Malignant Trauma and the Invisibility of Ritual Abuse
This presentation draws on psychoanalytic theories of malignant trauma to explain the invisibility of ritual abuse. Ritual abuse refers to the misuse of rituals in the organised sexual abuse of children. Despite expanded recognition of the varieties of child maltreatment, ritual abuse remains largely invisible outside the trauma and dissociation field as a specific form of sexual exploitation. Presenting qualitative data from interview research with ritual abuse survivors and mental health specialists, this presentation argues that the trauma of ritual abuse and its invisibility are co-constitutive. The perpetration and denial of ritual abuse occur within a relational matrix of perpetrators, victims, and bystanders structured by the presymbolic dread of vulnerability and dependency. The simultaneity of perpetration and disavowal creates the conditions for the malignancy of ritual abuse, including the invisibility of victims and the intergenerational transmission of extreme abuse. The presentation examines how the provision of care to ritual abuse survivors can become contingent on its erasure, and reflects on the role of therapists and others in interrupting the metastases of malignant trauma and crafting cultural and moral frameworks to transform the dread at the core of ritual abuse.
This session was originally presented as a live webinar in October 2019.
At the conclusion of this webinar participants will be able to:
- Identify the underlying psychological mechanisms for the intergenerational transmission of sexual violence
- Critically assess social responses to ritual abuse through object relations theory
- Develop new insights into the treatment of ritual abuse within service systems that may not recognise ritual abuse as a specific form of sexual exploitation
Presenter: Michael Salter
Presenter Bio: Dr Michael Salter is a Scientia Fellow and Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of New South Wales. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons 1) from the University of Melbourne and a PhD in public health from the University of New South Wales. His research is focused on child abuse and gendered violence, including primary prevention, complex trauma and technologically-facilitated abuse. He is the author of two books, Organised Sexual Abuse (Routledge, 2013) and Crime, Justice and Social Media (Routledge, 2017), and a range of papers on child abuse and gendered violence. A/Prof Salter sits on the Board of Directors of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation, who awarded him the 2018 Morton Prince Award for Scientific Achievement. He is an Associate Editor of the journal Child Abuse Review and expert advisor to the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. Current projects include a study of parental involvement in the manufacture of child sexual abuse material funded by the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation, and a study of multi-sectorial responses to women with complex trauma funded by Australia’s National Research Office for Women’s Safety.
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