Jan 29, 2020

Surviving and Moving On After a High-Demand Group Experience: A Workshop for Those Born or Raised in Cultic Groups or Relationships

Facilitators of 2019 CT Workshop:  (left to right) Lorna Goldberg, Nitai Joseph, Ann Stamler, Bill Goldberg, Patrick "Ck" Rardin, Elizabeth Blackwell, Leona Furnari, Rosanne Henry, Eva Mackey
When: Friday 4:00 pm April 24, 2020 to Sunday 2:00 pm April 26, 2020 (Check-in time is 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm.)
Where: Guest House Retreat & Conference Center, 318 West Main Street, Chester, CT 06412 (860–322–5770).

As increasing numbers of people born or raised in cultic groups or relationships have reached adulthood, the International Cultic Studies Association has developed a program that addresses their special needs.

People born or raised in cultic environments cannot look back to a “pre-cult” identity. Raised in fringe subcultures, they often have educational and other skill deficits that interfere with adjustment to mainstream culture. Having grown up under the influence of irrational belief systems, they struggle with issues of dependency, self-esteem, and social conflict, and often have to deal with the trauma of physical and/or sexual abuse. They have difficulty getting help because they tend to lack finances and be wary of other people, including helpers.

Meeting annually since 2006, this workshop addresses the needs of people born or raised in cultic environments through presentations by specialists and former members, including discussions in which attendees may participate according to their comfort levels. Special attention is paid to attendees’ needs for privacy, reflection, and working at their own pace.

Workshop subjects include:

  • Critical Thinking: What Is It and Why Does It Matter? 
  • Is There Such a Thing As a Healthy Family? 
  • Stages of Development: What Did We Miss and How Can We Catch Up? 
  • Now We Are Parents: What Have We Learned? 
  • You Mean I Have a Right to Boundaries? 
  • What Are Our Strengths and Challenges Building a New Life? 
  • Perfectionism, or The Inner Critic: Can We Accept Success? 
  • Moving On: What Does It Mean and Is It Possible? 
  • Postcult, How Should We Feel Toward People Who Harmed Us? 
  • Relationships: Why Are They So Difficult? 

Details including information about financial aid and an application are available at icsahome.com/events/workshopsgas

'It's a Pandora's box that we opened': Fort Collins police on human trafficking

January is Human Trafficking Awareness month
January is Human Trafficking Awareness month

Russell Haythorn
Denver 7
January 28, 2020

Report: ‘Significant' increase in human trafficking cases in 2016

EATON, Colo. -- She was held captive for five years, not by force, but by mental manipulation.

"I was trafficked from the age of 23-28 as a single mom," said Megan Lundstrom.

Exploited for sex while her children were asleep in another room.

“I perceived there to be no other option,” Lundstrom said. “It’s the most common form of domestic human trafficking. It’s either a family member or an intimate partner.”

In Lundstrom’s case, it was a man who said he loved her.

“It’s called grooming and over the course of that grooming process, vulnerabilities are either identified or created by the trafficker and then they’re exploited," she explained.

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness month, and while Hollywood often projects images of kidnappings and victims being tied up, the truth is surprising and eye-opening.

“Sex trafficking, especially in Colorado, is not something that people understand," said Colette MacFarland, co-founder of Coffeehouse Ten24 in Eaton, a nonprofit that donates all proceeds to local, regional and international sex-trafficking organizations.

Doris Meeker is the cook and baker who first had a vision for the coffee shop.

"We just wanted a place where people could gather," said Meeker. "We also needed a mission. What can we do to make the world a better place?"

Eighteen miles west of Eaton is the City of Fort Collins, where police say sex trafficking is prevalent.

"Fort Collins is the number one city in Colorado for the demand for commercial sex trafficking, which floors me,” said Fort Collins Police officer Rob Knab.

Knab said domestic human trafficking looks much different than the movies.

“I think a lot of people look at the movie Taken with Liam Neeson and see a girl chained to a bed with a line of guys lined up outside a curtain and the girl’s doped up on heroin,” Knab said. “The vast majority of these cases aren’t like that.”

Lundstrom said it’s usually a toxic relationship with someone you know.

"A lot of people think this can't happen to a U.S. citizen,” Lundstrom said. “This can't happen to a person living in suburbia. But, if it can happen to me - it is absolutely happening to further marginalized individuals."

Lundstrom’s partner ended up pimping her out in Colorado.

“And then I was sold from him to another pimp in Las Vegas and trafficked out there for another year," she said.

The problem is so pervasive, financial institutions like Western Union are tracking the movement of dirty money, daily.

"It’s a very complex issue. The criminal element is looking to exploit these people, purely for financial gain," said Scott Apodaca, director of Western Union’s financial intelligence unit.

"As the traffickers continue to get more advanced in their techniques to hide the funds and launder money, we are doing the same," Apodaca said.

Police are, too.

Knab recently posed as a young girl online and got hundreds of text messages.

"It was like - beep, beep, beep, beep," Knab said. “In 24 hours, we had 258 different people contact that ad."

Fort Collins police stumbled upon the trafficking issue just four years ago.

“We started investigating unusual hotel crimes back in 2015,” Knab said. “Fights, robberies, stabbings, drug calls.”

Knab said they quickly figured out that trafficking was at the core of all those calls.

“It’s literally a Pandora's box that we opened,” he said. “The majority of the time it does start as an intimate partner and we call those 'boyfriend pimps,'” Knab said.

Why Fort Collins is such a hub for the criminal activity is still somewhat of a mystery.

“I think it’s a number of things,” Knab said. “It’s our proximity to major highways, the fact that we do have a lot of wealth in parts of our community, we’re also close to oil fields in Weld County which attract that kind of activity. And now, we have this reputation among the ‘Johns’ that this is the place to come.”

Knab has now made trafficking one of his signature issues.

“My goal is to reverse that completely,” Knab said. “This is my home. I want to make Fort Collins the most hostile community in Colorado for this to occur.”

In the past few months, Fort Collins has conducted 10 stings and charged 127 men for crimes related to trafficking.

"What does it look like when it's down the street?” MacFarland asked. “What does it look like when it's my teenager who somebody is targeting online?"

MacFarland said awareness is the key to stopping it.

“Our kids are on Tick-Tock, they’re on Facebook, Snapchat,” she said. “These predators are really intelligent. They know where to go. So, we are bringing awareness and showing people what it looks like when it does happen.”

Lundstrom has now started her own nonprofit called Free Our Girls, a network of exploited women and men and their journey to freedom from exploitation and trafficking.

“It’s about creating a platform that’s empowering for survivors,” Lundstrom said. “You’re told by everybody – your abuser, society – that you’re choosing these things. I’m here to tell you that’s not true.”


Jan 28, 2020

Cult Leader Aharon Ramati's Arrest Extended For 2 Days,103 Testimonies Collected Against Him

 Aharon Ramati, suspected of running a cult,
Yeshiva World News
January 27, 2020

Two weeks after the arrest of Aharon Ramati, suspected of running a cult, the police investigation is not yet completed and the prosecution is requesting to carry out further investigations, B’Chadrei Chareidim reported. The court acceded to the request and extended his arrest by two days.

“The defendant has already proven that if he is released he will obstruct [legal proceedings],” the police representative said at the hearing. The police suspect that Ramati received information on his impending arrest two weeks ago and hid some of the minors that were at the “seminary” complex.

Since the investigation began, 103 testimonies have been recorded against Ramati.

Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Elazer Bialin stated: [Ramati’s] crimes are supported by wiretapping carried out by the police. At this stage, much of the investigation is vulnerable to obstruction [of legal proceedings] and therefore his detainment is extended to January 29.”

As YWN previously reported, the case began with reports to the Jerusalem District’s Fraud & Economic Crime Unit about the existence of a closed community operating as a “girls’ school,” at which women live together with their children in cramped and squalid living conditions in a housing complex under the control of a man suspected of abusing the women and children physically, financially and emotionally.

Over the past two months, police investigators, together with the State Prosecutor’s Office, conducted an undercover investigation and gathered evidence against Ramati of maintaining absolute control over about 50 women, coercing them to cut off contact with friends and family and isolating them in the complex. It was also found that Ramati maintained control over the women through various “punishments” and exploited them financially, with women working in various jobs approved by Ramati and then handing over their wages to Ramati.

Aharon Ramati, a name infamous in Jerusalem’s Chareidi circles, has been arrested at least once before under similar allegations when running the Be’er Miriam “seminary” in Sanhedria and other locations. There have been allegations against him for at least a decade for housing teenaged girls in squalid living conditions and maintaining cult-like control over them. There was even a protest against him by Chareidi residents of Sandhedria and nearby neighborhoods about five years ago. Prior police investigations led to Ramati’s arrest and the seminary being closed down in 2013 and 2015.

Unfortunately, Ramati was let out of the jail each time and the police investigations were closed for lack of evidence and Ramati would just open another “seminary” in another location.

Many many years ago, both Hagaon Harav Elyashiv z’tl and Hagaon Harav Ovadia Yosef,z’tl signed statements condemning Ramati as dangerous and forbidding girls from studying under him.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)


Building Bridges; Leaving and Recovering From Cultic Groups and Relationships

"Joseph Kelly and Patrick Ryan
International Cultic Studies Association

Topics discussed include:

Assessing a family’s unique situation; understanding why people join and leave groups; considering the nature of psychological manipulation and abuse; being accurate, objective, and up-to-date; looking at ethical issues; learning how to assess you situation; formulating a helping strategy; learning how to communicate more efficiently with your loved one; learning new ways of coping.

Jan 23, 2020

Pema Chödrön calls out Shambhala leader over sex abuse

Pema Chödrön calls out Shambhala
Stephanie Domet
January 23, 2020
The Coast Halifax

Pema Chödrön calls out Shambhala leader over sex abuse

Famed Buddhist nun resigns to protest the return of disgraced Osel Mukpo.

One of Shambhala Buddhism's most prominent figures announced she's stepping down as a senior teacher. Pema Chödrön, best-selling author and Buddhist nun, has had a decades-long association with Gampo Abbey in Cape Breton. She sent a letter to the Shambhala board announcing her resignation from her position as an acharya, then shared it more broadly through the Shambhala Times, the Halifax-headquartered Shambhala community's global news site.

"When I read the recent letter from the Sakyong saying that he wished to start teaching again and would do so for all who requested, I was disheartened. I experienced this news as such a disconnect from all that's occurred in the last year and half," Chödrön writes. "It feels unkind, unskillful and unwise for the Sakyong to just go forward as if nothing had happened without relating compassionately to all of those who have been hurt and without doing some deep inner work on himself."

Osel Mukpo, known in Shambhala as Sakyong Mipham, "stepped away" from teaching and administrative duties at Shambhala in February 2019, after some of the allegations of sexual assault and clergy sexual misconduct that were documented in reports from Buddhist Project Sunshine were confirmed by an independent investigation by Halifax law firm Wickwire Holm. Mukpo's return to teaching comes at the request of a small group of students in Europe, and is sanctioned by the Shambhala board.

Chödrön was called out in one Buddhist Project Sunshine report for telling a woman who says she was sexually assaulted that her assault didn't happen and, if it did, "you probably liked it." Chödrön subsequently apologized to the woman.

In her letter, Chödrön urges the board to consult broadly across the Shambhala community for ways to move forward with full accountability for the allegations that Mukpo and other teachers abused students—and that the board knew and did nothing. In response the board issued a statement of its own, noting it intends to meet with her to discuss her ideas. The statement includes this further note from Chödrön:

"I have no intention of leaving the Shambhala community and would always do my best to be there for anyone who might need it. However, if no path forward can be found, that would break my heart, and I'm not sure what I would do."


Watch unearthed footage of George Harrison performing ‘Something’ at his last ever concert

Far Out Magazine
January 22, 2020

In the early nineties, there was one former member of The Beatles that was breaking out from the shadow of one of the most famous bands the world has ever seen. For a time, George Harrison was a bonafide pop star.

Following 1987s commercial and critical success Cloud Nine, mostly buoyed by his mega-watt pop hit ‘I’ve Got My Mind Set On You’, George Harrison was a household name again for the first time since the 1970s All Things Must Pass.

His first record had ascertained Harrison his legendary status on his solo work alone but, despite all his experience, Harrison was never a big fan of touring after his 1974 tour. The pain of that tour with Ravi Shankar had clearly landed quite heavily on Harrison and for many years, despite commercial success, the Quiet Beatle was, for the main part, remaining quiet.

After sharing the stage in Los Angeles in 1990, Harrison was seemingly dipping his toe into the touring water when he joined the legendary Eric Clapton for a joint tour of Japan, the next year. It seemed as though the Beatle was gearing up for a tour. Yet after Harrison and Clapton performed at 12 shows across the land of the rising sun the guitarist would again retreat to his life off the road.

On only two occasions would the ‘My Sweet Lord’ singer be lured out of hiding and on to the stage. While one, technically his last on stage, was a short performance as part of the Bob Dylan tribute show in October 1992, the last full performance from Harrison came a few months before.

Taking place at the Royal Albert Hall just a few days before the British General Election with the evening acting as a benefit concert for the National Law Party. A party founded in 1992 on “the principles of Transcendental Meditation”, the laws of nature, and their application to all levels of government, seemed the perfect fit for George Harrison at the time.

As such, Harrison banned all commercial filming of the performance but luckily the touching performance of his 1971 tune ‘Something’ has surfaced online. It’s a beautiful moment in the evening and represents one of the final times Harrison would ever perform ‘Something’.

Jan 21, 2020

Cult leader and members indicted for murder, abuse of followers

Taipei, Jan. 21 (CNA) Ten executive members of a Taiwan-based religious cult, called "Zhonghua Ri Xing Yi Shan (中華日行一善學會)," were indicted Tuesday for involvement in "organized crimes" and the use of physical violence against several members resulting in the death of one in China and the blinding of another in Taiwan.

Based on evidence collected by police during a raid of the cult's premises in central Taiwan, 61-year-old Lin Hsin-yue (林欣月), head of the cult, and nine members of her staff were charged with breaching the Organized Crime Prevention Act, as well as causing bodily harm and bodily injury leading to death, according to the indictment released by the Taichung District Prosecutors Office.

The case stems from March last year, when a Taiwanese woman surnamed Fang (方) was allegedly beaten to death by a cult member at the cult's place of practice in China's Guangxi Province in a form of "exorcism," when she accompanied the cult leader on a visit there, the office said.

In an attempt to evade an investigation by Chinese public security authorities, Lin fled to Taiwan and hid in a mountainous area of Nantou County in central Taiwan, it said.

After learning of the group's possible involvement in Fang's death, Taiwanese investigators raided their headquarters in Nantou County and Lin's home in Taichung on Aug. 21, where they found several cult members were kneeling outside the office after being beaten and seized evidence of the assault.

During the raid the investigators confiscated several items, including doctrine teaching materials, cash, uniforms and steel rods that were allegedly used to beat members.

A follower gets kicked in the chest by another member of the religious cult in this undated photo (Photo courtesy of Taichung prosecutors)
Lin, whom her followers address as "Holy Mother," and over a dozen staff were detained for questioning.

Meanwhile, with assistance from Fang's family members, prosecutors obtained a report detailing the cause of Fang's death from the Chinese hospital where she was treated. They also have testimony from Fang's family who visited China to deal with the aftermath the death, the office said.

The cult was established in 2008 by Lin, purportedly to inspire good virtue and promote physical and spiritual health.

Headquartered in Nantou County, it has two branch offices in China, as well as one in Taichung, and about 100 followers, according to the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB).

According to the bureau, at least 15 followers have been subjected to physical abuse.

Meanwhile, the cult had also allegedly been persuading minors to run away from home and beating up members who want to leave, the bureau said.

(By Su Mu-chun and Ko Lin)

Surviving Straight Inc.

Surviving Straight Inc.

"Straight, Inc. (1976-1993) publicly claimed to rehabilitate teenage drug users by using tough love and Alcoholics Anonymous principles. Straight, Inc. provided NO professional counseling: Straight, Inc.'s "treatment model" relied exclusively on "positive peer pressure" from unprofessional staff (program graduates) and from the teenage clients. Straight, Inc. claimed to have an astronomically high success rate and was supported by both the Reagan and Bush administrations. However, Straight, Inc. did not publicly reveal what many survivors will tell you. The REAL Straight, Inc. was a facility that used coercive thought reform (aka mind control, brainwashing), public humiliation, sleep & food deprivation, extremely harsh confrontational tactics, kidnapping, isolation and emotional, mental, psychological, verbal and physical abuse to forcibly break us down then remold us in the Straight, Inc. image. Straight, Inc. also operated in secrecy, just like a cult (Straight, Inc. has been listed on at least 2 cult expert websites). No outsiders were ever permitted to know what really went on. Straight's rules and our fear of harsh punishment prevented us from talking to outsiders or from reporting abuses.

Trying to survive Straight, Inc. devastated many of us. Some former clients have committed suicide. Others have serious disorders as a result of their time in Straight, Inc. For example, some of us suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, panic disorders and severe depression. In addition, many of us have experienced other long-term detrimental effects such as inability to function normally in relationships, fear of therapists or any form of counseling, severe distrust of people, paranoia, nightmares, etc.  This is certainly not a complete list but does give one an inkling of the serious long-term adverse effects on survivors caused by Straight Inc.

This website has multiple sources of information - survivor stories, newspaper articles covering Straight Inc., documents from The Ronald Reagan and George Bush Presidential Libraries about Straight, documents on investigations and original Straight program documents. There are also videos of news programs such as 20/20 and 60 Minutes that covered Straight. To the right there is a directory for each type of documentation."

Straight Inc. Collection

Troubled Teen Industry Collection


Raniere loses battle to keep NXIVM 'tech'

Keith Raniere
Robert Gavin
Albany Times Union
January 17, 2020

NEW YORK — Keith Raniere just lost in court — again.

The jailed NXIVM leader known as “Vanguard” will be powerless to prevent the federal government from seizing a Delaware company that owned the rights to the ideology of Raniere’s cult-like organization, a judge ruled Friday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.

Raniere, who awaits a possible life sentencing on his trial convictions last June on all counts of sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy and racketeering, claimed he was the “innocent owner” of a 10 percent stake in the First Principles corporation.

But Senior U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who presided over Raniere’s trial, ruled that Raniere’s petition submitted by Albany defense lawyer Paul DerOhannesian “contains only one allegation that could be construed as attempting to set forth a factual basis for Mr. Raniere' s alleged interest” in the corporation. The judge found the claim bereft of details.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said last fall that First Principles belonged to NXIVM president Nancy Salzman, who pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge before Raniere went to trial in May. The government moved to seize First Principles in July as part of their asset forfeiture effort against Salzman.

Prosecutors said they had a right to seize the corporation because it owned NXIVM's ideology or "tech" that allowed it to isolate NXIVM members, encourage them to take expensive NXIVM courses and make them dependent on the secretive organization. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karin Orenstein previously said the ideology taught philosophies that "there are no ultimate victims; therefore I will not choose to be a victim" and a "precept that women make excuses and claim victimhood to avoid commitments."

It was that tech and philosophy taught in NXIVM and its affiliates that, according to prosecutors, culminated in Raniere's creation of Dominus Obsequious Sororium (DOS), his secret "master/slave" group in which women were "slaves" ordered to live on 500-calorie-a-day diets, obey all commands from their "masters" and painfully branded with Raniere's initials on their pelvic areas.

DerOhannesian argued that Raniere held more of a stake in the corporation than Salzman, her daughter Lauren Salzman, who later testified for prosecutors, and actress Allison Mack. Lauren Salzman, Mack, Seagrams’ heiress Clare Bronfman and NXIVM bookkeeper all pleaded guilty before the trial as well.

Raniere's sentencing date is on hold as the judge awaits a pre-sentencing investigative report conducted by a federal probation officer. The judge's decision Friday follows an earlier one Tuesday in which Garaufis ruled that individuals who will deliver victim impact statements at Raniere's sentencing can speak under anonymity.

Justine Harris, an attorney for Russell, who has been scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 29, asked the judge Friday to adjourn her client's sentencing until April 21 or later because federal probation officials said they plan to issue Russell's pre-sentencing report at the end of January.

Robert Gavin covers state and federal courts, criminal justice issues and legal affairs for the Times Union. Contact him at (518) 434-2403


Demonstrators to demand Fall River Diocese release names of clergy accused of sexual abuse

The Herald News
January 20, 2020

FALL RIVER -- The leader of a charity that assists victims of sexual abuse and their families is calling for a demonstration Tuesday outside the headquarters of the Diocese of Fall River to demand the bishop release the names of clergymen who have been accused of sexual abuse.

The call comes days after the diocese announced that two retired priests have been suspended from ministry due to separate allegations of sexual abuse of a minor, said to have occurred decades ago.

“It is time for Bishop Edgar da Cunha of the Diocese of Fall River, MA, to release the complete list of clergymen who have been accused of sexually abusing children, teenagers, and vulnerable adults,” Robert M. Hoatson, co-founder and president of New Jersey-based Road to Recovery, said in a press release Monday. “His refusal to release the list re-victimizes innocent victims and does not help children remain safe.”

The demonstration is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 21, at 11:30 a.m. outside the headquarters of the Diocese of Fall River, 450 Highland Ave.

According to a diocese press release, the suspended priests are Father James F. Buckley and Father Edward J. Byington. Byington served as an assistant priest at St. George Parish in Westport from 1982 to 1984.

The separate, unrelated claims of abuse were referred to the appropriate law enforcement authorities and remain under investigation by the diocese. Both priests have denied the allegations. The suspension from ministry is required by diocesan policies. The diocese is committed to resolving both cases in a fair and expeditious manner, the press release stated.

Hoatson describes himself as a former priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, and a victim/survivor of clergy sexual abuse.

Naturopath who claimed 'quasi-divine' powers on trial for sex assaults

Nicolas Agapiadis, a naturopath and restauranteur accused of sexually assaulting two women in his Old Montreal office, at Montreal's Palais de Justice Jan. 7, 2020.
The Montreal restaurant owner is accused of assaulting women during treatment sessions and telling them they needed to cooperate if they wanted to heal.

January 18, 2020

Warning: The testimony quoted in this story contains explicit details.

A Montreal naturopath who made claims of having what a judge described as “quasi-divine” powers is on trial for allegedly sexually assaulting two women during treatment sessions.

Nicolas Agapiadis, 56, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual assault. Both assaults are alleged to have taken place in his office above the Old Montreal restaurant he owned.

The complainants in the case were 19 and 31 years old at the time. One was an employee at his restaurant while the other was an acquaintance.

According to evidence presented during his trial, Agapiadis is alleged to have used his position as a naturopath to commit the assaults.

In both instances, the Crown contends he assaulted the women on the massage table during treatment sessions and that when they urged him to stop, he told them they needed to cooperate if they wanted to heal.

Agapiadis’s trial began last month at the Montreal courthouse and will resume in February. He has not yet presented a defence.

After closing its evidence, the Crown applied to have the two cases accepted as “similar fact evidence.” The legal principle allows the similarities between the cases to be considered by the judge and can bolster each complainant’s credibility.

Quebec Court Judge Dennis Galiatsatos granted the application in late December, listing 17 parallels between the two women’s accounts.

Among them were Agapiadis’s claim to be able to “read” people’s energy by observing them and that he told both women their ailments were the result of “bad sperm” while he had “good sperm.”

“It seems highly improbable that these collusion-free allegations against this same accused could be attributed to coincidence,” Galiatsatos wrote in his decision. “The parallels in the accounts of both women are striking.”

Both of the complainants’ names and any details that could identify them are protected by a court-ordered publication ban.

In one case, the 19-year-old complainant met Agapiadis when she was hired at his restaurant in June 2014.

According to a summary of the Crown’s evidence detailed in Galiatsatos’s judgment, Agapiadis told the complainant he was a naturopath after her first shift at the restaurant. He offered his services for free.

She didn’t know what a naturopath was at the time, she told the court.

During her first session, the complainant says, Agapiadis repeatedly told her to relax and she was “doing great” while he did increasingly inappropriate massages on a table.

She said despite her telling him she was uncomfortable on several occasions, the touching escalated to putting his hands under her shirt and inside her bra, telling her he was looking for her “chakras” or energy centres. He also put his hand inside her underwear.

He explained his theory she had received “bad sperm” and women need “good sperm” to obtain good proteins for their brains.

At one point in the session, the decision says, he suddenly jumped on top of the woman.

“Very quickly, he sat on her thighs, pinning down her legs and pulling down her panties,” Galiatsatos writes in his decision. “He warned that he was going to give her treatment and that she had to cooperate in order to get better.”

Agapiadis stopped when his son knocked at the door, the decision says. The complainant felt frozen and unable to move. She called her roommate to tell him “something bad had happened” and left the building in tears.

The other complainant was 31 years old and planning to have a child with her boyfriend when she met Agapiadis in 2015.

She was stressed and worried about her menstrual cycle being irregular. Agapiadis told her he could help.

He told the woman her “magnet was broken” and that she had too much acid build-up before again explaining his “good sperm” theory, the judgment says.

Agapiadis had “read” her boyfriend by looking at him, he told the woman, and could tell her boyfriend would not be able to get her pregnant. If he did, there would be the heightened chances of a miscarriage or sick child.

The Crown contends during one meeting in his office, Agapiadis picked the complainant up and placed her on the massage table before sexually assaulting her.

The woman “anticipated that he would try to penetrate her,” the decision says. “She voiced, ‘don’t do that’. The accused responded by whispering if she wanted to heal, she needed to comply.”

Agapiadis’s lawyer, George Calaritis, refused to comment on this article since the trial is continuing. He would not confirm whether his client intends on presenting a defence.

Galiatsatos notes in his judgment it can be inferred that, based on questions in cross-examination, Agapiadis might argue the 19-year-old woman fabricated the allegations because she was dissatisfied with her work schedule.

The judgment says it appears he will also argue the other complainant forced him to have sex with her to get pregnant.

The trial resumes Feb. 10.



Blumhouse and Epix Will Examine One Town's Satanic Panic With Docuseries "Fall River"

'The Law Enforcement Guide to Satanic Cults' (1994)
John Squires
Bloody Disgusting
January 19, 2020

If you can’t get enough of true crime documentaries, which are all the rage at the moment thanks in large part to Netflix, the network Epix has just announced out of the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour that they’re partnering with Blumhouse Television for the upcoming docu-series “Fall River,” a tale of murder and Satanic Panic.

Here’s the rundown, via Deadline:

“1979 – Fall River, MA – home to the notorious Lizzie Borden, three young women were killed in a series of brutal murders. Police alleged a satanic cult was practicing human sacrifice. The cult leader, a man named Carl Drew, was captured and sent to prison for life without parole. Twenty years after the trial, the lead investigator became so haunted by inconsistencies in the stories that he re-investigated his own case after he retired. Evidence surfaced bringing the entire story into question.”

“This documentary series will tell the shocking true story of a town caught in the grips of the Satanic Panic, with new witnesses and evidence that shed light on murders that were thought to have been solved.”

“Fall River” is produced by Blumhouse Television (The Jinx, No One Saw A Thing, The Loudest Voice) and Pyramid Productions.

The docu-series is directed by James Buddy Day (The Lover’s Lane Murders, Manson: The Women, The Disappearance of Susan Cox Powell).


CultNEWS101 Articles: 1/20/2020

Events, LDS, Jehovah's Witnesses, Terrorism, White Supremacy

This event will have three tracks: professional counselors, law enforcement and one for the general public. Cultic Experts, Trauma Counselors, Domestic Terrorist Analysts, the Greeley PD Gang Unit, the Colorado State Patrol - Human Trafficking Division, and a Sex Trafficking Research Expert share their knowledge in working with such populations. A panel of survivors (gang, cult, and sex trafficking) will share their story and answer audience questions.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis is involved with efforts to stem Human Trafficking in our state. Interestingly, Human Trafficking falls under the larger umbrella of cultic leadership and dynamics. The conference is February 8, 2020, in Loveland, Colorado, at The Ranch Events Center Complex First National Bank Exhibition Hall. We are inviting State Representatives, District Attorney Offices, Police Departments, Probation Officers, Pastoral staff, hospital staff, jail employees, counselors, social workers, crime victim's compensation representatives, victim's advocates, community leaders, educators, students and the community-at-large to learn about how manipulation has been utilized to coercively persuade individuals to vulnerably join under their leadership. The cost is $40.00 per person with lunch included if registered in advance.

Please consider covering for this groundbreaking conference to give you further insights and understanding into these exploited populations. A direct link to register is: https://www.FreedomsHopeCounseling.com/events/undue-influence.

"Two dead spouses, two missing children and rumors of a cult.

"Confusion is growing around a series of mysterious deaths and the disappearances of a 7-year-old boy and 17-year-old girl that tie back to a couple who have since vanished themselves.

Joshua "JJ" Vallow and Tylee Ryan haven't been seen since September. Lori Vallow and her husband, Chad Daybell, never reported them missing and disappeared soon after being questioned about the children. What has followed is a twisted tale spanning two states that revealed the deaths of both their previous spouses, the couple's doomsday beliefs and children who slowly slipped away from relatives who are desperate to find them.

"All I want before I go is just to see those children, and especially — and I'm being greedy — especially my boy JJ. My little man," grandfather Larry Woodcock said this week at a press conference in Idaho announcing a $20,000 reward for information leading to the kids.

Wife Kay Woodcock's brother, Charles Vallow, adopted JJ when he was a baby. Charles and his wife, Lori Vallow, also raised Lori's daughter from a previous relationship at their home in suburban Phoenix.

Lori Vallow was a hairdresser, always keeping JJ's hair trimmed and styled, Larry Woodcock said. The Woodcocks, who live in Lake Charles, Louisiana, visited their grandson often and shared frequent phone calls and video chats when they couldn't be there in person.

"I do know that Lori always had the best, the absolute best interest in heart for JJ. She and Charles were the absolute best parents," he said.

But things began to change a few years ago, Kay Woodcock said. Her brother confided that he feared Lori was cheating on him with Chad Daybell, an author of several religious-themed fiction books about prophecies and the end of the world.

Charles Vallow eventually filed divorce documents in an Arizona court last February claiming that Lori believed she was a "translated being" and "a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ's second coming in July 2020," the Arizona Republic newspaper reported.

He also accused Lori of threatening to kill him if he got in her way, prompting him to seek a protection order."

"Leaving the Jehovah's Witness religion isn't easy. You know that you will lose family and friends immediately after letting everyone know about your decision. This is a hard, often tragic situation.

After being out for a while, you notice that there are plenty of friends and interests that you can finally be involved with. You enjoy your freedom and the fact that you are alive for the first time.

But, amidst these wonderful times, there are dark days. I don't know how to explain these days adequately. There are days when you feel an "otherness" in your life. You realize what an outsider you are. You don't fit into the JW world and you don't quite fit into the regular world around you.

No matter what crowd you are in, you feel painfully alone. As everyone converses glibly about old college days (that you never had), politics (that you don't understand), funny stories about acting crazy as a teen/young adult (which you never did), the adventures of their children (which you didn't have), great movies and concerts (which you weren't allowed to attend), or other subjects that you have never experienced, you feel isolated, even ashamed of your lack of experience. You are an alien everywhere you go. And, it hurts.

I don't know what the answer to this problem is. I don't have any great suggestions for coping with this feeling because I get overwhelmed by it frequently. My current theory is that you have to keep pushing your boundaries and experiencing things so that you can join in everyone else's conversation someday."

"When Dylann Storm Roof walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, he joined the Bible-study class before gunning down nine African-Americans as they prayed.

Roof still communicates with his admirers on the outside. In jail, he began exchanging letters with a man in Arkansas named Billy Roper. A former schoolteacher and the son and grandson of Klansmen, Roper leads the Shield Wall Network, a group of several dozen white nationalists who organize rallies and conferences — often collaborating with neighboring hate groups — with the goal of building a white ethno-state. "I have a lot of empathy for him. I'm 47, and he's young enough to be my son," Roper said of Roof when interviewed recently for this project. "These millennials and now, I guess, Gen-Zers that are coming up, they are not stupid about the demographic trends and what they portend for the future. That angst, that anxiety that plagues them, drives them to do rash things — whether it's that rash or not — I can empathize with." I would humbly suggest we believe that Roper is being sincere, and that he speaks for many.

Roper and Roof are only two of those affiliated with the 148 white-nationalist hate groups in this country. Though it is impossible to calculate their exact membership numbers (as individual groups either conceal or inflate them), their violence is indisputable. White supremacists were responsible for the deaths of at least 39 people in 2018 alone. And the activity has not slowed this year: not in January, as neo-Nazis plastered flyers outside newspaper offices and homes in Washington State and the Carolinas and an army veteran pleaded guilty to killing a black man in New York to "ignite a racial war"; in February, as Vermont synagogues and LGBT centers were vandalized and a self-described white-nationalist Coast Guard lieutenant was arrested for plotting a domestic terror attack; in March, as WELCOME TO GERMANY and GAS THE JEWS were spray-painted outside Oklahoma City Democratic Party and Chickasaw Nation offices and, on the Upper East Side, classmates handed their school's only black ninth-grader a note reading "n—–s don't have rights"; in April, as a shooting at a synagogue left one dead and three injured and FBI Director Christopher Wray called white supremacy a "persistent, pervasive" threat to the country; in May, as swastikas fell from the sky — on flyers dropped by drones outside an Ariana Grande concert — and were scrawled on public spaces in at least three states; in June, as far-right groups rallied in Portland, Oregon, for the first time that summer; in July, as a man promoted a white-power manifesto on Instagram before killing three and wounding 17 others at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California; in August, as another angry young man — this one 1,000 miles away in El Paso, Texas — posted an anti-immigrant manifesto online then committed this year's most deadly mass shooting, killing 22 and injuring 24 at a Walmart; in September, as the Department of Homeland Security added white-supremacist extremism to its list of priority threats, the same month a swastika appeared on its walls; in October, as swastikas also appeared on Cape Cod and invitations to a white-supremacist gathering were mailed to Maine residents; in November, as a white-supremacist group filmed a video outside Mississippi's Emmett Till Memorial; nor this month, as students flashed possible white-power signs at an Army-Navy football game."

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery

Intervention101.com to help families and friends understand and effectively respond to the complexity of a loved one's cult involvement.
CultRecovery101.com assists group members and their families make the sometimes difficult transition from coercion to renewed individual choice.
CultNEWS101.com news, links, resources.
Cults101.org resources about cults, cultic groups, abusive relationships, movements, religions, political organizations and related topics.

Selection of articles for CultNEWS101 does not mean that Patrick Ryan or Joseph Kelly agree with the content. We provide information from many points of view in order to promote dialogue.

'A long time coming': These Muslims are bringing sex abuse by sheikhs out of the shadows

Aysha Khan
Religion News Service
January 15, 2020

(RNS) — For Sidrah Ahmad-Chan, the moment felt surreal.

Listening to a Muslim psychologist speaking about patterns of abuse while on stage at the American Islamic College on Saturday (Jan. 11), she pulled up Twitter.

“First panel discussion and I am already reeling,” typed Ahmad-Chan, a Toronto-based researcher studying gender-based violence and Islamophobia, who was one of about 100 other attendees at the newly launched Hurma Project’s first conference. Started by prominent Canadian Islamic scholar Ingrid Mattson, the three-day research conference was the first to focus entirely on abuse in Muslim spaces.

“We are actually having conversations on spiritual abuse and sexual abuse in our community,” Ahmad-Chan wrote. “It's actually happening. Been a long time coming.”

Over the past two to three years, scholars and advocates say, North American Muslims have risen up in an unprecedented movement to openly confront sexual and spiritual abuse perpetrated by Muslim religious leaders.

“I’m definitely seeing an increase in people willing to talk about these issues,” said Phoenix-based certified sexual health educator Angelica Lindsey-Ali, who founded the Village Auntie Movement two years ago and has worked with victims of Muslim religious leaders accused of sexual abuse. “The unfortunate part is that it isn’t necessarily by choice. In some cases, I think the recognition of the rampant spiritual abuse in the community has forced them to have to talk about these issues.”

The conference comes in the wake of several explosive scandals impugning well-respected Islamic teachers, including Bayyinah Institute founder and superstar preacher Nouman Ali Khan, who was caught in a sexting scandal and accused of luring women into sexual relationships disguised as secret marriages; Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Swiss Islamic scholar and author who is currently awaiting trial over charges of raping multiple women who accused him at the height of the global #MeToo movement; and Usama Canon, whose organization Ta’leef Collective published a statement saying the founder “deeply betrayed the sanctity of the position of spiritual teacher" through "verbal abuse and abuse of authority," as well as actions of a "more serious nature."

“The rise of these celebrity sheikhs is a fairly recent development, just in the past few years,” said UNC Chapel Hill professor Juliane Hammer, who attended the Hurma Project conference and whose new book examines Muslim activism against domestic violence. “And with that rise comes the possibility of this kind of exposure. Because every person, especially men, in positions of such power is prone to abuse.”

Advocates also attribute the new movement to a number of other developments: the growing sensitivity to women’s leadership and access in Muslim spaces; the explosion of sex abuse scandals and crises in a number of other faith traditions, which showed that Muslims are not unique in struggling to stamp out the problem; increased social and political visibility of Muslims; and the broader #MeToo movement, which empowered survivors to share their stories and offered a roadmap for accountability.

“The #MeToo movement was definitely a catalyst and gave a roadmap and a sense of urgency to people who were sitting on a secret,” Lindsey-Ali said. “But the reality is that now is just the time that Allah is finally bringing to light the fact that there are abusers in the community. Allah is the Reckoner.”

Most new initiatives are approaching the issue of sexual abuse by wrapping it into a broader category of “spiritual abuse,” which encompasses all abuses of religious authority by faith leaders. That includes physical abuse, fraud and embezzlement and initiation of secret, temporary or child marriages and also hints at the damage such abuse can inflict on a victim’s own relationship with their faith.

Zahra Ayubi, a Dartmouth professor researching gender and Islamic ethics, cautioned that use of the phrase “spiritual abuse” as a euphemistic catch-all term may minimize the damage of sexual violence and confuse the vulnerable communities it aims to protect.

Others see it as a critical strategic move.

“Calling it spiritual in order to get people to talk about it can also be a very intentional strategy,” Hammer observed. “If they walk in and say, ‘I want to talk about sexual abuse by religious authority figures,’ people want to shut down the conversation. So advocates are looking at where the community is and what will allow them to talk about it.”

Ten years ago, the Chicago-based non-profit Heart Women and Girls was the only national initiative openly discussing sexual violence in Muslim spaces. Public health advocate Nadiah Mohajir founded the organization 10 years ago to offer sexual and reproductive health programming to local Muslims, making the argument that a lack of sex education enables sexual abuse.

In 2015, Mohajir became a leading voice on effectively dealing with sexual abuse in Muslim communities when a prominent Chicago-area imam, Mohammed Abdullah Saleem, was charged with committing sexual assault and battery against minors at the Islamic school he had founded. Despite vocal backlash against the accusers by the conservative cleric's supporters, Mohajir and other local scholars, lawyers and therapists urged victims to speak up and worked with other local schools to develop stronger policies to protect their students.

Mohajir’s team is no longer alone in its uphill battle.

Two years ago, Facing Abuse in Community Environments (Face) launched and began publishing reports investigating incidents of sexual abuse in U.S. mosques and naming alleged perpetrators. In Shaykh’s Clothing sprung up three years ago to document incidents of spiritual abuse and offer resources addressing the root causes of the problem. Lindsey-Ali’s Village Auntie Movement takes a traditional African approach in teaching Muslim women about their “sacred sexuality” and their rights in the marital bed. Muslim poet-turned-rapper Mona Haydar’s 2017 song “Dog” calls out the “sheikhs in my DM / begging me to shake it on my cam in the PM.”

Two weeks ago in Chicago, at the Muslim American Society and Islamic Circle of North America’s annual conference, Muslim leaders held a panel on “breaking the taboo” of sexual and domestic abuse. Maryland’s Family and Youth Initiative has published a toolkit on spiritual abuse. The Peaceful Families Project will soon host a training session for imams and Muslim chaplains on preventing and responding to domestic violence. And this week in London, the women’s group Hawaa Empowerment will host a discussion on sexual abuse in Muslim communities.

“What’s happening right now is different from before,” Ayubi confirmed. “Prior to this, the main paradigm with regard to sexual abuse, and what people like to call spiritual abuse, was one of silence. That’s going to change with these new initiatives.”

That silence, Ayubi said, was in large part due to Muslims’ unwillingness to unearth the skeletons in their closet while already facing heightened scrutiny and surveillance due to anti-Muslim sentiment. Some Muslim leaders have therefore prioritized ensuring victims’ silence, she argued, whether by guilting them out of speaking out or pursuing legal action, pushing them to handle incidents through informal mechanisms like arbitration, or even requesting male relatives help convince victims to remain quiet and avoid embarrassment for the family.

That fear persists despite data showing that levels of sexual abuse by Muslim leaders are not extraordinary. A survey last year by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding found that 8% of U.S. Muslims say they personally know someone who has experienced unwanted sexual advances from faith leaders – about the same as the general public and other major faith groups. (Muslims are about as likely as other faith groups to have reported the incident to community leaders, but are the only group more likely to have reported the incident to law enforcement, per polling.)

Now, activists are increasingly “calling out the fallacy in crying Islamophobia,” Ayubi said.

“Stamping out abusers will always help clean up the image of the community,” she noted. “The stereotype that Muslim women are oppressed is already out there. Rejecting the abusers from our communities would actually show that sexual abuse is not tolerated by Muslims and that women are, in fact, heard and valued and have an important leadership role within our communities.”

That’s the model championed by Face, the Texas-based non-profit created by Muslim community organizer Alia Salem to work toward exposure, accountability and consequences for those who abuse their authority.

“Our goal is to be a mechanism to help victims, to be a place where vulnerable people can go in the first place,” Salem told RNS. “Because there are no other mechanisms to interrupt the process of abuse, someone might get fired, but nothing stops them from getting hired at another place.”

Salem was watching the film “Spotlight” when she received a message from a Muslim mother seeking help in dealing with the Texas imam she claimed had groomed her daughter for sex. The imam allegedly requested sexually explicit images from and later had intercourse with the young woman in a motel, all while promising to consider her for marriage.

“I realized there was nobody to help,” Salem said. “There was literally nobody to do anything that would have any long lasting, sustained impact. … I thought, ‘Holy crap, this is happening. And we have to do something about it, because nobody else is going to. We have a moral obligation.’”

Salem’s training in organization development soon kicked in. She launched Face, spent a year thoroughly investigating the imam’s misconduct, then published a bombshell report that documented the results. A judge soon ruled that Imam Zia ul-Haque Sheikh was guilty of sexual exploitation, clergy malpractice and grooming, winning the victim a landmark $2.5 million judgment.

A second 11-month investigation by the group accused Phoenix-based imam Moataz Moftah of sexual battery, child abuse, misappropriation of charitable zakat funds and falsely presenting himself as single in order to pursue female congregants while in fact having two concurrent concealed marriages.

Salem attributes the success of Face's evidence-based methods to the increasingly “robust” willingness of American Muslim leaders and community members to support such work in the past two years, as well as the #MeToo movement and the shock at prominent leaders’ recent falls from grace.

“We've gotten a lot of pushback, that we're exposing the community to more harm, et cetera,” Salem said. “But even if people don't like our methodology, the positives outweigh the negatives because they're like, ‘Well, we don't want something like Face to exist, so let's create something else.’ And that’s what our goal is anyways.”

The Hurma Project is one of the most prominent developments in the movement. Rooted in a distinctly scholarly, religiously based approach, its founder, Ingrid Mattson, is well-known globally as the first woman, first convert and first North-American born president of the Islamic Society of North America.

The project, Mattson explained, “was established to uphold the sacred inviolability of each person who enters Muslim spaces” from abuse or exploitation by anyone holding or invoking religious knowledge or authority. She pointed to a saying of the Prophet Muhammad describing an individual’s physical body, property and honor as having the same hurma, or sacred inviolability, from exploitation, abuse, mutilation and harm, as the holy city of Mecca.

Advocates agree the conference was a crucial step in naming the problem. But many say there is a long way to go. One attendee told RNS that conference moderators failed to include content warnings in its proceedings, even when presenters detailed graphic sexual violence, and instead suggested there was a blanket warning for sensitive content throughout the conference.

“Certain harms wouldn't have happened if it was led by survivors, and if the voices of actual survivors carried more authority in this space,” the attendee, who asked not to be named, said.

Attendees also expressed concerns that both the conference and the movement’s efforts are focused narrowly on protecting a so-called “ideal victim.” A woman who is attacked by her boyfriend, for instance, may not be received warmly by a Muslim shelter, said Hammer. A victim who drinks, uses drugs, does not wear hijab or is LGBTQ may be dismissed when reporting abuse by Muslim leaders, advocates worried.

“Yes, we may be at a watershed moment,” the attendee said. “But it also seems like the only kind of violence that the community is dedicated to stopping is if you're abused when you’re sitting in a Quran class and following all the quote-unquote Islamic rules.”

Still, all the advocates RNS spoke to emphasized, anything is better than nothing.

“Right now there cannot be too many cooks in the kitchen,” Salem said. “We need cooks, period. If we can all take on different pieces of it, then maybe we can finally deal with it.”

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that scholar Tariq Ramadan has been convicted on multiple charges of rape. In fact, he is currently awaiting trial for those charges. RNS regrets the error.


Survivor Recounts Confused, Chaotic Cult Rite That Killed 7

The Associated Press
January 20, 2020

SANTIAGO, Panama — A survivor of the cult ceremony that killed 7 people in a remote village in Panama says was ordered to close her eyes, was beaten and knocked unconscious during the ritual.

The account Monday by Dina Blanco suggests the 14 surviving participants were helpless, bound, unconscious or sightless much of the time.

So the truth about what happened in the bizarre ceremony may only come out at the trials of the nine villagers charged with killing their neighbors in the hamlet of El Terrón last week.

Blanco said from her hospital bed in the nearest city, Santiago, that she had gone to previous prayer meetings at the improvised church in a long wooden shed before. But this time, the tone had changed, and she didn't go willingly.

The cult, which had operated in the village for about three months, changed after a member had a vision, telling the lay preachers they had been "annointed" to exterminate unbelievers.

Blanco, 24, said a neighbor, Olivia, came to call her to the meeting of “the New Light of God” sect on Jan. 13, saying she would have to come “whether you like it or not.”

So she went — along with her 9-year-old daughter, who had epilepsy, her 15-year-old son and her father. Her father and her son managed to escape; Blanco and her daughter, Inés, were not so lucky.

When they arrived, they were told not to open their eyes, and to grab each others' hands and pray; the worshipers felt they were physically in the presence of the Lord.

“I felt something hit my head, and then I don't what happened to me. I dropped to my knees,” said the short, dark-haired Blanco.

Authorities say cult members used Bibles, cudgels and machetes to hit the congregants. Blanco still bears a broad bruise across her forehead from whatever hit her.

“When I came to, they kept telling me not to open my eyes,” she recalled. "I heard drums, an accordion, screams, crying. I was tied up."

Authorities say some of the congregants had been forced to strip, and walk across glowing embers.

But the worst was yet to come. Late that night or in the early morning hours of the 14th, a sect member approached and told her that her daughter Inés had died.

“The birds of the fields shall dispose of her body, ”the voice said.

In fact, Inés, like Blanco's pregnant neighbor and five of her children, had been murdered during the ritual — by some accounts, decapitated — and their naked bodies slung into hammocks and dumped in a freshly-dug common grave in the village cemetery.

Nine of the 10 lay preachers detained last week have been charged with murder and kidnapping.

Bibles still lay open and musical instruments lay scattered over the weekend in the shed where the killings took place.

Indigenous leader Evangelisto Santo has said that during the ceremony, “People were dancing and singing and nobody paid attention because we knew that they were in the presence of God."

But for Blanco, God was not among those present. “For me, it was hate that was there,” she said.

El Terron is nestled in the jungle of the indigenous Ngabe Bugle enclave on Panama’s Caribbean coast, and it is largely cut off from the outside world. Its 300 residents must walk hours along steep and muddy narrow roads to hail boats that can transport them along a river to other villages that have electricity, telephones, health clinics and a police presence.

In the city of Santiago, Blanco must still undergo scans to rule out internal injuries; she has bruises on her abdomen, back and hands from the beatings. But her what hurts most is in her heart.

“She was a disabled girl," she said of Inés. "I spent a lot of time on her, I bought her pills to treat her illness that cost $3,” a huge amount for impoverished farmers in Panama's poorest region. “Now I won't have her at home anymore,” Blanco said. “That is the greatest pain that I have.”


CultNEWS101 Articles: 1/21/2020

Events, Recovery,  Aharon Ramati, Israel, Twelve Tribes

Workshops: Former Members, Helping Professionals, and Families

Workshop Day 1 -- Saturday, February 8th -- Recovery Issues After Leaving an Abusive Church. Workshops aimed towards addressing the specific needs of former Jehovah's Witnesses and others recovering from spiritual abuse. A variety of topics will be covered to help former members identify psychological challenges that may arise when they leave the faith.

Workshop Day 2 -- Sunday, February 9th -- Helpers That Abuse. An educational and recovery workshop focused on serving the needs of those who have experienced abusive therapies, large group awareness trainings, and abusive bootcamps.

Workshops are 9:30-5:30 on February 8th and 9th
$50 one-day
$75 two-days includes ICSA Membership

1:45-2:00pm -- Break
2:00-3:15pm -- From Coping to Thriving - A Survivor's Perspective (Gary Alt)
3:15-3:30pm -- Break
3:30-4:45pm -- Relationship Dynamics and Jehovah's Witnesses (Jacqueline Johnson)
4:45-5:30pm -- How Female Former Cult Members Can Reclaim their Relationship with Knowledge and Self-Identity: An Interactive Workshop (Jacqueline Johnson)

Register: https://icsahome.networkforgood.com/events/17800-recovery-workshops-for-survivors-of-cultic-and-high-control-groups

Workshop Day 2 Schedule:
Workshop Day 2 -- Sunday, February 9th -- Helpers That Abuse. An educational and recovery workshop focused on serving the needs of those who have experienced abusive therapies, large group awareness trainings, abusive bootcamps, drug rehabs, and the troubled teen industry.

9:45-11:00am -- The History of Mass Therapy With its Roots in Mind Dynamics Institute, Misuse of Zen Insights, and Hyping the Positive Thinking of New Thought Religion. (Joseph Szimhart, Patrick Ryan, and Joseph Kelly)

Lunch Break 11:00-12:30pm
12:30-1:45pm -- Program Title TBA -- Survivor of Straight Incorporated (Sunny Linkfield)
1:45-2:00pm -- Break
2:00-3:15 -- Program Title TBA -- Author of the Dead, Insane, or in Jail Memoir Series (Zach Bonnie)
3:15-3:30 -- Break
3:30-4:45 -- The Legal Case on the Kids of Bergen County (Bill Goldberg)
4:45-5:30 -- How to Choose a Therapist (Bill Goldberg) 

Register: https://icsahome.networkforgood.com/events/17800-recovery-workshops-for-survivors-of-cultic-and-high-control-groups 

Workshop Day 1 Speaker Bios:
Joseph F. Kelly, a graduate of Temple University, has been a thought reform consultant since 1988. He spent 14 years in two different eastern meditation groups. He has lectured extensively on cult-related topics, and is a co-author of Ethical Standards for Thought Reform Consultants, published in ICSA's Cultic Studies Journal. For many years, Mr. Kelly has also co-facilitated ICSA pre-conference workshops for ex-members. Recently, he helped to initiate ICSA's monthly meeting in Philadelphia. . Websites: intervention101.com; cultmediation.com; cultrecovery101.com Email: joekelly411@gmail.com Phone: (267) 679-5493. Pennsylvania

Patrick Ryan is a graduate of Maharishi International University. He has been a cult intervention specialist (exit counseling, mediation, religious conflict resolution, thought reform consulting) since 1984. Mr. Ryan is the co-founder of TM-EX, the organization of ex-members of Transcendental Meditation. He established ICSA's online resource (1995-2013), and has presented 50 programs about hypnosis, inner-experience, trance-induction techniques, communicating with cult members, conversion, cult intervention, exit counseling, intervention assessment, mediation, religious conflict resolution, thought reform consultation, eastern groups, transcendental meditation and workshops for educators, families, former members and mental health professionals at ICSA workshops/conferences.
Mr. Ryan received the AFF Achievement Award (1997) from AFF, the Leo J. Ryan "Distinguished Service Award" (1999) from the Leo J. Ryan Foundation, and a Lifetime Achievement Award (2011) from ICSA. Websites: intervention101.com; cultmediation.com; cultrecovery101.com Email: pryan19147@gmail.com Phone: (215) 467-4939. Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)

Lee Marsh is a retired Social Counselor with twenty years experience in private practice, specializing in trauma counseling, DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder), sexual abuse, domestic violence, addictions, homelessness and cult/spiritual abuse issues. She was a member of large faith based destructive group for 22 years before leaving in 1985. Lee was the founder of the Centre for Incest Healing in Montreal and former Coordinator of the Compulsive Coping Behavior Program in Winnipeg. Since her retirement, Lee has assisted survivors of cultic groups, moderated discussion forums, and written extensively online to help survivors of various kinds of abuse. She is also the President of Advocates for Awareness of Watchtower Abuses (AAWA) and one of the founders and coaches of Stronger after, a new program to help people who leave cults or high control groups.

Gary Alt was a Jehovah's Witness for just over forty years, finally leaving the religion in early 2016. He served at JW Brooklyn Headquarters in the 1980s, and also served as a congregation elder during the 1980s and 1990s. He is a prolific songwriter, musician, and indie recording artist. Gary has also written two books, Force of Will and Song of Gil, as well as short stories, based on his JW-related experiences. He currently resides in the Poconos of Pennsylvania, USA.

Jacqueline Johnson, DSW, LCSW-R, is a licensed clinical social worker with a certification in forensic social work. She obtained her master's degree in social work from Columbia University and her doctoral degree in social work from the University of Tennessee. Dr. Johnson is a SGA survivor, having spent 43 years in the Jehovah's Witnesses. Dr. Johnson has spent most of her career working in New York State juvenile justice, focusing on trauma-informed care. She is a presenter for the National Organization of Forensic Social Workers. In her private practice, Dr. Johnson focuses on assisting indoctrinated individuals find freedom from cultic and other high-demand groups and process the trauma they experienced while being involved in systems of control or coercive groups and relationships. She manages the Facebook social media page, Outside the Ark, which shares educational information about cult dynamics and coercive control. Her areas of research interest include the epistemology of women and how cultic, coercive, and misogynistic experiences influence the cognitive development of women. Dr. Johnson can be reached at drjacquelinejohnson@outlook.com. You can learn more about Dr. Johnson at her website, www.drjacquelinejohnson.com.

Workshop Day 2 Speaker Bios:
Joseph Szimhart began research into cultic influence in 1980, after ending his two-year devotion to a New Age sect. He began to work professionally as an intervention specialist and exit counselor in 1986 on an international scale. From 1985 through 1992, he was chairman of an interdenominational, cult information organization in New Mexico. Since 1998 he has worked in the crisis department of a psychiatric emergency hospital in Pennsylvania. He continues to assist families with interventions and former members in recovery, including consultations via phone and Internet. He maintains a cult informational website, lectures, consults for the media, and has published articles, book reviews, and papers related to the cult problem. His first novel, Mushroom Satori: The Cult Diary, was released in 2013 through Aperture Press. He produces art in his home studio in Stowe, PA. In 2016 he received an ICSA Lifetime Achievement Award at the Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas. Website: http://jszimhart.com/ Email: jszimhart@gmail.com

Joseph F. Kelly, a graduate of Temple University, has been a thought reform consultant since 1988. He spent 14 years in two different eastern meditation groups. He has lectured extensively on cult-related topics, and is a co-author of Ethical Standards for Thought Reform Consultants, published in ICSA's Cultic Studies Journal. For many years, Mr. Kelly has also co-facilitated ICSA pre-conference workshops for ex-members. Recently, he helped to initiate ICSA's monthly meeting in Philadelphia. . Websites: intervention101.com; cultmediation.com; cultrecovery101.com Email: joekelly411@gmail.com Phone: (267) 679-5493. Pennsylvania

Patrick Ryan is a graduate of Maharishi International University. He has been a cult intervention specialist (exit counseling, mediation, religious conflict resolution, thought reform consulting) since 1984. Mr. Ryan is the co-founder of TM-EX, the organization of ex-members of Transcendental Meditation. He established ICSA's online resource (1995-2013), and has presented 50 programs about hypnosis, inner-experience, trance-induction techniques, communicating with cult members, conversion, cult intervention, exit counseling, intervention assessment, mediation, religious conflict resolution, thought reform consultation, eastern groups, transcendental meditation and workshops for educators, families, former members and mental health professionals at ICSA workshops/conferences. Mr. Ryan received the AFF Achievement Award (1997) from AFF, the Leo J. Ryan "Distinguished Service Award" (1999) from the Leo J. Ryan Foundation, and a Lifetime Achievement Award (2011) from ICSA. Websites: intervention101.com; cultmediation.com; cultrecovery101.com Email: pryan19147@gmail.com Phone: (215) 467-4939. Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)

Sunny Linkfield is a survivor of Straight Incorporated. This abusive teen "rehab" center, convinced thousands of parents that normal behavior was a sign of "druggie" behavior. Sunny was an over achiever but became a moody teenager, experimenting with pot, alcohol and a few other drugs. After her parents read an article in Reader's Digest, they dropped her off in a warehouse called Straight Inc. Straight, Inc. was an abusive mind control cult that practiced torture techniques formerly used in Communist China and North Korea on youth. These techniques were ostensibly employed to help Straight's victims overcome the problems and addictions that Straight claimed they had. Spin-offs still exist today. Sunny is now a make-up artist/esthetician and a trainer in retail cosmetics. She was recently interviewed in the new documentary, Fix My Kid, and was also the lead make-up artist for the film. Ms. Linkfield is active with the International Cultic Studies Association. She has been interviewed for NBC Nightly News and has spoken at Columbia University about the troubled teen industry. In April, 2013, Sunny spoke with Congressman Miller's office to modify the bill: Stop Abuse in Residential Treatment Centers for Teens Act. She also organized a seminar in DC on The Abuses in the Troubled Teen Industry. Sunny is active in raising awareness abroad on these abusive teen programs and is fighting for the US to ratify the United Nations Convention for the Rights of a Child. Currently, the US and Somalia are the only two countries who have not ratified the treaty.

Zack Bonnie is the author of the Dead, Insane, or in Jail memoir series, about his experience as a troubled teen incarcerated in the 80s at a cultish, Synanon-influenced facility called Rocky Mountain Academy. With a solid background in the entertainment field, he proposes that art is the antidote to thought reform. His presentation will encompass the mechanics of undue influence and cultic dynamics focusing on coercive institutionalized persuasion. His hope is to reach younger audiences as they enter careers in psychology and other social sciences. He works to create and promote media to illustrate the common dynamics of high-control groups wherever they appear: in the teen-treatment related programs, in religious failure, in strife at home, and as part of the US court system. Part of a larger plea for increased individual awareness, Zack Bonnie's mission is to educate the public - through the arts - about the systems applied in these institutions.

William Goldberg, LCSW, PsyA, is a clinical social worker and psychoanalyst with over forty years' experience working with former cult members. He and his wife, Lorna, co-lead a support group for former cult members, which has been meeting for over forty years. It is the oldest group of its kind in the world. In 2007, Bill retired from the Rockland County, NY Department of Mental Health, where he directed several programs and clinics. He is presently an adjunct professor in the social work and social science departments of Dominican College and he is on the faculty of the Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies. Bill has published numerous articles in books and professional journals, and he is one of the editors of a soon to be published book, sponsored by ICSA, which will focus on clinical work with former cult members. Bill is a frequent speaker at ICSA conferences, and he and Lorna have been the recipients of the Authentic CAN Hall of Fame Award and the Leo J. Ryan Award. In 2010, Bill was the recipient of ICSA's Lifetime Achievement Award. He is also co-editor of ICSA's Cult Recovery: A Clinician's Guide to Working With Former Members and Their Families, which is due to be published in 2017. (201) 894-8515 Website: blgoldberg.com Email:bill@blgoldberg.com New Jersey (Englewood) 

Register: https://icsahome.networkforgood.com/events/17800-recovery-workshops-for-survivors-of-cultic-and-high-control-groups    

"Aharon Ramati, 60, was named on Tuesday as the rabbi arrested one day earlier after a police raid in Jerusalem found roughly 50 women and children kept in near slavery-conditions in a residential facility, Maariv, the sister publication of The Jerusalem Post, reported.

Ramati will be kept under arrest for a week, the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court ruled.

Police are investigating the possible abuse of children ranging from five to 11 years old in the sect.

Nine women, including Ramati's wife, were arrested under suspicion of aiding and abetting the alleged abuse. Sexual abuse is also under investigation. Police said more arrests would likely take place."

" ... Ten people were arrested in the raid, including a 60-year-old man who ran the school located on the premises, along with nine female suspects.

Authorities suspect the school, which operated as a separate and tightly knit-community, was in practice a cult which used coercion and abuse to force dozens of women and children to remain there against their will.

The ten suspects arrested in the raid were taken into custody on suspicion of holding victims in slave-like conditions, child abuse, and sexual abuse.

Last night the court ordered the release of three women arrested as part of the investigation. Attorney Dotan Danieli, who represents one of the women, said: 'It was clear at the beginning of the case that the heavy suspicions had no basis. Police conduct has led to serious and unnecessary harm to the young women's privacy.'"

"A Twelve Tribes community moved to Warsaw in the late 1990s and opened up a Common Ground restaurant on Main Street. In the twenty plus years that they have been settled in the area, they have quietly worked at providing a comfortable and tasty place to eat, and at the same time have been available if anyone wants to know more about their lives or religious beliefs.

As in most cases where a group of people are a little different from the mainstream, there has been some suspicion about the Twelve Tribes members. They wear modest clothing, live in big houses together, and share money, possessions and work. There have been stories told in the past about how they over-disciplined their children, and they have been labeled a cult."

The website (good dot) has "recently reported an example of a 15-year-old girl, Shuah Jones, who chose to leave a community in another part of the country. Her father was a founding member of the Twelve Tribes, so she sneaked out of the house at night and called a brother for help. Her young age allowed her to catch up on education by studying for a GED with the help of family members who lived outside her former community. She eventually went to college and is presently an insurance agent. Jones said that Twelve Tribes bans outside materials and offers only minimal education to children. She said that she had no decision-making skills and didn't know how to protect herself. Jones believes that others who leave a community have difficulty with social interaction that makes it hard to navigate the resources that might be available.

There is apparently a network organized by some people who have left Twelve Tribes to provide support for one another and help current members leave when necessary. The network mainly tries to offer one a place to stay and a job.

In Warsaw, there seems to be a peace between this religious community and its neighbors, but there are still a lot of unknowns. Andrew, who helps run the Warsaw restaurant, now known as the Yellow Deli, talked at length over the weekend about what it means to be in the Twelve Tribes. He also described some of the unfavorable stories being told about the group a rehashing of old news from the past."

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery

Intervention101.com to help families and friends understand and effectively respond to the complexity of a loved one's cult involvement.
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Cults101.org resources about cults, cultic groups, abusive relationships, movements, religions, political organizations and related topics.

Selection of articles for CultNEWS101 does not mean that Patrick Ryan or Joseph Kelly agree with the content. We provide information from many points of view in order to promote dialogue.