From the time she was 3 years old until she became a young adult, Rachel Hopkins was ritualistically tortured, raped, bathed in blood and threatened that she would be killed if she ever told anyone.
It's a story so bizarre and so terrifying that some people refuse to believe that it really happened. Hopkins (not her real name) was a victim of what is commonly called satanic ritual abuse - a phenomenon that many psychological experts say doesn't exist.Rather, they argue, memories of ritualistic abuse are fantasies or false memories planted by unscrupulous therapists. "I am sure there are cases where bogus therapists have suggested things. Of course, there are false memories," Hopkins said. "But that is not what happened to me."
Like most victims of satanic ritual abuse, Hopkins remembered the abuse many years later. But her case is significantly different from others.
She has the signed confessions of her parents - both of whom admitted abusing her during satanic rituals - that corroborate every memory she has of the abuse. The confessions offer much greater detail of events Rachel could not have known.
Hopkins' parents also confessed in detail to two investigators from the Utah attorney general's office and to leaders of the church they attended.
Hopkins was also able to recover a photograph of herself as a child that shows bruises inflicted during the ritual abuse. Her siblings have also corroborated the events surrounding the ritual abuse.
"The biggest weapon they (occultists) have is secrecy," she said. "By our society not acknowledging that it exists, we aid in that secrecy and we refuse to allow the healing to begin."
Tuesday, the Utah attorney general's office released the results of an investigation that reportedly downplays the existence of satanic ritual abuse. The report states there is not enough evidence to support prosecution of any individuals, said chief deputy Reed Richards.
Richards said the report doesn't rule out that satanic ritual abuse does exist, but it doesn't corroborate it, either.
Hopkins smiles wearily at that. She has met repeatedly with investigators Matt Jacobson and Mike King from the attorney general's office, who said her case was "absolutely, concrete evidence" of satanic ritual abuse. They even requested her permission to cite her case specifically in the report and asked her to talk to the media about her experience.
"The truth is they (occultists) do wear black robes, they do abuse children, they do kill animals," she said. "It exists, and to say otherwise is to deny the facts in front of them. Our society used to deny the existence of incest, too, because we didn't want to believe it."
Today, Hopkins leads a seemingly normal life. She is a mother of two children, she has been happily married for 20 years, she has just returned to college to complete her undergraduate degree and she is devoted to the LDS Church.
Only a handful of people know of the terror she has lived with most of her life.
Hopkins recalls how her parents and others, some of them relatives, would dress in black robes for sporadic rituals that involved terror and torture. "I was sexually abused in every way you can conceive. I was tortured and had the bottoms of my feet cut. I was made to believe I was killing a baby, and they forced me to kill dogs and cats," she said.
"I was bathed in a tub of blood and forced to look at myself in a mirror. I was tied up and hung upside down and spun. I was suffocated and electrocuted to the point of being bowed and paralyzed. Sometimes they forced me and my siblings to hurt one another. They would tell me, `now you're one of us. If you tell anybody, they won't believe you and they'll put you in a mental hospital.' And they threatened to torture me until I was dead."
Hopkins and her siblings believe Rachel was singled out for more intensive abuse because of her blond hair and blue eyes and because she refused to submit willingly to the rituals.
"They wanted total compliance," she said. "But I would fight and kick and scream. I guess I shamed them in front of their cronies. I became the object of their hatred."
Hopkins says the satanic ritual abuse was sporadic, and there were also many good memories of growing up. But at age 17, she ran away from home and has not lived with her parents since.
Two years and eight months ago, the memories started coming back. At first, she couldn't believe it either. She had heard of satanic ritual abuse before but had never associated her memories with that behavior.
"The first time I called my parents up and told them I had been sexually abused and I knew they did it, they told me I was hallucinating," she said. "Since that time, they have written letters to each of the children confirming everything in explicit detail."
For Hopkins, the healing began when people started to believe her - her husband, her therapist, church leaders and even the attorney general's investigators.
"It was my faith in Jesus Christ that got me through it all," she said. "I am at peace with this now."
Hopkins said she doesn't want to write a book or go on the talk-show circuit. She doesn't want any publicity that could disrupt the lives of her children.
"But I want those out there who may have been victimized by this kind of abuse to know that there are those who believe them. With a good therapist, they can start the healing process, too. They can break free of this and have a new life," she said.