In order to speak, one must have a voice. Now this might seem obvious to most people but to people who have been abused in a cult, it’s not always the case. The voice has been overtaken by another stronger voice, the voice of the leader. Through mind control, the cult leader imposes his will and views on the follower so the follower loses her own will and views. When mind control is accompanied by physical or sexual abuse, the task of speaking up becomes even more complicated and difficult.
In my case, I was in a Bible-based fundamentalist cult which charged high fees for long classes on The Word Over The World. The methods, not the doctrine, employed to accomplish the goals of world domination by group were very harmful. The leader wielded his control through intensive psychological indoctrination and sexual contact.
I remember one incident vividly in which I questioned “the Doctor,” the leader of the group, about the ethicalness of his behavior. He quoted Scripture and explained that I needed to be “spiritually mature” in order to understand. The “Doctor” taught that if one’s mind was pure enough, one could do anything with one’s body. God did not care about the flesh. The sexual needs of the leaders were to be satisfied by females who were submitting to “ the will of God.”.
He commanded me to keep our sexual encounters in the “lockbox of my soul” – never to be spoken of or revealed to anyone else. “What if someone finds out?” I asked naively. “Why, I’d lie, “ he said.
Sexual predators and batterers know the power of silence. They abuse their victims, then swear them to secrecy. This ensures that not only is the abuse hidden from society but it becomes hidden from the victim, as well. The tacit agreement between cult leader and follower is “if you remain silent, I will take care of you” or a variation of that – “if you tell, I will reject you and you need me to survive.” To the victim, truth-telling jeopardizes their very existence when, in fact, it is the way to wholeness.
Trauma experts have long advocated the necessity of “bearing witness’ to one’s abuse. Why? Because truth is acknowledged and affirmed in the context of community. Personal truth becomes understood when it is spoken. Lies keep one isolated and separate. Speaking the truth of one’s own reality allows one to belong to the world. One is no longer alone. But it doesn’t stop there. One must question destructive assumptions and become educated about individual rights.
For many years after leaving the cult, I was suicidal. Years of abuse and oppression had made me believe that I deserved to be punished for leaving the group. I was brainwashed into thinking that living without my leader would destroy me. Earlier trauma and abuse reinforced the idea that I was no good and deserved to die. But now I realize that that is not true. Through counseling and education, I have learned that I deserve to live. Now I know I have a right to open the lockbox and speak my truth.