In the UK we are currently having to isolate and social distance due to COVID-19. People are being told they are to stay indoors and only go out if necessary. If they do go out then they are to have no physical contact and stay a safe distance from others in order to not transmit or receive the virus. It has lead to people ‘body swerving’ as strangers are looked at suspicously when out walking.
This has lead to a lot of discussion on the impact on people’s mental health. For individuals living on their own being unable to interact with family and friends as they are used to is debilitating and causes extreme stress and pain. Many have also lossed their job or business as a result and the repurcussions will go on for years.
Sadly ex cult members are not unfamiliar with this scenario. Thousands, if not millions were already having to live this way long before ever hearing of COVID-19.
It is not unheard of that a member of a cult such as Jehovah’s Witnesses can overnight lose contact with all family and friends as well as their income, and despite having access to technology their loved ones are no longer available for even a text message or social media interaction.
Why is this? When someone leaves Jehovah’s Witnesses they may have researched and realised they have been lied to by the group leaders. In order to prevent this research being shared the members are told that this ex-member is now ‘mentally diseased’ (see Watchtower 2011 Jul 15 p.11) and are to have no contact with them, not even by email.
If a member of a high control group sees an ex-member in the street they will cross to the other side, not even looking at them. Such shunning is very hurtful but also strengthens the resolve of the members to never stray and do their own research.
Something else we are all concerned about during this time of lockdown is the uncertainty and inability to know what the future will be, for many this can be frightening. It is the same with an ex-cult member, not knowing where to turn for help or what tomorrow will bring is very real and has been for many years.
My reason for writing this is to simply say, even when this current situation is over with COVID-19 please spare a thought for the many who have either had the courage to leave a high control group or have been disfellowshipped/excommunicated and should you come across them remember the panic and worry that isolation can create. Reassure them and rise to the challenge of helping them the same way we have seen many come forward and volunteer in times of crisis.
I would like to share this video of a friend of mine being interviewed speaking on this very subject. I am sure you will find it of interest, it might open your eyes of understanding and may be of some value: