How to Get a Family Member out of a Cult

Updated on February 16, 2018
Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn helped get his sister out of Scientology when they blocked communication with family in the early 1980s. This is his story.

Do you have a family member 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 in cults may be too trapped to ask for help.
People in cults may be too trapped to ask for help. | Source

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."

Leave the door open for a cult member to ask for help. My sister finally called and said, "Will you come and get me?"
Leave the door open for a cult member to ask for help. My sister finally called and said, "Will you come and get me?" | Source

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.

How to 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 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 with open arms. Be ready to show them what life is like on the other side.

© 2012 Glenn Stok


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    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 15 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Leah Remini Speaks Out About Scientology. Watch her 8-part docu-series starting November 29 at 10PM on A&E.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 20 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Say Yes To Life - It's good you and your niece got out of it. It was a long time ago since I got my sister out. But to this day my two nieces and nephew are all still in it. You are right, they have to realize it on their own before we can help. But they also need to get over the fear imposed on them for considering leaving. Thanks for your comment.

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 20 months ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      I was in a cult once, and so was my niece. I know what it's like to be brainwashed, especially with the threat of hell. I'm glad you were able to get your sister out of there. Yes it's hard; you can't directly confront them. They have to realize it on their own. I'm glad your offer to help worked.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Supuni Fernando - My sister recovered quickly since she wanted to get out. But unfortunately her kids (my two nieces and nephew) are deeply controlled by it. I can't talk with them about it since they become very defensive. Thanks for your comments.

    • Supuni Fernando profile image

      Supuni Fernando 2 years ago from Colombo, Sri Lanka

      I remember seeing victims of cults getting rehabilitation and it's not easy. Sadly I forgot the cult name, but the children faced insane difficulties learning and speaking. They had problems adjusting to the modern society as well.

    • Cher Anne profile image

      Cher Anne 5 years ago from Earth

      Thank You for sharing this. There is a group on Facebook called Cult Awareness and Recovery(the open page)do you mind if I share it ?

      Feel free to join.

    • Hendrika profile image

      Hendrika 5 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      Reading this is really scary. I have someone that is not really in a cult, but still pretty brainwashed into thinking in a certain way. Even this is hard to break free from or even to get the person to want and break free from it.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Sue, You picked up on the correct item, the most obvious sign that something is harmful to us. My sister admitted, years later, that she was denied permission to communicate with the rest of the family when my father was trying to get her out. I never asked her, but I am sure she feels bad that she never had contact with her father in his last few years of life. You can't get that back. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

    • Sue B. profile image

      Sue B. 5 years ago


      Your hub has truly sparked my interest in understanding the concept of "cult" better. As I have been reading more, I'm realizing just how unclear things can be. Some define cult as any new religious movement while some use the word cult to describe only destructive movements/cults. Although I have never had this experience, as either someone associated with a cult or being a loved one of a cult member, I can understand how confusing this could be and hard to recognize.

      I think I have always considered cults very easy to identify, as if it was a group of people with a sign clearly labeling the name of their cult. After reading your hub and a few sociological essays, I realize how informal a cult can be which adds to the risk.

      The thought I wanted to share is that any group can be harmful to us-- both a "cult" or organized religion and any group can benefit us in some way- an informal group, a new religious movement or traditional religion. So how can we tell the difference between what is harmful and what is not?

      It got me thinking about relationships and how we identify when a relationship is unhealthy for us. We can think this way in terms of our relationships to a group. What grabbed me in your hub is the social isolation or social restriction. This I think is our most obvious sign that something is harmful to us. Controlling behavior can be rather subtle. I can understand being in this situation could leave someone confused and unsure of their own opinion of the relationship. I think another good indicator of a harmful relationship is not being completely happy with the relationship or your life within the relationship and resigning yourself to the belief that it is easier to stay then to try to leave.

      Thank you for getting me thinking!

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      KDuBarry03, Actually, I backed off when I tried to talk to my niece and she became very defensive. It worked with my sister, but her children are too far gone. I discovered they are also in denial when my sister told one of them in front of me how she was kept from communicating with us back when my father tried to get them out. Her daughter (my niece) refused to believe it. So I don't deserve the credit you gave me. I gave up fighting. I can only wait for them to ask for help. Thanks for reading and for the vote.

    • profile image

      KDuBarry03 5 years ago

      Glenn Stok,

      This is a very heartfelt and touching story. It is a shame that a cult would actually apprehend your sister and your family from having connections with you. This story is definitely an inspiration to many that, no matter what, family will be there for you and fight for you no matter what. Although I've never had an experience like this, I cannot help but imagine the pain you must have/be going through. You have a strong heart and a strong spirit to fight for your family to just talk to them.

      Thank you so much for sharing this great story. voted up and sharing.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 5 years ago from Long Island, NY


      I’m thinking the same thing. Anyone anywhere in a cult needs to realize that they do have family out there who is waiting and willing to help. I guess it needs to start with dropping the defenses and ask for help. But, for those waiting, we need to make it known we want to help in any way we can.


      I’m sorry that you have a similar situation where you have family who sees you as a threat, even though its not necessarily a cult they are involved with. These things are never easy.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      Wow. It's cathartic to share a story like this. Good for you for being there for your sister. She's lucky to have a brother like you. Some members of my own family are very religious - not members of a cult, I don't think - but I'm quite the inquisitive intellectual and they see me as a threat. It's rather sad. I don't communicate with them very much because when I do, they often are trying to convert me to their church. So, while I haven't had the same experience as you, I can understand the pain and frustration when people you love see you as a Suppressive person and won't have much to do with you. It's sad...I go on with my life, but it still tugs at your heart. Thanks for sharing this. I know it will inspire many. :)

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Wow! You tried and you deserve to be commended. Let's pray that your efforts will still have some positive effect on the family members who have not yet responded. Thanks for sharing. You've given us so much to think about.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 5 years ago from Long Island, NY


      Thanks for your kind words. I do hope this ends up helping anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation. That was my main reason for writing about it.

      Sue B,

      Interesting point you made. I can see how the same methods of letting someone know we are waiting to help, can be applied to members forced to be part of a gang. It probably can be just as dangerous too. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Sue B. profile image

      Sue B. 5 years ago


      I found this to be a very honest and informative hub. I think it would help others who are also going through these challenges.

      As I was reading your hub, I was thinking how much the experience of a cult and the difficulties separating from a cult are similar to gangs. Although gangs and cults are many differences, I think your hub can also help people attempting to rescue family members from gangs.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      This really made my heart ache for you Glenn. It is their choice we know but their situation can only be truly understood by them after they leave it behind. I'm so sorry this has broken up your family ties and for the emotional stress it put both you and your Dad through.

      I was so deeply relieved to hear your sister got out and she was so blessed by the seed you planted to allow her to make that decion and know she could count on you for help.

      Thanks for sharing this important story so that others can be aware and beware.



    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Vox, Good to see you around. Yes their father is the one who got them all into it. But my sister remarried after I got her out. Thanks for checking this out.

    • vox vocis profile image

      Jasmine 5 years ago

      I'm sorry to hear this about your sister and her kids. It's such a sad story. You must be suffering so much because of this. Is their father also in this cult?

      We have to be there in case our loved ones need help, but if they don't want any help, then there isn't much we can do.