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Critical Criminology 11: 6173, 2002.

2002 Kluwer Law International. Printed in the Netherlands.

Indiana University
Abstract. This article explores effects that getting to know those involved in child custody
struggles over allegations of sexual abuse, and survivors of ritual abuse and mind control
(RA/MC), have had on the development of my own theory of how to make peace in the
face of violence on the one hand and on how I am received professionally on the other. The
discussion provides background of how I came to be involved with these survivors and why
I infer that I am considered deviant for listening to them while other criminologists focus on
generating knowledge based on people they hardly know. I conclude by reecting on some
insights for peacemaking criminology gained from RA/MC survivors who have built trusting,
trustworthy lives with partners and friends, and who offer lessons on what it takes to move
away from sadism and toward compassion to transform a culture into greater community
and less violence.
Many critical criminologists have suffered professional dismissal because
much of what they learned about criminal justice came from prisoners and
ex-prisoners. From tenure decisions to what gets accepted for publication,
the lower the status of the informants, the lower the signicance of the work
in many collegial and professional eyes. People are evaluated by those with
whom they stand. The low status of criminal law in the legal profession and
the low status of criminology in status-conscious sociology departments are
products of associating researchers and practitioners with the status of their
primary informants and of their clients.
Currently, the informants with whom I work have marginalized me even
among critical criminologists, yet the serious victimization they suffered
makes me hard pressed to remain silent. My recent work, which some see
as non-criminological, involves survivors like Jeanette Westbrook (read her
narrative at www.mindcontrolforums.com/radio/ckln12.htm). Shortly after
she was married, she was sitting in the bedroom with her husband, and he
simply placed his hand on my leg, and on my knee and I had a ashback, and
I started breaking things. I was full of rage (Pepinsky 1998b). She realized
not just that she needed help, but that parts of me through the years had gone
to other therapists trying to get help without my knowledge and that they
were going to a therapist and talking about incest (Pepinsky 1998b).
Jeanette got a state attorney general (in Kentucky) to prosecute her father
on three counts of rape decades after the events (a precursor to cases now as
against Catholic priests). That prosecution depended on nding three police
investigators who believed her, including what her alter personalities told
police, when Jeanettes core self as yet had no conscious memory of what the
alters had experienced. Jeanette herself did much of the investigative legwork,
such as getting school records showing that when parts of her recalled having
been nearly killed by torture, she was indeed absent. Her police friends got
her sister to tape a phone call to their father in which he acknowledged having
raped the sister too. As authorities sought to have him extradited from his new
home in Ohio, her father suddenly died. His personal physician certied that
the death was of natural causes, but there was no autopsy for a sudden death
of someone under felony extradition.
I have talked with police ofcers who believed Jeanettes story. Like me,
they believe that she was raped thousands of times, was tortured in other ways
like being buried, hung upside down, and caged to watch human sacrice. She
wrote on a tee shirt displayed in the Kentucky statehouse rotunda, that she
was, forced to kill and even eat human victims. As she tells it, her father led
a cult that involved other prominent members of their community she recog-
nized. For all this, her accomplishment was to obtain prosecution of her father
for three counts of rape. She agreed with ofcials that mentioning anything
about ritual abuse would sound so bizarre as to defeat the prosecution. Keep
it simple stick to one or two or three mundane felonies.
I have known and befriended Jeanette since the spring of 1994, when she
rst came to a class of mine. We were thereafter on the program of a pair of
survivor conferences together. She has presented workshops at the Academy
of Criminal Justice Sciences and Association for Humanist Sociology meet-
ings. I believe far more of her story than that she was merely raped several
times by her father. I have seen physical scars on her ankles and abdomen.
As one child advocate has told me and my students, if you believe
any of these ritual abuse stories, it will change your life. Violence that
includes organized serial murder is impossible for me, as a criminologist,
to walk away from. Moreover, I have learned a tremendous amount about
violence and healing from the survivors who have come to me (see also
http://members.aol.com/smartnews/hp99.html). In a world of much violence
we cannot stop, survivors like Jeanette teach me how we nonetheless may
manage to gain community, trust and safety in the face of that violence.
When Nils Christie was among professional friends warning me against
making too much out of unsubstantiated stories of childhood violence,
I was bewildered. I could not understand what was wrong with me or
why I believed things some of my best professional friends told me
were dangerous. Over time, I have reached the conclusion that I am no
more gullible than criminologists who believe they know when crime
is increasing or decreasing (see Living Criminologically With Naked
Emperors, www.critcrim.org/critpapers/pepinsky-book1.htm); but my own
efforts to build a theory of how peace gets made in the face of personal and
structural violence are largely professionally overshadowed by the conclu-
sion in the criminological mainstream that ritual abuse and mind control are
practically non-existent.
This article explores the issues raised by my involvement with people I
now regard as my primary research informants: those I believe to be survivors
of so-called intergenerational ritual abuse, and among them, those who were
adopted out into government-sponsored programming and experimentation
in mind control.
When I became involved in friendship with those I believe to have
survived ritual abuse, and then mind control, I sensed I had crossed a line
even among critical criminologists. Prisoners were acceptable friends and
informants, but purported survivors of forced cannibalism were not. I had
already been fully predisposed to accept ndings of researchers on white-
collar crime and state crime, that rich and powerful people kill and steal more
than all our prisoners put together.
The rst part of this discussion provides some background on how I
became involved with survivors of ritual abuse and what types of experiences
they relate. In the next section, I weigh the validity of data from informants
researchers never meet against the validity of data I gather from victims and
survivors of what I believe to be genuine, routine sexual assault and worse.
The third section sketches out some of the important points for critical crim-
inology and peacemaking in the face of extreme, even unthinkable, violence.
This discussion will probably raise more questions than it answers. When
I refer to ritual abuse and mind control survivors here, I will not describe
their stories at length. Instead, I refer the reader to web-sites where he or
she can evaluate the testimony, such as http://www.aches-mc.org and on
http://members.aol.com/SMARTNEWS/index2.html. This is in keeping with
what feminists refer to as the narrative method. Many of the points raised
here are discussed in more length in Pepinsky (2001) freely available on the
internet which continues my work of bringing the least heard, most violated
voices into the social conversation to promote making peace rather than
spreading violence and fear. As always, I welcome comments and feedback.
Background and History
During a controversy about whether Criminology was fairly representing
radical criminology, I contributed a chapter, A Radical Alternative to
Radical Criminology (Pepinsky 1980a) to a special issue of the journal.
The Latin meaning of radical is root, meaning to me as a scholar that
I am committed to getting to the root of whatever social problem I am trying
to understand. The test of whether I was truly radical would be whether
my work was radically different from that of every other criminologist
unique because the personal social data I brought to bear were also unique.
Maybe it is karmic. I sought recognition as a radical and hence unique
criminologist. At the time, I took for granted that I was an accepted member
of the community of criminologists who were radical, later critical. Then
I crossed the line.
Looking back, it is almost as though some spirit with a sense of irony kept
sending me people who in the criminological and sociological mainstream
were deemed farther and farther out. If I am ready to listen to voices of
people from supposedly disreputable groups, people will come into my life
who will tell me things I need to know. One of my academic heroes, the late
Leslie Wilkins, used to send his research methods doctoral students out to
nd serendipity. This is of course like a Zen koan or riddle. The way out of
the paradox is to recognize that it is ones receptivity to hearing discredited
stories that creates a reputation or aura in which people come forward to
volunteer their experience.
Many people have grievances that they are ashamed or afraid to share for
fear that they will be dismissed or punished for doing so. As word gets out,
person to person, that a certain person will listen and entertain a grievance
people are drawn to them. People come to me and I am invited to conferences
to meet and hear other survivors. This process has been enhanced in my
case once people learn that I have legal training and have been involved in
A fundamental proposition of my theory of how to make peace is seeking
to bring unheard, silenced, oppressed, and discredited voices into ones own
discourse; the complaints of those who have been most discredited and
silenced are those one most needs to elicit, hear, and respond to rst (Pepinsky
1998b, 2000a). As a student public defender in law school and then as a
graduate student in sociology, I did not have this theory. I did have an acute
sense of personal ignorance. I was a relatively sheltered and privileged white
man, and I felt a need to know the offenders and victims who played such
a prominent role in criminological literature. As a career, and now as a
theoretically grounded choice, I choose to live with and learn from offenders
and victims who are more talked about than heard themselves.
For nearly a decade, I have been involved in what feminists call narrative
accounts of adult caretakers violence against children. In the fall of 1992
protective parents (those asking in custody cases that their children be
protected from abuse) introduced me and my students to incest, up to and
including ritual abuse and mind control programming and experimentation.
Roughly speaking, ritual abuse refers to overtly religious or anti-religious
rites that are carried out in private gatherings, including by people who might
feel that killing and eating human esh is a holier form of communion than
drinking wine and eating a our wafer. Mind control refers to building on
many of the same techniques, including the pretense of religious ritual, by
government agents in hopes of training so-called Manchurian candidates,
for covert work in sex traps, for carrying secret information, for carrying
contraband, or for political murder.
What ritual abuse and mind control survivors have in common is that they
all grew up being routinely raped, tortured, and occasionally were forced to
kill and eat people in organized in groups often led by their own parents.
They survived in key part because of what survivor Jeanette Westbrook calls
multiple personality defense systems, known in the last two Diagnostic
and Statistical Manuals of the American Psychiatric Association respectively
as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) and Dissociative Identity Disorder
(DID). Those with DID tell me that, unlike schizophrenics, the voices that
they hear are inside themselves rather than outside as in the recent book
and movie, A Beautiful Mind. In many cases, because of their ability to
split and compartmentalize aspects of their lives (so that Jeanette still
cannot consciously remember entire years of her childhood), ritual abuse
survivors report having been in effect adopted over to government-centered
experiments in training spies and covert agents. A settlement by the CIA
for $750,000 to nine survivors of experiments they funded in Canada (see
www.aches-mc.org) and surviving U.S. government documents indicate such
experimentation under U.S. government auspices goes back at least to World
War II.
In one way or another, I have known scores of survivors of prolonged,
extreme emotional and physical torture, apparently aimed toward raising
children to become adult servants of someone elses political, economic, or
social agenda in adulthood. From my theoretical point of view, this buried
betrayal trauma (Freyd 1996, whose parents founded the False Memory
Syndrome Foundation) is that which makes people feel most unsafe and
isolated at a personal level, and which leads to projection and displacement
of the personal violence experience onto the publicly identied criminal
element, such as young men of color wearing colors on inner city street
corners (Pepinsky 2000a, 2000c). That is, the violence that most directly
underlies public support for wars on crime is the violence least likely to
appear in ofcial or criminological statistics and cases.
Methodological Issues: Data and Reliability
In 1986, criminologists at the University of Oslo, Norway, critiqued an
article in a U.S. research journal, reporting results of a survey of intro-
ductory psychology students. The criminologists echoed how unscientic
(uvitenskapelig) the study was because the researchers knew none of their
informants, and hence had no idea what they meant by their responses. The
Norwegian word for science connotes witness, and the Greek empirical
means born of experience. Criminologists in the U.S. mainstream stay
focused on talking about people they scarcely know, and make me deviant
for learning from my informants. As a criminologist, the only primary data
collection opportunities I have to trace the dynamics of violence and of
peacemaking transcendence of violence is from people with whom I establish
personal trust, developing friendships which at least in some respects are
deeply intimate. Ironically, the stories from which I learn in this work are
dismissed as anecdotal evidence in work I attempt to publish.
Perhaps it is a liability in the United States today to accept personal
responsibility for bearing witness to testimonies of grievance. To me, in the
journey of life (Quinney 1991, 1998), there is no greater responsibility than to
make what one will of evidence of suffering one hears and feels in everyday
life (Quinney 1991), and to account for the conclusions one draws therefrom.
Criminologists in highly regarded studies routinely accept research ndings
enumerating offenses, offenders, and victims at face value, despite the fact
that the ndings are derived from data provided by people the researchers
never know, whose documentation they have not seen.
I want to get acquainted with storytellers and see and hear corroboration
before I decide to code their stories as essentially real. When I contrast the
care I take to evaluate whether to use or cite or believe any single informants
story to the ease with which crime and criminality counters draw inferences
from informants whom they have never met, I feel as though I am in closer
touch with human reality by far than they. It takes personal trust and time
for people to reveal this kind of victimization, often because they tried as
children to ask for help and were ignored, dismissed or disbelieved, and
even punished for trying to tell what happened. Chances are slim, when a
stranger shows up asking about personal victimization that the most profound
personal victimization especially will be reported. Crimes that are named or
confessed on self-reports are those which are most publicly acceptable to
In my classes, I bring those I believe to be survivors and supporters of
genuine victims of ritual abuse and mind control. I tell class members that,
as a professor, I am bringing them people whose stories I believe. I tell class
members that I am in a minority for listening to and believing the stories.
The weight of academic and legal opinion is that none of these stories in
particular is to be believed. In one class, an associate instructor has done the
class a great favor by lecturing on why he disbelieves the storytellers. I cannot
and indeed do not want to tell class members what to believe. I want them
and the readers of this article to decide why you believe and disbelieve
what you do. My faith is that your ndings are worthier of trust when you
hear evidence as close to rsthand as you can for yourself, and do not let
experts, including me, tell you what is happening, as you hear people who
are spoken about speak for themselves.
My method is inductive. Survivors had come to me. In virtually all cases,
I believe from the stories I hear that the tellers had been severely violated
in childhood. In some cases, including people eager to volunteer to appear in
my classes, I have also inferred that the storytellers are confused or delusional
about what has been done to them. When asked in class, I try to explain why
I accept certain evidence of validity of stories. For instance, I trust stories that
change with retelling and discovery, without changing or contradicting earlier
stories. I look for and am offered corroboration, photographs, school records,
physical scars, or descriptions of places survivors otherwise could not have
My experience is that there is a lot of lies and denial in all manner of
stories people tell one another. It is vital to the safety and peace that people
learn to discern what to believe and what to reject. I believe that I have been
deceived and lied to by many people in all walks of life, and that I have
been amply insensitive and (self-)deceiving in return. The problem is that
separating fact from ction is no more acute among self-reported child abuse
victims and survivors than elsewhere in daily life. I think I am becoming less
gullible as time passes, not more. I am also moved to caution by recognition
that I love my work and I do not want to lose my job or get sued.
I recognize that the people I invite into class are profoundly, even person-
ally, disquieting to many in the student audience. As my peacemaking theory
prescribes, I feel safer having angry dissenters protest against the class
material I offer than at commanding obedience to mastering my own social
truths for a grade (Pepinsky 2000b, 1998a). I gure that I owe my students
and my colleagues a chance to second-guess my judgment. That is why I
continue to bring the most controversial survivors, whose stories I do believe,
to my classes and to conferences.
Survivors Contributions to a Theory of Peacemaking
A more fundamental challenge I have received throughout my academic
career is that perhaps, interesting as I might be, I dont know what theory
means to most people who use the term. I will settle for dening theory as
nothing other than social signicance. I do not feel I should control what
peacemaking criminology means to others; but in my own case, peacemaking
is an evolving theory of how to make peace in the face of violence and denial.
Thanks primarily to survivors of child custody struggles and of ritual abuse
and mind control whom I have met over the past few years, I have elaborated
that theory. I am encouraged to go on primarily by the validation survivors
and activists give me, that what I propose makes sense to them. They raise my
awareness of my own dissociation and of what it means to become conscious
of the trauma left by ones past. The survivors who build trusting, trustworthy
lives with partners and friends, offer lessons on what it takes for any of us
to move away from sadism toward compassion to transform a culture into
more community and less violence.
Those multiples who have broken free of violence and established
safe, fullling, enduring partnerships show me how to make peace without
despairing over a belief that the depth and breadth of personal violence
runs beyond what most people acknowledge. The courage and support the
most tortured survivors are able to achieve in their own daily relations are
a phenomenal transformation of intergenerational cycles of violence. If this
theory holds, this is how political cultures are changed over time. I further
propose that as peace gets made globally, if humanity survives long enough,
the last underclass to gain emancipation will be children.
I have seen colleagues tune out when I begin to describe survivors as
primary sources for understanding what makes people violent, what traps
people in recurrent victimization (as in why women leave womens shelters
so often to return to their batterers), and of transcendence from violence into
communities of safe, trustworthy relations. Survivors of ritual abuse and mind
control, as of custody disputes, teach me much about the nature of violence
and the making of peace. I could perhaps pretend that whatever insight I
have came from a safer source, but I will not. This section summarizes some
of the insights I have had for peacemaking criminology while being in this
community of survivors, a longer version of which is (Pepinsky 2001).
With time, the central propositions of my theory of peacemaking become
simpler. Peace is made as people become safer and more able to let down
their guard with one another. Peacemaking is a process of mediating violence
rather than ghting people who are violent. Mediation entails embracing
conict recognizing the voices of victims of the most deeply hidden
violence among us and offering empathic support rather than command-
and-obedience when the most vulnerable victims tell their stories. In place of
law and order, I propose that what truly distinguishes whether people, born
into a violent world, become safer through one friendship in daily life or
globally in political and economic life, is whether at any social level power
over others gets transformed into participatory democracy. A good paradigm
for criminology would be that this democratization against the exercise of
power over others replaces crime and criminality as our dependent vari-
able (see the conclusion of www.critcrim.org/critpapers/pepinsky-book1.htm,
Living Criminologically With Naked Emperors).
The theoretical bottom line to me is that commanding obedience may
temporarily stop violence but cannot leave parties safer together without
attendant exchange of empathy. At the micro-level, people only become safer
through giving and receiving empathy, especially when they are desperate to
keep children from being hurt, or desperate as children trying to complain
about what hurts and terries them who get legally discredited. When people
instead command obedience, even when we get compliance, master and
servant are left warier of one another (Pepinsky 2001).
In a warmaking perspective, one commonly begins by specifying what
others must do to make things right. When peace is being made, as I see
the contrast, the rst question becomes: What shall I myself do next? In my
experience in the face of personal and structural violence, the best defense
is to identify those you most want to support, and to nd one other person
at a time who believes you have legitimate concerns. As the community of
personal support grows, people at least gain conviction that they are not crazy,
that something crazy is happening to them. As rape crisis counselors have
come to label it, people become survivors and cease being victims once they
determine that they do not deserve the violence they have suffered, nor guilt
for failing to stop continuing violence on those they know. Among survivors
around me, I nd that transformation to survivorship rests on nding safe,
open, honest relations with family memberships of choice, including freedom
of association and privacy among members of families of origin. I am actually
fairly optimistic at the global proliferation of communities of shelter and
support particularly for battered women and children, in an era I label one
of ultimate nomadry (in www.critcrim.org/critpapers/pepinsky-book6.htm,
a chapter on Educating For Peace).
In the classroom and in my research, I now attach considerable signi-
cance to shifting criminology from being offender centered and toward a
balance of attention to being victim/survivor centered. I envision that had
I happened on a hit-and-run accident before I met survivors of childhood
violence, I might have once sought to chase the driver, but would not pause
to see how I could help and support the victim. Now I would stop and check
on the victim, and ignore the driver unless and until the victim asked for help
in giving chase.
All those who have told me and others about childhood victimization
have helped me dene my methods of inquiry and teaching. The problem is
one of literatyranny (Pepinsky 1998b; http://www.critcrim.org/critpapers/
pepinsky-book5.htm) literally the tyranny of written over oral words. As
I got into criminology and came to believe that the main criminological
phenomenon was the criminal, I spontaneously began to ask prisoners to tell
me what prison was like to them. On the whole, I have found what they report
to be more credible and meaningful than what I read in books by people who
show no sign of ever having met a prisoner. Here, as with survivors talking
about childhood violence, I learn much more from people who are written
about than from the people who are doing the writing. My students feel the
same. Time and again in my classes, I hear, roughly, I have learned more in
this than any other class because I got to talk with real people.
Just before I began meeting survivors and their advocates, I concluded that
children are the ultimate underclass (Pepinsky 1994). Their victimization is
compounded by violence of race, class, and gender. Theoretically, nothing is
more vital to progress away from personal and structural violence, including
wars on crime, than to recognize the fact that the ultimate underclass
childhood is the one to which everyone has belonged. Adulthood is an
opportunity for political revolution against being oppressed, toward becoming
the oppressor. The opportunity is to empathize with the history of oppression,
and so extend compassion and validation to children, so our children do not
have to grow up as repressed and oppressed as we did.
Trust comes hard even in families and with intimates. In a violent world,
everyone grows up small, vulnerable, victimized, and wary in everyday life.
Another word for wary, to be plain, is fear. A part of each of us lives in
fear. When a demagogue tells us that we have reason to be fearful and angry,
that what goes wrong is not our fault, and that they we belong to an important
surrogate family when we go after this or that enemy, we are vulnerable and
susceptible to calls for national security and attendant idolatry. Surviving
the considerable emotional and physical sadism of childhood predisposes us
to follow father-gures to war in hopes of protection.
Those who have survived by creating multiple personalities have taught
me a lot about dissociation that we all share. Their reports have shown me
that in all of us, dissociation on our insides amounts on our outsides to denial
among those who abuse us or who refuse to believe that we have issues worth
hearing. Multiple friends have helped me recognize how much trauma we
onesies have also buriedtried to get out and get past and forget. I have
come to recognize in myself, and I propose it to be for all of us in a violent
world, that dissociation is what scares us into denial of how we ourselves
affect others, and also scares us out of weighing evidence we are offered
from powerful sources as independently and critically as we weigh evidence
from political underdogs, notably from children and from our enemies.
Is there a satanic panic (Richardson et al. 1991)? Toward the end of the
review of evidence for and against ritual abuse and mind control claims I
have described in my class, I have asked how many in the class had heard
any story like the ones survivors and advocates had presented in class. Rarely
does a hand go up. There is no satanic panic. Moreover, the stories of extreme
violence I hear and share are not necessarily satanic: they can have virtually
any religious or pagan liturgy you can imagine. There is no panic about an
erroneously identied enemy.
I accept that as a criminologist, I am most deeply touched by the most
grotesque crimes. When I speak of peacemaking, I am used to hearing some-
thing like, But what do we do with serial killers? I believe the answer is
that for the most part, we do nothing, and ostracize survivors, especially when
serial killing is organized and intergenerational. That is a conclusion that this
privileged and sheltered white man has reached after listening to stories of
In one sense, I feel tremendously professionally isolated out there by
myself. In another, I have come to share deep trust and friendship with
informants who have more reason to distrust and to remain isolated than I
had ever imagined possible, not only because of the pain and fear they have
endured, but because their violators were originally their nearest and socially
dearest human relations. Among the kinds of shame they work to resolve is
that of having loved ones primary torturer. Among prisoners, too, there is a
way I can open up, be more honest and direct, and receive genuine validation
and support, that is so much easier than in circles in pretending normalcy
and success. In my peacemaking terms, making peace means being able
to let down ones guard in social relations. Among survivors, I tend to be
relaxed and open. Survivors teach me more than anyone else what cultivating
community takes.
When my students acknowledge feeling that the risk of radical social
change is too hard to embrace, I acknowledge feeling that in my life I would
rather not risk forsaking genuine community and friendship when I nd it,
regardless of what it does to some other reputation of mine. I have survived
academically on my own radical path. I nally struggled through and got
tenure at my third university job, even before I started listening to children
and adults reporting about their childhood. It was a struggle to get my nal
promotion at that university the second time around. In any case in which
I become involved, let alone in reporting a research datum, I feel at once
most enlightened by marginal voices and cautious about weighing evidence
in support of and in rejection of their stories. I do not regret having listened
and learned where fresh experience and knowledge has come to me.
Do I have a theory worth examining, or am I myself a victim of a mass
social delusion? I was well advised some years back that I cannot, and should
not try, to prove what I believe to anyone else. But in fairness, I must ask
my colleagues how they know whether their informants are reporting reality
when they report crime, criminality or violence. I trust my informants image
of violence and healing more than I trust scholarly consensus on the shape
and progress of wars on crime.
My thanks go to Paul Leighton especially for his willingness to engage this
work, and for making cogent editorial suggestions and adjustments.
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