Ex Cult Survivors: A Different Type Of Hero
By Debra Van Neste
Running an anti-cult organization places me in contact with many who claim they are ex-cult victims. In the past, some ex-cult victims have been very disappointed in me when I don’t go along with their views or a plan on bringing down their cult leader, or a cult leader that has preyed upon their family. Sometimes it’s because ex-members are focused on biblical scriptures or beliefs being twisted in a cult doctrine, rather than being directly harmed. Other times, it might be too focused on the kooky personality habits of their former cult leader, such as the way they dress or look. I get contacted with outrageous allegations and pranks from cult members too, (not ex-cult members) or people that like to waste our time. One gentleman contacted me insisting he has “new evidence” that a controversial new age cult guru “ate babies”--and wanted me to start off with posts about how this new age guru has been married several times and the hypocrisy of her coaching relationship advice.
As much as I knew about this cult leader, I had to respond that it was not against the law to be married and divorced-and this guru is very open on why she thinks her marriages have failed: if not shockingly transparent (rather truthful or not). If he had any evidence of this cult leader “eating babies” then he needed to go straight to the police. I offered to call 911, in which he immediately recanted afterwards and said he “just knows it’s true.”
At one time, I was convinced we were going to bust many cults wide open and I learned it doesn’t work that way. Usually, a cult has to be investigated for alleged crimes. Writing snarky memes, exploitative articles that are poorly cited or mashed together from stolen content, and anonymous or trolling on social media won’t accomplish much. Though it might sound off a red alarm, I have sadly witnessed it encouraging shame and ridicule. “How can people be so dumb and fall for that cult leader” is something I have read over and over from ignorant people, many times on Facebook pages, or bulletin boards that make fun of Gurus. This is one of the many reasons education is needed.
Ex cult survivors might face being shunned, shamed, and targeted by the cult they are trying to expose. One can get sued, harassed and be the object of mental torture as in some cases when current cult members may target you at your job, and harass your family, for unlimited extended periods. Cults will put up websites with lies, and smear campaigns on social media, and target you, friends and family.
The days of cult busters and deprogrammers should be long gone now, and remain a black mark on the history of the anti-cult movement. Some still do these illegal practices, (renamed) in which they victimize families and demand large amounts of money trying to help get someone out of a cult. We have to commit to doing better. We need to invest and learn educational models, promote education and teach about cults and undue influence as a normal part of critical thinking criteria.
Facts on illegal activities, such as sexual abuse, harassment, drugs, money laundering, stealing and trafficking (just to name a few) are real crimes that entail real names, dates, places, and should be reported beyond a doubt. So anyone should go to the authorities and/or seek a lawyer if any crimes are being committed or suspected.
We have shifted and evolved since our early beginnings when we first started and published, our first anti-cult magazine “Ethics and The Modern Guru.” —As such, we are committed to keeping on top of the latest research and education on cults and undue influence.
It does take fearlessness, to bring a cult to justice. It also entails a legal process and you need to protect yourself by seeking professional advice at all times as a top priority. It would be irresponsible of us, not to direct you to that option so you have a chance of justice being served on your behalf.
Good luck and thank you for your courage. You are our heroes.
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