Anyone who has suffered the fear and helplessness of being stalked will welcome Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s stalking prevention orders. Along with laws to protect against coercive control, grooming for sex and modern slavery, it is gratifying to see that the psychological element in exploitative and damaging relationships is at last being recognised. But there remains a glaring omission in the government’s approach to protecting the public which is, cultic abuse. Anybody who has escaped a cultic organisation as well as the families of those still enthralled by cultic abuse will speak of the utter devastation and destruction caused by this phenomenon.
For those not familiar with the problem it occurs when persuasive manipulators entice a victim to engage with an ideology or belief. After they are hooked, the manipulators deceptively use methods similar those used in coercive control to ‘change the mind’ of the victim – in lay terms, to brainwash them. Many victims spend years unaware of their mental captivity and are ruthlessly exploited for money, power and sex.
Groups and individuals who abuse victims in this way love to use ‘freedom of belief’ as a false debate to deflect attention from their behaviour. Former victims however will tell you quite plainly they have been psychologically, emotionally, mentally and sometimes physically abused.
Although cultic abuse has been ignored by governments for decades, there is now a growing urgency to recognise it because radicalisation is simply a niche form of cultic abuse. Instead of searching for victim deficits to explain why people are radicalised, the Home Office needs to create a law to criminalise all cultic abuse and then go after the perpetrators, the persuasive, deceptive manipulators.