An Interview With Jeannie Riseman (Svali Blog Post)

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Occasionally, there are survivors with a special gift who choose to use that ability to help other survivors. Jeannie Riseman is one of these people. She is a talented writer and editor, and her hard work is evident in the magazine “Survivorship”, created by Caryn Stardancer, which Jeannie now edits.

Jeannie is also the creator of the Ritual Abuse Home Page, one of the oldest (and best!) resources on the web, whether you are a survivor learning about ritual abuse, or a support person or therapist seeking more information. She has spent hour after hour collecting resources and indexing them on her site.

Jeannie has graciously agreed to be interviewed, and to share some from her own past with Suite 101.

Q: Jeannie, how did you come to speak out against ritual abuse and/or mind control? What led you to the decision? How did you find the courage to speak out?

A: It was instinctual. When I got the very first abuse memory, one of my first thoughts was “The personal IS political.” I started telling everybody under the sun and I haven’t shut my mouth since.

Q: How did you begin to remember your own trauma? Were there any factors that triggered this memory process? Have you sought validation for your memories? If so, what have you found?

A: My parents and husband had died and my kids were grown and on their own. I had responsibilities to nobody but myself, which I think was really crucial.

Actually, I am one of the few people I know of who learned of the abuse in therapy. My therapist, who I trusted and liked, decided to try a silly little Gestalt-type exercise where the two people put their hands together and push. (Supposed to make saying “no” easier, or something.) Because he was so tall, he knelt down to be on my level and I went right into flashback to servicing a kneeling man when I was four. Poor guy had no idea why I was sobbing and non-verbal!

That unleashed a lot of memories, first of sexual abuse by one man, later of group and cult experiences. I have no external validation, perhaps because the generation above me is pretty much all dead. And ours was an oral tradition; we kept nothing in writing.

Q: What were your experiences with either/or any combination of: a) cult control and programming b) governmental mind control c) any other type of intentional abuse ?

A: About five years ago, I drew out an elaborate programming system, which I was able to write up. Slowly I came to believe that I was an early mind control experimental subject in New York City (in the ’40’s). In my early teens, I was shut down before I had been fully programmed. I believe that that project, or sub-project, was abandoned. I have never met anybody with programming that resembles mine.

I do not know the names of any people involved nor the locations where this took place, but I believe the personnel and site(s) were academic.

Q: Do you believe that there are organized groups that engage in this? Why do they do this to people, in your opinion?

A: Yes, without doubt. They do it for power, either for their own gain or for “national security.”

Q: Many survivors struggle in their healing process with a society that doesn’t believe them, their own internal pain, and invalidation from family members. What would you say to them? Any thoughts on these issues?

A: I choose to associate with people who do believe me at least most of the time. I don’t engage with people who don’t believe me – I just say “well, I guess we disagree” and drop it. There’s a certain power in telling a person they can believe you are psychotic if they want to, that you don’t care, and then acting completely sane and rational. I’m lucky in that all the people I really love believe me.

Finally, Jeannie shares some excellent ideas on how survivors can support one another, and pitfalls to avoid:

It’s important to communicate as much as we possibly can to each other about our experiences – both the abuse and how we heal. The more knowledge we have, the more we can put our experiences in context, the better. Communication strikes at the very basis of the programming because it demonstrates that it is possible to talk and live to talk again. It counteracts isolation, the feelings of “craziness,” and the lie that we belong to “them” eternally.

I think it is important to avoid looking to others to take away our pain or “fix” us, and equally important not to try and control other survivors. None of us has all the answers: only collectively can we build a knowledge base about how to live with dignity after such extreme abuse.