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Home arrow False and "Recovered" Memories arrow Satanic Ritual Abuse arrow My Story in TALK OF THE DEVIL (Jan Groenveld)

My Story in TALK OF THE DEVIL (Jan Groenveld)

The Text Publishing Company
171 La Trobe Street
Melbourne Victoria 3000 Australia

Copyright © Richard Guilliatt 1996

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright above, no part of this publication shall be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book. First published 1996 National Library of Australia Guilliatt, Richard, 1958-. Talk of the devil: repressed memory and the ritual abuse witch-hunt. ISBN 1 875847 29 4.

With ail the Christian attention in my power, I have not found even indications from which to infer that a single act of witchcraft has really occurred...I deduce the importance of silence and reserve from the experience that there were neither witches nor bewitched until they were talked and written about.

Alonso Salazar de Frias, Grand Inquisitor of Spain, 1610

Talk of the devil and he'll appear.

Desiderius Erasmus

'It will be said,' Summit predicted, 'that you are all victims of a kind of mass hysteria that has been spread by certain people from the USA -a kind of cadre of overzealous child abuse specialists who don't know where to stop and are creating this nationwide and now worldwide witch-hunt for bizarre kinds of abuse.' The message, quite clearly, was to keep the faith. Summit was right -a backlash had erupted against satanic ritual abuse proponents such as himself. But by the time he arrived in Australia, that backlash was no longer confined to cold-hearted journalists and cynical sociologists - it was coming from some of the very people who once took Summit's views seriously, In Australia, these sceptics included several prominent anti-cult activists, such as Reverend Adrian Van Leen in Perth and Reverend David Millikan in Sydney, both of whom had spent years investigating satanic cult allegations only to decide they had little basis in reality. By early 1995, their sceptical viewpoint had acquired several unexpected allies, one of whom was the Queensland anti-cult campaigner Jan Groenveld. Groenveld was a fifty-year-old mother of five who ran the Cult Awareness and Information Centre from her home in suburban Brisbane. A devout Christian, Groenveld spent most of her waking hours helping counsel ex-cult members and campaigning against the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Scientologists and sundry non-Christian religious sects. It was a passion which sprang from Groenveld's own very painful life experiences: sexually abused by a relative from age three until twelve, she endured a deeply troubled adolescence, became a teenage mother and gave her son up for adoption before marrying at eighteen. At twenty-four she found solace with the Jehovah's Witnesses, whose brand of insular, apocalyptic neo-Christianity held sway over her until 1975, when the Armageddon promised by the sect's elders failed to materialise. Groenveld left the Witnesses, joined a Pentecostal Christian church three years later and began studying religious cults. Inspired by a visiting US Christian activist, she formed the Freedom In Christ ministry in 1980 to counsel ex-cult members and campaign against coercive religious sects. The Cult Awareness and Information Centre, formed in 1990, grew out of and eventually replaced the ministry. It was through her anti-cult activism that Groenveld first began hearing, around 1990-91, from people who claimed to be survivors of satanic cult abuse. Such stories were already familiar to her from reading Christian satanic 'confessions' such as The Satan Seller and He Came to Set the Captives Free, US paperbacks in which the authors recounted their dissolute devil-worshipping past or depicted heroic battles with the forces of darkness. Many of these books were distributed in Queensland by companies such as Evangelical Literature Enterprises. But Groenveld's first direct contact with the medical/professional arm of this belief system came in August 1991, when she attended the ritual abuse seminar at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney where David Poulton and Dr Anne Schlebaum outlined their views. There for the first time she heard psychiatrists and social welfare professionals discussing the growth of satanic cults and their use of mind control, brainwashing, coercion and sexual abuse. Groenveld was predisposed to take such stories seriously -she was, after all, a Christian, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and also a former cult member. Mind-manipulation techniques were one of 'her consuming fascinations, and although Groenveld had never repressed the memories of her own childhood abuse -she frankly doubted that was even possible -she found the stories told by ritual abuse 'survivors' compelling and the psychiatric literature persuasive. By 1992, Groenveld was including satanic ritual abuse in her organisation's agenda: she gave an approving review to a book on multiple personality disorder by James Friesen, a Christian psychiatrist from the United States, and in 1992 she invited Martin Katchen - a member of the Australian Association of Multiple Personality and Dissociation (AAMP&D) and a satanic abuse proponent -to present a paper on the history of occult practices at a conference she had organised in Brisbane.

'I couldn't find anything that negated it,' she recalled. 'I spent three days in the National Library in Canberra trying to find material that negated it, and I couldn't find anything.' 10 It was Katchen, the US anti-cult writer who had moved to Sydney to pursue his studies into ex-cult members, who began to trigger Groenveld's scepticism. Katchen believed in satanic ritual abuse, arguing that satanists had been active for centuries and might well be perpetrating the crimes recounted by 'survivors'." According to Groenveld, he began travelling up to Brisbane to interview ex-cult members for his thesis, and in the process began confiding in her. 'It was around 1991-92, when he was being put into deep hypnosis by his therapist, that he started to tell me about his memories,' recalled Groenveld. 'He would ring me up and he would be distraught and I'd, have to talk him down. He remembered how his relatives had sexually abused him and they were all part of this satanic cult. The thing about Marty was that he was aware of false memories - we'd had a discussin about that at the very beginning. But he got stuck on this idea that his memories were real.'12 Around the same time, the US religious minister Fred Littauer visited Brisbane to conduct seminars and healing sessions. Groenveld recalls that a friend of her oldest daughter underwent a telephone counselling session with Littauer in which she recovered a memory of being ritualistically raped at the age of two by several men. Groenveld, who was listening to the counselling on a telephone extension, says Littauer told the woman to accept the memory as true because it came from the Holy Spirit. Her doubts crystallised in 1993, when she brought the US anti-cult campaigner Steve Hassan to Brisbane for a seminar. Hassan had spent years studying mind control, and he told Groenveld that satanic ritual abuse was rubbish. Nevertheless, several Australian ritual abuse therapists and activists turned up at the conference and later incorporated Hassan's theories into their writing. Meanwhile Groenveld's oldest daughter, Tina, who was then almost twenty-nine, began expressing more interest in the subject. In 1994, Tina Groenveld travelled to Melbourne to attend the third annual conference of the AAMPRD, where she heard speeches from visiting and local therapists ranging across such topics as satanic abuse, mindcontrol programs, dissociation and torture. It was after this conference that Jan Groenveld said she noticed an inexplicable change in her daughter:

Things had started to sour at the end of July. We were both studying psychology at university and she had been coming down from her home and picking me up on the way through. But one day she suddenly announced that from now on I'd have to make my own way to the university. I thought, this is strange. Then in November, not long after she got back from the AAMPRD conference, she rang my husband and told him not to bother coming to see her or her boys again. Of course, that just floored him.

A week before Christmas, Groenveld got a call from her daughter requesting a meeting in the Logan Hyperdome shopping mall. It was there, she recalled, that Tina turned up with her younger brother, a friend and several grandchildren and told her about the satanic ritual abuse memories she was experiencing:

We got the lot. I sat there for an hour and a half while she pulled out all her drawings and started telling me how we had taken my grandson to these satanic coven meetings. She remembered being inducted into the coven by some Jehovah's Witnesses when she was seven. She said she'd wandered into a coven meeting that was being conducted in the back room of a Friend's place during a barbecue. I'm sitting there )listening to this, not saying very much. At this stage it was my husband who was supposedly the dangerous one. I had to be careful because my life was in danger from him. Tina told me that now she had turned thirty they were training her to be a high priestess -she said she got telephone calls which included signals that forced her to obey the cult. Her friend Betty started telling me how she had seen these 'shapeshifters' -people who can change shape into anything -so they'd put searchlights around their house.

Groenveld left the meeting in a daze. At the time she was already suffering from severe stress, chicken pox and a strep infection that required high dosage cortisone treatment, and the news from her daughter left her devastated. It soon became clear that her twenty-seven-year-old son, Jacob, who had moved into a house with Tina, sympathised with his sister. Groenveld and her husband quickly lost contact with their oldest son and daughter, and with it any chance to see their seven grandchildren. After years spent campaigning against cult abuse, Jan Groenveld now found herself accused of being a cult abuser.'I had a complete crack-up,' she recalled. 'I was already running at incredible stress levels and this was just too much. In a matter of weeks I lost my seven grandchildren and two of my children.' Groenveld had recently been reunited with the son she gave up for adoption more than thirty years previously; compounding her emotional pain, he now retreated from the family as it was engulfed in the drama of Tina's memories. Groenveld threw herself into researching repressed memory, contacting the Australian False Memory Association arid US memory reseachers such as Elizabeth Loftus. After several months of intensive study, she began to draw parallels between her daughter's 'memories' and the religious teachings of her childhood and adolescence:

Tina was exposed to a lot of anti-occult and apocalypse stuff from the ages of fourteen to nineteen -books and movies with very graphic depictions of Armageddon. That's all you get from the Jehovah's Witnesses, demons and the end of the world. And that's what you get from the Pentecostals too. I remember when we joined the Pentecostals in 1978 there was all sorts of talk about the planetary alignments in 1982 and the problems that was going to cause. As a kid she would have nightmares about that. In my experience, a terrific number of these so-called ritual abuse victims come from this kind of fundamentalist church background. Children who grew up in fundamentalist churches in the 1970s and 1980s grew up at time when the churches were flooded with End Time literature and movies. They were told The Rapture was just about to happen. I think you'll find that a lot of those kids have grown up with that fear within them, and they don't know what to do with it.

In May 1995, Groenveld went public about her family's trauma in her newsletter, denouncing satanic ritual abuse as a sham. The therapists and 'survivors' who used to contact her and attend her seminars cut off contact and cancelled their subscriptions to her newsletter. Her oldest son and daughter refused to contact her, despite the volumes of material she sent them about the false memory phenomenon. It was a reaction which Groenveld was not entirely unfamiliar with:

The four characteristics of a destructive mind-control group are behaviour control, information control, thought control and emotional control, and I can't see any difference between those characteristics and the behaviour of the people who promote satanic ritual abuse. 1 saw my 6aug4t0T QO3?ig MR that cultic mentality and like every mother, I panicked. My two oldest kids, like all the other kids that were brought up in fundamentalist religious groups, were programmed to be frightened of everyone they met, to have no real trust in anyone and yet to have no barriers as well. That's the paradox of that belief system. They were taught to be fearful all the time: 'Who do I talk to?'; 'Who don't I talk to?'; 'Will Jehovah zap me because I talk to that person?' That's why I can understand that Tina has terrors, and why I can't really hold them responsible for what happened. If there had been someone to counsel them other than me, it might have been dealt with. But a prophet is without honour in his home town. We're all the same in that way. 'We all think,'What would mum know?'