How to Help Friends and Family Get out of a Cult
Do you have a family member or friend who is in a cult such as Scientology? This is a personal story of how I got my sister out, and how you can attempt to do the same.
People get involved with cults for many reasons:
- They may be married to someone who gets indoctrinated and they go along with it.
- They may find satisfaction from the way they are treated at first.
- They may need something more out of life and they think this is the answer.
- Even a trusted friend can suddenly introduce them to it.
It may become impossible to communicate with that family member because they are brainwashed to an extent that normal communication fails. In addition, they may be threatened and afraid to share their feelings with other family members who want to help.
There are methods to break through, however, as I was able to do with my sister. It might be possible to discover a weakness and take advantage of that vulnerability to get them to open up and share their true feelings. Once this is accomplished, a loophole might be found that will get the person to turn around and ask for help.
It's only our guess that they need help. We have to accept the fact that they may actually no longer want to be close with the rest of the family anymore.
If there's any sign that they want help, the next step is to find out how much help they want or need. It may be possible that their life is threatened by the cult in some way, and they may be afraid to make changes.
We have to try to work with them and not pressure them. Pressure can only have a negative effect and we might lose the little chance we have to allow them to share their feelings.
Blocking Communication with a Suppressive Person
Scientology considers people who try to get someone out to be a Suppressive Person. They don't allow communication with people classified as such.
At least this was true in the past, but it changed my entire family structure. My sister was blocked from communicating with the rest of us back in the 1970s because my father was trying to get her out.
My father’s last days of his life were sad. He died without having had communication with his daughter. In the time he had left, he tried repeatedly to get through to her, but his calls fell on deaf ears. She never responded to the numerous phone messages he had left for her.
Then he died—without saying goodbye to his daughter.
I witnessed this and it wasn't pretty. He was classified as a Suppressive Person because he attempted to obstruct the progress of his daughter’s training within the cult. His attempts were met with hostility that created anxiety for him and the rest of us.
He left this world with deep emotional stress over having lost his only daughter to a cult that refused to allow any communication with him at that time.
I, too, never could get my sister on the phone when I tried to call her. I left messages, but she never called back.
My calls were only put through to her when I said someone was dying or that someone had died. Therefore, when my father died I got to speak with her.
She came to attend the funeral, but she was distant and her visit didn't last long. Scientology didn't let her stay to mourn the death of her father with the rest of us. She was forced to return within a day’s time.
A few years later, after another long period of non-communication, I called to inform her that our Aunt had a heart attack. Of course I got her on the phone and she came to be with us for a very brief visit.
My Aunt recovered at that time, I’m glad to say, and something good came out of the situation. I stumbled upon a method of breaking through. It’s something that you can take advantage of too.
Solution: Leave a Seed of Hope and Offer Assistance
I took advantage of my sister’s visit to get in touch with her deep-felt feelings. I detected she might be in need of help. I realized that she might have been controlled beyond her own wishes.
I could tell she was not herself. She had no mind of her own. I once knew her to have a strong mind when we were young kids growing up decades before. She was always an intelligent person, and I saw she was losing her ability to think for herself. It was strange to witness that.
Some part of her innermost feelings and thoughts were still present, as was obvious as I had a heart-to-heart talk with her.
However, I had to be careful not to alienate my sister. At the same time, I needed to plant a seed, so I told her:
"I suspect you are not happy. I'm your brother and I want to help you. But I'm not going to lift a finger unless you tell me that you want help."
It worked. A few weeks later she called and said, "Will you come and get me?"
Those were such precious words to me. I quickly responded with joy that I was getting my beloved sister back!
The Great Escape from Scientology!
I purchased a one-way plane ticket to go to get her. We rented a U-Haul, filled it with all her possessions, and we shared the driving to bring her home.
When I picked up my sister I discovered that her kids (my nieces and nephew) were not living with her. They were living in separate quarters in a military style unit where other members of Scientology took care of them.
I was astonished to discover that their parents were not allowed to bring up their own kids. This evidently had a major affect of their lives.
It’s one thing to finally get through to an adult and get her to admit she needed help to leave the church, but when children are trained from such as young age, it’s next to impossible. It’s all they know!
I wanted to bring home all three of her children too, but I was met with anxiety and apprehension. I had to give in on that.
One child, my younger niece, came with us, but she later returned to the church. I never really knew what caused that to happen. My sister was obviously afraid to share all the facts with me. Her anxiety indicated that she was being threatened, that’s all I could assess from it all.
To this day I regret that I didn’t forcefully influence the outcome to bring back all her kids, and keep them out of the cult.
Little to my knowledge at the time, there was a reason why it was so easy to pick up my sister and take her away from all that. I think it was so easy to get her out with no resistance from other cult members because she agreed to leave two of her kids behind so that she would be left alone.
Avoid Being Labeled a Suppressive Person
Things are very different today than they were in the 1970s. They seem to have lightened up and Scientologists are allowed to communicate with family now, but the harm has been done.
Whenever I tried to discuss the church of Scientology and its effect on our family, I was met with a defensive argument that went nowhere.
I realized the only way to keep any sort of relationship, although non-existent, was to lay low. I had to avoid saying anything about how I felt. I couldn’t discuss the past, how their grandfather was emotionally devastated, or what I had witnessed when I was still living at home with my parents and saw how my sister was forced to alienate the family.
I discovered that I could never ask questions or bring up the subject. I had tried. They would just argue and insist that my interpretation is wrong or that my memory is faulty. That kept us from regaining any kind of a relationship. It also created a further distancing and separation from the next generation of grandkids.
If I were to get too pushy with any of these subjects, they may have to share that with other church members, who might in turn consider me a suppressive person (a term the Church of Scientology invented). If that were to happen, I’m afraid we’d lose any of the communication we still do have.
I remember the closeness I had with my two nieces and nephew long before they were sucked into the teachings of Scientology. If it weren’t for that, I imagine I might have had a close family connection with them and with the grandchildren.
The grandchildren are all in their own world, whatever that is. I am sure they have no clue why we our family ties are non-existent.
I am certain that the grandkids are even further brainwashed and are totally clueless. I often wonder what they think, what they might be thinking, or if they are thinking at all?
Would they ever reach out and ask questions, or did the brainwashing completely remove their own ability to have their own thoughts, their own life, and their own soul!
The Next Generation of Children May Be Totally Lost
What if a larger portion of the family is already drawn into the cult? What if children were born into the cult in a second or third generation?
These children will be totally controlled and they won't even have a clue why they are disconnected from the rest of the family. This is why it’s so important to try to save a family member before the process continues with the next generation.
Years later the children may even forget that they ever wanted out, or the memories may have been erased from their minds by some form of mind control. On the other hand, they may just not be willing to admit that they ever wanted out. This might be due to some fear imposed on them by the cult.
When they are young they may want their relatives to take them. My older niece had asked my parents and my aunt and uncle to take her in, but they all were too old by that time to care for a child.
I wish she had asked me. I was in my twenties and I could have handled it, but I didn’t know she was asking others until years later. That one incident would have changed everything.
When these children grow up and have their own children, the next generation is totally distant and uninvolved with family members who are not connected with the cult.
Be Ready to Help With Any Request
Remember how I helped my sister by planting a seed of hope and assistance that later blossomed and resulted in her call asking to come get her? Well, it can work for you too.
If you have a family member or a friend in Scientology, or in any religious cult, and you’ve lost the ability to communicate, plant that seed and wait for the opportunity to help. Do it before it’s too late, and be ready to do whatever you can when the call for help arrives.
For all we know, these people are threatened. They may be brainwashed, or they may simply be scared. They may be in a predicament that we don’t know about or one that we don’t understand and they may not know what to do about it.
I wonder if they ever have the same thoughts that I have—thinking of why there is no family tie, thinking of wanting to be on the other side, thinking of asking for help.
If you ever get that call, be ready to run and welcome your family member or friend with open arms. Be ready to show them what life is like on the other side.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
My daughter Ashley is twenty-three and is in a cult in Crestone, Colorado. She’s been there since March, and I haven't communicated with her since July. I follow their live stream videos daily to see her and make sure she’s alive. She’s lost weight. I set up a wellness visit last week, and a sheriff talked to her and said she could leave. She refused and said that she’s happy there. Did I plant the seed? What can I do next?
If you had a wellness visit and talked with her, and she said she’s not happy there, then she would be ready to leave the cult.
If you tell her you will come to get her if she asks you to do so, as I did, then you will plant the seed. All you can do now is wait for that call. My sister called me soon after I told her, but she needed to ask me to help her first.
It’s just a waiting game at this point. You can’t push, but be ready.Helpful 8
Can I divorce my husband if he is in cult?
You should try to find out how that particular cult deals with such a situation. You can try doing a Google search to find others in the same situation. Since you didn't mention the cult, I can't help much with that.
Without knowing where you live, and therefore not knowing the laws governing your situation, plus the fact that I am not an attorney, I can’t give you specific advice.
What I can suggest is that you try to have a discussion with your husband. Communication is always important in any relationship. If you have already come to the end of your desire to save the marriage, let me know that. Let him know why. Let you know how you feel.
Listen carefully as he responds. See what his feelings are. See if he understands that his involvement in the cult has damaged your marriage.
You need to determine if he still loves you and if that love is strong enough to appreciate your feelings. If not, and if he makes that really clear, then divorce might be the only solution so that you can move on with your life.Helpful 3
© 2012 Glenn Stok