A List of Common Misconceptions about Victims of Cult or Spiritual Abuse:
– They are crazy, exagerrating or alternately, the need psychological help or medication to get back to normal
However, “For those with pre-existing emotional problems cultic involvement may produce dissociation, inability to think or concentrate, psychosis, hallucinations, or extreme suggestibility. Yet the intense structure of cultic life frequently leads the emotionally unstable to view cults as havens. The strict regime and lifestyle provided by the cult can give them the external structure and controls that they lack within themselves. “*1 (Paul R. Martin)
– They did something to deserve what happened (Cult members are victims, who enter into groups under sophisticated tactics of coercion, deceit, and mind control. Cult members join after being preyed upon, and are not given information or facts needed to make a rational decision; even when leaving the group they may never fully understand what has happened.)
– They are on drugs (I hear this alot, and in many cases it seems to excuse the abuse or demonize the victim while elevating the cult leader to a mythic or heroic status. Those with a history of addiction are especially vulnerable but do not make up the majority of cult members. Drugs and alcohol can be used by the cult as a way to control it’s members, the victim is not always aware they are being given these substances or, may become hooked after being forced into taking them. )
– They will “snap out of it” or suddenly return to normal
– There is a certain type of person who becomes a victim to cult or spiritual abuse (this can’t happen to me, or would never happen to me)
-They came from a background or abuse or trauma
-They are wanting attention or love so they invent stories or attract trouble
-Brainwashing only involves torture, death threats and being locked in a dark room (Mind control techniques involve the use of emotion, and often distorting details of a member’s personal history or beliefs. The process may start out very subtle or just be a curiosity that then increases in intensity over time.
“The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis discusses the use of emotions, and detaching from rational thought, as one of the tactics the demons use when attacking people and leading them astray.)
-People with strong faith, strong stamina don’t get involved in cults or, alternately, Bible verses and preaching will cause the victim to snap out of it (Through the exercise of psychosocial forces more subtle than those described above, people can be deliberately manipulated, influenced, and controlled to a considerable degree, and induced to express beliefs and exhibit behaviors far different from what their lives up to then would have logically or reasonably predicted.**2 Louis Jolyon West & Paul R. Martin)
-Cults don’t talk about “god” or quote the Bible (Cults are adept at twisting information, even using religious texts and appearing to be part of a religion)
-Smart or educated people don’t get involved in cults/You should have known better
Cults or abusive religious groups target people of any age, any background, and any level of education. Cults use manipulative mind control and emotionally triggering techniques that can draw anyone into their organization, and make them vulnerable to indoctrination. People do not willingly join cults (in the same way people do not willingly enter into abusive relationships)– they are recruited or exploited, and often find themselves trapped so that it is extremely difficult to leave. Cult members are victims and need love, understanding and support so they can leave the cult and begin the healing needed to restore their lives.
**1 “Dispelling the Myths”, Dr. Paul R. Martin http://wellspringretreat.org/resources/index.php?item=1&page=22
“Exploding the Myths”, Ian Haworth, General Secretary, Cult Information Centre http://www.cultinformation.org.uk/article_cult-concerns.html
**2″Pseudo-Identity and the Treatment of Personality Change in Victims of Captivity and Cults”,
Dr. Louis Jolyon West & Dr. Paul R. Martin http://www.earthops.org/cult/dissociation1.html
“The Yeast of the Pharisees: Spiritual Abuse by Pastors and Counselors“, Edward J.
Cumella, Ph. D http://www.barnabasministry.com/recovery-yeast-cumella.html