CCChat-Magazine Cults-Coercion - Flipbook - Page 7
Dr. Alexandra Stein
lexandra Stein, Ph.D. is a writer and educator specializing in the
social psychology of ideological extremism and other dangerous
social relationships. She is the author of the upcoming second
edition of Terror, Love and Brainwashing: Attachment in cults
and totalitarian systems.
M: I’ve been wanting to talk to you for so long and here we are, finally! I know you have a new
edition of your book out soon and there’s so much I want to talk to you about, but first I’m going
to ask, when it comes to cults, what should we be talking about?
A: An important issue with cults in the UK is the lack of legal recourse and the lack of legal
sanctions. I work with a charity ‘The Family Survival Trust’ which works with people affected by
cults which is campaigning to have the coercive control law expanded, as it is limited to where
the perpetrator and the victim are in an intimate or family relationship, and the question we have
is that if this pattern of behaviours is now illegal in an intimate or family relationship, why does it
remain legal within a group or an organisation?
M: That’s a good point and also very relevant at the moment as the impacts of coercion are
slowly starting to be more widely understood.
A: We see this in all kinds of groups ranging from terrorist groups, to a wide variety of religious,
self-help therapy, commercial, political, you name it, any kind – yoga, wellness, sport groups
which in some cases can exhibit these same patterns of behaviours but where there is very
little recourse for people and also where society allows these groups to continue with these
coercive behaviours. We know how dangerous they are because the victims are typically unable
to advocate for their own safety. They may not be able to acknowledge they are being coerced,
because that is part of the pattern of coercion. We need something with teeth, and I think the
coercive control law is a very good place to start because it is addressing the same human
interactions that we see in controlling domestic violence, relational control and in groups and
cults that engage in that so I think this is a really important issue to bring out -- hence it’s not
random that you’re doing this issue and talking to me and other experts in the field. It’s because
we are dealing with the same problem.
M: I know that there are people within the domestic abuse field who are reluctant to have the law
extend out to include non-intimate relationships as the concern is that it could be watering down
the law and domestic abuse as a crime. I’m interested to hear your views on that.
A: My thought on that is what happens in cults and so forth is actually, in an interesting way, it
kind of becomes domestic abuse. Let me explain that.
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