It's really tough to admit you're in a cult. It's really tough to leave a cult. It's really tough when the cult leaders threaten you -- both when you're in the cult and when you leave it. In short, cults suck.
It's really hard, though, to know you're joining a cult. They often are not very obvious. When I used to think about cults, I thought of odd clothing and communes. I never dreamed I would join one. I was too smart for that.
Actually, many smart, kind people join cults. Cults can be full of awesome individuals. And cults can look like ordinary, run-of-the mill businesses, religious groups, or community organizations. There can even be cult-like relationships between two people.
My family belonged to a cult for about seven years. My husband was very loosely associated. He never really liked the people running it. He didn't recognize that they were running a cult, but he thought they were incredibly arrogant. And they are. My kids and I were much more involved. We were quite dedicated. We were incredibly enthusiastic.
As time went on, though, I was seeing things, hearing things, and experiencing things that bothered me more and more. I was exhausted and disillusioned. I didn't realize it, but I was being abused -- physically, mentally, and spiritually. I was being horribly manipulated.
One day, toward the end of my tenure in the cult, the girlfriend of one of the members happened to drop by. She wasn't involved in the cult, but her boyfriend was pretty enthused about the place, and she wanted to see what it was all about. The next day, this young man said to me, "My girlfriend says this place is a cult." Wow. Being that I was becoming more and more disturbed by my experiences in the cult, I decided to go home and Google "cult." Wow. Everything I read about the danger signs and marks of a cult were present in the group I belonged to. Absolutely everything. I was shocked and horrified that I could have joined a cult and that -- worse -- I had put my children into one. I shut the computer off. I couldn't possibly have used such poor judgment. I couldn't possibly have put my family into that kind of situation. I refused to believe that we were in a cult.
And I stayed. For a little while, anyway.
What kind of cult did I join, you may be wondering.
It was a "martial arts school." Did they teach real martial arts? Yes. Did they do many of the things that authentic and non-cult martial arts schools do? Yes. I know how to beat the crap out of someone, if I need to. I have many valuable martial arts skills. But, this place was a cult. And it still is. Because it's still around.
I used to be very afraid of the people that ran this cult and some of their most zealous members. I would never have written a blog post like this ten years ago, or even one year ago. Because when I left the place, the evil cult people tried to absolutely ruin my reputation. They told a lot of lies about me. And some people believed the lies. My husband said, "These people will say absolutely anything about anybody to protect themselves." And it's true. They will.
Here are just a few of the things they said about me:
1. I was very upset about the inappropriately sexual behavior displayed by one of the instructors -- an older man -- toward some of the female children. I spoke about my displeasure to one of the cult members, after I left. I guess she told the cult leaders about it, and within a couple of weeks I was hearing from people I knew that this old guy (a gross old guy, btw) was saying that I had come onto him sexually and he rebuffed me and now I was trying to get back at him. OMG!!! I felt kicked in the gut. NONE of that was in the least bit true. I felt humiliated beyond all telling. I wanted -- almost literally -- to die. Now, though, because of some good professional counseling, I don't give a fuck. Go fuck yourself, dirty old man.
2. The three guys who are the cult leaders reportedly said that I tried to kiss them. Now, it is true that I would give an occasional kiss on the cheek, but it was never in an inappropriate fashion. It was like with family friends after a special occasion. And we all did feel -- for a very long time -- that these people were our friends. We had Thanksgiving together. We had New Year's Eve together. We were like a big family. So, it did not seem odd to me to give someone a kiss on the cheek, occasionally. For example, once I kissed the dirty old man on the cheek because he "allowed" my 40th birthday party to be thrown at the cult headquarters -- aka "the martial arts school" -- aka "the bunker" (Kimmy Schmidt reference, y'all). Now, when I think about it, the dirty old man should just be grateful to have gotten a kiss on the cheek from me. So there, dirty old man. Go fuck yourself. Anyway... There was one other time that I tried to give a kiss. One of the instructors was grappling with me and had me pinned to the floor. I couldn't get up. I couldn't move. This was going on for a VERY long time. And he was laughing at me and mocking me for not being able to move and pinching me and tickling me. I was pretty upset. So, I decided that I would try to kiss him. I knew he would HATE that and that he would let me go. It worked, too. He let me go REALLY fast. Now, of course, I shouldn't really have done that. It was probably not the thing to do. But, I didn't mean it in a sexual way and I was kind of having an anxiety attack, being pinned to the floor and mocked by the instructor for not being able to do anything about it. So, there you go.
3. After I left, the cult leaders said I was dangerous and mentally ill and told the other cult members to stay away from me. When I first left the cult and heard this, I wondered if maybe they were right. Maybe there was something wrong with me. This -- by the way -- is not an unusual way for people to feel when they leave a cult and get mad-mouthed by the cult leaders. Anyway, I told my counselor about it and how much it upset me to think that -- perhaps -- I was crazy. My counselor, who was a cult expert, told me that this is typically how cult leaders talk about dissatisfied ex-members. It is a way to both keep a hold on current members and frighten the former members into keeping their mouths shut. And it did work. I have been very humiliated to think of what my friends and acquaintances would think of me if they heard I had been making sexual advances toward and kissing the cult leaders. I knew they were lying, but it's basically a "he-said, she-said" kind of thing. And I think they knew that spreading this kind of evil gossip about me would work, because they knew that being a "good Catholic wife and mom" was very important to me. They knew a lot about me, because I had basically spilled my guts in all our "meditation lessons," so they knew where I was most vulnerable. They knew where they could hurt me. And it worked. It's like the Scientologists do with the people they "audit." They keep a bunch of records of everything these people say and then they use it against them by making up twisted lies when the poor, abused members get mad and leave. But, you know what? I am not afraid of you, anymore, you evil cult leaders. I know the truth. The people who love me know the truth. And that's what matters. Years of counseling have worked for me AND for my daughters. You have no more power over us, you brood of vipers.
Anyway, many thanks to all of you people who have read this. I will probably blog about it more, in the future. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.
Also, you may be wondering why I decided to speak about this now. Over the past couple of weeks, a situation developed with a person who had a brush with this cult. My daughter and I spoke with this person about our experiences. Apparently, it got back to the cult leaders and -- once again -- they show a willingness to tell a bunch of lies about me, probably similar to the lies I discussed above. So, this time, I am being proactive. I am not just going to sit by and cower and let them have the ball. I have the ball. My daughters have the ball. And you can't hurt us anymore, evil cult leaders. ;-)