Cult Abuse -- An Epidemic More Widespread Than AIDS
August 5, 2003
By Toby Westerman
Copyright 2003 International News Analysis Today
More people in the U.S. are enslaved by mind control cults than are afflicted by AIDS, according to a cult treatment expert. The problem of cult abuse is world-wide, and yields profits into the billions of dollars for the cults, stated Dr. Paul Martin, Ph.D., director of Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center, a facility specializing in assistance to former cult members. Martin, who holds graduate degrees in psychology and education, made his remarks during an exclusive interview with INA Today.
Martin estimates that one to two percent of the American population -- between 2.7 to 5.4 million Americans -- are under the power of a cult.
"It's the most unrecognized ill of our time - a national tragedy," Martin told INA Today. The federal government is reluctant to intervene "due to First Amendment issues," Martin stated.
Recovering cult members are the "poorest of the poor," who have "no media attention, no social programs, no foundations on their behalf," Martin declared.
Martin, with 17 years of experience treating former cult members, describes a cult as a group which "unduly controls and psychologically abuses" its members, leaving them "no freedom to make choices and decisions."
"Every cult, whether political or religious," said Martin, practices a "coercive persuasion, or mind control," and results in symptoms of "anxiety, depression and dissociation."
"Dissociation" is a defense mechanism which divides the personality between thoughts, feelings, and reality, Martin explained. The unconscious separates painful emotions from an experience which the mind finds unacceptable. The mindless stare often noted in cult members is one of the manifestations of dissociation.
Wellspring's treatment emphasizes allowing clients "to tell their story," while staff asks questions to bring out what was done to the client while in the cult, and the client's reaction at the time of the incident.
As the client begins to understand the methods of control used, staff assist the client in "finding the tools" to recover the capacity to clearly understand how to function independently from the cult.
While most of Wellspring's clients are adults, small children are also treated, but only if a parent is included in treatment with the child or children.
Martin revealed to INA Today the account of one mother and her small children who escaped from an Arkansas cult, and eventually found assistance at Wellspring. The mother originally fled from the cult and sought refuge in Oklahoma, where officials referred the family to Wellspring. The woman's husband remains with the cult today.
Wellspring's first task, Martin said, is to provide a safe environment for the family, allowing family members to speak about their experiences when they feel comfortable to do so.
Following their arrival from Oklahoma, the refugee family from the Arkansas cult began treatment at Wellspring. The mother first began to share her thoughts and experiences with staff, and then the children followed their mother's example.
In treatment, the staff used commercially produced cartoons to facilitate discussion with the children. Staff and children began to talk about the events and relationships between characters in the cartoons. In time the children were able to talk more freely about the cartoon characters and events, eventually translating them into real people and incidents during their time in the cult.
Slowly, tragic and shocking events unfolded, as the mother and children recounted a series of physical and psychological abuses perpetrated against them and other cult members, including torture, polygamy, and child "marriages."
One of the saddest accounts from the family concerned a young girl from another couple in the cult, who allowed their daughter to be "married." The child "bride" begged the cult leader to let her to bring her dolls to the house of her much older "husband."
Since two-thirds of Wellspring's clients are unable to pay for treatment, Martin said that the non-profit organization relies heavily upon contributions.
A key player in the story of Wellspring is the Kronzer Foundation, directed by Phillip J. Kronzer, which specializes in the investigation of religious fraud and abuse.
Kronzer, who lost his wife to a cult, understands the need for treatment of former cult members, and came to the assistance of Wellspring at a critical moment.
Martin praised Kronzer as an "unsung hero" in the fight against cults, and credited the Kronzer Foundation with giving "a new life" to the children and adults at the treatment center who otherwise "wouldn't have a chance."
Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center is located approximately 80 miles southwest of Columbus, Ohio, near the University of Ohio at Athens, and may be contacted at:
Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center
P.O. Box 67
Albany, Ohio 45710
Web site: www.wellspring.org
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