Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) is a very common and very real issue in ministry to dissociated people. It is also seen as controversial in many circles, including parts of the church. One reason for this is SRA ministry can include deception regarding what happened and what is necessary for a person to heal. For example, false memories do occur in SRA ministry. Just as our dreams feel real in our sleep, false memories can be laced into a person’s mind right beside those that are true. False but convincing personalities, which can be a very powerful deception to both the minister and the survivor, can also be interlaced alongside the true dissociated parts of the survivor.
Another difficulty with SRA comes from claims of unusual or supernatural experiences. A survivor may report witnessing supernatural events, often related to demons, that are difficult for some people to believe. Hallucinations can also be a byproduct of SRA. Given the reality of our supernatural God and his enemy, Satan, sorting out what is real from what is false can be a significant challenge, as deceptions can be well disguised. It is therefore very understandable why a caregiver or therapist, especially one who is not a Christian or familiar with SRA, would view these symptoms with skepticism, believing it is an expression of a mental illness. That skepticism can affect pastors, doctors, friends, and family members. It is important for SRA survivors to realize this and for ministers to know how to separate real from false experiences in SRA ministry.
One webpage cannot come close to addressing all of the issues related to SRA ministry. Here we will hit some high points regarding our approach to SRA and how to overcome some of the deceptions that inevitably surface in SRA ministry.
Sources of SRA
As with any religion, people involved in some form of satanism are present in all walks of life. Just like Christians, they can be relatives, caregivers, medical professionals, law enforcement professionals, government employees, or even (however rarely) a church pastor or priest. This means that under the right circumstances, SRA may have happened in places most people would not expect such as a day-care center, a hospital, a civic organization’s meeting place, a neighbor’s house, or even a church. Likewise, children of missionaries in countries where paganism or witchcraft is practiced can be put through rituals by caregivers practicing local religions while their parents are away from the home.
Many organizations have been labeled by outside groups as satanic, sometimes causing conflict between members of such groups and their accusers. Possibly the most common is the Masons. Masonic doctrine is based in carefully disguised ancient Egyptian paganism and occult philosophy (see the book Thirty-Three Degrees of Deception). Yet it must be understood that most members of these types of organizations, however deceived they may be, are not practicing satanists. Practicing satanists in these groups do not reveal their involvement in SRA to the larger group. Anyone practicing satanism to the level of SRA does not want their activities to be discovered by people outside of their practice. Their activities, be they in a masonic temple, a hospital, or a day-care center, are going to be carefully hidden, leaving no visible evidence behind. While we firmly believe that SRA is real, the good news is that SRA memories do not have to be proven or disproven to heal the survivor. The healing needs to focus Jesus’s answer to the impact of their SRA and the brokenness they carry as a result.
Symptoms of SRA
There are many lists of symptoms of SRA out there, some long and complex, some simple. Our experience is that no list of symptoms will cover all cases. For some people there was one night of abuse in the hospital, possibly as an infant, or a single incident in a neighbor’s house, etc. This can cause problems in their life, but they are not likely to express the range of symptoms common to a survivor of years of ongoing abuse. Survivors range from highly functional people who show no outward signs of SRA to those expressing explicit evidence.
Leaning toward the heavier end of the abuse scale, we have found three general categories of symptoms that are strongly correlated with moderate to severe SRA. These symptoms do not provide a conclusive diagnosis, and not every survivor has them. Our experience has been that when symptoms in all three (not just one or two) of these categories are present, there is a high probability that SRA has occurred. These are only indicators, however, not conclusive evidence.
1) Missing periods of memory in their childhood. They may have some memories, but there are also blocks of time in which they know there should be memories, but none are present. In severe cases it is common for the person to have no childhood memories before age 12. This is a symptom of dissociative amnesia. Dissociative amnesia can cause the root SRA memories of the abuse to be blocked, resulting in the source of a person’s struggles or mental disorders remaining hidden throughout their lifetime.
2) The experience of unexplained, though possibly mild, supernatural phenomena. This may be little more than the sense of hearing footsteps in their room at night, seeing shadows on the wall, or it may be something stronger. Some may report the sensation of being demonically raped or choked in bed at night, waking up with scratches or bruises on their bodies in places they cannot reach, visibly seeing angels or demons, out-of-body experiences, and more.
3) Significant emotional or mental struggles. Many survivors are diagnosed with mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, major depressive disorder, some form of schizophrenia or psychosis, or dissociative identity disorder. A significant percentage have been cutters.
SRA centers around dissociation. Satanic rituals are usually designed to first dissociate a person, then focus the brunt of the ritual on the dissociated personality rather than the core person. This can be done in a manner that hides the memory of the ritual from the person’s core, or day-to-day self. Memories can be present in dissociated personalities but not carried in the core. The dissociation itself can also be difficult to conclusively diagnose. We have ministered to SRA survivors who were diagnosed with several mental disorders and in whom we met a large number of hidden personalities, yet they manifested no clinical symptoms of dissociative identity disorder. Therefore, their therapist did not believe they were dissociated. In such cases, the Holy Spirit can find and surface the dissociated personalities and, if necessary, reveal enough of their memories to confirm what happened to them.
If a person has undergone many years of ritual abuse, it is feasible that several hundred personalities have dissociated. This condition is known as poly-fragmentation. Completing the healing process for a heavily fragmented (dissociated) person can sometimes require several years of ministry.
The power of suggestion is a very real influence in ministry (or therapy) to a dissociated person. Dissociated personalities can believe they had experiences and memories because of the suggestion of the minister or therapist. Ministers must learn not to steer a person. As a general rule, no one should tell another person that they are a survivor of SRA, no matter how strong your suspicions. Making such an assertion without letting the person discover it for themselves can cause them to believe their memories are present only because of the power of suggestion. If SRA is to be confirmed, the person must be allowed to recover their own memories, or enough of them to know what happened. The minister must trust the Holy Spirit to lead the process and determine the right time for this to happen.
Ministers must also be sensitive to the impact that recovering an SRA memory can have on a person. The discovery that they experienced SRA, especially if it came from trusted family members or friends, is not easy for most people. Often people will need time and help coming to terms with the discovery. It is not uncommon for the Lord to intervene, letting the survivor know that he was there when it happened and that he will be there through the healing. This knowledge alone is often enough for them to continue with the rest of their ministry.
Critical Baseline Beliefs (Theology) for Healing
In satanic rituals, there is an attempt to position Satan as god, the creator and the owner of the survivor’s soul. Many survivors were told at a very young age that they are now owned by Satan, are eternally cursed to go to hell, and that Jesus has permanently rejected them. When these things are told to a young child by seemingly powerful adults in the midst of a terrifying ritual, the child knows no better than to believe them. Those beliefs are then carried by dissociated child personalities that function separately from the adult. The adult feels these beliefs but may not know their source and therefore may be unable to overcome them. Because of this, every SRA survivor needs to know the following:
1) Satan does not have a cross in his kingdom. Blood sacrifices are often involved in rituals to claim that through that blood, Satan and/or the abuser have now purchased the person’s soul. The survivor must understand that nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing can purchase a human soul except for the pure, undefiled, spotless blood of the Lamb of God. Though not a great analogy, if this were a celestial poker game, Satan could not make it to the table because he has no legitimate currency with which to be there in the first place. His “money” (blood sacrifice) cannot purchase a person. Only Jesus can redeem, or purchase, a person’s soul.
This means that the spiritual authority claims of the satanist were never legitimate. There claims were based on a complete falsehood. Therefore, their claims to have the spiritual authority to create permanent bondage to sentence a person to hell have no legitimacy.
2) Satan no longer occupies a throne of authority over the earth. Jesus refers to Satan as the “ruler of this world” in John 12:31. In that same verse, he says that Satan is about to be “cast out” of that role. Satan gained that place of authority at the fall of mankind through Adam and Eve’s sin. Since the cross covered the sins of the entire world (1 John 2:2), even if people do not accept Jesus as Savior, any sin-based claim to a throne of authority was removed by the cross.
In other words, Satan lost his “seat of authority” at the cross. This is why Jesus said after the resurrection that all authority in heaven and earth had been given to him (Matthew 28:18). Since Jesus was already God and already had the Creator’s authority, one might wonder what authority was given to Jesus at the resurrection. It was the seat of authority over mankind that Satan had previously claimed through sin. But now that all sin has been atoned for, Satan has no more legal claim to that position. Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, is without challenge as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in this world and the next.
This is important for an SRA survivor because they must know that Satan has no right of imminent domain. In other words, he is not a territorial dictator who can come and bully his way into the life of anyone living in his territory. In places where bondage already exists, his influence will be active. But once that bondage is removed, he cannot force his way back in.
3) This leaves Satan with no greater spiritual authority than an unsaved person. Satan still has great power, but he can only use that power when he has gained the right to do so in a person’s life. He gains that right through deception. But he still must do everything through people who are deceived into cooperating with him.
The Influence of the Demonic and SRA
There are strong opinions regarding the subject of Christians and demons. Some believe a Christian cannot have a demon, while others believe a Christian can be demonically possessed. We believe these perspectives incorrectly frame the topic of Christians and demons and cause us to answer the wrong questions. Scripture frames the issue as a question of influence, not of possession or the lack thereof. Biblically, the issue is not addressed as whether a demon is inside or outside of a person. In Ephesians 4:27, Paul tells us not to give the devil a “place,” “foothold,” or an “opportunity” (depending on your translation). The Greek word here is “topos” which means a place of influence. Paul goes on to explain that Satan gains a topos (a place of influence) through sin and deception. A stronghold is shown in 2 Corinthians 10 to be a mental place of influence that is stronger than a foothold.
Therefore, in our ministry we work to remove the beliefs and agreements that allow the enemy to influence a person’s thinking. This is completely consistent with Jesus positioning Satan as a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44) and Jesus as the Truth that sets us free (John 8:31-32). We find that when a person is capable of doing this, it is more than adequate to remove demons in an SRA survivor’s life without a demonic confrontation. As we like to put it, “Satan does not have to be a part of this conversation.” In the rare cases that a demon does manifest, we continue talking to the person (not the demon) about truth, and by doing this we have very little trouble removing the demon from the person. Remember, Jesus said that the truth will set you free.
A Cross-Centered Approach to Freedom
There are many more issues to discuss with SRA than are covered in this short article. Those include the impact of cult-loyal personalities, people who are returning to their abusers for repeated abuse (sometimes without remembering it), the impact of mind control programming, internal structures such as a building that dissociated personalities live or are locked away in, computer systems that continue programming the person, the continued impact of satanic handlers on a person’s life, the role of primary and secondary dissociation, an inability to connect with the Lord’s presence, healing ministry, and much more.
We have found that digging too deeply into some of these issues (instead of focusing on Jesus) or reprocessing too many ritual memories gradually, sometimes almost imperceptibly, introduces problems into ministry. The more attention that is given to demonic issues, the more susceptible the process becomes to false healing experiences. In a worst-case scenario, too much emphasis on these issues can trap a person in false memories and the presentation of false personalities to the extent that they never gain their freedom.
Scripture purposely does not explain the “deeper things of Satan” (Revelation 2:24), probably to keep Christians from heading recklessly into a confrontation with those things. 2 Corinthians 2:11 tells us that it is wise to be aware of Satan’s schemes, but we are never instructed to dig too deeply into them. SRA is full of specialized issues. In general, the same solution, the reception of truth, will tear down any stronghold a person can carry. But an SRA minister must be prepared to deal with all of these types of issues when they present themselves.
SRA is best healed through simple faith. Many times we mistakenly think of healing something like SRA as a task that requires not only great faith, but a great amount of it. That is not the way God has designed things. A simple yet very effective definition of Christian faith is agreement with God’s truth. Faith is not so much an issue of how strongly but of how clearly you believe. Faith, properly rooted in biblical truth, reduces Satan’s power down to absolute zero. This is the most effective principle upon which to base a healing ministry. Embracing truth is the strongest act of spiritual authority over the enemy in any believer’s life. This is what is modeled in all post-resurrection books of the Bible and should be the basis for all steps in the healing process.
Since SRA centers around dissociation, the dissociated personalities that experienced the brunt of the rituals must be found and healed. Many tricks and deceptions are used in rituals to cause dissociated personalities to believe they cannot come forward and talk with a minister or therapist. The most reliable method for defeating these deceptions is to ask God to bring the personalities to come forward for ministry. There are a number of ways to do this. Once a personality has been found, the minister can help them deal with beliefs and issues that would otherwise block them from receiving ministry.
A personality may then be led to renounce rituals or their effects. Doing so can be effectively done without recovering memories. However, our experience has proven that the overwhelming need in an SRA survivor is for emotional healing. Everything done in SRA is designed to devalue the person, and this impact carries the greatest influence over the person’s mental and spiritual health. After years of ministry, we learned that it is possible for all of the effects of a ritual to be healed through healing the emotional impact of the ritual. Proven ministry techniques given to us by people like Dr. Carl Lehman (The Immanuel Approach) and Dr. Ed Smith (Transformation Prayer Ministry) are able to accomplish this through peaceful, loving encounters with Jesus. This approach, when properly used, can heal painful emotional trauma without re-experiencing it. This happens when the word of the Creator (Jesus) replaces the lies that were believed in a ritual. When those words are delivered by the Holy Spirit, they have the impact of the Creator, and the mind is truly transformed and healed.
For example, we have seen highly traumatized child personalities, too disturbed to speak a complete sentence, healed simply by listening to what Jesus has to say to them. At the beginning of the process, the voice of the personality reflects the young traumatized child. Then after as little as 20 minutes of listening to Jesus, their voice has been gradually transformed until you are talking with the same dissociated personality, but they are now a peaceful, mature adult showing no signs of stress or trauma. From this position, almost indistinguishable from the core person, the dissociated personality easily blends (or merges) back with the person.
This process shows that the most severe SRA can be overcome through encounters with Jesus rather than through dramatic encounters with demons or the recovery of painful memories. We use a number of ministry tools and ministry approaches to accomplish this, all of which take into account the full breadth and depth of the impact of SRA.