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Member Update, 2018, Vol. 9, No. 1

News on the cult-related activities of ICSA members (in no particular order). Send us news (past 3 to 6 months or future events) you would like to share with the ICSA community. Tell us who, what, where, when. Biographical sketches of many ICSA members: icsahome.com/elibrary/peopleprofiles. Please contact ICSA at mail@icsamail.com if you want to reproduce any of this information. We will include some photos with each issue. Send us a jpg if you think we might not have a photo of you.


In August of 2017 ICSA released Cult Recovery: A Clinician’s Guide to Working With Former Members and Families. This landmark, 500-page book, with chapters from leading clinicians and researchers, describes the current state of the art in helping people adversely affected by a cultic dynamic, whether in a cult, mainstream religious denomination, psychotherapy, family, or other interpersonal relationship. More info, including purchase options. 

International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6893. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. ICSA is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs.

Understanding Abusive Spiritual Systems and Relationships. Indianapolis, Indiana; March 17, 2018. More information.

2018 Annual Conference. Theme: The global challenge of young people born, raised or recruited into extremist groups, abusive religious organizations, or coercive/exploitative relationships. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; July 4–7, 2018. More information.

Surviving and Moving On After a High-Demand Group Experience: A Workshop for Those Born/Raised in Cults. Chester, Connecticut; April 27–29, 2018. More information.

Upcoming ICSA Conversations

Most conversations will be live streamed via Facebook. If you wish to participate either in person or via streaming, please register (ICSA Conversations are free). More information.

  • Ready to Mine: Zen’s Legitimating Mythology and Cultish Behavior. Stuart Lachs. New York, NY; February 23, 2018. 
  • Updating The Legal Concept of Undue Influence in the 21st Century. Alan Scheflin. New York, NY; March 23, 2018. 
  • Can A Fish See Water? How I Left a High-Control Group, Took Back My Life, and Help Others Recover. Cathy Harris. Los Angeles, CA; March 24, 2018. 
  • The Compliance Professional’s Toolbox: Indoctrination, Emotional Control and Psychological Manipulation. Arnold Markowitz. New York, NY; May 18, 2018. 


ICSA Conversations. On December 15 Sara Waters gave a talk entitled “Sexual/Romantic Intimacy: Challenges for People Raised in a Cult.” This event was live streamed via Facebook and had over one thousand views.

Joan Capellini Scholarship Fund. In 2014, Mr. Robert Capellini founded an ICSA scholarship fund to help financially disadvantaged persons attend ICSA conferences and workshops and/or obtain ICSA membership. The fund honors his late wife, Joan, who was active in cult education for many years. In 2017, 35 former cult members benefited from the Joan Capellini Fund.

Sample Thank-You Message: Dear Mr. Capellini, I’m writing to thank you for the scholarship to the recent ICSA recovery workshop in Colorado Springs that took place this past weekend. … The loss of income from no longer being on staff and some health issues my husband has been dealing with and other issues have impacted us financially, so your sponsoring me to the workshop made it possible for me to attend in perfect timing for the transition and changes we are making. Blessings to you and thank you, again!

Support Groups: Several people within the ICSA network are currently offering support groups. Current listing of support groups.

Member News

Michael Langone was cited in an article, “Characteristics of a Cult,” in The Atlanta Journal–Constitution.

Nori Muster was interviewed for a television program, The Deadliest Decade II: The Krishna Killers, on Investigation Discovery. It aired Monday, December 18, 2017.

Linda Dubrow-Marshall and Rod Dubrow-Marshall’s article “How Cult Leader Charles Manson was Able to Manipulate his ‘Family’ to Commit Murder” was published in The Conversation.

Jill Mytton (left) has completed her thesis and been awarded the Doctorate in Psychotherapy by Professional Studies from Middlesex University.

Dr. Anita O Solomon achieved a 2016 Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Award for Innovative Services beyond her duties as a psychologist at Spring Grove Hospital Center, Catonsville, Maryland. She works with severely mentally ill inpatients in a Maryland psychiatric facility. Anita likes to write a column for the Spring Grove Newsletter on appreciation of diversity, using the excellent materials of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Georgia.

Eileen Barker spoke at a lecture at London School of Economics on February 12, 2018. The lecture was titled Is God Really Dead? Why Belief Matters. This lecture celebrated Eileen and 30 years of her work.

Peng Xue and Baoxiang Fan published a paper titled “Study on Cultic Information Dissemination from the Internet Perspective” in the academic journal Science and Atheism in China.

Raffaella Di Marzio, managing director of LIREC, reports on a conference, The New Frontiers of Dialogue and Freedom of Belief, which was held January 16, 2018, in Rome, Italy. She also participated in a December 14, 2017, news conference at the Italian Chamber of Deputies; the topic of the news conference was religious freedom violations in China. A video posted on the YouTube channel of the Church of Almighty God is available with subtitles in English and Chinese.

Massimo Introvigne and Raffaella Di Marzio presented at the conference Religious Freedom Violations in China: A Case Study of Persecution Against Christian Minorities on December 14, 2017, in Rome, Italy.

Friedrich Griess participated in a talk show titled Cult—A Sneaking Danger.
Rick Ross has been involved in many media projects over the past few months:

  • He did interviews with both the BBC and Sky News in the UK. The interviews, which aired on November 20, were about the life and historical significance of Charles Manson after the cult leader’s death. Ross included Manson in his book Cults Inside Out, in a chapter about “Small but Deadly” cults.
  • He was interviewed and quoted in an article about the controversial large-group-awareness-training group NXIVM for Vice.com online. Allegations have surfaced against NXIVM founder Keith Raniere, who is accused of sexually abusing women and has been linked to the physical branding of some women within the group. More info. Rick also appeared in several other media reports on NXIVM, including
  • December 15, 2017, in an ABC 20/20 report
  • December 15, 2017, in an ABC Nightline report. 
  • November 21, 2017, on Dr. Oz.
  • The Cult Education Institute criticism of Falun Gong and its leader Li Hongzhi was cited in a report published by the Southeast Asia Globe.
  • Rick Ross was interviewed about groups called cults for the very popular podcast Lifehacker.

Colleen Russell was filmed and interviewed by producer Cara Jones for an upcoming documentary on her experience born and raised in the Unification Church (Moonies). This event occurred in October, 2017 at Colleen’s Marin County (SF Bay Area) office.

Daniel Shaw has several upcoming speaking events. More info.

Patrick Ryan and Joseph Kelly continue to run CultNEWS101.com, which provides hand-selected news, links, and resources about cults, cultic groups, abusive relationships, movements, religions, political organizations, medical, and related topics. CultNEWS101 provides information from many points of view—our intent is to encourage understanding of the complexity of group involvement. To subscribe, send your email to pryan19147@gmail.com

Grace Adams has been involved in several projects over the past few months:

  • Appeared on the CBS 48 Hours special—Secrets of Waco
  • Was contacted by the Sunday Night television program in Australia regarding the Branch Davidians. 
  • Was contacted by Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon program regarding the Branch Davidians. 
  • Was contacted by Nine Network news in Melbourne, Australia regarding the Branch Davidians. 
  • Was interviewed in Melbourne, Australia by Nine Network regarding the Branch Davidians. 
  • Appeared on A Current Affair program in Melbourne, Australia regarding the Branch Davidians. 

Stephen Kent (left) was interviewed for an article titled “Once thriving Church of Scientology faces extinction, says cult tracker,” published in folio.

Isabelle Chartier Siben, Présidente de l’association “C’est à dire” Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur presented a lecture titled Attacks: Chain Reactions on January 18, 2018.

Steve Eichel and William Goldberg were cited in an article titled “Community or cult? Experts share why people join Overcomer Ministry in rural South Carolina,” published in The Post and Courier.

In October, Marcus Chatfield traveled to Scandinavia to give a university conference presentation and two seminars, one in Denmark and one in Norway. His conference presentation was entitled Institutionalized Persuasion and the Technology of Totalistic Treatment. The conference title was A Critical Look at Treatment: A National Conference, hosted by VID Specialized University on October 10, 2017, in Oslo, Norway. The conference was well attended by Norwegian social workers, treatment providers, addictions counselors, and individuals who have experienced totalistic treatment methods. Before and after the conference, on October 8 and 11, he presented a seminar entitled Totalistic Treatment: An International Perspective on the Potential for Harm. The seminar presentations were hosted by the Danish Streetlawyer, in Copenhagen, Denmark and by the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences. Both seminars were followed by lively discussions where professionals and adults with first-hand experience discussed the methods and effects of totalistic treatment programs. If you are interested in seeing conference slides, contact Marcus at mchatfield@ufl.edu

Rev. Ken Garrett has planned an informal morning forum on spiritual abuse on March 24th at Grace Church, Portland, 1431 SW 12th Ave, Portland, Oregon 97201. More info.

Joseph Szimhart was consulted and quoted for the show This American Life on NPR radio show Chip in My Brain (#635), about an adolescent, Cody, who was deeply manipulated and controlled by a basketball mentor, AJ, with radical Bible teaching.

Gordon Neufeld has republished his memoir in a new, updated edition. The new edition will appear in four parts, each part being published on the first of the month, from January 2018 through April 2018. The first part is now available as an Amazon Kindle e-book or paperback, and on Barnes & Noble Nook e-book, and Kobo e-book.

Donna Backstrom is hosting an event, Awareness of High-Control Groups: An Educational Seminar re: Mind Control Groups, at the Grand Opera House in Dubuque, Iowa on Saturday, April 7, 2018.

Mark Roggerman gave two cult presentations on February 15, 2018, at Metro State University located in Denver, Colorado. One was a social studies class in the morning on cultic activity in general. The other class, in the evening, was on cults preying on the elderly. Mark has just completed his master’s degree in theology.

Steven Hassan has started a PhD program at Fielding’s School of Leadership Studies—Organizational Development and Change. He has also been involved in several other projects:

  • Spoke on combating cult mind control with officials at the Ralph J. Bunche Library at the U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC on September 11, 2017.
  • Delivered a presentation titled Undue Influence: An Introduction to Destructive Cults, Mind Control, Brainwashing and Deprogramming at Harvard Medical School on October 5, 2017.
  • Presented Trial Advocacy “Expert Witness” Workshop at Harvard Law School on January 16, 2017.
  • Steve created Freedom From Undue Influence, nonprofit, a division of Dare Association, Inc.. This is a research, publication, and training organization aimed at learning more about coercive control. brainwashing, mind control and Undue Influence.
  • Was one of the authors of Ending The Game (ETG), which is designed to educate and empower survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking by providing a structure and framework to uncover harmful psychological coercion (a.k.a. “The Game”) that victims may have been subjected to during or before their exploitation experience. By revealing a sequence of commonly-used, yet seldom-explained, mind control techniques used by traffickers, sexual abusers, media and other coercive agents, we aim to empower victims to acquire skills and end “The Game.”
  • Was interviewed on CNN—HLN’s How It Really Happened: The Mystery of Heaven’s Gate Documentary on October 29, 2017. HLN’s original primetime series, How It Really Happened with Hill Harper, hosted by critically-acclaimed actor Hill Harper, delves deeply into some of the most notorious crimes, mysteries, trials, and celebrity tragedies of our time.
  • Is an active member of the Program in Psychiatry and the Law at Harvard Medical School. This incredible think tank of forensic experts is interested in learning about vital areas of undue influence. By updating the law in the United States and around the world, victims of undue influence will be served. It is also critical to ensure proper institutional policies to protect human rights.

Karen Schless Pressley released her memoir, Escaping Scientology: An Insider’s True Story (Sept. 21, 2017) through Bayshore Publications in Florida. Her book website (www.escapingscientology.com) provides a description of the book, a photo gallery, media links, and additional chapter content that was not included in the abridged book. Karen is providing a review copy to ICSA and welcomes reviews and comments. Her early publishing attempts in 2001 (Broadman & Holman) and 2006 (New Hope) to release the book were met by legal threats from Scientology that halted both publications. She established Bayshore Publications to release several more books in 2018, including Writing to Heal: Making Sense of Your Life by Coming to Terms With It by Karen Pressley and Jefferson Hawkins, and a series of anthologies featuring stories by former members of Scientology.

Media interviews and related following her book publication include the following:

  • An appearance on A&E’s Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath (Season 2, Episode 6, Sept. 2017).
  • A Hollywood Reporter article titled “Leah Remini: Scientology and the ‘Aftermath’ Explores Celebrity Ties” (9/19/17), which quotes Karen about recruiting celebrities for Scientology and its money-motivated system that pays recruiters to bring new celebs into Scientology.
  • Mike Rinder, Aftermath co-host, responds to Scientology’s attack on Karen Pressley and Paul Haggis following their appearance on Aftermath, on his blog, Something Can Be Done About It (9/22/17).
  • Today Extra, Australia CH 9 news show (12/8/2017) interviews Karen to discuss celebrity recruitment tactics and her book Escaping Scientology.
  • Daily Mail UK television and print interview (Nov. 29, 2017); Laura Collins and Karen Schless Pressley cover the behind-the-scenes tactics of recruiting celebrities into Scientology, and how escaping Scientology is a process that can take years. Scientology’s response to the article refers to Karen as a “fringe apostate.” 
  • Sensibly Speaking podcast interview by Chris Shelton, 84 and Counting (Jan. 6, 2017).
Karen and Chris discuss Karen’s recent project of compiling all books ever published about Scientology since the 1950s, which currently totals 84. She describes those written by former Sea Org members, former Scientologists, journalists, and professionals (mental health professionals, attorneys, medical doctors, and academic scholars of religious studies, cultic studies, sociology, etc.). PodcastBook presentation
  • Underground Bunker journalist Tony Ortega reports (9/28/17) on an Aftermath fan infiltrating Scientology’s International Management desert headquarters with a copy of Karen’s Escaping Scientology book, and puts it into the hands of Karen’s former husband, Peter Schless, who remained in Scientology since Karen left in 1998.
  • Surviving Scientology podcast; Jeffrey Augustine interviews Karen Pressley 9/20/17: Jeffrey and Karen discuss the lure of Scientology to celebrities and artists, and how codependency is a factor in why celebrities have difficulty leaving Scientology. 
  • Sensibly Speaking podcast; interview with Karen Pressley by Chris Shelton: (9/16/17): Chris and Karen discuss Karen’s role of recruiting celebrities into Scientology, and her career in Scientology’s extremist group, the Sea Organization, while married to award-winning composer Peter Schless. 

Robin Barbosa, author of I Am Revealed: Behind The Ashram Door, has shared her book with the Psychology Department chairperson of Fairleigh Dickinson University. Her book was praised for being enjoyable and for its merit to the psychology of faith. The book is currently being circulated throughout the psychology department.

RIP. Josie Zelov, along with her husband Randy (deceased, 2008), as concerned parents became involved with the Personal Freedom Association (PFA), Philadelphia in the early 1970s. PFA was a local organization associated with the national group, the Citizens Freedom Foundation, which changed its name in 1984 to Cult Awareness Network (CAN). Josie was elected to CAN’s national board of directors in 1987 and served until the early 1990s. During this time, she served as secretary, treasurer, and chair of the development and publications committees, which developed the CAN logo and CAN’s original information brochure. Also during these years, she formed the Cult Abuse Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. In addition, Josie was involved in information, consulting, and referral for families and friends of cult members as well as several interventions and rehab. She presented educational programs to churches, schools, colleges, and the Junior League, as well as family workshops for CAN national conferences. She received the CAN Achievement Award for her service. Though inactive since the 1990s, Josie has remained connected to and supportive of ICSA.

From obituary published in Main Line Media News on Nov. 19, 2017: Josephine Frank Zelov, wife of deceased Randolph D. Zelov, Sr. of Rosemont, PA and sister of Armin C. Frank Jr., also deceased, died peacefully at the age of 89 on Wednesday, November 8, 2017. Josie was born on March 24, 1928 in Savannah, GA. She is the daughter of Elsie Espy Frank and Armin C. Frank, Sr. of Milwaukee, WI. She graduated from Rosemary Hall in Greenwich, CT. and Connecticut College. In 1950, she married Randolph (Randy) who at the time was a Lieutenant and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. They were married for 57 years until his death. In 1966 after Randy’s 26 years of military service, the family settled in Bryn Mawr, PA. Josie raised her family, served as a volunteer in many community organizations: the Junior League, churches, schools, Navy Relief, the Red Cross and many more. She served on the vestry of the Church of the Redeemer and was chairman of the Denbeigh Day Camp, which served inner city and suburban children. She was a member of the Delaware Valley Association of Exceptionalities which served children diagnosed with learning difficulties. Josie also worked for 20 years, with the Cult Awareness Network; serving families and loved ones caught up in high-demand groups. She was a board member for six years. Josie was known for her friendliness, enthusiasm, commitment, sincerity, courage, strength, humor, love of life and her dedication to her family. She truly loved interacting and communicating with multiple generations. She was an avid tennis and bridge player, enjoyed different types of stitchery, designed and taught needlepoint and was a lover of art and music. She was a member of Merion Cricket Club, the Acorn Club, the Gulph Mills Club and the St. Andrews Club of Delray Beach, Florida. She spent her summers at Pocono Lake Preserve. Josie was also a member of the National Society of Colonial Dames of Pennsylvania. She is survived by her three children, Randolph Jr., Charenton Zelov Drake and Peter, nine grandchildren and one great granddaughter.

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