People generally use the word ‘ritual’ quite liberally when talking about ritual abuse but as survivors are usually reluctant to go into any specific detail about what this actually means, many people are left with a very vague sense of what occurs. To begin to try and understand some of the things that go on during rituals, it is easiest to begin by thinking of an established and acceptable religion.

Many different religions of the world have their own particular trappings, symbols, language and set routines or rituals that they carry out at regular prescribed times, places and in a particularly revered manner. They have their hierarchy, ordained ministers of the faith and followers or worshippers. They employ methods of teaching the faith to the children from a relatively young age and often have particular levels of attainment, initiation and acceptance into the faith. These things are part of the worship and reverence of the people involved in the faith and as such are extremely important and powerful to them. These religions are mostly harmless to people and for many help them live a fulfilled and meaningful life.

Secret religions and groups that survivors talk about, often behave in exactly the same manner as legitimate churches, to a point. Many things described in catholic worship and other religions are done to some degree in cults and satanic worship. The big difference is that some of the secret religions are extremely abusive of some people during the worship, are praying to a different god and the rituals are designed to control and terrify victims. Many of the abusers claim to be believers in their faith and intent on worshipping their own deity in their own way, but groups which incorporate abuse as part of their worship will not do so openly as to do so, would, quite rightly, lead to prosecution in this and most other countries of the world.

Because the activities carried out during abusive satanic rituals are illegal, the places used are varied. The groups very carefully choose the places they meet in and then prepare the place for the rituals. Often the floor area to be used is covered with a large sheet of tarpaulin. The tarpaulin usually has the symbols used by the group painted or printed on it, and its main purpose is to prevent any evidence of the abuse from being left behind. Most groups have a tarpaulin, which is kept specifically for this purpose and it is often stored in places such as farm buildings or warehouses where it would not be seen to be out of place.

Before and more frequently during the rituals, symbols may be drawn in blood or other body fluids on the tarpaulin, on the walls or onto some individuals.

In addition, associated group symbols are drawn or hung on the walls, candles are set out at various points in the space being used and an altar is set up. The altar is frequently person sized and sometimes initially covered by an ornate altar cloth. Sometimes the various items to be used during the ceremony (knife, dagger, chalice, bowls, etc) are placed carefully on this altar. Often they are covered or wrapped in cloth or skin until the rituals begin.

From the perspective of most survivors, they are not usually involved in these particular preparations, unless they are being trained to perform rituals. Instead, for weeks before the ceremony, any survivors who have to take part are being prepared for what is to happen during the ritual. This, in reality, means that the abusers often take the survivor through their part in the proceedings to come over and over again until they are certain that the survivor will perform their part properly. This usually involves taking part in forced sexual activity of some kind, responding to the abusers demands in a multitude of different ways, both physical and sexual violence, and behaving exactly in the way that the abusers have decreed they must.

Often, the events organised by groups last for several days and on some occasions for weeks.

All survivors report that they are thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed before entering the proceedings and the cleansing is very abusive and intrusive. Often the cleaning includes inner cleansing such as making sure that the stomach and bowels are empty. The survivor may be told that this cleansing is essential so that their impurities do not tarnish the ritual, but it is probably more to do with making sure that survivors are not able to vomit etc, during the ritual.

Sometimes, at the beginning of the event, the survivor is dressed in a robe. Nothing is worn underneath. Survivors report the abusers’ reading from the group ‘Bible’, chanting, swaying and dancing themselves into frenzy. Often, the participants of the event, i.e. the abusers, stand in a close semi-circle round the altar and often survivors talk about being placed on the altar where they are then abused, firstly by those people who are officiating, and then by all group members.

Survivors talk about the different colours worn by abusers and survivors to indicate their status. Through the colours worn, everyone knows at a glance which position is held and where everyone is in the pecking order.

There is a large difference apparent in any group ritual between those with the power, who are there to enjoy themselves in their so-called worship, and those other people without any power who become the objects to be used and abused by the group. Though all may belong to the same group, equality simply does not exist in this kind of setting. Some people are members because they have chosen to be, other people belong because the group has chosen it to be that way for them and they have no choice in this.

During rituals, some groups, in addition to worshiping their particular god, carry out rituals designed to curse others or raise demons or even the devil himself. These rituals can be very frightening. There are often many minor and major demons that these people, or at least the ones who practise the magic amongst them, believe in and believe they can raise and control.

Though many survivors claim to have witnessed these ‘other world’ creatures appearing out of Hell on the command of some group members, extremes of fear and pain, dissociation and mind-altering drugs probably help them to appear to the survivor. Groups also ‘persuade’ some people that they have been possessed or are in fact representatives of these and other demons. The group, to assist the belief in these creatures, will give some survivors the names of the demons.