What is coercion?
How does it look like in groups?
What are some examples?
How prevalent is it?
WORDS BY FORMER MEMBERS:
"No matter what I did, I was never good enough."
"They always wanted more of me. I was terrified of making mistakes."
"I thought they loved me, until I did not do exactly as I was told one day."
"I would have given my life. In a way I did and it cost me dearly."
"I changed. I started to hate all outsiders and myself."
"We were the elite, better than anyone else. We were cruel."
"I stopped feeling. I just did as I was told and stopped existing inside."
"Growing up in this, it's all I knew. There was nothing but the group."
"Leaving was so disorienting. Who was I without them?"
"They preached love and practices abuse. I was never allowed to say no."
"Boundaries? Never had any. Had to learn what those are as an adult."
It is not the belief of a group that makes it destructive to its members, but the level of isolation, fear, and pressure that individuals experience while in it. Can member`s come and go, change their minds about doctrine, have friends, family and interests outside of the group, or is it an "all-or-nothing" kind of situations, where the group demands absolute loyalty and devotion?
STRUCTURE OF THE ORGANIZATION:
Group with strong hierarchical structure, strict adherence to rules
Leader figure with prophetic claims, political extremist
OPENNESS OF THE GROUP:
Isolation and strong separation to the outside
SOCIAL LIFE, FRIENDS & FAMILY:
Ongoing contact is discouraged, minimized or forbidden
GIVING TO THE GROUP:
Paying for an overpriced course, mandatory tithing, forced labor or excessive volunteering is required
Division of the world into good and evil, black-and-white thinking, all-or-nothing mentality
Exclusive belief in the absolute truth of group’s own system, teaching, path, and methods; claiming the “only truth”
PROMISES OF SALVATION AND HEALING:
“Universal recipes” and simplified solutions for all problems, no checks-and-balances, unverifiable claims
If it doesn’t work, the member isn’t trying hard enough
The members of the group see themselves as chosen, as a spiritually evolved and superior elite of humanity
Members are expected to sacrifice time, money and sometimes their health or life for the group’s purpose; sacrifice is hailed as a virtue
Physical health problems are ignored, doctor visits discouraged, mental health problems stigmatized; those with burnout or depression seen as weak
END TIME EXPECTATION:
The end of the world or a political escalation and war are dooming
No open communication to the outside, misleading propaganda, covering up of sexual abuse or other crimes
Only selective information is given to members, sometimes deliberate disinformation within the group
DOUBT AND CRITICISM:
Doubt and criticism are banned within the group; critics on the outside are ridiculed and sometimes punished
Control and monitoring of all areas of life, lack of privacy and choice
Misleading recruitment, indoctrination, use of mind-altering methods and fear
CONTROL OVER THOUGHTS AND EMOTIONS:
By creating shame and fear, the member is manipulated; by excessively practicing relaxation techniques or violence, thoughts and feelings become controlled and sometimes an “inner leader” is constructed, replacing one’s own conscience