Tomorrow is the third anniversary of the infamous Boston Marathon bombing. As an American citizen and a resident of the Boston area, I feel a great sense of sadness when I think about that horrible day. On April 15, 2013 two brothers brought pain to our nation by setting off those bombs. Lives were lost and many were irreparably harmed. Over the past 36 months, Boston has rebuilt and regained a sense of normality. The trial of the surviving Tsernaev brother has ended with a death penalty sentence, and we have kept moving forward.

Just like in Boston, two more brothers have been identified in connection with the attacks in Paris and Brussels, and again they had been radicalized. Very rarely do we see a “lone wolf’” like Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber) commit acts of terror. Most cult members are recruited and indoctrinated: in person and now increasingly online. On Monday, the New York Times published an article on Khalid Zerkani, a man who was found to have “perverted an entire generation” by recruiting young men into ISIS front groups. This man, dubbed “the Santa Claus of jihad,” is now serving 12 years in a Brussels prison for his role in the radicalization of many in his community. The network of fighters he helped to create has been tied to both the attacks in Paris and Brussels.

I too have firsthand knowledge of recruiting tactics. In my youth, I was unduly influenced by cult recruiters as a college student. I too was radicalized by a cult (the Moonies) and conditioned to believe that I was part of an elite group of chosen ones put on Earth to do God’s work. Though I fortunately was never directed to kill or do a terrorist act, I was trained to block any “self” thoughts, doubts, and cut off from anyone, including my family, who questioned my total and fanatical commitment to Moon. I became nothing more than a slave to a leader and an ideology.

Luckily, I was deprogrammed 40 years ago and saved from the path I was on. Since then I have become a mental health professional and devoted myself to studying and helping others who are affected by controlling groups and people. I have made it my life’s work to educate the public and was even called upon by CNN and other news outlets to comment on the events in Boston when the world was looking for answers.

Boston, like so many other communities is strong. President Obama even used the expression “Boston Strong” as a mantra for the American people in going forward dealing with the threat of terrorism. We are recovering and the Marathon continues. But we can do more to prevent this type of terrorist aggression. Just last week, I blogged about the need for awareness when it comes to recruiting activity and signs of radicalization. This anniversary is a harrowing reminder of that need.

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Steven Hassan

About the Author: 

Steven Hassan M.Ed. LMHC, NCC has helped thousands of individuals and families recover from undue influence (mind control). With over 40 years of experience, he is sought after as one of the foremost authorities on undue influence and controlling groups and individuals. Steve understands the subject from a unique perspective as both a former cult member and as a clinical professional.

Steven is the Founding Director of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center, a coaching, consulting, and training organization dedicated to supporting individuals to have the freedom to think clearly and to freely consider how they want to live their lives.  Steven pioneered a breakthrough method called the Strategic Interactive Approach (SIA), an effective and legal alternative for families to help cult members.  The SIA teaches family and friends how to strategically influence the individual involved in the cult.

Contact Freedom of Mind to schedule a consultation or to learn about offered services.

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