From June 28-July 1 I attended International Cultic Studies Association’s 2023 conference in Louisville, Kentucky. There were many speakers this year who spoke on a variety of topics, and, as in previous conferences, my heart was broken as I listened to the accounts of those who have experienced horrifically traumatic abuse from religious and self-help frauds. The toll that spiritual and emotional abuse takes on people can never be underestimated.
With the needs of attendees and other speakers in mind, I spoke on the topic “Stalked by a Cultist: Fighting Back and Recovering.” I’m thankful for the good feedback I received from those who attended my session, and I truly hope the various resources the conference offered will help in the healing of the minds and spirits of those who attended this conference. There were a few attorneys at this conference who concentrate on filing civil actions against cultists and coercive, high demand leaders and their groups. There were also authors like myself at the conference, and in addition to the information we provided in our sessions we referenced our books, podcasts, websites, and blogs to help people in their healing journey, and to give more insights of our lived experiences to those who offer psychological and legal counsel to people in need.
So, as I promised attendees interested in my topic, I am publishing the handouts I offered during my session (my apologies again for not running off enough copies!).
Stalked by a Cultist: Fighting Back and Recovering
Most leaders and followers of cults/high demand groups never stalk or otherwise harass people who leave the group, or stalk people who were never members of the group, or people who report in some public manner issues of concern about the group.
— Keep in mind that very controlling religious/high demand groups are usually run by leaders who exhibit some form of mental instability, to lesser or greater degrees
— The greater the mental instability of the cult leader and the cult’s followers, the greater the likelihood that these groups’ leaders and their followers will stalk, harass, and possibly death threaten those people declared as “enemies”.
Tactics used by stalking cult leaders and their followers:
- Online trolling, harassment, defamation, death threats, and attacks against the credibility and reputations of those people the cult leader and the cult’s followers target for the purpose of “public shaming” and alienating from others.
— Cult leaders and their followers may set up websites or fake social media accounts in your name or in others people’s names to misrepresent and defame their targets.
- Harassment of neighbors, friends, co-workers and employers, usually using horrific forms of defamation to alarm, alienate, and cause economic and emotional distress to their targets.
- Physically showing up on or near your property, following behind your car, showing up at or near your workplace or making alarming or harassing communications with co-workers and others you know, or showing up at or near places you frequently visit.
— Tracking devices are extremely cheap and easy to place on vehicles.
- Those who are skilled in committing cyber crimes use hacking into telecommunication companies and email servers to watch your private communications.
- Weaponizing law enforcement and/or the court system to file false accusations and complaints of crimes allegedly committed by their targets, and filing utterly meritless lawsuits to force their targets to be in a given court at a given time and costing their victims time and expense of hiring attorneys to get the lawsuits dismissed.
- In short, severely mentally disturbed cult leaders and their followers obsessively declare all out war on their targets.
The intention of aggressive stalking cultists is to terrorize their targets into silence and submission to the point of mental breakdown or even suicide.
— Remember: The more severely mentally disturbed the cult leader and the cult’s followers are, the more they are addicted to the rush of power and control over others. But cultists’ targets take power and control from their stalkers by standing their ground and speaking truth!
- DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!!! Don’t minimize or deny the reality of what is happening to you. Because there are bizarre, delusional conspiracy theories about “gang stalking,” you need to make sure you have the actual written, photographic, or otherwise recorded documentation/proof that you are, in fact, being stalked by a cult leader and the cult’s followers and that you’re not perceived to be a crazy conspiracy nut.
- DON’T retaliate with the same kinds of criminal tactics used by the cult leader and the cult’s followers!
- Don’t be hesitant to obtain professional counseling to help you stand your ground. Many counselors have become very familiar with the disturbingly common problem and effects of stalking, and they can offer you mental tools to help you keep up the fight in the right, legal way.
- Install security devices in and around your residence, install front and back dashcams, and consider taking self-defense classes and gun-training classes. Remember, stalking is a form of warfare and you need to learn vigilance and self-protection.
- Research your state’s stalking and harassment laws, make copies of your documentation, and insist the police take a recorded complaint of what the stalking cultist leader and the cult’s followers are doing to you.
— Beware of filing for Orders of Protection! The process requires you to be in court in the presence of the aggressive, lying cult leader and the cult’s followers. This process often backfires on victims to the point that the stalking cultists may succeed in making untrue claims about you and then getting protection orders against you the victim! Aside from that, many police officers and attorneys will tell you that protective orders are a sick joke because they are rarely enforced.
- With discretion, inform your family, your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers and employer, and any other people about what the cult leader and cult’s followers are doing, and ask appropriate people to keep eyes and ears open for you.
- With copies of your documentation in hand, talk to attorneys who specialize in Constitutional free speech rights, defamation and harassment issues.
— Most attorneys offer a one hour free consultation.
— Appropriate attorneys can advise you on ways that you can publicly clear your name, and they may also be persuasive with law enforcement and district attorneys to get criminal charges filed against the stalking cult leader and the cult’s followers. They may also be able to build a case for a lawsuit against the cult leader and the cult’s followers and give you the pros and cons of filing a lawsuit against the cult leader and the cult’s followers.
- If social media sites are being used by the cult leader and the cult’s followers to troll you, defame you, and threaten you, file regular complaints with the social media site and see if you can enlist the help of others to file complaints as well to try to get the cult leader and cult’s followers at least temporarily banned.
- If search engines come up with horrific defamation against you, explore these options:
— Contact the search engines directly to get them to remove the defamation; it’s a long shot, but worth pursuing.
— Beware of companies that charge thousands of dollars to remove or make difficult to find defamatory statements against you; they may work, but if your cultist stalker is technologically savvy they can hack or otherwise skew search results and all your money and time will be wasted.
— Working with an attorney (yes, it’s going to cost money), write up a truthful and well-documented website that clears your name and describes what the cult leader and the cult’s followers have been doing. You may also have to pay additional money with a web hosting company to boost your website’s visibility, and they can also advise you on key words that will help your website obtain higher visibility on search engines.
- Contact the media to see if someone will report on what you’re experiencing from the cult leader and the cult’s followers.
- Some states are notoriously bad about not enforcing written laws even if you’re being death threatened. In some extreme cases, you may need to move out of your county or out of your state to find a safe place to live and work.
Recovering From Being Stalked by a Cultist:
In your worst, most distressed moments, remind yourself that you’re not the crazy one, that you are certainly not alone in your experience, that you have a basic human right to speak up against wrong, that you have value and worth as a human being, and that you have the power to choose to make yourself a stronger person and help others going through the same or similar adversity.
- If you’re battling with suicidal ideas, reach out to the suicide hotline by dialing 988! Don’t give your stalkers that power over you. They are more afraid of the power of truth you have than you realize — that’s why they’re trying to silence you! Choose life and choose strength!
- Practice healthy self-care by taking the TIME to find and surround yourself with a good network of supportive, non-toxic people. You don’t need a big crowd — just a few people you can take the TIME to develop healthy relationships with so as to be a benefit to yourself and to them. Practice gratitude for the good things you do have in life.
— Limit your time on social media, since studies have shown that too much social media involvement tends to make people depressed or worsen already existing depression.
— Reject negative self-talk stemming from guilt or self-recrimination, especially if you left what you came to realize was an abusive cult/high demand group. Learn and practice self-encouragement!
— Find enjoyable activities and hobbies such as volunteering, gardening, various art forms, exercise classes, etc.
— Develop healthy eating practices, healthy exercise habits, and healthy breathing exercises.
— Don’t isolate yourself, but also don’t make yourself a self-absorbed pest by over-sharing with others since a lot of other people are going through their own sets of difficulties. Part of good self-care is learning compassion for others and developing good listening skills.
— Practice quality alone time to process your thoughts and feelings, perhaps by journaling, listening to music, exercising, or just chillin’.
- I offer on my book website’s blog various tips on financial recovery from being stalked-through-the-courts by a cult leader and the cult’s followers (or any other abusive litigant) — https://fightingforjusticebook.com/recovering-from-the-financial-damage-caused-by-abusive-litigants/
- Be realistic. Being targeted by a stalking cultist, or any other kind of stalker, is similar to the trauma of being diagnosed with a serious illness, being in a war, or experiencing other kinds of significant trauma.
— Accept the reality you’ll have to practice a certain level of vigilance most likely for many years and possibly for the rest of your life, but you can learn to practice vigilance while still choosing to enjoy every good thing in life.
— Expect to have emotionally tumultuous days due to triggers, flashbacks, nightmares, or who-knows-what-or-why. In one sense you will never fully “recover” who you used to be before the trauma hit, but you can become a stronger, more assured, and more compassionate person.
- Read books and articles about other people who have survived even worse situations than your stalking experience so that you can gain insight into how they coped, survived, and thrived. These resources can help you in your resolution to practice good self-care, practice gratitude, and reject destructive self-talk especially when the inevitable distressing emotional storms hit.