Jun 27, 2020

CultNEWS101 Articles: 6/27-28/2020

ICSA Virtual Event, Scientology, Legal, Trafficking

This two-day event will include a variety of presentations, panels, and workshops for former members of cultic groups, families and friends, professionals, and researchers. 

Day 1 -- Saturday Conference Sessions, July 11, 2020 (11 am - 4 pm US Eastern Time)

Day 2 -- Sunday Workshops, July 12, 2020 (11 am - 4 pm US Eastern Time)

Saturday, July 11, 2020

11:05 -11:50 / "The Neurobiology of Sexual Abuse: Flashbacks, Triggers and Healing" (Doni Whitsett)

The first part of this presentation presents a neurobiological understanding of flashbacks and triggers resulting from sexual abuse. The second part of the presentation offers suggestions for dealing with triggers, learning to manage them, and perhaps using them to facilitate healing.

11:05 -11:50 / "MIND FIXERS: 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 Kelly, Joseph Szimhart, Patrick Ryan)

The title for this presentation, "MIND FIXERS: 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," covers a vast arena for specialized workshops that range from one day to several weeks. Borrowing techniques from encounter group formats, military boot camp training, and the mindfulness movements these specialized groups operate as unregulated mass therapy businesses and are not licensed as mental health professions. The stated purpose of these "large group awareness trainings" is to increase self-realization and success in life. The outcomes, however, are problematic with some critics claiming that a form of "brainwashing" is taking place that emphasizes promotion of the workshops while any real-life gains are highly questionable. Some participants report psychological and social harm. The speakers will guide a discussion to address the criticisms.

12:00 - 12:50 / "Coercive Control and Persuasion in Relationships and Groups– Intersections and Understandings" (Rod Dubrow-Marshall; Linda Dubrow-Marshall; Carrie McManus; Andrea Silverstone)

This panel will examine contemporary understandings of coercive control in relationships and groups with practitioners from both sides of the Atlantic. The way in which the term 'coercive control' is now being used and applied in different jurisdictions will be discussed and how changes to the law are reflecting advances in our understanding of how coercive control works psychologically across contexts. It will also be explored how a heightened dialogue between practitioners and researchers across the fields of intimate partner violence and cults/sects and extremist groups is leading to enhanced appreciation of commonalities in the process of psychological indoctrination. Positive implications for prevention, exit and recovery and rehabilitation across these areas will also be discussed along with recommendations for policy makers.

12:00 - 12:50 PM / "Unification Church (Moonie) SGAs: The Future is Unwritten" (Lisa Kohn; Teddy Hose; Jen Kiaba)

A panel of Unification Church (Moonie) SGAs (Jen Kiaba, Teddy Hose, and Lisa Kohn) will discuss their different experiences of living in, leaving, and learning to thrive after being part of the Unification Church (the "Moonies"). The questions and discussions will focus on how the panelists experienced being part of the Unification Church, how they were able to leave the Church, how they still feel affected by their childhood in the Church, and how they have healed since leaving the Church.

1:00 - 1:50 PM / "Lived Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Former Cult Members – Counseling Implications" (Cyndi Matthews; Stevie Powers)

Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual (LGB) individuals growing up in religious cults can face opposition to their sexual orientation. They may struggle with depression, anxiety, drug/alcohol abuse, self-mutilation, and suicidal ideation. Research by presenters will describe lived experiences of LGB individuals who grew up in religious cults. Best practices based on this research, APA & ACA Codes of Ethics, along with ASERVIC and ALGBTIC competencies will be presented.

1:00 - 1:50 PM / "How Female Former Cult Members Can Reclaim their Relationship with Knowledge and Self-Identity" (Jacqueline Johnson)

High-control and coercive groups work at stealing and silencing the thoughts and knowledge base, and subsequently, the voices, of its members. For females, this dynamic becomes more problematic when those female members are, or have been, part of a misogynous group that incorporates numerous ways of subjugating women. This presentation will outline the research of Belenky et al (1986), which examines the development of women's self, voice, and mind. Belenky and her colleagues describe the cognitive and intellectual development in women in terms of five knowledge positions (ranging from silence to construction) through which women develop their identity. This presentation will examine ways that high-control, misogynous groups subjugate women, how this affects the epistemology of female cult members, her resulting relationship to knowledge, and the possible impairments to her ability to construct her own knowledge, develop her own identity, and find her own voice. Implications for therapists working with women are discussed in terms of helping former female cult members begin to develop their identity, find their voice, and construct their own knowledge.

2:00 - 2:50 PM / "Raised in a Cult: Psychological and Social Adjustment of Second- and Third-Generation Former Cult Members" (Sofia Klufas)

Former cult members often find themselves struggling to re-integrate into mainstream society and typically describe long periods of recovery post-exit. The current study aimed to qualitatively explore the experiences of individuals raised in cults (1) during, (2) in the process of leaving, and (3) post-cult involvement in order to understand how cultic influences might impact their ability to socially and psychologically adjust to life outside of the cult upon defection. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 8 participants from across North America and Europe who self-identify as second- and/or third-generation former cult members. Responses were qualitatively analyzed for totalistic patterns of influence which may dissuade members from leaving the group or simply deviating from its norms. Participants reported a wide range of emotional responses and psychological difficulties which they perceived to be the result of their cultic upbringing including but not limited to hyper-arousal, anxiety, doctrine-related fears, feelings of isolation, depression, anger/outbursts and suicidal tendencies. Identity reconstruction and social adjustment challenges such as relationship loss due to shunning, difficulty connecting with others, language differences were also reported by participants. Raised-in cult members are a distinct population from converted cult members as they have been exposed to cultic influence throughout the course of their developmental period. While the experiences of these two groups are comparable in many ways, previous research has demonstrated that raised-in cult members are at higher risk for social and psychological difficulties (Furnari, 2005).

2:00 - 2:50 PM / "What does awe have to do with it?" (Yuval Laor)

What is awe? What role does awe play in cult recruitment? And what brings about awe experiences? The talk will discuss these and other topics related to this strange emotion and the effects it can have on us.

3:00 - 3:50 PM / "Nxivm: the Reinventive Path to Success?"(Susan Raine, Stephen Kent)

In this session I discuss the multi-level cultic organization, NXIVM. I propose that NXIVM operated as, what Susie Scott (2011) calls, a reinventive institution—that is, an organization that people enter into voluntarily, because they promise to help people transform or reinvent themselves through personal and professional growth, self-actualization, self-improvement, and success. The group's founder and leader, Keith Raniere offered members these outcomes via the Stripe Path—a hierarchal system of courses that were supposed to empower people as they worked towards personal growth and world peace. Scott stresses, however, that reinventive institutions incorporate structures of power and are far from benign. This dynamic is evident in NXIVM, which offered to empower its members but ultimately ended up disempowering many of them—especially its most committed female followers. I follow up this discussion by addressing how Raniere had groomed many of these most dedicated women for sexual abuse and exploitation. Grant Sinnamon's (2017) research on adult grooming and Janja Lalich's (1997) work on the psychosexual exploitation of women in cults provide extremely useful insights for understanding Raniere's behaviour.

3:00 - 3:50 PM / "What Do I Tell People? Empowered Ways that Cult Survivors and their Families Can Tell their Stories. Cults, Recovery and Podcasts." (Rachel Bernstein)

Nearly all my clients and podcast guests have experienced fear when thinking about telling people about their cult-related experiences. Many live in isolation because of this, and at times it's for good reason. When they've tried to share their stories, they've been responded to with insulting judgment and condescension, with confusion and disbelief, or with inappropriately voyouristic interest and invasive follow-up questions. Learn how to take control of that conversation and present your story in an educational and empowered way so you don't have to live in fear of these moments and remain silent and alone.
This two-day event will include a variety of presentations, panels, and workshops for former members of cultic groups, families and friends, professionals, and researchers.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

11:00 AM - 1:00 PM / Research Workshop
The Research Workshop will be facilitated by Rod Dubrow-Marshall, Chair of the ICSA Research Network and Co-Editor of the International Journal of Coercion, Abuse and Manipulation (IJCAM). He will speak initially with a short overview about research on cults and coercive control and he will be followed by introductory talks by Cyndi Matthews, Managing Editor of IJCAM, Marie-Andrée Pelland, Co-Editor of IJCAM and Omar Saldaña from the University of Barcelona, who will each speak about research and developments in their respective areas.

The Research Workshop will focus on key areas of research currently taking place on cults and extremist groups and related areas of coercive control including intimate partner violence, trafficking and gangs. Researchers will be able to discuss the challenges they may be facing or may have faced in proposing new research projects in these areas, including getting institutional approval (IRB or ethics committee), finding participants, clarifying aspects of research design and getting support from faculty/professors. Experienced researchers will be on hand to answer questions and all those present will be able to share their ideas on current and future research including possibilities for collaboration. Plans and opportunities for the ICSA Research Network will also be discussed.   

11:00 AM - 2:00 PM / Mental Health Workshop
(Linda Dubrow-Marshall, Lorna Goldberg, Jacqueline Johnson)

1:00 PM - 4:00 PM / Former Member Workshop
This workshop will include an Overview of Recovery, touching on such subjects as attachment, boundaries, and identity. There will also be an opportunity to offer reflections on sessions people have attended during the first day of the conference. The workshop is intended for both first and second/multi-generation former members. 
(William Goldberg, Gillie Jenkinson)   

2:00 PM - 4:00 PM / Family Workshop
"Building Bridges; Leaving and Recovering from Cultic Groups and Relationships: A Workshop for Families"
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 your situation; developing problem-solving skills; formulating a helping strategy; learning how to communicate more effectively with your loved one; learning new ways of coping. 
(Rachel Bernstein, MSed, LMFT, Joseph Kelly, Patrick Ryan)   

"A woman has dropped the lawsuit she filed last year against the Church of Scientology that alleged she was repeatedly sexually abused as a child in Scientology's care, including as a kindergartner at the church's Clearwater Academy.

The woman, named as Jane Doe in court records, filed her complaint in Miami-Dade circuit court in September, becoming the third lawsuit lodged against Scientology and its leader David Miscavige in 2019.

On May 15, a Miami-Dade judge granted Scientology's request to transfer the case to Pinellas County. Doe dismissed the case on June 5, according to court records.

A legal team led by Philadelphia-based victims' rights attorney Brian Kent represented the complainants in all three 2019 lawsuits against the church.

Kent last year described the litigation as an effort to expose Scientology's structure and policies that allegedly enable abuse, human trafficking and harassment of critics. But the dismissal of Doe's case is the second blow to Kent's legal offensive: in January, a Los Angeles judge granted the church's request to move former Scientologist Valerie Haney's human trafficking and stalking lawsuit into the church's internal arbitration.

Kent did not respond to a phone call or email requesting comment. The Tampa Bay Times is aware of Doe's identity but is not naming her because she is an alleged victim of sexual abuse. Doe told the Times she decided to drop the lawsuit because of unresponsiveness from her legal team and after getting an update from the Clearwater Police Department about its investigation into her complaints. She described the update as disappointing."

Polaris Project: Trafficking Is Also Hidden in Our Favorite Restaurant's Kitchen
"Stuck in our homes, sick of our own cooking, the individuals who flip our burgers, fry our egg rolls and top our pizzas deserve our appreciation and our support more than ever before. They are also – like all low-wage workers and particularly immigrants – more vulnerable than ever before to being trafficked and exploited by unscrupulous, opportunistic business owners and managers. And now, more than ever, we all have a stake in ensuring that doesn't happen because the health and safety of workers in the restaurants we enjoy has never been more directly connected to our own.
Since 2007, Polaris has operated the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline, which receives reports of suspected or potential sex and labor trafficking situations and provides confidential services and support to victims and survivors. In that time, Polaris learned about 672 cases of labor trafficking involving restaurant work and 1,448 cases of labor exploitation. Exploitation or mistreatment and abuse of workers becomes trafficking when force, fraud or coercion is used to recruit workers or to keep them on the job. The number of victims in these cases may be far higher as many trafficking situations victimize more than one person.
Data from the Trafficking Hotline suggests that the vast majority of workers trafficked in restaurants – some 80 percent – are foreign nationals.  From 2015-2018, the Trafficking Hotline responded to 625 victims of labor trafficking in restaurants and food service operations. Many workers are here legally on temporary work visas known as H-2Bs. These visas are inherently flawed for several reasons. While it is illegal to charge potential workers for the visas – or for any step along the way in the process – many recruiters do so anyway, leaving workers and their families in crippling debt just to secure a job. That means these workers are forced to borrow money just to get the job. If a restaurant is shuttered because of COVID, these workers will have to take whatever work they can find – no matter how exploitative – to pay off those debts.
With increased desperation from workers, unscrupulous business owners-  traffickers – can easily trap workers in a situation of forced labor.  Trafficking regularly happens on H-2B visas because workers must work for the original sponsoring business.  If they quit, they lose their legal status. A common labor trafficking situation occurs when an employer demands that a worker labor for virtually no pay or in unsafe conditions, and then threatens to have the worker deported if they refuse. Under the current situation with COVID, many businesses that sponsor workers on H-2B visas have been closed, and the legal status and income for these workers in the country is uncertain.
Restaurant workers who were undocumented to begin with face similarly unacceptable choices that can lead to trafficking.  Outside of the protection of most of our laws, the only bargaining power they have in normal, or good economic times is that these jobs are hard, and low paying. Restaurants have to fill them, workers can be choosy. Now, with jobs growing ever scarcer, these workers have no leverage whatsoever. Traffickers know they can take advantage of this vulnerable position and exploit workers."

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.

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