How He Brings the Voices of Survivors of Ritual Violence and Mind Control Experimentation into His Classroom
Hal Pepinsky’s ’99 Conference Presentation
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This transcript is from a presentation by Hal Pepinsky at The Second Annual Ritual Abuse, Secretive Organizations and Mind Control Conference, August 14 – 15, 1999 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Windsor Locks, CT. Some of the topics discussed may be triggering. The conference is educational and not intended as therapy or treatment. All accusations are alleged. Our providing the information below does not necessarily constitute our endorsement of it.
Neil Brick: Hi. Next will be Hal Pepinsky and he’ll be speaking from 1:00 – 2:00. Some of the topics discussed may be triggering. The conference is educational and not intended as therapy or treatment. Photographing, audiotaping, videotaping, etc. are prohibited. Audiotapes will be available of Hal and most of the other speakers. Please remember this presentation is being recorded; anything you say will be recorded. Thank you for coming to Hal’s presentation. Hal Pepinsky teaches criminal justice at Indiana University. He teaches a seminar on children’s rights and safety which includes materials and guest presentations on ritual violence by survivors and their supporters. Hal will describe “How He Brings the Voices of Survivors of Ritual Violence and Mind Control Experimentation into His Classrooms.” And now I introduce Professor Hal Pepinsky:
Thank you for including me in this conference. It’s the second year that I’ve been here. I consider it a real privilege to be here and to learn a great deal. Part of what I’ll talk about today is what I have learned from the survivors whom I’ve gotten to know. I have a kind of a feeling that it’s a little awkward for me to stand up and talk to you. It seems to me that I’m the one who ought to be listening to you instead. That’s what’s most important to me. It must be kind of the way it is for someone like me to listen to a multiple for the first time. Survivors, upon hearing a non-survivor talk about what he sees and experiences, and being told what it’s been like to go through ritual abuse and mind control and how to go about healing, have to think, “What’s this weird, strange person he see? What does he perceive?” Feel free to interrupt me, by the way, at any time. I’ll try not to be that structured; here’s what I intend to go through and talk about now.
I’d like to describe a little of the history of how I got into to doing the seminar and how the seminar works. Then I’d like to talk some about how students respond to the seminar and what comes out of it in that way. And then I thought I could get into some of what I have learned from the seminar and from survivors; what the seminar and the experiences I’ve had in and around it and at a place like this conference, means to me and what it’s taught me as well.
Back in 1992…I went through law school at one point and I’m an inactive member of a bar in another state, in Ohio, that I haven’t gone back to since 1968. But because of that and because of my interest in criminal justice, one of the ways that I thought I could reach out to help people was to listen to their stories. I would not necessarily give formal legal advice, but if people were having some kind of problems and wanted to talk over what was happening I could listen. It could be things like grievances inside the university. In particular, I’d heard a lot from prisoners and had a great deal of, and still do have correspondence with people who are in prison. I see them in many ways as victims, as people trying to survive, too.
I met a woman and her mother who were going through a custody battle in Bloomington, Indiana. And she, the following year, went to jail for trying to take her children to safety. She had evidence from the children–in fact doctors had evidence that had been substantiated initially; their father was sexually abusing the children. The net result of her trying to protect the children was that she lost custody, and for a number of years, she lost any contact with the children. Fortunately, the children have just been able to leave Indiana the first time and come to visit her this summer. The first time in ten years that they’ve been able to leave the state at all to come and see her, that she hasn’t had…when she eventually got visitation… hasn’t had to go to Bloomington and see the children under tight restrictions. When she was being tried (she’s been convicted) I met her and her mother. One thing I asked about is whether I might be of any help in trying to help her arrange for an alternative sentencing plan that would keep her from going to prison for some time. She was in jail at that time. And I’ve met with her mother and with another woman who had been what we call a protective parent, someone whose former spouse had sexually abused her child as well. These women talked to people from all over the country that were involved in similar cases. They had files–boxes of documentation.
(I’d been teaching a seminar on feminist justice since 1987 and I’d come to recognize kind of in an abstract, theoretical way that children were the ultimate underclass throughout the world. As we grow, maybe if we were to recognize problems like racism and sexism and classism, the last problem that we would really come to recognize would be that of ageism. Maybe we who are adults don’t necessarily know better than children what’s good for them and that would be the last type of barrier that we had to cross.)
When I found out that they had all these files, I asked them to help me teach the seminar in the fall of 1993. I asked them to bring in people who were involved in cases like theirs to explore the problem, so that my students and I could find out first-hand what people were going through from people who were in the situations. So we began in the fall of 1993 and part way into the semester somebody asked about ritual abuse. My own mother had given me that summer of 1993 a two-part series that came out in the “New Yorker,” by a fellow named Lawrence Wright. A lot of you have heard of him. It was about the Ingram case and said that although there were allegations of ritual abuse, probably no such thing existed. That’s what I said to my class.
She looked at me and said, “There’s someone you should meet.”
His name was Rick Doninger. He and his wife had become involved with one child and then with many children, in Evansville, Indiana who, for all appearances and a great deal of corroboration, had been taken out of school by principals and others to be taken to rituals during the day. Their case had gotten national attention. Eventually, after they tried unsuccessfully for about a year and a half to have the police pursue an investigation of the case, they allowed the case to be on television on “A Current Affair.” They began to be swamped with calls and eventually had children and others fleeing from cults and satanic ritual abuse, coming to them. They got themselves trained down in Huntsville, they did art therapy, they had a great number of pictures that they collected of people who were depicting the rituals.
So she introduced me to Rick Doninger and he brought his pictures and began to talk about satanic ritual abuse. And at the same time, her mother gave me the “Franklin Cover-Up” to read. Then Rick began to bring in survivors for the class and me to meet. And she and her mother began to introduce me to other people they had met who were trying to work on issues like her, as well as on satanic ritual abuse. One of those people was Jeanette Westbrook. And Jeanette Westbrook began to come to the class as well. I got drawn further and further in as I met more and more people who had been through it. This past year I had someone who had been very high in cult life, who, as she tells it, was actually on the Council of Thirteen at one point. She had broken from cult life and had other survivors around her and they were trying to heal themselves. I eventually had them helping me teach the seminar this past year. So I went through a process of meeting a large number of survivors, eventually went to conferences like this one, and a Believe the Children conference as well. It’s been my privilege to get to know many people, a number of whom are sitting here now who have been through the experience of ritual abuse or of mind control. That experience has continued to grow.
The seminar, which has been a mixed seminar for undergraduates and graduates, has been the most heavily over-enrolled class that’s been taught in my Department of Criminal Justice at Indiana University. The seminar would have room for about 30-35 people and it might have a waiting list as long as 75 to get into it once word got around as to what was happening in class. And the word was this: that this was a chance to meet real people who have been involved in real life situations, who are very serious and that this is important stuff to learn–it’s not just academic–you get to see a slice of real life.
It was particularly the undergraduate students who warmed to the subject, who actually were open to it. I noticed that among my own colleagues, and also among graduate students, there was a little more reluctance, either to…in the case of graduate students, to sign up for the class. It sort of seemed that people, as they got older, were a little less receptive and open than the younger people, but I must say that it was a blessing. What kept me continuing to teach the seminar every semester was that people were flocking to get into the class. Indeed, many of the students would say in their evaluations at the end that everybody in the university should be required to take a class like this and learn about what is happening out in the real world.
There was a large class that I taught of several hundred students and I had people including Jeanette come to that large class as well. It was a class that was required for majors called “Alternative Social Control Systems.” And there, too, I began to introduce the subject. So as I say, that class has been going on now for six years. I want to issue an invitation now, and in the future we can talk more about it…some people have already come to me…you may have seen the sign outside.
My wife became Director of Women’s Studies at Iowa State University last year, finally got the job that she deserved. This year I’m able to go out and visit with her, so I’ll be teaching at Iowa State. I want to do a similar seminar this coming spring. The challenge for me is to try to find people in the Iowa area who can come to the class to offer the same kind of experience there as I’ve been able to offer in Indiana. I do have a slight problem with it–I have no money to offer. Jill and I have an extra bed for people who come and stay over night, but all of those that have come have come for free. Faye Yeager, who’s kind of been driven out of her work now, but for ten years operated Children of the Underground, used to come to the class from Atlanta every semester at her own expense. And so we’ve had quite an array of people who’ve really given of themselves to be able to offer this experience to students and to me as well.
For the students it turns out to be a tremendously valuable experience. Almost every semester the student body who attends the seminar includes at least one police officer, often several police officers. There are people there who decide to go and work with children later on. Those people want to begin to give their lives to finding children who are being abused and to working with the issue of helping the larger society work past the kind of denial most of us engage in if we haven’t been through anything like this. But they really want to work toward a different and better world.
I find that inspiring in and of itself. I know a number of you who are survivors have supporters here. Last year, I recommended that you and a supporter find a way to begin to talk about your own experience to people–like community groups, wherever you can find them.
In my own experience there’s nothing like hearing first hand from people what they’ve been through in order to get people past the idea that this is something unreal, to get people to believe that something real, very real, is happening here.
One thing that happened in the seminar over time is that I and the guests began to focus on the healing process. I’ll describe in a few minutes how the experience of this seminar drove me into my own therapy for problems stemming from my own childhood, and as Jeanette Westbrook would say, ‘to take care of my own stuff.’ But my therapist and I had begun to agree that, for people who haven’t lived through this, it would make it a little easier to accept if they could hear the other end of the story. Then they could begin to cope and handle the real pain, terror and fear that can come from hearing what’s going on with ritual abuse.
It’s the other end from which I take heart–how people manage to escape this life, how people manage to heal, how people manage to develop trusting relationships with other, how they manage to break free. So that positiveness of that message of strength that people had was the one that really began to come through more and more as I went through the seminar as well, and that’s been tremendously encouraging.
One of the people who helped kind of set that off again was Jeanette Westbrook, who would come into class and tell people “I have MPD and that means Multiple Personality Defense Systems!” And as I learned from her and from Laurie Fremder and Jeff Callahan, who have also been to this seminar a couple of times, that multiplicity, for people who have been through the horrors that so many of you have experienced, is a gift rather than a damnation. That maybe people can misuse it and introduce programs, but that people would not survive the experience if they didn’t have the ability to split. That they’d either be permanently institutionalized, dead or killed if they couldn’t split; if they didn’t have this gift of being able to take themselves out so that somehow they could survive the experience to go on and cope and live on thereafter.
I also learned that perhaps I’m not so different from people who have MPD; perhaps I also dissociate myself. Perhaps a number of us, if not most of us in some way, even those who have had so-called normal childhoods, dissociate too. So what I began to learn from survivors and what I’ve become increasingly aware of is that I’m not so much looking at people who are different, but for people who’ve had courage and who face what they’ve gone through to be able to help me learn more about myself.
Now let me talk a little bit in the abstract–first about what it means to learn about oneself and then get a little more personal about it. I heard questions earlier this morning, people saying, “Well how could it be that a District Attorney couldn’t accept evidence from the evidence that’s handed to the District Attorney? How could it be that people…why is it that people just walk away from cases like this?” I’ve learned not to underestimate the terror, the pain and the fear that those of us who have not experienced this kind of violence face when we begin to learn about the depths of depravity and violence that people can go to and the pervasiveness of that violence as well.
I know people have trouble with the anarchist’s symbol, but one of the words I used to tell my students I didn’t mind being applied to me was anarchist. I don’t believe in power over others; I don’t believe that power over others works. In my kind of divine scheme of things, people share energy and that’s the kind of thing that works. One of the kinds of exercises of power over others that doesn’t work is criminal justice power and the attempt to bring about law and order by throwing people into prisons. And I used to call criminal justice in my big class “chicken-shit criminal justice” because…not because all the people in prison and jail are innocent, necessarily, but because they are what I call “PC” “Politically convenient” whose offenses you are to look for and put in prison.
One example that I used to give, before I found out about ritual abuse and mind control, was the issue of abortion. In surveys that have been done where people try to look at what kinds of other positions, attitudes, people have…what predicts people being in favor of the death penalty, time and again, the strongest predictor that shows up is that people believe abortion is murder. Those who believe that abortion is murder also believe in capital punishment. I used to ask people in the big class, “How many of you are for the death penalty?” And then, “How many of you think that abortion is murder?” I would then ask those people, “Well isn’t it the case, then, if you believe abortion is murder. Here you have a totally innocent victim. It may be in the case that the mother…that there are reasons you could say the offense isn’t really completely murder, that they’re emotional issues with the mother. These are things that help in some way, at least partially, to excuse the offense, if you take this view. But, if you were talking about doctors who perform abortions regularly, if you were talking about hospital administrators who allow abortions to be performed, who do it essentially for money…You could think of no worse murderer, could you, than somebody like a hospital administrator who was carrying out murders purely for money? And aren’t those the people that you would want to put at the front of death row? Aren’t those the people who are more heinous murderers in your view than the people who are on death row now?”
By and large people resisted that point of view, even those who did favor the death penalty, who thought abortion was murder.
It’s an indication to me of a larger world -view that we have, one that I think comes from what Alice Miller, the German psychoanalyst. What she talks about is being abused, and at the roots of violence people who are taught that they’re not allowed to have their own honest feelings, but that they ought to feel the right thing, the thing that’s for their own good. There are people who are raised in a world where, what it means to have a parent and a protector, someone around you who you can love, trust and nurture you. You have to believe that person is always right. And that if that person isn’t always right, or if you question that person, your entire world may fall apart.
In a world where so-called ‘nuclear family life’ is less secure than it was before, it seems to me that the kind of substitute for having real parents we can depend on, that we grow up with, is to believe that we can’t depend on some substitute father figure. If maybe our parents are getting divorced, family’s split up, maybe children leave home and the generations split apart, you can’t depend on them, at least out there in the formal order, there’s some kind of parent we can depend on. Maybe it’s somebody like a president. There are parental figures, chiefly father figures, that we can depend on. We feel that we have to believe that they will take care of us. If we can’t believe that they will take care of us, our entire world will fall apart, because we can’t depend on ourselves, our own feelings and our own strength to get by; we have to depend on someone to take care of us.
If you try to take the parental figure away from people raised to believe that they have to know that somebody will take care of them, who knows better than they do, and you then say, “Maybe that person is not only wrong, maybe he’s actually criminal too. Maybe he’s doing wrong. Maybe he’s doing violence,” what can they do? Then you take away from those who have no real faith in themselves, those who are taught not to have any faith in their world at all.
With the prospect of giving up on the kind of faith that believes presidents and others could take care of us, you really are, for those of us who haven’t had more immediate kind of violence to worry about, stripping people of something that they are profoundly dependent upon. They have of some kind of view of being taken off from on high. The more serious the allegations, the more serious the possibility of wrongdoing, or of not being able to trust people who are in higher positions, the harder it is then for people to allow themselves that such a thing could be happening.
You know, you could believe every now and then that maybe an official engages in a little political corruption. But if you talk about the drug war for example, how easy it was it for people to believe. We used to talk about this a fair amount. The evidence indicated that the CIA was probably the biggest actor in the legal drug trafficking in the world, and the US military. What do you do with that? It becomes really almost impossible for people to conceive of that. And so this is what I ran into when I tried to convey to others that there might be such a thing as people in high positions, maybe even including presidents, who maybe occasionally even killed and ate people and got away with it? Or who consistently molested children, or who trafficked in child prostitution; who did all the kinds of worst things, that if you haven’t lived through the experiences that so many in this room have lived through, then you may never imagine? Worse things than are in a movie. And that maybe the people who are in trusted positions–police, therapists, any one you might want to turn to, teachers, principals, politicians, business leaders, that at all of those levels, you could have worse crimes being carried out than you have ever allowed yourself to imagine before. That is the hardest thing, the hardest thing to accept.
The irony is that the more serious the things are that people are doing, the harder it is for people to believe it’s going on, especially if those people are in positions of power over us. It doesn’t help to cope with it quite so much. It means that the harsh reality the very reason that survivors, like so many in this room, will not be believed is that people can afford to believe what you’re saying less than they could if you were talking about trivial wrong-doing. That the very seriousness of what you are talking about means that people can’t cross that line and allow themselves to believe.
The challenge becomes then, “How do you gentle people into being able to accept that things like this happen?” Let alone, in cases like hers and others, that maybe (just in upper middle-class homes, or rich peoples homes) Dad is raping his child every now and then. Let’s take it a step up and talk about the kinds of things that are talked about here. It becomes the hardest thing of all for people to accept because they’re entire world goes ‘phtt’ if they do that. They no longer have a sense of anything that they can trust, anything that they can believe.
This makes me want to go out of my way to be accessible to people so they can talk about their fears. I want to make it clear to them that there are people I know and trust they can turn to–therapists, for example, if they want to talk to somebody besides me.
Many of the people who now come to the class have students and others come to them who to talk to them further. It means that it’s important to try to build up, even for us so-called normal folks especially, a sense that you somehow do have something that you can trust, that you can turn to. That you can find some other foundation to believe in if you begin to allow yourself to believe that things are going on that could be as bad as this. I can say all that in the abstract, it still hit me personally, and it hit me hard.
It hit me particularly hard when, three years after I started teaching the seminar, I wandered through some woods. I’d lived in Bloomington for twenty years and a couple of blocks from where I lived, I’d walked through these woods. I was enjoying an early spring day in March and as I was out in the woods I suddenly saw what looked to me, now that I’ve heard so much and seen so much about ritual abuse, like what used to be a ritual altar. And I went exploring further. It went on for hundreds of yards down the creek bed. I called a survivor and had him walk through it with me. We came upon what appeared to be a human grave covered over with cement in the creek bed. We found a bag of anti-coagulant that was in the creek bed. We tried talking to a police detective. Then I saw helicopters go over for a couple of days. And then he told me, “The Deputy Chief of Police said that there is really not much more that they can do to pursue it.”
The people who own that particular property kind of own it in little packages. They all live on one-half street and this included some pretty prominent people in town. Then I found out that one of the co-owners of that property was my someone I had sought for professional services. I got scared. It was scary enough to begin with, but suddenly it got really personal. And it became further validated by the fact that people were leaving calling cards around the house regularly, once I began to try to talk about it.
People knew that I was on to something. Once I tried to pursue the history of this. Actually, once I worked out the geography I said, “There are some other high spots in town. Let me go get ‘em.” And the next one I went to, there was a ritual site. So all of a sudden it was right here. It wasn’t just something that survivors from out of town were bringing to me; it was right next to me. It could involve people who were very close to me.
People said at the time that they thought that I might be going psychotic and they probably weren’t far wrong. But what I do know is that I became deeply depressed. At that point I turned to this therapist who had been in my class and asked if I could begin to see her; she was someone that I could trust. I don’t have an easy time trusting therapists, by the way; I’m the only child of two licensed psychologists. And that experience worked out really well. So I did begin to see her, and we’ve seen each other for three years and now that I’ll be gone for next year at Iowa State, I’ll have monthly phone calls with her. What truly therapeutic discourse brought home to me is as a further kind of dimension that was something again that I’d heard Jeanette Westbrook say in class for the first time.
Jeanette was speaking as a social worker as well as a survivor…that if you’re going to recognize this stuff and live with it and try to relate to it instead of running away from it, you’re going to have to take care of your own stuff. And when I recognized my own stuff. I have no tales to tell of parents having done anything illegal to me. But I learned that there was such a thing as covert incest and I learned that it was very real to me. I learned that the fears that were being awakened in me were not only fears about the larger world. I was uncovering layers of denial from myself with the very things like ‘I come from a very wonderful home, and I was given everything.’ That probably wasn’t so true to me either. In fact, one of the earliest things that my therapist, said to me was, “You know, you’re gonna get better, but what we’re gonna work on is your dissociation!” How about that? “We’re gonna work on your dissociation.” Here I was hearing from multiples who said, “I dissociate,” and tried to explain to us elaborately what dissociation was, as though it was something, other than being in an auto accident, that we’d be unfamiliar with.
I’m here to tell you that I, too, out of my own childhood (and I now suspect that practically all of us in a violent world have grown up having to learn to) dissociate.
I do quite deeply believe that Alice Miller is correct when she says that it’s that dissociation that allows us to hurt others or allows us to hurt ourselves, without feeling it, without noticing it. It’s that dissociation which cuts off our compassion; it’s that dissociation that allows us to deny reality around us. And so it seems to me that one of the things that I’m learning out of this about myself is that we, in our own ways that impair our lives significantly, go through this kind of dissociation, are impaired by it and hurt in ways that are fairly deeply significant.
One of the ways in which it’s significant is how could people get so worked up over a Ted Bundy, when they never knew any of his victims, when they couldn’t care less about the people down the street being hurt, let alone people they’d never met before? How could people get worked up over a Saddam Hussein that they’d never heard about and figured that ‘we’ve really got to go and beat the hell out of him?’
How could this happen? It could happen if there’s a rage inside over not having been able to be yourself and to feel. And it could happen if you can’t really bring yourself to accept that it’s the people who’ve been closest to you who’ve done that damage to you then the only kind of release that you have from it is to displace it on to others. We live in a society in which people think so much about trying to punish people into obedience, not only in terms of law enforcement, but also in terms of how we behave in the schools and parents talking about how you have to raise children. They say you have to give them time-outs, ground them and restrict them in all kinds of ways to keep the monsters in line. All of those kinds of feelings we have stem from the basic experience that we have. Not of those abstract things that we get mad at and want to fight, but the people like our children, and like some partner I happen to be with who hasn’t done any of that damage to me. They become the only safe people to let out that rage and that fear.
How do we live in a more peaceful world in which people’s compassion is aroused so that, when people think of working collectively, they don’t only think about trying to get people to be obedient but also of taking care of and giving nurture to children? If we want to tap the kind of compassion I believe we have in us, then all of us who are so-called ‘normal folks’ on the outside, are probably going to have to recognize what things we are really afraid of and angry about. They are the things which have come to us from the people we needed most, wanted most (and continue to need most and want most) to be able to trust and approve of. And if we’re talking about the real problems of violence, the fears that we face, where they stem from and where the dissociation comes from, we have to contend with the fact that it comes from the people we are least prepared even to acknowledge have done anything to us.
This applies not just to acknowledging the people who have been through ritual abuse, but to our own nearest and dearest. We have to be able to acknowledge and work through that before we can overcome the kind of dissociation that makes us into caring, punitive sorts of people. That leaves me to say that one of the gifts that I have gotten from being with survivors and from learning first of all about you, I’ve been learning that it’s me!
One of the greatest things that I’ve gotten is a measure of self-understanding and a key to answering issues about all of us tied together in humanity can become more compassionate. I’ve begun to unlock the key to the things that we all need to do. While on the one hand people who have survived what you’ve survived and may begin to threaten the rest of us when we hear about things like ritual violence or mind control. On the other hand we may begin to think of you as something different and we’re trying to learn about your problems.
Ultimately what I get from you, and I think many of my students have gotten as well, is to learn about ourselves. And to learn that perhaps we’re not really so different from the people we treat as so different because they’ve been through things that we can’t allow ourselves to imagine.
I don’t mean to deny the reality that multiplicity is something different from what I experienced. I don’t have different parts of myself that have different names. But I do have parts of myself (in doing something like inner child work, for example) I’ve come to recognize that there are parts of myself that I would almost carry on a dialogue with, parts of myself that I bury and would need to bring up. That process of co-consciousness is something that I would need to go through to heal, no less than somebody who has been split through ritual violence.
All in all I began to discover, with your help, our common humanity and begin to learn about the issues we all have to deal with. It makes it a little easier for me to understand, perhaps, when I talk about the things that I learn from you to other people and I clear out a room, too. It doesn’t necessarily give me the key to try to allow people to believe that they can trust me or trust anyone else enough to let their defenses down and to move past their denial. But it does help me to understand that we’re in a common boat.
I went through a period a couple of years ago, when I was on sabbatical–I thought I’d write a book about what I’d learned from the seminar and the people I’d met in and around it. I was able to go at one point to Australia to give a lecture. I was trying to talk about personal violence and how to respond to it, and structural violence (which is to me just kind of a step up from personal violence, it has its roots in personal violence and denial and dissociation.) I said, “I don’t know what to say except we need to listen, just listen. And I don’t know what to tell anyone in this room (talking to the other audience) to do next, until you’ve listened. Try to listen hardest to the voices that you find are most left out of your conversations in your world and to try to listen to other people’s reality.” Who’s to say for example, when you talk about MPD, what is it to say you don’t really have it. Of course, if you’re being honest and you’re trying to talk about it, it is a reality for someone who’s talking about it. So the first step is in just trying to develop our ability to listen, and I quite honestly don’t know what to tell you to do with any other social problem until you have first listened. I wouldn’t know what to do, until I’ve heard the people I was supposed to listen to, to tell you what comes next.”
I was able to give about a five-minute lecture and then I suddenly had nothing more to say. I’ve learned a little more to say now, I’ve learned to draw on a Navajo model, a Navajo paradigm, of how to heal for violence and how to heal imbalance, including the imbalance in human relations, to try to establish balance. It does entail beginning by trying to listen to the voice that’s most left out of the conversation among those of us who are involved together in any situation. And then to try to take turns sharing in the conversation about how we respond to that, taking turns listening and trying to set up an atmosphere in which we in turn can take our turn at speaking and being listened to as well. And that I have faith in that process is the process by which we all can learn more compassion for one another and we can all become freer of violence together, that that’s the process to go through. And as a corollary of that, maybe I’m still stuck on this kind of thing that I had on chicken shit criminal justice and not being able to punish people…make the world safe by trying to impose obedience.
I find that the greatest hope that I see for us to move beyond the most horrific kind of violence I’ve heard about from survivors like you, is in that process of listening. Then it becomes possible, to make it clearer to those who are still caught there is a way they can be listened to; their own victimization, dissociation and pain can be listened to. My greatest hope for trying to break down this violence is that people learn to relate in another way, to recognize the victimization, first and foremost, that they’ve gone through. That it’s by recognizing the victimization that we have the greatest chance of emptying cults and emptying government mind control programs.
I also get the feeling from people whom I now know are in, out and sort of on the edge, that there are a lot of people who’ve been stuck in cult violence into adulthood who would like nothing better than to get out, but they don’t know how. They don’t know any safe place to turn. They know that they can’t afford to leave because they might be killed, tortured or punished. They don’t know how to get out; they don’t know whom they can trust. So that kind of building up of trust among us and allowing people to undergo the kind of process I was able to undergo in therapy. That’s the kind of process that will more likely lead to a safer, more compassionate world and bring an end to the violence, rather than trying to find the perpetrators and bring them down.
In fact, by trying to find the perpetrators and bring them down, I desperately fear that politically convenient law enforcement criminal justice once again would only mean that we would end up allowing perpetrators to point us to people who aren’t really perpetrators. Or for them to point us to people who will take the fall for the rest of them and misdirect us to become more obedient to them again. To become more dependent on them would simply perpetuate the violence.
The book that I wrote with Paul Jesilow we can put under the heading of what we call Myths That Cause Crime. I begin to see a way out of this life of illusions. I see in the way that survivors are getting together. I see as I see survivors and others of us beginning to relate and getting to know one another better. I see hope that, more so than ever before, we will begin to work past our own denial and that people will be able to become freer and freer. Not only those who have undergone horrific violence, but those like me who’ve been dissociated and gone through all of our own process of denial.
This perhaps is the kind of path that we’re undergoing to a safer world. I still get scared when I hear the woman who helped me teach this year lay out the kind of prophecy she was taught, the kind of prophecy that says that within a few years time we’ll all have to wear the mark of the beast. We won’t be able to survive economically. That there are people out there with the power to bring it off and they’re really gonna do it. I try to tell myself, not that people don’t want to do it and not that there aren’t some very powerful people, but that there’s something stronger.
There’s something stronger in living in compassion that can help us to begin to break free that means no matter how badly people want to do it, and how much power they have, that they can’t succeed. And then in the long run maybe what we’ll learn is that violence isn’t just something that those foreigners or some other people, convenient people, do to us that we have to take care of.
We’ll learn that we can’t become freer from violence unless we recognize that it’s the problem of each and every one of us. And that, as humanity, we are all connected and in that process of learning, I hope, we all are able to heal. And it’s that kind of healing, that freedom from victimization, that progress to survivorship for all of us (that you all have made so much more progress than many of the rest of us has made) that has a chance of leading us out. And I guess I sort of have to keep the faith that that the power of compassion and the power of healing are stronger than the power of fear and darkness. Maybe I’ll close with that and just throw it open, if anyone not only wants to question, but…
Question: From my point of view, I see some turning around. I’ve seen just a change in a year. How about naming a couple of national names (unintelligible)
Well, I have thought about and written about ways, in terms of national policy, that people could increase the kind of participation that I’ve talked about. If, for example, in terms of economic investment, instead of setting up enterprise zones as we do, we thought what we would give money for is enterprises that were democratically owned and operated by workers and by clients in which they had an open voice. And in which there was openness to the outside so that there was accountability too. That we could make those kinds of criteria for what, to me, is a safer world, actually the basis of how we invest is the government and we invest in other ways, too.
But I’ll have to say, and this is the anarchist side of me coming out again, that it’s the personal learning, it’s the learning about how to relate to one another one-on-one that’s the foundation for all of that and it’s that that I hope we can teach ourselves. Things like internet, you know, and there may be a lot of us who can’t afford to get on internet yet, but it’s made it a lot easier for a whole lot of people to get in touch and to learn more about one another. So ultimately I can think of nothing stronger that this kind of one-on-one personal process of moving forward.
Yes, thank you. If any of you know of people, survivors or professionals (anyone who might be close enough to come to Ames and help me carry on the kind of thing I’ve been doing), I would be most grateful for any of those resources or people you can let me hear about. Thank to those who’ve already come forward to me
You know light is a lot safer than darkness, I used to think…information overload I think is the greatest offense against misuse of information. Thank you.