Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Abuse in Group Settings - What Not To Do

Concerned about a friend or loved one who may be involved in a high control group? It could be a religious group, a gang, a new age self help meditation type of group, a guru that they seek counsel from constantly etc. Manipulation, exploitation, coercion and abuse happens in various kinds of relations. 

Often times an outsider can see things more clearly than someone who's involved heavily in a group setting. If you have a friend or loved one involved in a group that you are concerned about and you don't know exactly what to do yet or how to approach them, here are a few things to consider.

Until you educate yourself more and come up with a plan of action here is a few things you should consider Not Doing.

The most effective way to help someone who's involved in these types of groups or cults is to stimulate their Critical Thinking Skills. We all know and probably have experienced that when we feel the need to defend ourselves that stimulates our Defenses and the conversation tends to lean more towards an argument or disagreement, which is not going to help the situation. We want effective dialogue so the person we're seeking to help can actually think clearer and come up with their own answers, conclusions and "ahh ha" moments.

Before you have the conversation with your friend or loved one, do your homework. List out several thought provoking questions you plan on asking them. Try to do it in a non threatening manner, no raised voices, no heavy demands etc. Try to be as understanding as possible and ask specific questions that will get the person to think instead of reacting and defending their views.

Examples questions you may ask about the leadership of the church or group:

Who is the leader(s)?
What are their background and qualifications?
Do they have a criminal record, a legacy of allegations against them, or a history of misconduct?
Do they have emotional outbursts?
Do they physically abuse followers?

Do ordinary people find them inaccessible, unreachable, or elitist?

 Example questions you may want to ask about the transparency of the church or group:

Are there “in” groups and “out” groups?
Are there restricted teachings for initiates only?
Are there secret texts and publications “for your eyes only”?
Is there real financial accountability and transparency?
If a group says that you can look at its accounting records, does it actually provide access?
Does the group culture discourage you from asking questions?

Example questions you may want to ask about the groups claims and doctrine:

If “miracles” have been performed, can they be replicated under open observation and scientific conditions?
Are there other explanations for the “miracles,” such as magic tricks, hypnosis, etc.?
Does the group attempt to shift the burden of proof for extraordinary or unverifiable claims?
Are questions and doubts permitted within the organization?
Are all members expected to conform to group beliefs, or can they form independent belief systems?
What do former leaders and members say about the group?
Does the group claim to have access to absolute truth?
Does the group spread disinformation in promotional materials?

Example questions you may want to ask about personal time and resources:

Is the member being asked to give more and more of their time? For fellowship, helping to promote the group, "bible" study/classes etc?

Is the member being asked for donations and monetary support? If so, is it pressured, is it required, are they looked down upon if they don't want to or don't have the funds? 

Does the member have a balance of personal life, work life and life apart from the group/church?  In other words are other areas of life being neglected as a result of involvement in a group?

Does the member have re-occurring conflicts with a spouse over involvement with the group?

These are just examples of questions you may want to ask. It may take a few attempts at this topic of conversation with your friend or loved one before they are even willing to talk. Be patient and understanding, people don't knowingly get involved in high control groups or cults. They usually get involved as a way to try and resolve issues in their life or are seeking legitimate spiritual guidance or help. The last thing you want is for them to stop talking to you because you aren't being supportive or understanding. 

Be sure to visit our Education section on our website for more vital resources and information.

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