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Dangerous Liaisons

Robin Boyle Laisure, JD, who will moderate the program, is Professor of Legal Writing, St. John’s University School of Law, is on the editorial board of ICSA’s International Journal of Cultic Studies. She lectures on topics concerning cults and the law. Her recent article, Employing Trafficking Laws to Capture Elusive Leaders of Destructive Cults, is published by the Oregon Review of International Law (2016). She also wrote Current Status of Federal Law Concerning Violent Crimes Against Women and Children: Implications for Cult Victims, published in the Cultic Studies Review (2002). Two articles have appeared in the Cultic Studies Journal: How Children in Cults May Use Emancipation Laws to Free Themselves (1999) and Women, the Law, and Cults: Three Avenues of Legal Recourse – New Rape Laws, Violence Against Women Act, and Antistalking Laws (1998). In 2005, she received the Faculty Outstanding Achievement award from the President of St. John’s University.

Elizabeth Blackwell was born into a Christian family who became heavily involved in a Bible-based doomsday cult. She was not permitted to obtain a formal education, nor was she allowed contact with anyone outside of the group. In 2009, she sought help in coming to terms with her cult experience and became aware of the many unique challenges and strengths inherent to former members, particularly those who were raised in high-demand groups. She has since been an active member of the International Cultic Studies Association, presently through service on the NYC Educational Outreach Initiative. She also serves on the board of reFOCUS, a cult survivor support network. Ms. Blackwell is currently an honor’s student in the Psychology department at Columbia University. For her honor’s thesis she is researching attachment to caregivers, and traumatic childhood experiences of both physical and psychological abuse in Nim Tottenham’s Developmental Affective Neuroscience lab.

Maureen Griffo, MA, MEd, an ex-member of The Church of Bible Understanding as well as several fringe churches, is a board member of reFOCUS and also was one of four collaborators who established the Leo J. Ryan Education Foundation. Ms. Griffo had moderated an online chat/support group for former members for many years. Currently she is spearheading the ICSA New York City Educational Initiative. She has a Master’s in Sociology with a focus on cultic practices as well as a Master’s in Education with a focus on special education. She works with children with severe emotional and developmental disabilities in New York City.

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