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Aufsätze - Ritual Abuse:
An European Cross-Country Perspective
Thorsten Becker & Joan Coleman

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Ritual Abuse in Germany

Thorsten Becker

My name is Thorsten Becker. I am a socialworker from Lueneburg in Germany. I have specialised in cult-counselling -- especially on Satanism -- for about 15 years.

In 1992 I had the first two cases of alleged Ritual Abuse with detailed accounts from young children of physical and sexual abuse during satanic rituals. I was asked by the police, and nobody I know had heard about things like this before. Even despite corroborative evidence the law-enforcement failed to achieve a successful investigation, which leaves many open questions - similar to the Nottingham, Broxtowe-Case here in England. These were two of the first reports in Germany. Now -- 1999 -- I am nearly fulltime working on the problem of RA - I will come back to this issues later on.

Before I start with my presentation on Ritual Abuse in Germany I want to give you one reminder. The DSM-IV specifies a "Religious and Spiritual Problem" in the category of "other clinical relevant problems". My question is: Who -- as a therapist -- is able or educated to handle this problem properly, especially in cases which are connected to physical and sexual abuse and severe traumatic stress? And there are a lot cases in which this problem is addressed. Currently in former Yugoslavia the ongoing genocide by the Serbian army and police is the first time in the history of war where rape is used consciously as a weapon - addressed to the religious beliefs of the Muslim families. It is my professional opinion that this will create serious problems for mental health professionals throughout Europe: Working on severe trauma connected to severe problems on religious issues -- we have to keep this in mind for the following.

Ritual Abuse -- Joan Coleman gave an explanation I would like to follow with a few additions. In Germany we avoid speaking about Ritual Abuse, we try to change to the term 'Ritual Violence' for several reasons. Nevertheless:

  • Ritual Abuse is intended to traumatise the victims
  • Ritual Abuse may have an ideological background as well as being staged for the purpose of deception and threat.

I want to emphasise the last point -- usually a victim -- especially a child -- is not able to decide whether the abuse is really ideologically based or staged. The effect or impact on the victim is the same.

And once again we have the aspect of problems with basic belief-systems and purpose in life. It is my understanding that this enhances the difficulties compared to other traumatised patients and it is my professional opinion that this is a problem which should be handled with multiprofessional cooperation.