Well that’s a question and a half (received this morning via email). I’ve taken all day to think it through, properly. Do I hate my abusers? Do I hate the people who felt it okay to torture me, and other children? Who took my babies from me, one by one, with no apparent regard for my feelings? Do I hate the people who threatened me, manipulated me, took me to the brink of death on more than one occasion, destroyed my sense of self and worth, pushed me until I screamed, and then pushed more until my screams were desperate? Do I hate the people who have robbed my entire life?
I suppose you’d all expect me to say yes. And at times I have said as much; I wake from a flashback, or am otherwise in a emotional state, or just remembered something horrific, or noticed yet another area of my life which I freeze up in…and I will say “I hate them.” But this is just the emotion. This is me looking for someone to blame for my emotions, some way of passing it on so that I don’t have to deal with the emotions.
Because, in truth, I don’t hate them. Well, certainly not all of them. There are four main characters who led the show who never once showed feelings of remorse, care, or indeed any kind of emotion. It seemed impossible for them to empathise. People were cattle, and if any got in the way, they were killed or paid to keep silent. These four strike me as psychopaths, or at least so lost in their ways that their ability to feel and empathise has shut down. These four ordered the most horrific things, and indeed executed some of these ordered events themselves. One of these four took great pleasure in staring into his victim’s eyes as he hurt them. Another would stare coldly at children howling with pain and despair. Maybe they were ill, these four people. Maybe they were mentally very ill. But I don’t care. These four were the reason so many suffered, for so long, and these four I do hate.
But the rest? I’m not so sure…
There were many grown people involved with the ritual abuse, either inflicting the abuse themselves or allowing it to happen. I think about the men’s wives, who knew about the abuse, and had children of their own who had good lives…and sometimes I think – how? How could you let your husband get away with that? But then I guess they only saw the side to their husband who loved their children, and fell in love with that man before knowing his terrible secret. I wonder if to oppose him would mean they would feel ashamed somehow; they had fallen in love with him, how could they not have known? To fight against him means to admit they’d not known. Perhaps it’s easier for their self-worth, in some weird way, to put on a mask and play happy families.
I do know many men were threatened and felt forced into doing the abuse; in some ways they were as trapped as I was. Now, I wonder why they didn’t call the police. But then I don’t know the threats they were faced with, and know how terribly frightening and oppressive the threats can be – having been threatened myself. And some of the ring members were in the police force, so where does that leave any of us? Trapped. Very trapped.
I knew some of the abusers had terrible childhoods themselves, and had grown to trust the top three people, and were manipulated into believing that becoming an abuser is the only way for them to regain the power stolen from them as a child. I could follow the logic, though don’t find it an excuse and don’t at all believe what they did was acceptable. I have had a terrible childhood too and simply could never harm a child; it doesn’t empower me as it did them. The thought frankly makes me sick. What empowers me is speaking out, and fighting for a life I should never have had, and helping others to see it’s okay to talk. What empowers me is helping others empower themselves, and kicking the abusers in the teeth every time I wake up and live another day, with a smile on my face. What empowers me is watching children thrive and grow, and laugh…because then I have more faith in humanity.
I fell in love with one of the men in the ring. This throws me now, not least because I’m actually gay, but also because he did some bitterly terrible things. But he was young – 16 when we fell in love. In some ways he was as much a victim as I was, but he was abused by being forced to hurt other children. Eventually he found the pressure too great, and stopped fighting to remain compassionate, and lost his ability to sympathise. He was scared, I imagine…but the fear turned him, sadly, into a monster. But before that, our secret love affair had been beautiful yet terrifying. At night we’d sneak into the attic, and despite us both being so young (me 11 at this point) we didn’t feel like children. Fear, hormones, and the need for human attention led us to very quickly and wildly fall in love. During the day he’d be forced to hurt me and the others, and at night he’d love me. It was a very bizarre and mind-mushing scenario. I don’t hate him for how he turned out, I miss the young man I saw in his heart. I hate the people who frightened him so much that the kind man inside him was crushed. I hate the people who turned him into a monster.
Fear was our worst enemy, and some of us were fortunate enough to learn this at an early age and would desperately try and educate the others. The abusers knew if we were terrified beyond measure, we would pretty much give in to or agree to anything. There are a few events in my life where I did things I hate myself for, and cannot or will not try and find an excuse for what I did. I had let myself get too scared, let myself believe their threats, and allowed myself to become trapped. However, for the most part, I didn’t let fear overwhelm me. I adopted a mentality – I might die here. There’s no point spending the precious time I have just feeling scared. I will fight for as long as I can. And I have tried to keep this mentality. Nobody knows how long we have left, and for me to huddle in a corner shaking with fear and unable to respond or even think straight is not going to help. I can afford this a bit more now, allow myself to feel scared of what happened, but at the time… I just kept fighting. Even now, I can somehow cope with a severe level of pain in the face of threats or interrogation, particularly if me giving in would result in someone else getting hurt. I scream and physically I’m in an extreme amount of pain, but I will not let myself become terrified. I will not let myself become blinded with fear. I’d rather die tied to that bed and bleeding, and them not have the information…than live but watch someone else get hurt. Later, when I’m safe, the fear and emotions will hit me (probably post-flashback). But at the time, I can’t afford to feel.
But some of the abusers were never told this, or shown how to shut off the fear. The children learnt rapidly, but the young abusers were as trapped as we were, and with nobody except more powerful and frightening abusers to guide (instruct) them. It was utterly heart-breaking to watch, and I often wonder about them now that they’re out of the mess. I wonder if they ever found support for what they had to do, or if they live in a prison of shame and self-hatred. If they’re reading this, I hope they can see I don’t hate them. I don’t at all condone what they did, and will not offer friendship or forgiveness. But I don’t hate them. I understand the threats they were faced with and the fact nobody was there to offer a more compassionate hand.
The abuse robbed me of my sense of self – different scenarios required a different “me.” Some required a fighting me, others a compliant me, etc etc. I have entered this world and have little concept of my identity. I struggle to explain “who I am.” The abuse robbed me of my childhood, my teenage years, and my ability to understand relationships. The abuse robbed me of my babies, and subjected me to torture of such an extreme level that I still have blanks, and initially had to “wipe” out my entire childhood in order to cope. The abuse has left me riddled with mental health issues, and plagued by flashbacks and nightmares, and random nervous tics. The abuse took me to all four corners of hell, several times. There were frequent occasions where I looked death in the eye and thought how the hell do I escape this? And yet I did. Somehow, I got out of the situation…either by talking the person down (if I recognised it was a person under threat) or by playing mind-games with the abuser, or simply fighting back. Somehow, I’m still alive.
I have spent today thinking about what the abuse took from me, and of how it will affect every aspect of my future life. I look at my flat stomach which has carried my babies, and the scars across my skin. I have thought back to the extreme pain, and of how I had to fight with fear, despite having a right to being afraid. The screams from the children haunt me, endlessly, and the grief chokes me. But I don’t hate the abusers.
There was a hierarchy. The four top ones I despise. The ones on the level below them were inexcusable, but could and did at times show remorse and drew a line when enough was enough. The level below them left the ring when it got too extreme. The level below them were young and alone, and under threats or being paid large sums of money. They were vulnerable and being taken advantage of, and for these especially I hope the right support has been found.
I don’t forgive ANY of the abusers. One once gave me his life story, explaining why he was doing what he did. Yes he’d been through hideous stuff, but hadn’t we all? I listened, I comforted him for what had happened (no child deserves to be abused, irrespective of how they later turn out. I was comforting their inner child and past adult, not their present self). I offered advice, and I let him cry. Afterwards he looked at me and said “friends?” I stared at him, and said “never.” I understood his reasons but did not at all see it as an excuse to torture children.
I will never see the abusers in the street and exchange a friendly smile. I have seen a couple, from time to time, and we just make eye contact. No feelings of friendliness or forgiveness, but the definite air of not invading each other’s space. We acknowledge each other and validate the emotions in our eyes, briefly step back in time as our worlds collide, and then we walk away…to our own private lives.
Everyone is a person, and everyone has their story. It does not escape me that for at least half of those who hurt me were in desperate need of help due to past stuff. They had not received that help. Often I wonder whether if they’d received help for their past, would they have turned out differently? I don’t doubt it. Deep, deep down I saw some very lost, lonely, frightened but ultimately kind people. Perhaps this stuns some of you, or you think I’m too soft. But you didn’t meet them. You didn’t grow to know them over the space of years. Their front was vile and cocky, angry and relentless. But their eyes told me differently. They couldn’t look me in the eye when they hurt me, and some asked me not to scream. Deep down, their inner child was sobbing uncontrollably at the injustice for their own pain, and had no idea how to be soothed. And just like children in the playground before they learn the rules, they had adopted the “eye for an eye” motive. It’s not an excuse, and does not mean I accept what they did. They were vicious and dangerous, and caused a lot of pain. But I just wish they’d received the right help, before they were dragged back into the wrong world and turned into monsters.
I hate only those who turned damaged people into monsters, either by attacking and manipulating their vulnerability, threatening them, or paying them large sums of money. It is only these people I hate, because their motives are far less excusable. They were in it simply for power, and because of the kick gained by hearing screams and causing pain. These abusers are the ones I hate.
But I will not spend the rest of my life thinking about the injustice, and letting the hate eat me. I have seen for myself what this can do to people. To hate someone means I must have the capacity to love. So I will choose to love. I will choose to love those who have supported me, and choose to remember the moments of laughter and love even in that hell, and choose to allow my experiences to turn me into a loving, compassionate person who can rescue others, rather than destroy people in order to cope with my hatred for monsters.
They have already stolen so much from me. I will not let them steal anymore. To live a life of hate is to live a life of misery, and so the monsters will still have me. To live a life of love, despite what has happened, is to live a happy life with hope. It will show others that their pain can be healed, and they don’t need to hurt others in order to feel empowered. It will show others that even the most terrible background does not mean you have to be miserable forever. You can recover. You can love. You can be loved. You can smile.
If I allow what has happened to me to define me, and for me to hold onto the bitterness of it, then in some respects my soul is being kidnapped again. I will just not allow it.
I don’t forgive what they did. But people are people, and to judge them entirely before knowing their story makes me as bad as them. I hate those who turn those who need help into monsters. I hate those who see vulnerability as a tool to their own self-worth. I do not hate the majority of those who hurt me, rather I pity the fact that maybe they’ll never know love…and it saddens me that maybe they will never recover from their own pasts, or get the help they deserved, because the monster they were turned into has crushed the person within. This does sadden me quite incredibly.
I have looked the four top abusers in the eye. The ones who took so many souls, either to abuse or to manipulate and turn into monsters. I have looked them in the eye and seen no emotion. We have had stand-offs and I am still alive. They did not win. I will not let them win by being consumed with hate for them. I feel honoured that I could look them in the eye, and tell them what I thought of them, and be able to walk away and start my life. That, to me, is the greatest sense of justice. They simply never won, and absolutely can’t win for as long as I keep fighting. Every single person they hurt, victim or abuser, I will keep living for and keep loving for, because that is the most powerful way of oppressing those four sick creatures who pretend to be humans.