Sunday, December 9, 2007

Three Ways to Leave a Cult

There are three basic ways to leave a cult. You can walk away. You can get thrown out or abandoned. Or you can be rescued. All three happened to me.

It was around this time of the year. Every holiday season, when I hear the Salvation Army bells ringing on the street corners, I am reminded of how I left the cult. Even though it’s been over twenty years, it’s as if it were yesterday.

I was standing in front of a quick-mart deli near a red-suited Santa, a recruiter for Salvation Army. I had nowhere to turn except to a pay phone. I dialed 211 and they directed me to a woman’s shelter. I ended up in the hospital, pregnant and suicidal. My cult “family” abandoned me there, thinking me possessed with devils. Then my mother came to visit and she took my children and me home.

But how do you leave a cult when you don’t even know you’re in one? Most emergency hotlines don’t have numbers for cult exit counseling services and even if they did, who would know to ask for it? Exit counselors are educators and therapists who know about cults and mind control. They can help you heal from the trauma of involvement with and departure from a cult.

Veterans of war with PTSD receive specialized counseling for what they’ve been through. So do victims of rape and sexual abuse. Cult survivors can receive help if they know where to look. But even the Internet doesn’t know a lot about exit counselors. If you Google “exit counselors,” you’ll come up with a list financial aid officers in universities!

But there are many resources available on the Internet if you know where to look. ICSA, the International Cultic Studies Association, is a good place to begin. They have excellent articles and links to exit counselors. Google alerts for “cults” are also helpful because you’ll come across websites and blogs of people who have successfully left cults and rebuilt their lives.

The bottom line here is that whether you walk away, are abandoned or rescued, leaving a cult or any abusive relationship is traumatic. The psychological and spiritual wounds are very real. If not properly attended to they can fester and infect the whole of your life, making it difficult to “move on.” The guilt and anger associated with leaving can linger for years, whether you’ve been out one year or twenty. It’s never too late to get help.


Anonymous said...

Being yanked out or "extracted" (as I was from the Way) in the form of deprogramming is still another way to "leave". I do not consider this being "rescued", as some who have had the experience might. I was given no choice, and leaving by choice would have been much better. I think there is general recognition of this, since the use of this involuntary method has evidently greatly decreased over the last 28 years (the time since my deprogramming.)

Anonymous said...

I walked away from a Nazi cult... and am happy to have left voluntarilly after about a year. I am trying to get my fiance out via intervention now but he was a member for 8 yrs.

Anonymous said...

I walked away twice and returned!!!
The 3rd time I was gone for good I had better support.

Michele said...

i was in the watchotwer organization for 1o years. i left on my own, and i have zero regrets in doing so. i even made a 3 part series on it on my blog. i also made a post today about leaving. your welcome to drop by!

Chaya said...

I am Jewish. And recently fired. So I have been staying in a Missouri Salvation Army shelter. They ARE a cult. They use other Salvation Army people to influence your decisions and change your behavior early on. They feed you garbage rotting food. They pocket all the money for those 'in their military ranks' like soldiers and majors. The staff uses derision and ridicule of the (homeless)people staying there to break down their self-esteem and feelings of independance.
They contradict the Torah every chance they can to me, and you are not allowed to defend yourself or your own personal religious beliefs out loud. They say, "Do not challenge our authority, or question our motives" to us.
They are an emotionally and mentally abusive cult.
They should not be classified as a 'non-profit' and in a class labeled 'tax exempt' by the government. The U.S. government SHOULD NOT be supporting or facilitating this cult in any way. They should be run out of business. I feel sorry for the kids who are subjected to this.
Parents, you should choose any other means of survival over staying at ANY Salvation Army programming facility. Even stealing is preferrable. DO NOT DO THIS TO YOUR CHILDREN.

emy said...

The staff uses derision and ridicule of the (homeless)people staying there to break down their self-esteem and feelings of independance

Billy said...

For the record, the first response to this blog post, on 1/8/08, regarding deprogramming, was may first post on Kristen's blog, and the only one I posted with an anonymous tag. I firmly stand by it. For many years, I would not recognize that such terrible abuse was done to Kristen and others, because having the evils of the Way shoved down my throat involuntarily prevented me from becoming convinced on my own that such abuse happened. Ironically, the subject of sexual abuse was not really dealt with in my deprogramming, as it was that well hidden.

salvation soldier said...

I am in the army i am a soldier i dont get paid money my corp officer gets alot less than he should the workers get paid more so your sixth line is flat out wrong.they didnt brainwash me either and wats with emotinal abuse thats a lie from satan. And saying it is worse than disobeying the ten commandment, that we both abide by, is SICK.