Cults are in the news. In June 2019, the leader of self-improvement cult NXIUM Keith Reniere was convicted of several felonies, including human trafficking and sexual exploitation of a child. And, it’s almost impossible to avoid the ever-evolving story of Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow, who are under suspicion of being involved in a doomsday cult that may have led to three deaths and two missing children.
From the outside looking in, it’s hard to understand how anyone could fall under the spell of a destructive cult leader, or how one person could convince others to commit unethical or illegal acts. On this episode of Thread of Evidence, Dr. Joni Johnston talks with Steven Hassan, who brings a dual perspective to destructive cults; he spent two and a half years in one and, since his escape, has spent over thirty years helping victims and their families understand, and escape, their harmful influence.
Steven Hassan is a mental health professional who has been helping people leave destructive cults since 1976 after he was deprogrammed from Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. He is the author of four books, including Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Thoughts & Beliefs. He is the founding director of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center, located outside Boston.