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Spiritual Abuse: A Conference for Victims and Those Who Want to Help

Spiritual Abuse: A Conference for Victims and Those Who Want to Help 

University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth – August 5, 2017

This one-day conference, sponsored by MeadowHaven, The Protestant Chaplaincy of the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, Dartmouth Bible Church, and International Cultic Studies Association, will take place from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. at The Woodlands Commons on the campus of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, which is about 60 miles south of Boston. Titles of talks include (speaker bios below):

  • Why the Faithful can be Abusers and Abused (Ron Burks, PhD, MDiv) 
  • Spiritual Abuse as a Universal Phenomenon (Michael Langone, PhD) 
  • Spiritual Abuse: Strategies to Help Someone to Exit, Heal and Trust Again (Steven Hassan, MEd, LMHC, NCC) 
  • Perfectionism in Abusive Spiritual Environments (Eric Sweitzer, MTS, ) 
  • Life after the Group: Healing and Recovering Spiritual Roots (Ray Connolly) 
  • Spiritual Autopsy of a Destructive, Spiritual Group (Gene Giguere, MA; Robert Pardon, MDiv, ThM)
  • Physiology of Spiritual Abuse (Elizabeth Blackwell) 
  • Spiritual Abuse: Female Issues (Judy Pardon, MEd) 
  • A Spiritually Safe Church (Neil Damgaard, ThM, DMin; Robert Pardon, MDiv, ThM) 
  • Law Enforcement and Spiritual Abuse (Mark Roggeman) 
  • The Secular Therapist and Spiritually Abused Clients (Lorna Goldberg, MSW, PsyA; William Goldberg, MSW, PsyA) 
  • Closing Remarks and Open Discussion (Neil Damgaard, ThM, Dmin; Robert Pardon, MDiv, ThM) 

The registration fee of $50.00 includes lunch. (Scholarships are available for those with financial need -contact ICSA at mail@icsamail.com.)   Register Online

Biographical Sketches 

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. In 2017 Ms. Blackwell. graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Psychology from Columbia University and is currently preparing her senior honors thesis on the influence of primary caregivers on adult threat learning for publication.

Ron Burks, PhD, holds an MDiv and an MA in counseling from Asbury Theological Seminary and a PhD in Counselor Education from Ohio University. He worked for many years at Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center in Albany, Ohio. He and his wife Vicki wrote Damaged Disciples: Casualties of Authoritarian Churches and the Shepherding Movement, published by Zondervan. His other publications include a chapter on a connection between cults and addiction in the medical reference, Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook, published by Williams and Wilkins. He and Vicki now live near Tallahassee, Florida where both are licensed mental health counselors and operate an intensive outpatient substance abuse program at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. Ron is a former president of the Wellspring board and is a clinical advisor to both Wellspring and Meadowhaven, a treatment center near Boston.

Ray Connolly was born in 1950 to an Irish Catholic family in New Jersey. Ray eventually dropped out of The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester and joined the hippie hitchhiking pilgrims in search of TRUTH. The journey eventually led to California (where else?) in 1970, and an encounter with the Gospel. What complicated things was that this led to a more than 20-year commitment in the Children of God. Dubbed “The storm troopers of the Jesus Movement” by Time magazine, Ray’s involvement led to a life in over 20 countries, much of it in pioneer leadership positions. Along the way, he ended up fathering 17 children with 2 remarkable women. The groups ever changing beliefs and practices grew ever more bizarre, and eventually led to a messy exit in 1991. After years of working to salvage his family and grapple with questions of faith, Ray wrote a book, Something Somebody Stole, that attempts to make sense of the trip into, out of, and beyond the radical cult experience and the recovery process. (BTW, many thanks to The New England Institute of Religious Research for their significant help and frequent lifesavers along the way!) Ray and his wife Stephanie have served on the board for many years, and currently make their home in Grafton. Massachusetts.

Neil Damgaard, ThM, DMin, is originally from the Washington D.C. area. A graduate of Virginia Tech with a degree in industrial engineering and operations research, he worked for the U.S. Navy under contract as a management engineering consultant. After entering the ministry in 1976 he later graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary with a four-year Master’s of Theology degree in historical theology, and has served as Senior Pastor of the Dartmouth Bible Church in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts since 1983. With an interest in students and young adults and long experience with them, Pastor Neil also serves as Protestant Chaplain with the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth (since 2007). He also earned his Doctor of Ministry degree in 2008 from Dallas Theological Seminary. His church experience, both in his own congregation and among a number of other local churches affords him a good perspective in the area of safe churches which espouse a healthy and balanced philosophy of ministry. Neil holds an endless fascination with history, culture, architecture, music, and film. He lives in New Bedford, Massachusetts and has been married to Renée (who loves being a public school high school math teacher) since 1975. Together they have raised two daughters: Jocelyn, a mechanical engineer and recent graduate of the Law School at the University of Connecticut. She is also a wife and mother, living in NYC. Susanna, a graduate of Messiah College and Yale University, is a public health registered nurse in Seattle, Washington.

Gene Giguere, MA, has been the senior pastor of Harvest Community Church of Woonsocket, RI for the past 17 years. He received a call to full-time Christian ministry in 1989 and was ordained in December of 1995. He and his family served the Lord as missionaries in Thessaloniki, Greece throughout most of 1996 to 1999. In late 1999, he began meeting with a small core group of believers in Woonsocket in what would soon become Harvest Community Church. Two years later, Harvest moved to its own building at 60 North Main St., where it currently resides. In 2005, the Board of Directors and Staff of Family Resources Community Action presented Gene with the city’s prestigious Paul H. Dempster Award. In 2006, The Rotary Foundation named Gene a Paul Harris Fellow, in appreciation for the significant assistance he’d given for “the furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world.” Gene and his wife Mary have been partners in ministry since 1985 and are the parents of two married daughters, Allison and Amy. Both are walking with the Lord. Amy and her husband Ryan have given them two grandchildren – Jacob Eugene and Bella Rose – who are a source of inestimable joy. Gene’s passion for teaching, encouraging believers, and reaching the lost are threads that run through all he does. It is his conviction that it would be “an affront to the Scriptures to use them as a mere convenience to hang his own thoughts upon” (A.T. Pierson). More than 2000 of his sermons/teachings are currently available free of charge. He holds an MA in Urban Ministry Leadership (MAUML) from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he graduated summa cum laude.

Lorna Goldberg, LCSW, PsyA, Board member and past president of ICSA, is a clinical social worker and psychoanalyst in private practice and Director, Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies. In 1976, she and her husband, William Goldberg, began facilitating a support group for former cult members that continues to meet on a monthly basis in their home in Englewood, New Jersey. In1989, Lorna and Bill received the Hall of Fame Award from the authentic Cult Awareness Network and, in 1999; they received the Leo J. Ryan Award from the Leo J. Ryan Foundation. In 2009, she received the Margaret T. Singer Award from ICSA. Lorna joined ICSA’s Board of Directors in November 2003. Along with Rosanne Henry, she co-chaired ICSA’s Mental Health Committee until her term as President of ICSA from 2008 to 2012. Lorna has published numerous articles about her therapeutic work with former cult members in professional journals, most recently: Goldberg, L. (2012). Influence of a Charismatic Antisocial Cult Leader: Psychotherapy With an Ex-Cultist Prosecuted for Criminal Behavior. International Journal of Cultic Studies, Vol. 2, 15-24. Goldberg, L. (2011). Diana, Leaving the Cult: Play Therapy in Childhood and Talk Therapy in Adolescence. International Journal of Cultic Studies, Vol.2, 33-43. She also wrote a chapter on guidelines for therapists in the book, Recovery from Cults, edited by Michael Langone. Lorna has co-written with Bill Goldberg, a chapter on psychotherapy with targeted parents in the book, Working with Alienated Children and Families (2012), edited by Amy J.L. Baker & S. Richard Sauber. She is also co-editor of ICSA’s Cult Recovery: A Clinician’s Guide to Working With Former Members and Families, which is due to be published in 2017.

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 Families, which is due to be published in 2017. Website: BLGOLDBERG.COM. Email: bill@blgoldberg.com Phone: (201) 894-8515 Englewood, New Jersey.

Steven Hassan, M.Ed., LMHC, NCC, Director of Freedom of Mind Resource Center, Newton, MA 02459. A licensed mental health counselor and former leader in the Moon organization, Steven has been helping people on cult issues since 1976. He has written three books that have received extensive praise from former cult members, families of former members, clergy, cult experts, and psychologists: Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-selling Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults (1988,1990, revised updated edition as ebook and paperback 2015); Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves (2000); and FREEDOM OF MIND, Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs, a paperback and e-book (2012, 2013). Steven has pioneered a new approach to helping victims of mind control. His Strategic Interactive Approach (SIA) reflects the respect and care one must bring to the effort to help those involved free themselves. Unlike stressful, sensationalized and illegal deprogramming techniques, his non-coercive approach is an effective and legal alternative that has assisted thousands of families help individuals victimized by destructive group and cult-related mind control. This approach teaches family and friends how to strategically influence the individual involved in a group. In 2013, he participated in a California training for the Joint Regional Intelligence Center presented to law enforcement professionals and has been teaching about mind control in human trafficking and terrorism. In 2014 Mr. Hassan received ICSA’s Special Recognition Award and co-developed Curriculum for “Ending the Game” (ETG), a ground-breaking “coercion resiliency” curriculum that reduces the feelings of attachment to traffickers and/or a lifestyle characterized by commercial sexual exploitation, thereby reducing the rate of recidivism among sex trafficking victims.

Michael D. Langone, PhD, received a doctorate in Counseling Psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1979. Since 1981 he has been Executive Director of International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA), a tax-exempt research and educational organization concerned about psychological manipulation and cultic groups. Dr. Langone has been consulted by several hundred former cult members and/or their families. He was the founder editor of Cultic Studies Journal (CSJ), the editor of CSJ’s successor, Cultic Studies Review, and editor of Recovery from Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse (an alternate of the Behavioral Science Book Service). He is co-author of Cults: What Parents Should Know and Satanism and Occult-Related Violence: What You Should Know. Currently, Dr. Langone is ICSA Today’s Editor-in-Chief. He has been the chief designer and coordinator of ICSA’s international conferences, which in recent years have taken place in Barcelona, New York, Rome, Philadelphia, Geneva, Denver, Brussels, Atlanta, and Madrid. In 1995, he was honored as the Albert V. Danielsen visiting Scholar at Boston University. He has authored numerous articles in professional journals and books, including Psychiatric Annals, Business and Society Review, Sette e Religioni (an Italian periodical), Grupos Totalitarios y Sectarismo: Ponencias del II Congreso Internacional (the proceedings of an international congress on cults in Barcelona, Spain), Innovations in Clinical Practice: A Sourcebook, Handbook of Psychiatric Consultation with Children and Youth, Psychiatric News, and all of ICSA’s periodicals. Dr. Langone has spoken widely to dozens of lay and professional groups, including the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion American Association for the Advancement of Science, Pacific Division, American Group Psychotherapy Association, American Psychological Association, the Carrier Foundation, various university audiences, and numerous radio and television stations, including the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour and ABC 20/20. He is also co-editor of ICSA’s Cult Recovery: A Clinician’s Guide to Working With Former Members and Families, which is due to be published in 2017.

Judy Pardon, MEd, has been a teacher and a counselor. Since 1992, she has been Associate Director of the New England Institute of Religious Research (NEIRR) and MeadowHaven, where she has worked with former cult members, including some who have experienced profound trauma. She has also spoken widely on the subject and conducted training programs for human-service personnel. In 2014 Ms. Pardon received, with her husband Robert, ICSA’s Herbert L. Rosedale Award.

Robert Pardon, MDiv, ThM, is the Executive Director of the New England Institute of Religious Research (NEIRR) and MeadowHaven. During the past 10 years he has specialized in Bible-based communal groups and aberrational Christian groups. He also consults with law enforcement regarding destructive groups, and gives expert witness testimony. Both he and his wife, Judy, speak nationally and internationally on cults. Much of his work involves counseling, leading support groups, working with those born or raised in groups, and helping former members rebuild their lives. To facilitate the recovery process, MeadowHaven, a long-term rehabilitation facility, was opened in 2002. MeadowHaven can accommodate individuals or families who require long-term (up to a year) care to recover from trauma and cultic abuse. In 2014, Rev. Pardon received, with his wife, Judy, ICSA’s Herbert L. Rosedale Award.

Mark Roggeman retired in the summer of 2010 from the Denver Police Department after 39 years and has been researching cult groups for over thirty years. In 2016 he received a bachelors degree in criminal justice from Colorado Christian University. This has been accomplished by studying them and also by infiltrating several cult groups. He has learned much by assisting families who have in some way been affected by a cult, usually when a relative has become involved. Also providing them with information if available on the particular group they are dealing with and educating them on how cult groups operate and with information on exit counseling. He was involved extensively with investigations of the Concerned Christians group, which was based in Denver and believed the world was to end in 2000 in Israel. He assisted law enforcement both here and in Israel with the deportation of some of the members from Israel. He gives training to law enforcement on how to deal with destructive cults. He was a presenter at the National Gang Crime Research Center annual conference held in Chicago on three occasions, addressing the issue of cults and gangs. He is a regular speaker for Regis University and Metro State University in Denver, CO. He also served as a member of the board of directors of the original Cult Awareness Network during the early eighties and was a founding member of the Denver Affiliate. He was a contributing author to the book, Cults and Consequences, edited by Rachael Andres, James R. Lane, and published by the Jewish Federation, 1988.

Eric K. Sweitzer, MTS, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and has been Director of the Charis Counseling Centers since 1989. He holds degrees in Biblical Studies from Wheaton College (IL), Theology Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Pastoral Psychology and Counseling from Boston University. Dr. Sweitzer has worked with children, adolescents, couples, and individual adults for almost 30 years. His primary passion is enabling his clients to develop a deeper experience of God’s grace in their lives, regardless of their particular concerns. Dr. Sweitzer’s 2006 book, The Perfect Alibi: Freedom from the Drive for Personal Perfection, has been used adjunctively to psychotherapy by many of his clients, and by various study groups in area churches.

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1 239 514 3081 mail@icsamail.com