Please help. My daughter is in her second year of college at University of Washington and she has changed remarkably since she started there last fall.
She has begun “counseling” through some outfit called “Re-evaluation Counseling” and her mother and I are very concerned about her recent behavior and some horrible accusations she has made against us.
My daughter was a happy and well-adjusted young woman when she moved to Seattle. Now she is spending a lot of time and money on this “counseling” and has told us she thinks she was sexually abused as a child.
I assure you that she wasn’t.
What can we do? Is this a cult? Are there legal options available?
I’m so sorry to hear your daughter could not get into University of Oregon.
(“Go Ducks!” This is Puddles, the travel pillow I took to Maui last week. Isn’t he adorable?)
Enough kidding around, because your question is a very serious one.
Yes. Your Daughter is in a Cult
Based upon the information you provided to me in our email exchanges, you have a big problem on your hands.
The link below is worth reading and provides more insight on this mind-control group than I could do justice.
I want to discuss cults briefly before I get to the advice.
Sometimes cults are obvious, like this one or it’s first cousin once removed: Scientology.
Sometimes cults are less obvious.
They can be groups of friends (especially teenage girls and women in book clubs) political organizations (The Bundy freaks who took over our bird refuge here in Oregon) or even employers or service providers (my favorite DICKs)*.
There is a plethora of information on the web about cults and I’ve tried to boil down the essential warning signs for you here.
How to Spot a Cult:
- Total authoritarianism with no corresponding accountability.
- Zero tolerance for critical inquiry from within or without the group.
- Increasing isolation from family and friends, especially if they criticize the group.
- Money, money, money. Always demanding it, always needing more for “the cause.” No accounting for how it is spent.
- Paranoia about the “outside world” and impending catastrophes.
- Threats against those who want to leave.
- Former members are always negative or evil and should be avoided at best and destroyed at worst.
- Information (such as the link above) which indicate the organization is suspect.
- The group/leader is always right.
- The group/leader is the only way to achieve happiness.
- Members have stilted mannerisms and/or mimic the leader in personal behavior and dress.
- An apparent inability to reason independently without the group or leader.
- Anything the group/leader does can be justified regardless of how horrible, including murder.
You told me your daughter has a sudden hyperactive focus on this organization, and that focus has come to nearly eradicate her interests in school, friends, and sports. Not only has she suddenly had a complete loss of her former spontaneous and ambitious nature, she has also lost her sense of humor.
How do I know that? Because you showed her my blog on love as it relates to pooping and she didn’t even crack a smile.
Re-Evaluation Counseling is a particularly insidious cult because one of the core beliefs it hammers into adherents is that almost all of us suffered from sexual abuse in our childhood.
What a great way to knock a young person off a formerly-solid foundation and simultaneously make them distrustful of or even hateful towards their parents.
This achieves the nice double-whammy of:
1) creating extreme vulnerability, and
2) fostering isolation from family who would warn them away from the cult.
I do believe my new favorite phrase “that’s a neat trick” is apropos here, don’t you?
My Advice to Worried Dad
- You asked about legal options but I don’t see any obvious ones. Also, I’m not giving you legal advice, so check with your own damn lawyer.
- Get thee and thee wife to Seattle post-haste for a meeting with your girl.
- Open your email before you go and take a look at the names of therapists I sent you who specialize in getting people out of cults. Sometimes called “deprogramming,” sometimes “exit-counseling,” there are counselors and doctors who know their shit on this subject.
- Arrange an intervention of sorts with that therapist, your wife, and your daughter. I’d like to help with the exorcism but I’m too busy blogging.
- Find some survivors of this cult online and ask them to talk to your daughter about their experiences.
- Cut off all money unless and until she agrees to ongoing exit counseling and immediately leaving the cult.
That last one will be hard, because this is your baby. I know you want so much for her, especially a college education (even if it is at University of Washington), but giving her money is the last thing you should be doing.
Your hard-earned money will only go to a cult, and her studies will continue to suffer until they have been abandoned altogether.
I truly am worried for you and your family so please follow up with me and let me know what happens.
Readers, do any of you have experiences with cults or cult-like groups? If so please share them in the comments!
*See all those points about cults? Now compare them to your office. See any similarities?