via art. I also utilised a palette knife to scrape pink acrylic paint over the back as a nod to the violent enforcment of gendered stereotypes. I made the face messy and unclear as a way to express the feeling of disintegration that occurs to my mental health as each new trauma is piled on. Although pink is a heavily gendered colour, it also represents unconditional love, which is somthing that is foundational to all of my creative expression.

Camilla Strand is a multi disciplinary feminist artist working in the fields of art, music & writing. Informed by second wave feminism, Camilla seeks to expose the lie that is patriarchy and strengthen women & herself to believe in our power.

Artwork DescriptionAbout the artistFor sale. $270.
Flowers of HealingBy Natalie Cermak(2021) 40 x 50cm, 30 x 60cm, 50 x 40cm, acrylic on canvas.

I am more than the sum of my scars, I am so much more involved than the disfigurment you think you left me with, you tried to re-arrange my truth by silencing and shaming, even abuse. Yet here I am watching perpetrators with pin point accuracy, not pretty but en Pointe, J't'accuse! There is never a reasonable excuse to silence victims, all who did and said nothing, turned a blind eye, enabled this abhorrent practice. It's outragous and has to stop, speak your truthy and your anger, for your truth is more than a sum or your scars. It may help heal some, so be brave, be able, speak now

Told never to do art at age 12, in 20's denied entry to arts degree due to tremors and artistic unsuitability, now early 60 and enjoying art as an expression of self and finally accepted into an arts degree in University pathway, Apparently my scars, abilities, disabilities and tremors are now acceptable. And it's now my time to express myself.

Artwork DescriptionAbout the artistFor Sale. $85.
The SUM of my SCARSBy Nicholi Whyte(2022) 76.1 x 61cm, acrylic on canvas.

I am more than the sum of my scars, I am so much more involved than the disfigurment you think you left me with, you tried to re-arrange my truth by silencing and shaming, even abuse. Yet here I am watching perpetrators with pin point accuracy, not pretty but en Pointe, J't'accuse! There is never a reasonable excuse to silence victims, all who did and said nothing, turned a blind eye, enabled this abhorrent practice, It's outragous and has to stop, speak your truthy and your anger, for your truth is more than a sum or your scars. It may help heal some, so be brave, be able, speak now.

Told never to do art at age 12, in 20's denied entry to arts degree due to tremors and artistic unsuitability, now early 60 and enjoying art as an expression of self and finally accepted into an arts degree in University pathway, Apparently my scars, abilities, disabilities and tremors are now acceptable. And it's now my time to express myself.

Artwork DescriptionAbout the artistNot for sale.
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Pedophile explores the lifelong impacts of child sexual abuse. Red hand prints are representative of the physical nature of the abuse, and the mark this leaves. Coffee staining is symbolic of the lifelong stain of mental illness left by the abuse. Loudly printed words represent the internal struggle of lacking a vouce but having so much pain, while forming the fabric into the form of a dress represents finding a voice and beginning to heal. The dress deliberatly lacks shape and form to depict the artists shame and need to hide their body as it developed.

Artwork DescriptionFor Sale. Open to offers.
Not GuiltyBy Reyne Andrews(2022) 100 x 100cm, acrylic on canvas.

"Not guilty" personifie's society's proclivity to blame victims of all forms of sexual violence. News Headlines are utilised to expose misogynistic undertones that encourage socially-sanctioned victim-blaming, whereby the victim becomes the perpetrator.

Artwork DescriptionFor Sale. $50 or donation to a relevent charity.
Goddess of Yin (Bath Bitch)(2022) 60 x 46cm, oil on canvas.

I studied Fine Art at Central St Martins in London a decade ago. Since then, my art practice has evolved adapting with my invisible illness. My practice explores society's perception of the self help movment, and toxic positivity from a feminist viewpoint. I spend a lot of time researching. observing and contemplating, so I can physically make the final work without exacerbating my health issues. The quick making process gives an immediacy and ephemeralness to my work.

About the artistFor Sale. $1850.
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Falling Forbidden Fruit, of the Uprooted Family Tree,
After Millenia of Dicktatorship.
By Rhiannon Pineau(2022) 75 x 60 x 15cm, mixed media on canvas.

There is a theory that the biblical tree, forbidden to Adam and Eve, was not only that of the Tree of Knowledge, but also a representation the Family Tree. The forbidden fruit of incest and the ripe temptation that makes men sin.
For a long as the 'Civilized World' has existed the patriarchy has controlled the moral compass of the family and society. Holding the puppet strings of the family tree, tradition and law. Blood binds these. A patriarchal dicktatorship, for thousands of years, unsatisfied men have been rewriting and translating the moral code to fit their agenda.
The forbidden fruit are leaving this system, uprooting the family tree. Falling floating, they reach out to be heard. Silently screaming for change, if you listen you will learn.

Artwork DescriptionFor Sale. $3200.
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Sometimes in life we are blinded and it feels very hard to take the blind fold away. Blinded ourselves because of the society stigmas. We can be or not be aware of it and it will take time to gather strength to open our eyes to what it is. Feeling sadness, small death within until growth comes release occur.

Artwork DescriptionFor Sale. $550.
PowerBy Edie Barrett(2022) 21 x 29.7cm, ink and pastel on archival paper.

Felt memories
inside my body
released onto paper

Artwork DescriptionNot for sale.Stolen(2022) 59.4 x 84.1 cm, Indian ink, butchers paper and printed collaged card.For sale. $100 framed, $50 unframed.Reclaim(2022) 29.7 x 42.0 cm, Digital paper print (from collage and ink).For sale. $50 (print edition 1 of 50).Fire(2022) 21 x 29.7cm, ink and pastel on archival paper.Not for sale.
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I am learning to welcome and accept all the parts of me, the light and the dark of me:
the gorgeously loud, beautifully angry, boisterous, non-censoring parts of me
AND the gentle, quiet, compliant, forgiving parts.
The yin and the yang of me
Society had taught me it's only acceptable for me to be gentle and to turn a blind eye to the violations that I experience.
It’s because of the "entitled" perpetrator that I am on this journey, more determined to explore WHO I AM and pursue what I want for me.
Today, I have my eyes wide open.

Artwork DescriptionNot for sale.
WaitingBy Tasha Riley(2022) 40 x 40cm, acrylic on canvas.

“You hold her hand, under the shade of the Jacaranda tree, whose branches protect her from the afternoon sun, as you both sit waiting.
Waiting for news.
The phone rings.
Your soft sweater helps muffle her screams, yet it will not dry her tears that continue to fall.
Fall over roots.
Fall over the roots of the Jacaranda tree whose branches still protect her, strong and unwavering, attempting to compensate for a system that did not.”

Tasha Riley is Brisbane-based artist, born in London, Canada. She completed her BFA Honours at Western University where she was awarded The Governor General’s Gold Medal Award for Fine Arts, The Benjamin Noble Award for the Arts, and the Greg Curnoe Art Award. Tasha’s paintings have been featured at The McIntosh Gallery and The Palace at 4 am (London, Canada) as well as within the juried Brisbane Art Prize Exhibition at The Judith Wright Contemporary Art Centre. Her solo show, “All The Things She Didn’t Say” was recently exhibited in Galerie Aesop at Tiny Tree Cafe and featured paintings inspired by her lived experiences, expressing emotions too difficult to convey in words--enabling a reconnection to the deeper self. Her art illustrates particular moments in time each representing relatable emotional states (angst; despair; joy; resilience). Tasha has this to say about her art: “Painting allows me to express the things I want to say but I am unable to express…the pain of a loss too difficult to speak about, the feeling of rain after a long dry spell, the feeling of loving and being loved, or the secret that can never be shared.

Artwork DescriptionAbout the artistFor Sale. $350.
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Her eyes are a memory burnt into my brain forever like an iron stick.
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I think to myself ‘she looks drugged’, ‘she must be forced to do this’.
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Her eyes do not look happy.
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She sits on my father’s lap that night, and we catch each other’s gaze for a moment that stops time.
I look into her glazed, exhausted eyes and feel sorry for her, for the injustice in the world, for all the women trafficked and forced to do this job.
But she looks back at me with the same, if not more, look of pity and compassion. And it is at that moment that I realise - I am just as trapped as her.

Artwork DescriptionFor Sale. $100.
My home, my hellBy Taylah Hunn(2020) 59.4 x 84.1 cm, charcoal and ink on paper.

My first own studio apartment.
The first place I felt had independence, choice, responsibility, freedom, boundaries. A lock on my door. A proper lease, consistent bills. The freedom to decorate the space as my own, to say no and choose who comes and goes, to create a safe bubble to block out the entire world. No more being on the run, finally a place to settle.
I thought I was safe; no one could hurt me anymore. I am in control.
I didn’t realise that my own mind had become the abuser and I was locked inside with it. I couldn’t outrun my own mind. I finally had my freedom, my bubble, my space - to self-destruct.

Artwork DescriptionFor Sale. $150.
Reclamation of Desire:
Daughters of Aphrodite Hear Me Roar
By Alee Lee(2022) 102 x 102 cm, oil on canvas.For Sale. $1200.
FFSWitch smokeBy Scarly(2022) 29.7 × 42cm, lino print on paper.(2022) 29.7 × 42cm, lino print on paper.

Not another rape myth!

Artwork DescriptionNot for sale.
I Am WomanBy Marilyn Cass(2022) 50 x 65cm, charcoal on pastel paper.Sold.Artwork Description

A woman’s strength, resilience and wisdom are not always obvious, but are forged in the shadows of her suffering and hardships.

How can one be truthful to self? The bronze maskBy Aunty Dawn Daylight(2022) 30.5 x 40.5cm, mixed media on board.Sold.Artwork Description

My goal was to overcome these things; shame, abuse, a child put at risk, abused by someone you know, someone you are supposed to trust, someone who you can identify at a police station in a line up. This is at a time in a different state of mind, this takes a lot of courage. So this is my Gold! I've received this Goal- when finding it, identifying it and knowing it. It is bloody brave! to get this far in time. The path can be different and can help to get easier if you are willing and ready to make a change.

Aunty Dawn is a yuggera woman and has blood lines to the Turrbal people and was born in Ipswich, now resides in Brisbane and has worked with women at BRISSC and have done some work musically with sisters inside. She still works in community with women and sometimes children. She runs workshops with women who have eating disorders. She also worked in the education department, Murri school Acacia Ridge. She also works with indigiliz women and have supported people with mental health issues. She currently works with people in the West end area and with immunel mission working with arts and crafts groups. She also holds a BA Bachelor of arts in Aboriginal Studies through Griffith university and featured in her own film Lost Daylight.

About the artist
Healing on countryBy Kalika Link(2022) 61 x 81cm, mixed media on board.For sale. $1500.For sale. $1000.

Local indigenous artist, decendent of Kabi Kabi, Gooreng Gooreng and Wakka Wakka Nation.

About the artistStrength Amongst Sisters(2022) 50 x 61cm, acrylic on canvas.
Either Move or be MovedBy Karin Cheyne(2022) 70 x 130 x 16cm, weaving installation.Not for sale

Feminist artist.

Create a liberatory culture, wherein we can all learn to love. There can be no love where there is domination… the work of love is doing the work of ending domination - Inspired by Bell Hooks and Ezra Pound

About the artistArtwork Description
Young Warrior WomanBy Ingrid(2022) 20.5 x 20.5cm, watercolors and make up foundation on canvas.Not for sale

Reclaiming what they took from her.

Artwork Description
Sexually abUSED?!TBI, brbBy Al McGyver(2022) 39 x 50cm, analog collage.(2022) 19.5 x 24.5cm, analog collage.Not for saleFor sale. Negotiable.

Al (she/they) is a 26 year analog collagist from Meanjin, and raised in the suburbs of Wynnum. If there’s a material that can be stuck onto paper, there’s a high chance it will end up in a piece of art.

About the artist