Warning: The following story is a disturbing account of female genital mutilation and repeated ritual abuse that Nevaeh Novak survived in her first 16 years of life. She shared her voice with AHA as a part of her mission to shed light that THIS is happening now—in the U.S.—and to protect other children who may be at risk or who are suffering from ritual abuse. It must end.
Nevaeh Novak’s childhood was one a child should never experience.
From an early age, Nevaeh was held captive by her parents. She was locked up, tortured, and continually sexually abused by them and others in the cult. The cult practiced what is known as “ritual abuse” which includes “mind control” and threats of death. For the first 16 years of her life, Nevaeh had no contact with the outside world other than with her abusers.
Abuse, pain, starvation, and physical deprivation were a constant part of Nevaeh’s everyday life. Then, when she was 13 years old—as part of that ritual abuse—the person who called himself her father performed the mutilating genital surgery known as FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) on her.
After surviving unspeakable torture, somehow, Nevaeh was able to muster up the courage and seize a moment when she wasn’t chained—she escaped her captives at age 16. When she was rescued, and because she had never been permitted to attend school, Nevaeh then had to learn everything she had been deprived of: reading, writing, arithmetic, etc.
During the years after she had escaped her torturers, Nevaeh overcame many unimaginable obstacles. Throughout a long stint in rehab she learned how to walk properly—you see, she had been chained up throughout her first 16 years. Eventually, Nevaeh found a profession as a semi-truck driver operating 18 wheelers across the U.S., into Canada and Mexico, and logging over a million miles in travel. It was during these years of healing that she turned to writing poetry. We included excerpts from her poems throughout the blog in orange.
She is leaving the AHA Foundation a gift in her will that ensures that she may impact others, that she may help others heal, and that her fight to end FGM may continue beyond her days. She is suffering now from terminal cancer.
Nevaeh’s greatest wish is to make a difference in the lives of others. In honor of her birthday on December 9, you can leave her a message below in the comment section.
AHA Foundation: To start, I want to thank you for talking with us today. You endured a lot of suffering and pain as a child and through your teenage years. You decided to share that trauma with others and turn your difficult experiences into advocacy—to make sure other children can be protected. Can you tell us about what led to this decision and what you’ve been through?
Nevaeh: My abusive suffering was extreme and chronic. Although I know I may not “fit” into the typical category of women who have undergone FGM, I want what happened to me to be known because there are other women who have been hurt like me.
Ritual abuse is generally NOT known about; therefore, it is not talked about—the facts are too hideous for most people to endure hearing about. I am a survivor. I must speak. I want to be a voice for others like me, so that these survivors know they are not alone, and that there is help and hope. I hope to bring awareness to the existence of Ritual Cult Abuse and thereby help other survivors.
AHA Foundation: When you were forced to undergo FGM, how did your circumstance differ from most survivors?
Nevaeh: My experience of FGM was not due to any religious belief, nor was it a cultural practice, as is most FGM. It was intended only to be cruel and torturous.
For most of the first 16 years of my childhood, I was ritually and sexually abused. On my 13th birthday, I was taken to a barn where my “fixing” ceremony would be performed. I was secured to a table and feet stirrups with chains and straps, leaving me unable to move any part of my body.
I saw the blade as he prepared to cut me. All of a sudden, I felt a burning pain. It was so excruciating I don’t have words to describe it, other than feeling like I was on fire. He either stitched me or cauterized me almost all the way closed. He let my legs drop then he strapped them together. I was still unable to move. I was left alone in that position, in and out of consciousness, for a couple of days.
The man that called himself my father did this to me and said, “Now no one will ever want you.”
AHA Foundation: Looking back at those years of suffering, what do you think made you into a survivor?
Nevaeh: My oncologist told me recently, “I have never met anyone with more determination than you.”
When I escaped from the cult, I was 16. I was in the throes of giving birth and wanted to protect my almost-born baby from my captors. I had been left temporarily unchained, broke a window, and jumped from a second-floor building. I crawled and dragged myself through a forested area clutching my dead baby girl. I don’t remember much after that. It was wintertime and I was naked. The next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital.
AHA Foundation: Was there a person or an organization who was there for you early in your life?
Nevaeh: After my escape, when I woke up in the hospital, I was with a kind-looking, red-headed lady by my side. This woman became my caretaker and helped me learn how to eat with utensils as well as bringing me to rehab so I could learn how to walk. These were basic things that I hadn’t properly learned because of my situation. This human-angel was the antidote for the years of my captivity and abuse.
AHA Foundation: After you were free, did you understand how egregious the actions of FGM and ritual abuse were, or is that something you learned during captivity?
Nevaeh: It wasn’t until almost 43 years later, when a doctor explained to me exactly what happened; that my clitoris had been cut out, that my labia had been removed and that I had been mostly stitched closed. Until then I only knew I had been hurt.
AHA Foundation: Tell us about your connection with the work of AHA Foundation—how did you find out about us and what in our mission resonates most with you?
Nevaeh: A dear friend of mine recommended AHA Foundation and explained how this organization helped women who have been victimized find resources for themselves and in addition, AHA has sponsored many legislative initiatives to change existing laws as well as promote new ones that would protect women and girls.
AHA Foundation: What would you like legislators to do?
Nevaeh: I feel that victims are hidden and risk a painful, torturous death should they disobey and try to escape. I want legislators to investigate and expose ritual abuse cults and bring perpetrators to justice.
AHA Foundation: We are honored you chose to leave a gift to AHA Foundation in your will. Would you like to share what kind of legacy you wish to leave by making this generous gift?
Nevaeh: Even though I’m not what people think of when they think of FGM, I am a survivor of female genital mutilation. My wish is for my life to make a difference, to do as much good as I can with my life, which is curtailed now due to my terminal cancer diagnosis. I am leaving a gift to AHA Foundation in my will. I want my legacy to help stop this painful practice.
AHA Foundation: Thank you for sharing your story with us. Your fierceness and perseverance, and your life’s work to protect others are infinitely inspirational. We also thank you from the bottom of our hearts for adding AHA Foundation as a beneficiary in your will. Your legacy will live in the life-saving work we do every day.
What is Ritual Abuse?
In a 1989 report, the Ritual Abuse Task Force of the L.A. County Commission for Women defined ritual abuse as: “Ritual Abuse usually involves repeated, prolonged sadistic abuse, especially of children, over an extended period of time (sometimes years). It is almost impossible to imagine the realities endured by victims of ritual abuse: multiple abusers with systematic motives coordinated with the sole purpose of perpetuating and maintaining a cycle of abuse. It is carried out in contexts where children are in groups and within families or groups of families.
The physical abuse is severe and can include beatings, electroshock, torture (even death), and confinement. The sexual abuse is painful, humiliating, and sadistic—intended as a means of gaining dominance over the victim. The psychological abuse is devastating and involves the use of ritual indoctrination. It includes mind control techniques that convey to the victim a profound terror of the cult members—most victims are in a state of terror, mind control, and dissociation.
These activities are kept secret from society at large, as they violate norms and laws.
Nevaeh Novak is a courageous survivor of ritual cult abuse and FGM. She suffered throughout her childhood and adolescent years from extreme sadistic physical and sexual abuse; FGM was inflicted on her as a deliberate form of genital violence.
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