“Don’t Blame the Victim”

This is a very commonly held, but fallacious generalization about people involved with destructive relationships and cult groups. People often try to find fault with people who experience tragedy by blaming the victim. Laying blame gives people a false sense of control over their own lives by distancing them from the victim. However, the idea that people knowingly join destructive cults is patently wrong. Most people are recruited at a vulnerable moment, without understanding the forces that are brought to bear on them. Sometimes a cult manipulates a recruit’s strength. For example, by playing to my high degree of self-confidence, the Moonies managed to get me and keep me, at their three-day workshop. I was not weak, nor stupid, or looking for someone to tell me what to do with my life. My girlfriend dumped me and three attractive women, pretending to be students at Queens College, flirted with me. They lied. Lied. Lied.

There is no doubt that many people in cults have emotional baggage and other assorted problems—everyone does. But focusing the blame for cult membership on the individual is a mistake. If a friend or family member blames the cult member, ask him to please learn about the plasticity and adaptability of the human mind. Ask them to learn about the Science of Social Influence.

Facts to Consider

Look at the facts and please consider the following:

  • Why would over 900 men, women, and children follow Jim Jones’ order to drink Kool-Aid laced with cyanide?
  • Why would members allow David Koresh to have sex with every woman in the group (including minors), while other men were not allowed to have sex at all, even with their wives? Why did most members die in flames rather than surrender to the authorities?
  • Why would seven male followers of Marshall Applewhite (Heaven’s Gate) castrate themselves because they thought they were actually aliens trapped in human bodies?
  • Why did the members of Heaven’s Gate ingest vodka and pills and allow plastic bags to be placed over their heads to smother them believing they were beaming up to an alien spacecraft in the tail of the Hale-Bopp Comet?
  • Why do the Jehovah’s Witnesses want their members to die rather than accept a blood transfusion?

In my over forty years of working with cult-related issues, I can categorically state that most cult members are not “weak” people, looking for someone to tell them what to do. I strongly urge you to meet a few dozen former members and come to your own conclusions. I also have been doing video interviews with former members from a number of different groups, so you can look on my YouTube or Vimeo channels or my website links.

Next ERRANT belief: “She’s Better Off Where She Is”

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