A cult is a group of people who share an obsessive devotion to a person oridea. The cults described in this book use violent tactics to recruit,indoctrinate, and keep members. Ritual abuse is defined as the emotionally,physically, and sexually abusive acts performed by violent cults. Mostviolent cults do not openly express their beliefs and practices, and theytend to live separately in noncommunal environments to avoid detection.Some victims of ritual abuse are children abused outside the home bynonfamily members, in public settings such as day care. Other victims arechildren and teenagers who are forced by their parents to witness andparticipate in violent rituals. Adult ritual abuse victims often includethese grown children who were forced from childhood to be a member of thegroup. Other adult and teenage victims are people who unknowingly joinedsocial groups or organizations that slowly manipulated and blackmailed theminto becoming permanent members of the group. All cases of ritual abuse, nomatter what the age of the victim, involve intense physical and emotionaltrauma.Violent cults may sacrifice humans and animals as part of religious rituals.They use torture to silence victims and other unwilling participants. Ritualabuse victims say they are degraded and humiliated and are often forced totorture, kill, and sexually violate other helpless victims. The purpose ofthe ritual abuse is usually indoctrination. The cults intend to destroy thesevictims’ free will by undermining their sense of safety in the world and byforcing them to hurt others.In the last ten years, a number of people have been convicted on sexual abusecharges in cases where the abused children had reported elements of ritualchild abuse. These children described being raped by groups of adults whowore costumes or masks and said they were forced to witness religious-typerituals in which animals and humans were tortured or killed. In one case, thedefense introduced in court photographs of the children being abused by thedefendants In another case, the police found tunnels etched with crossesand pentacles along with stone altars and candles in a cemetery where abusehad been reported. The defendants in this case pleaded guilty to charges ofincest, cruelty, and indecent assault Ritual abuse allegations have beenmade in England, the United States, and Canada.Many myths abound concerning the parents and children who report ritualabuse. Some people suggest that the tales of ritual abuse are “masshysteria.” They say the parents of these children who report ritual abuse areoften overly zealous Christians on a “witch-hunt” to persecute satanists.These skeptics say the parents are fearful of satanism, and they use theirknowledge of the Black Mass (a historically well-known, sexualized ritual inwhich animals and humans are sacrificed) to brainwash their children intosaying they were abused by satanists. In 1992 I conducted a study toseparate fact from fiction in regard to the disclosures of children whoreport ritual abuse. The study was conducted through Believe the Children,a national organization that provides support and educational sources forritual abuse survivors and their families.