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Member Update, 2014, Vol. 5, No. 2

In April, Doni Whitsett (left) guest lectured (3 hours) in a Spirituality and Social Work class at USC for MSW students. The unit was on Toxic Faith.

Janet Heimlich, President of Child Friendly Faith Project, has an events page that lists her many talks (http://religiouschildmaltreatment.com/events/ ). Janet has also announced their 2014 conference in Austin, Texas December 4-5, 2014. Steve Hassan will speak at the conference, along with other distinguished presenters. More info.

Steve Hassan did a Dr. Drew Podcast (#132) in July. Steve posted on the Freedom of Mind website, Judith Herman’s Victims of Violence Trauma Seminar, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School. Steve also gave a two-day workshop, “Healing Yourself and Others from Undue Influence” (Saturday August 23 and Sunday August 24, at 8:30 to 3:30) at the Hendon Hall Hotel in North London. Steve’s new book, Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults and Beliefs, is now available on Amazon.com and other online booksellers as paperback and e-book.

On August 22nd, Steve Hassan, Masoud Banisadr, Rod Dubrow-Marshall, and Linda Dubrow-Marshall spoke at a press conference at the London College, London – “Undue Influence: Its Role in Fundamentalist Exploitation, Radicalization, and Human Trafficking”

Friedrich Griess (left) spoke at the 7th Fundamental rights Platform meeting on April 11th. His talk’s title was “Religious Freedom Unlimited?” The purpose of his workshop was primarily to show that cults often act against human rights, that religious freedom does not entitle cult leaders to do with their adherents what they want, that this opinion is supported by recommendations of the Council of Europe, that FECRIS does not mind creeds but deeds, and that cults and their lobbies usually unjustly respond to criticism by saying: “You persecute us for religious reasons.”

“Post-Cult Financial Recovery” by Mattie Elizabeth Greene, published in ICSA Today, Vol. 1, No. 2 (2010), pages 24-27, has been translated into Italian (with some changes to make the article more meaningful to Italian readers) by ONAP (Osservatorio Nazionale Abusi Psicologici). The Italian translation can be found here.

Lorraine Derocher sent us some information on her recent talks and workshops.

  • ACFAS (Association francophone pour le savoir) « Les incidences de la scolarisation illégale sur l’isolement social des enfants de sectes », Regards croisés sur l’apprentissage en famille, organisé par le International Center for Home Education Research, 14 mai 2014, Université Concordia, Montréal, Canada.
  • CHAIRE RELIGION, CULTURE ET SOCIÉTÉ, «Les incidences de la socialisation marginale des enfants issus de groupes apocalyptiques sur leur processus d’intégration sociale», Les nouvelles religions au Québec: spiritualités alternatives après Vatican II et la Révolution tranquille, organized by Susan J. Palmer, Religious Studies Faculty, McGill University and Solange Lefebvre, Chaire religion, culture et société, Université de Montréal, 25 avril 2014, Université McGill, Montréal, Canada. 
  • « La protection de la jeunesse en milieu sectaire – un défi», février 2014, Université de Montréal. 
  • « La protection de la jeunesse en milieu sectaire – un défi », Association étudiante en travail social de l’Université du Québec à Rimouski, March 2014 

In April Maureen Griffo met with a Swedish Member of Parliament, Mrs. Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin, who was attending events at the United Nations and who wanted to speak with somebody from ICSA. They discussed Maureen’s personal history, the proper role of government in addressing cult issues, and some of the cultural differences that affect how Sweden and the USA approach the issue.

The Italian newspaper Tempi published an article in which Willy Fautre, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, is quoted as suggesting that the 2014 Sahkarov Prize be awarded to Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman who was threatened with death for refusing to renounce her Christian beliefs.

Sharon Farber is looking for people to interview: “A few years ago I did a presentation at an ICSA conference on eating disorders and self-mutilation within cults. I am writing a paper on the subject that I hope to publish and would like to hear from former members who developed either an eating problem or self-mutilation while in the cult, and their thoughts about how and why this developed. These responses will remain private and confidential.” If you are interested, write sharonkfarber@gmail.com.

Cristina Caparesi has participated or contributed to the following events:

  • Plenary meeting of the Radicalisation Awareness Network, Brussels, 16th June 
  • Settarismi e terrorismi a confronto (a comparison between cultic studies and terrorism) , Novara 16 May, organized by SOS Antiplagio onlus in cooperation with SOS Abusi Psicologici and Aviter 
  • Exit Working Groups, London 8,9 May organized by Institute of Strategic Dialogue 
  • RAN DERAD Preparatory Meeting, Berlin 25th march organized by RAN DERAD 

Cristina has also posted articles in the latest issue of Abusi e Vessazioni, some of which are translations of articles published in ICSA Today:
Peter Daley and Ros Hodgkins participated in two Australian TV documentaries on cults, which aired in April. The TV program, SBS 2 ‘The Feed,’ is a news and documentary half-hour program that airs throughout the week at various times. Two ex members tell their story of being in Providence Church, aka JMS, a South Korean group operating in Australia. Another program compared terrorist extremist groups and cult groups, along with methods used to change the mind set of members. The show presented different stories and scenarios.

On April 11th, José Miguel Cuevas Barranquero gave a talk, “Pseudociencia, pensamiento mágico y otras semillas sectarias,” at the XI Congreso Nacional de Estudiantes de Psicología de la Universidad Miguel Hernández de Elche. More Info.

On Monday, April 28, Joe Szimhart appeared via phone on Chicago radio host Che “Rhymfest” Smith’s show “Speak Up” from 7pm to 8 pm to talk about cults.

On May 9th Joe Kelly and Pat Ryan gave a presentation about cult recruitment to students at Mount Saint Joseph Academy in Flourtown, PA.

Patti Millar and Mike Kropveld were interviewed by Elle Malaysia on the dynamics of cult involvement, especially as these pertain to young women. Patti has also been active in various Coaches organizations.

Colleen Russell, LMFT, CGP worked with an attorney and forensic psychologist in Los Angeles, CA, to assist a second generation adult (SGA) raised in the Children of God. On two occasions, she visited the incarcerated SGA, and wrote a comprehensive psychosocial report for the court. In June, Colleen completed a 40-hour domestic violence training with the Center for Domestic Peace in San Rafael, CA, where she noted that abuse in a domestic relationship or cultic, high-demand group has many parallels. Colleen is facilitating groups for abused women in shelters, along with a group for former members of high-demand groups or cults.

Sherri Schettler’s personal memoir, Spiritual Blackmail: My Journey Through A Catholic Cult, is now available as an eBook on Amazon Kindle and through www.smashwords.com for those without kindles or who prefer other electronic devices, including computers. “The changes brought about by Vatican Council II caused a great deal of consternation for Sherri’s parents. Their well-meaning choice to escape from what they believed was the “corruption” of their beloved Church and to join a renegade traditionalist group and its charismatic, abusive leader had significant, long-term effects on Sherri. Her story testifies to the triumph of the human spirit.”

Patrick O’Reilly spoke at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on March 28th: “Cons, Scams, and Undue Influence.” He spoke on the same topic at the California statewide SkeptiCal conference on May 31st. He is also presenting six all-day continuing education courses for psychotherapists for Cross Country Education. The six courses will be held in Virginia, North Carolina, Texas and Louisiana. More info.

On May 2, 2014, Jose Fernández gave a talk, “Bullying at Schools, Organized by the City Council of Solsona (Barcelona) as a part of the program launched by the Catalonian Government “Family and School.”

Myriam Declair is working on a compilation of experiences of long-term experts in the field of cultism. Her book will recount some of their personal stories, whether they be positive or more challenging, and will share some of their precious advice as well as professional struggles. The authors can remain anonymous and cultic groups will not be mentioned by name. She is aiming at interviewing twenty cult specialists, and the book will be in English and French. The proceeds, if any, will be used to help cult victims directly. Interested in participating? please contact Myriam directly at : myriam.declair@gmail.com.

Dana Wehle tells us that she is “running a psychotherapy group in NYC for those with cult and non-cult related trauma in relation to creativity. Comprised of those also in individual therapy, it moved from being bi-monthly to weekly in April after a successful first year. It is significant that among the population that seeks help for cult-related issues, it is family of former cult member that is finding this combination of individual and group therapy a particularly helpful venue to counter isolation with processing the impact of their own childhood traumas layered on the later cult ordeal. I am hopeful that former members and SGAs will feel encouraged to challenge an understandable mistrust of psychotherapy groups to enhance their recovery with this treatment option.”

Jill Mytton gave a talk, “How cults can harm people,” at the BPS Counselling Psychology conference in London on July 12th. Jill was also mentioned in an article in the Winnipeg Free Press (Canada), “The Closed Door Church: Inside the Secretive and Strict Plymouth Brethren Sect in Manitoba.” Eileen Barker and Peter Caws were also mentioned in the article.

Paul Grosswald (left) gave two presentations on cults and Scientology earlier this year. The first one was on February 9, 2014 for the New York City Atheists. He gave the same presentation again on March 23, 2014 for the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia. Both were well attended and received positive feedback. Additionally, Paul is representing the Plaintiffs in the cult-related lawsuit against Avon Public Schools and Wellesley College, a case which has received national media attention. More info.

Rick Ross participated in a number of media reports in April and May.

  • He was quoted in an Albany Times-Union report about the departure of a prominent member from an LGAT and purported “cult” called NXIVM (pronounced nexium) led by Keith Raniere. 
  • He was interviewed by Fox News in Phoenix on cults generally and about the specific activities of cult-like groups in Sedona, Arizona. This was done as a follow-up to the finale of a popular Fox television series “The Following” starring Kevin Bacon, which is about an FBI agent pursuing a cult leader responsible for multiple murders 
  • He also did the Nancy Grace news show on CNN concerning the River Road Fellowship in Minnesota and its leader Victor Barnard, who is now wanted on 59 counts of child sexual abuse. 
  • He appeared in interviews on the nationally televised History Channel program “America’s Book of Secrets.” The one-hour documentary report delves into the secrets of Scientology and features interviews with ex-members, journalists and experts. 

Report from Rita Swan:

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