Monday, October 21, 2013

Fearing Fear

Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at
October 21, 2013

                Last week I received a call from a friend I hadn’t heard from in years.  She is coming to grips with the enormity of the recurrent rape, torture and betrayal she has endured as she tries to receive support and acknowledgment of the enormity of the life she was born into.  Her mother tried in vain to protect her from the intergenerational life of being sexually tortured and exploited, progressing as in so many cases I know in the military, and in use to compromise and forge bonds among those who over time have moved into high, medium and low positions in politics, business, helping professions and law enforcement to support and build local, national and global networks of sexual exploitation, illicit drug markets, espionage, serial homicide, and promotion of chaos and popular fear.  It is a high-stakes world in which many are trapped into keeping secrets on pain of degradation and death, while others recognized as leaders have apparently come to believe in the superiority of a supreme being or force where evil and realpolitik is destined to triumph through chaos over those who believe in the supremacy of love and compassion.  There are those in and around law enforcement who sincerely work to expose and “stop” this “evil.”
                In her phone call last week, my friend resurrected the feelings of outrage and determination to expose this many-headed network of the worst forms of organized personal violence and deception I have encountered in my criminological career.  After receiving warnings to call off my quest to expose and identify those who were apparently conducting sadistic and occasionally homicidal outdoor rituals near my home, I fell into clinical depression—a kind of despair in which I and others around me questioned my sanity, while warnings or “calling cards” were laid around my home.  On advice from another survivor and friend, I ceased trying to identify culprits, and when turning to speaking out in generalities, endured the feelings of close friends that I had simply become a paranoid conspiracy theorist, or in terms other well-known professionals used, purveyor of a moral panic.  I continued to invite those I found to be credible survivors and supporters to my classes, and to participate in a conference by and for survivors or what is loosely known as a combination of “ritual abuse” and “mind control”—the SMART conference organized by an extraordinarily courageous, outspoken friend and researcher, Neil Brick (whose website, , contains the most comprehensive bibliography on the subject I know).  But I also learned to moderate my rhetoric, and to hold back laying my convictions about the phenomenon on others.  I recognized what another friend and advocate said to me and my students, “If you believe this stuff, it will turn your world [of presuming that forces of law and order have integrity and protect us and set limits on the violence we can do to one another and get away with it] on its head.”  With help and genuinely therapeutic support, like many survivors I know, I made a great deal of progress in healing from the secondary trauma, in living with the enormity of things I can no longer imagine changing.
                By chance, another encounter I had had just had when I got the survivor’s phone call made me realize an emotional price I pay for having built defenses against my limitations.  Over dinner, another friend asked us at the table which movie had most made us cry.  I recognized that while I readily share tears watching and hearing scenes of loving tenderness and forgiveness, I steel myself to seeing and hearing portrayals and stories of violence and pain.  That coolness in the face of violence does allow me to hear and validate pain and fear others share with me.  But as the person who raised the question about crying over movies observed, it also sets limits on the emotional depth of my empathy for the suffering expressed in real stories and in fictionalized tragedy and suffering.  During that same dinner, another friend called me a “relativist.”  I suspect I come across as nonchalant or cavalier about larger “crimes” or “wrongs” or “injustices” that move others—apart from personal victimization—that deeply offend others.  On the bright side, I can look at pain and suffering that others avoid, and hear personal pain and suffering from others without flinching or tuning them out.  Perhaps, too, that is why I find myself easily accepting and respecting others, and indeed myself, for having resorted to violence others feel obliged to condemn.
                These compromises with rejection of violence in others rest on allowing myself tolerance of my own emotional and social limits.  I see no point in pretending otherwise.  Love and peace--hal

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