Category Archives: federal sentencing guidelines

Good and law-abiding folks trapped in cultic influence relationships often have pseudo- personalities that can and do lie, cheat, steal, and kill. ***This post uses my client’s circumstances before an early morning SWAT Team raid to introduce the federal sentencing guidelines, which are used in all 94 federal district courts and all 12 federal circuit courts but which even the vast majority of lawyers know nothing about.


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*Good Girls Made Bad, which now discusses in detail what cult expert Paul Martin was able to bring to my client’s case

*Access to November 1986 Report of the American Psychological Association’s Taskforce on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control

* Links to published research findings by Paul Martin, Ph.D. and other scholars who’ve documented the nature and prevalence of trauma inflicted on hundreds of former cult members from a broad spectrum of cult relationships.

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The most hollow, soul-hemorrhaging client I’ve ever defended was arrested minutes before 6 am by a SWAT team that found her in bed with her boyfriend, pornos still playing on the TV. That her boyfriend worked for a cultish, homicidal Mexican drug cartel and stole my client’s ability to refuse sex by use of human manipulation techniques was the least of her problems.

My educated, articulate client with a clean record and family who loved her, appeared to me as we sat across from each other in her jail south of Fort Worth, to be a woman cognitively destroyed, unable to think or mouth even the simplest of words to help me defend her. She was facing life in a federal prison because she committed crimes for her boyfriend’s drug cartel. Crimes that nothing in her upbringing, character, or history suggested she would ever agree to do.

The late Psychologist Paul Martin’s exceedingly rare expertise in cults, cult indoctrination, and cult behavior is the biggest part of why I sought and secured court approval to bring him into my client’s CJA trial panel case in the federal district court in Dallas. The fact that all that expertise and his ability to effectively communicate stuff that most people don’t even believe is possible, had been hard-earned during seven years that he, personally, spent in the clutches of a cult without knowing it, made this guy golden.

Good Girls Made Bad includes more info re Paul Martin, what he was able to bring to the D.C. sniper death penalty case of Lee Boyd Malvo as well as what he brought to my client’s TXND cult cartel case, and his work to document and repair the damage being done to persons on the losing end of cultic relationships.

**A word about this brief USSG primer: Those who’ve been on either side of a federal criminal prosecution or who have worked federal appellate, post-conviction, or certiorari proceedings in which application of the USSG is an issue, may find my brief overview of the federal sentencing guidelines boring or so basic that I’ve not included many of the finer points of federal sentencing.

Contextually, it’s important to note that my client’s sentencing occurred in the mid 2000s. Two United States Supreme Court decisions were handed down – one in 2004 and the other in 2005 – that answered the legal question whether mandatory sentencing guidelines violate one’s right to trial by jury under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. SCOTUS answered in the affirmative.

The 2004 decision concerned mandatory sentencing guidelines in the State of Washington, under which state judges were enhancing punishments by reference to facts that had not been pled to or proved at trial. It’s my understanding that Justice Sandra Day O’Conner called the case out of Washington state an “earthquake.” It certainly was. And the American criminal justice system continues to register tremors from the decision.

The manual that I will use to introduce the federal sentencing guidelines is the 2018 version. It includes amendments effective 1 November 2018 and earlier. If you’re like I am and you frequently say to yourself “Cool! I get to learn more stuff!”, then you won’t wait until the end of my brief primer to go to the USSC to download the same manual, free of charge, from the USSC website. Here’s the link:

While you’re at the USSC website, you can review research products on a range of issues. You can also sign up to receive on a regular basis free publications from the Commission as well as the Department of Justice and law enforcement agencies, including ATF and DEA. One very cool feature of the USSC website is that in some instances you get to pick which publications you want to receive by a publication’s intended audience: for example, the Courts and/or the Congress and/or Academia.


Why the Guidelines?

As part of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) was established as an independent agency of the Judicial Branch. The agency was created to investigate and address vast sentencing disparities that were showing up in the research. For example, two persons convicted for the same criminal conduct in different parts of the country often received vastly different terms of imprisonment. The USSC constantly amends the rules to address new or previously unaddressed sentencing issues that have real-world consequences for those being sentenced for federal felonies and serious misdemeanors, as well as their families.

But the USSC doesn’t have the power to fix the statutury law that’s creating whatever problem the Commission’s trying to fix. Congress and the President are the ones who have that power. And with 435 House members, 100 senators, and one sitting president, problems that the Commission has identified and wants to fix may get fixed. Or they may not.

One example of a particularly thorny sentencing problem is the disparity between sentences for crack-cocaine crimes and sentences for powder-cocaine crimes. Both Republican and Democrat members of Congress have, over the years, supported efforts to eliminate the sentencing disparity. And in 2010 a partial fix was passed and signed into law. But efforts to get rid of the disparity altogether and to answer one particular question look more like the American version of a stnipe hunt than anything else: what do we do about all those folks who’ve been sentenced for cocaine crimes in the decades since the “crack baby” panic?

Here’s one of the articles that discusses the partial fix achieved in 2010. Lucia Graves. Crack-Powder Sentencing Disparity: Whites Get Probation, Blacks Get A Decade Behind Bars. Huff Post 3 August 2010.,


My client was looking at spending the rest of her life in prison because a lawyer exercised prosecutorial discretion. My own experience from the relatively short part of my career that I spent on the prosecution side of criminal cases was that the longer I served as an assistant D.A, the more sobering that kind of power became.

Historically and generally, a prosecutor’s decisions whether to file criminal charges against someone and if so, what crimes to allege, are sacrosanct. One of the reasons that’s so significant is that moderation and big-picture thinking are seldom in the perceptual playbook that subconsciously guides the decisions that a newly-minted lawyer who’s serving as a prosecutor must make. Those often include charging decisions.

D. Boyd, who served as the district judge for Oklahoma’s 8th Judicial District during my tenure as an assistant district attorney, once told me in chambers that what he liked about me as a prosecutor was that I didn’t just ask myself if I could prosecute someone but I also asked myself if I should. It’s a good thing that Judge Boyd wasn’t presiding over the criminal docket the day that a sheriff’s deputy had to pull me aside after I’d secured 5-day jail sentences for five criminal defendants charged with relatively minor alcohol offenses. “We just don’t have any more room in the jail,” he told me.

Moderation and big-picture thinking have long been important parts of what I think and do when it comes to matters of criminal justice. That’s especially true when criminal justice issues intersect with America’s national security needs.

One example of this kind of issue overlap, one that demands the wisest, most prudent exercise of prosecutorial discretion – should the matter come to a prosecutor’s desk in the first place – concerns dependable and effective weapons in our Nation’s arsenal that are best and more safely used when fewer people know they can and do exist. That’s why prosecuting someone is a terrible idea if, by virtue of law and procedure, there’s a genuine risk that proof of the existence, inner workings, and effectiveness of such weapons (for example, those used by IO/MISO/PSYOP personnel) will be thrust naked into the unsecured environment of a very public civilian court system.

But there are also criminals and crimes that demand prosecution. Some demand that a person never, ever be allowed again into society. And some of these demand the death penalty. One example is the series of D.C. / Beltway murders orchestrated by John Allen Muhammed and accomplished, in part, by his cultic exploitation of vulnerabilities in Lee Boyd Malvo, a teenager described at the beginning of a September 2004 Vanity Fair article as a “bright, popular, affectionate kid.”


The Making of a Sniper: How 17-year-old Lee Malvo became one of the men responsible for weeks of sniper shootings in Washington, D.C. Donovan Webster. Vanity Fair. September 2, 2004.

Calculating an advisory sentence with the federal sentencing guidelines: a brief intro

Let’s work just the skeleton of an example that demonstrates how federal statutory law and the federal sentencing guidelines work in tandem. We’ll use just one of the crimes that my client’s mobster boyfriend committed against her frequently.

There are three facts of life about the USSG that you should keep in mind as we go through this.

1. The guidelines are used in all 94 federal judicial districts across the country, as well as in all 12 federal circuit courts;

2. Federal judges are required to review and calculate the guidelines as they contemplate and impose an equitable sentence;

3. Because the Sentencing Guidelines are now advisory, it’s perfectly constitutional for a federal judge to impose a sentence that’s even tougher because of conduct that’s never been charged, was not proven at trial, or which the defendant never pled to. For example:

(a) the felon being sentenced used a position of trust or used special skills to commit their crime(s);

(b) the felon victimized a vulnerable person; and/or

(c) the felon being sentenced obstructed justice at any time before, during, or after their crimes.

The judge knows these and other facts about the person s/he will sentence because top-shelf professionals like my Uncle Ken and some of these folks who introduced me to jello shooters have produced extraordinarily thorough pre-sentence reports that both the prosecution and the defense have already reviewed and had the opportunity to make argument as to why the report needs to be changed.

All of this occurs before the judge receives the completed and, if deemed necessary, revised pre-sentence report. It’s only after that that the judge reviews the final report and, during sentencing proceedings and if they deem it necessary, hears from the assistant U.S. attorney(s) and the defense lawyer(s) why the report is not correct about this or that fact that’s presented in the pre-sentence report.


Let’s get started.

18 U.S.C. 2241 is a federal statute, passed by the Congress and signed into law by the President; passed by Congressional override of the President’s veto; or held unsigned by the President for more than 10 days, that is, unless Congress adjourns within the same 10-day period.

This particular statute lays out the myriad of ways that a criminal defendant can be found guilty of aggravated sexual abuse. I’ve enlarged the statute so folks can read it more easily.

Section 2241 is a good statute for our example because it covers both the more common types of sex offenders – like those who use date rape drugs to prep their victims to be violated – and the much more rare type of predator, like my client’s boyfriend, who used human manipulation techniques to prep his victim – my client – to be violated.



Generally speaking, calculations made with the federal sentencing guidelines follow a road-map of sorts, the table of contents in the applicable guidelines manual

Because other persons were involved in crimes committed by my client’s boyfriend, our excursion will stop at just a few spots in the guidelines that frequently arise.Screenshot_20190622-101521


Let’s begin our journey at Chapter 2 – Offense Conduct.

We won’t stay long, but let me point out a couple of especially significant parts of guideline 2A3.1: Take note of the Base Offense Level. That’s where our equation begins. Subsection (a)(1) states that 38 is the base level for convictions under Section 2241(c). That’s the part of the Aggravated Sexual Abuse statute that applies to victimizing children. For convictions under the other parts of 18 USC 2241, the Base Offense Level is 30

Let me point to just three take-aways from this, and I refer you to the Sentencing Table further down the page.

Take-away 1: If two persons with no criminal history are convicted, the first under any part of 2241 except (c), and the second person is convicted under 2241(c), the differences between advisory sentence terms associated with base offense level alone is significant. Assuming neither person has criminal history, the advisory term for the first one, with Base Offense Level 30, is 97 – 121 months. For the person with Base Offense Level 38, it’s 235 – 293 months.

Take-away 2: both Base Offense Level 30 and Base Offense Level 38 are zone D levels on the sentencing table. That means prison for both, day-for-day, with virtually no credits to shorten the term of imprisonment.

Take-away 3: we’re just getting started.

Shall we go on to our next stop?


For purposes of this illustration, I’ve excerpted all of 18 U.S.C. 2241 except that portion that follows the break that I’ve made in 2241(c).



Federal Sentencing Table aka “the grid”


We’re still in chapter 2 – Offense Conduct –

It’s not at all uncommon to encounter, as part of the crime, illegal behaviors such as those I’ve included below.

I’ll ask you to take note of just a couple of items here:

**The person who aids and abets begins his/her USSG sentence calculation at the same base offense level as that for the crime that they helped make happen.

**You might also take note of how quickly the numbers start adding up.


Chapter 3 – Adjustments –

This is another part of calculating the guidelines sentence which the judge will take into account as s/he considers and imposes sentence.

For purposes of this illustration, I’ve just included a few of the reasons that advisory guideline sentences get longer and longer.

You might take note of just a couple of items here:

**The criminal law has never been fond of those who use their positions of trust to hurt folks. It’s also not keen on people who use their special skills to victimize folks, especially those who lack the skills to defend themselves against being victimized. Chapter 3 – adjustments – is one place where those who prey on others can really feel the love.

**Ignorance of the law doesn’t get you squat when you’re found guilty or are about to be sentenced for your crime(s). Perhaps it’s mercy, then, that prompts the U.S. Sentencing Commission to include in the guidelines manual more than a page of examples of activities that the criminal law has long considered “obstruction of justice.” For example, item (k) from 3C1.1: “threatening the victim of the offense in an attempt to prevent the victim from reporting the conduct constituting the offense of conviction.”

Even though








Chapter 4 – criminal history and criminal livelihood

I won’t spend any time here on the matter of calculating the criminal history of someone who will be sentenced – except to say that, for some clients, these calculations mean doing more time.I

I recall a client I represented in the Western District of Oklahoma in the day when the Guidelines were mandatory. He had some criminal history that was pretty straight-forward to calculate. But he had this marijuana possession conviction from New York City. NYC treated the offense as a simple run-of-the-mill “violation.” The problem he had was that under the Guidelines applicable then, this simple NYC violation that came with nothing more than a $100 fine added a point to my client’s criminal history calculation. And that pushed him into the next higher category, which meant more time for him.


Even though from this point on I won’t add more personal narrative to this overview of the USSG, I direct your attention to a few items from chapters 5-7. This overview includes none of Chapter 8, re sentencing of organizations.

5E1.2 explains that unless a defendant establishes that s/he is unable to pay a fine and that s/he is unlikely to become able to pay a fine, the court is required to impose a fine in all cases.

Here’s the USSG fine table. You’ll note that, for the most part, when it comes to determining the amount of the fine, the sentencing judge has broad latitude, beginning with the defendant’s calculated offense level. For example, if the man or woman who began with base offense level 30 has remained at that offense level, the judge can impose a fine anywhere from $30,000 to $300,000.


5E1.5 reveals another component of the sentence that can become pricey: if the applicable statute allows it, then get ready to pay back the government what it cost to prosecute you.


5K1.1 is the guideline provision that allows the sentencing judge to reduce a person’s sentence if the government – and only the government – asks the judge to “depart downward” because the defendant has “provided substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of another person who has committed an offense.”

Three facts of life about 5K1.1 departures:

**People who know they’re going to do hard time sell out their co-defendants, friends, lovers, family members and others all the time.

**Unless a defendant has committed him/herself to telling the absolute truth – without minimizing their own involvement – about everything and everyone s/he’s asked about during meetings with the agents who’ve frequently been working the case for a very long time – then it’s a really bad idea to tell the assistant U.S. attorney(s) that your client wants to talk.

**Frequently in multi-defendant prosecutions in which dozens of persons are charged and rounded up from across the country simultaneously, before a defense attorney can get to the courthouse, a race is already on to become the first defendant to ‘fess up

This brief intro to the USSG ends with a series of images that present conditions of probation (if one is so blessed) and what can happen if those conditions are violated. Very few of us can afford a personal assistant to follow us around and say, “I wouldn’t do that shit if I was you.” So, maybe you’ll find these helpful.

Good Girls Made Bad follows these images.













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Good Girls Made Bad

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The most hollow, soul-hemorrhaging client I’ve ever defended was arrested minutes before 6 am by a SWAT team that found her in bed with her boyfriend, pornos still playing on the TV. That her boyfriend was part of a cultish, homicidal Mexican drug cartel who stole my client’s ability to refuse sex by use of cult manipulation techniques was the least of her problems.

My smart, educated, articulate client with – as best as I recall – a clean record and a family who loved her now appeared to me – as we met in her jail far south of Ft. Worth – to be cognitively destroyed. A woman unable to process thoughts or to mouth even the simplest of words to help me defend her. And she was looking at life and her eventual death in a federal prison because she committed crimes for the cartel. Crimes that nothing in her upbringing, character, or history suggested she would ever do on her own.

By investigating what I could, reading a lot about the topic, and traveling to Dallas for especially informative and helpful meeting(s) with my client’s father, I was able to piece together enough information to know that I needed to find to an M.D. or Ph.D – level psych witness. But I needed a psych expert witness whose specialty was unlike anything I had ever encountered.

I needed an approachable, respectful, first-rate expert who could be counted on to use plain English to educate jurors, everyone else participating in the trial, and those who may in the future need to review the trial transcript. Someone who can teach us facts of interpersonal relationships, communication, and behavior that most of us are quick to assume we already know from our own life experience. And I needed an expert who’d been to the rodeo before. A professional who would respectfully, truthfully, and without getting rattled, continue speaking directly to the jurors while withstanding the blistering cross-examination that could be anticipated from the U.S. Marine federal prosecutor.


Psychologist Paul R. Martin, who died from cancer in 2009, was the expert I was looking for. I’d learned about him through Washington Post and New York Times articles – such as the one excerpted from below – that reported trial testimony he’d given as a defense expert in the State of Virginia’s death penalty case against Lee Boyd Malvo, the younger of two men who’d gunned down, sniper-style, 10 persons in the greater Washington D.C. area over a three-week period in 2002.

The judge presiding over that case had qualified Psychologist Martin to testify to the trial jury as an expert on the capture, indoctrination, and manipulation of human beings by cults and those who, like the other D.C./ Beltway Sniper, John Allen Muhammed, established and exploited power relationships to manipulate the beliefs, emotions, and actions of, perhaps, only one other person – a relationship dynamic that Dr. Martin testified had, in his own experience, given a person in John Allen Muhammed’s relationship position even more power to control the more vulnerable and susceptible of the two.

An even rarer fact about Paul Martin’s expertise is that he’d lived his subject in especially intimate ways. He’d been – without knowing it – in the clutches of a cult for seven years before his dad was finally able to rescue him. I recently read an article by Dr. Martin or a quote in which my expert witness said that it wasn’t until his studies for his PhD in Psychology that he was reading up on brainwashing and recognized just exactly what he’d been part of for seven years.

I have no doubt that those seven years Paul Martin spent in the clutches of cult manipulation are why he was able to show us a world that most of us don’t believe even exists. He did that with his trial testimony in the D.C. Sniper case. And he did it through an extraordinarily thorough, balanced, and educational report that drew on his substantial academic and real-world expertise, as well as his trips from Ohio to meet with my client in her jail south of Ft Worth.

I also don’t doubt that those 7 years Paul Martin spent captured by a cult are why he spent years devoting himself to (a) documenting by scientifically sound quantitative research, the complex mix of damage that’s being inflicted on literally hundreds of these people from a broad range of cultic manipulative relationships; and (b) through a cult recovery center that he established in Ohio, fixing, as much as possible, some very damaged people.


Two decades before Paul Martin testified as an expert in the Virginia death penalty trial of D.C. Sniper Lee Boyd Malvo and then brought his expertise to my client’s federal cult cartel case in Dallas, the American Psychological Association had grown alarmed by the large number of people being victimized by tactics such as those John Allen Muhammed used to turn a quiet, studious kid whose teachers thought he had a bright future into a serial killer. In introducing its November 1986 report, the APA Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control states:

Report of the APA Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control.

November 1986

Margaret Thaler Singer, University of California Berkeley; Harold Goldstein, National Institute of Mental Health; Michael D. Langone, American Family Foundation; Jesse S. Miller, San Francisco, California; Maurice K. Temerlin, Clinical Psychology Consultants, Inc.; Louis J. West, University of California Los Angeles

*** At the end of GOOD GIRLS MADE BAD, the reader will find additional excerpts from and links to some of the published findings from quantitative research efforts by Dr. Martin and other scholars to document both the nature and prevalence of trauma inflicted on persons like Lee Boyd Malvo and the client whose federal criminal case started my search for a top-shelf M.D. or Ph.D. witness with this especially rare expertise.


The thing about my client’s case is this: Had Divine Providence not put Paul Martin and me together and had he not taken what had been done to my client not just to head, but to heart, that educated, cultured, articulate woman from a good, loving family – a woman who would never have chosen a life of crime on her own – might now in August of 2019 still be in a federal prison somewhere, perhaps with decades still to go before a merciful death.


What’s profoundly disturbing here and now about the far from unique circumstances that my client found herself in is this: as I do a quick mental run through of those portions of the USSG that I included in the brief introduction to the Guidelines that i just provided, and keeping in mind that, if my client is found guilty by jury verdict or because of facts she admits to, then her life and the lives of her family would be changed profoundly as a result of then- applicable Guidelines, then the big question that I have is, “How’s this girl supposed to win”?

Just one example: assuming her return to basic cognitive function and an outward appearance that she’s making her own choices – then the same extraction of my client’s capacity for independent judgment that makes neither my client’s crimes nor her sexual activities voluntary, also destroys any chance that this especially valuable fact witness to POS boyfriend’s own crimes will seek or get a 5K1.1 downward departure at sentencing as a result of her providing substantial assistance to the government.



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What follows are additional excerpts from and links to published findings from quantitative research documenting the nature and prevalence of trauma being inflicted on the victims of cults and cult-like relationships.

FOR THE RECIPIENTS OF MY 13 JULY 2019 EMAIL, PLEASE NOTE: All sources, excerpted data, and links that appear below are exactly the same and presented in the same fashion as what you received in that 13 July 2019 email.

Report of the APA Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control

November 1986

Margaret Thaler Singer, University of California Berkeley; Harold Goldstein, National Institute of Mental Health; Michael D. Langone, American Family Foundation; Jesse S. Miller, San Francisco, California; Maurice K. Temerlin, Clinical Psychology Consultants, Inc.; Louis J. West, University of California Los Angeles

In recent years, cultic groups in the areas of religion, politics, and psychotherapy have generated considerable public criticism as a result of the harmful consequences of the techniques such groups use to recruit, persuade, and control their members. Many of these techniques are highly, though often subtly, manipulative and deceptive. The casualties of the non-discriminating and unethical use of such techniques frequently wind up in the clinical or counseling psychologist’s office.

The American Psychological Association has long involved itself with the ethical aspects of psychological techniques and practices, e.g., the APA’s Task Force on Behavior Modification. Deceptive and indirect techniques of persuasion and control, however, have not been adequately examined; nor have the ethical principles pertinent to their application been well defined.

Therefore, the Board of Social and Ethical Responsibility in Psychology (BSERP) instituted in the fall of 1983 a Planning Committee on the Use of Coercive Psychological Techniques. (In 1984 the American Bar Association established a similar group, the Personal Litigation Subcommittee on Cults.) The Planning Committee concluded that the importance of the issue under study, especially considering the unsophisticated understanding of influence processes demonstrated by the media and the general public, called for the establishment of an APA Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control.

The Committee made three assumptions:

1. The freedom to make informed, autonomous decisions beneficial to the individual is central to our culture.

2. “…Freedom is determined by the number of options available to people and the right to exercise them. The more behavioral alternatives and social prerogatives people have, the greater is their freedom of action.” (Bandura, 1974, p. 815)

3. Deceptive and indirect techniques of persuasion and control limit individuals’ freedom by diminishing or restricting their alternatives, causing them to incorrectly evaluate the requirements and consequences of alternatives, or inducing them to perceive fewer alternatives than in fact exist.

Given these assumptions, the research to be reviewed later in this report, and the professional and research experiences of committee members, it seemed clear that individuals can be induced to make uninformed, personally detrimental decisions while under the illusion that their decisions are voluntary and to their benefit. In order to increase understanding of this phenomenon, the Committee charged the Task Force to:

1. Describe the deceptive and indirect techniques of persuasion and control that may limit freedom and adversely affect individuals, families, and society.

2. Review the data base in the field.

3. Define the implications of deceptive and indirect techniques of persuasion and control for consumers of psychological services.

4. Examine the ethical, educational, and social implications of this problem.

Recovery from Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse, Michael Langone, editor ISBN 0-393-31321-2, Ch. 10.

§ Paul Martin, the director of a recovery center victims of cultic
abuse wrote, in the book Recovery from Cults, that “The ex-cultist has
been traumatized, deceived, conned, used and often emotionally,
physically, sexually, and mentally abused while serving the group
and/or the leader. Like other trauma victims (for example, of criminal
acts, rape, and serious illness), former cultists often re-experience
the painful memories of their group involvement.”[1]

“In attempting to understand what has happened to the ex-cultist, it
is often helpful to employ the victim, or trauma, model. According to
this model, victimization and the resultant distress are due to the
shattering of three basic assumptions held about the world and the
self. These assumptions are: “the belief in personal invulnerability,
the perception of the world as meaningful, and the perception of
oneself as positive” (Janoff-Bulma, 1985, p. 15). The ex-cultist has
been traumatized, deceived, conned, used and often emotionally,
physically, sexually, and mentally abused while serving the group
and/or the leader. Like other trauma victims (for example, of criminal
acts, rape, and serious illness), former cultists often reexperience
the painful memories of their group involvement. They also lose
interest in the outside world, feel detached from society, and may
show limited emotions (Janoff-Bulman, 1985, pp.16,17).”Recovery from
Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse, Michael
Langone, editor ISBN 0-393-31321-2, Ch. 10.

Paul R. Martin, Ph.D., Michael D. Langone, Ph.D., Arthur A. Dole, Ph.D., Jeffrey Wiltrout. Post-Cult Symptoms As Measured by the MCMI Before and After Residential Treatment. Cultic Studies Journal, 1992, Volume 9, Number 2, pages 219-250–mcmi-csj-9-2

Cults are exploitatively manipulative groups that utilize thought
reform programs (Ofshe & Singer, 1986; Singer & Ofshe,1990) to
subordinate members’ well-being to the goals of leaders (Langone, in
press). Clinical investigations of former members of cultic and
related groups indicate that cult involvement results in a significant
level of distress for this population (Clark, 1979; Goldberg &
Goldberg, 1982; Hochman, 1984; Schwartz, 1985; Singer, 1978, 1987;
Spero, 1982; Swartling & Swartling, 1992; Temerlin & Temerlin, 1982;
West & Singer, 1980). According to clinicians, the most common
symptoms ex- cultists experience are emotional volatility,
dissociative symptoms such as “floating” (a phenomenon similar to drug
flashbacks), depression, loneliness, guilt, inability to concentrate,
indecisiveness, difficulty communicating, fear of retribution,
fatigue, a sense of a spiritual-religious-philosophical void, career
confusion, and conflicts with family.

The handful of studies that have collected statistical data on
ex-cultists have, by and large, supported clinical observations. Among
the statistical findings bearing on distress are the following:

Conway, Siegelman, Carmichael, & Coggins, 1986 (The sample consisted
of 353 ex-cultists from 48 different groups. Because subjects reported
on “lasting effects,” symptom reports may reflect in-cult as well as
post-cult difficulties.)
§ 75% depression
§ 68% loneliness
§ 68% anger toward group leader
§ 59% guilt feelings regarding leaving the group
§ 59% feelings of humiliation/embarrassment
§ 52% suicidal tendencies
§ 49% fear of physical harm by the group
§ 48% nightmares
§ 42% inability to break rhythms of chanting, meditation, etc.
§ 37% hostile feelings toward family
§ 31% sleeplessness
§ 25% memory loss
§ 22% menstrual dysfunction
§ 20% physical punishment while in group
§ 19% sexual dysfunction
§ 18% abnormal weight loss
§ 17% violent outbursts
§ 17% bewildering, psychic phenomena
§ 16% abnormal weight gain
§ 15% hallucinations and delusions
§ 5% sex with leaders while in group (60% in Children of God)

Galanter, 1983 (The sample consisted of 66 Unification Church dropouts.)
§ 36% reported serious emotional problems after leaving
§ 24% sought professional help after leaving
§ 3% were hospitalized after leaving
§ 61% felt Rev. Moon had negatively impacted on members

Knight, 1986 (The sample consisted of 58 former members of a
psychotherapy cult.)
§ 97% were verbally abused in therapy sessions in the group
§ 86% felt harmed by the group exposure
§ 82% were shoved at least occasionally in therapy sessions
§ 78% were hit at least occasionally in therapy sessions
§ 75% sought therapy
§ 52% anxiety
§ 48% depression
§ 48% trouble making decisions
§ 41% confusion
§ 40% disoriented
§ 33% lonely
§ 25% had sex with their therapist when in the group
§ 18% menstrual cessation

Langone, Chambers, Dole, & Grice (in press) (The sample consisted of
308 former cultists from 101 groups.)
§ 83% reported feeling anxiety/fear/worry
§ 76% anger toward the group leader
§ 72% low self-confidence
§ 71% vivid flashbacks to group experience
§ 70% received counseling after leaving
§ 67% depression
§ 67% difficulty concentrating
§ 61% despair/hopelessness/helplessness
§ 56% guilt about what they did in the group
§ 55% “floating” among very different states of mind
§ 51% felt as though they lived in an unreal world
§ 46% had conflicts with loved ones
§ 44% reported that the experience was very harmful
§ 42% reported that the group experience was very unsatisfying
§ 38% feared physical harm by the group
§ 34% severe anxiety attacks after leaving
§ 11% were sexually abused in the group

. . .

The inescapable conclusion seems to be that the cult experience is not what it appears to be (at least for those groups that deem it important to put on a “happy face”), either to undiscerning observers or to members under the psychological influence of the group. Clinical observers, beginning with Clark (1979) and Singer (1978), appear to be correct in their contention that dissociative defenses help cultists adapt to the contradictory and intense demands of the cult environment. So long as members are not rebelling against the group’s psychological controls, they can appear to be ”normal,” much as a person with multiple personality disorder can sometimes appear to be “normal.” However, this normal-appearing personality, as West (1992) maintains, is a pseudo-personality. When cultists leave their group, the flood gates open up and they suffer. But they don’t generally return to the cult because the suffering they experience after leaving the cult is more genuine than the “happiness” they experienced while in it. A painful truth is better than a pleasant lie. (Langone, in press)

Gillie Jenkinson, M.A. [Hope Valley Counselling

Hope Valley, United Kingdom]. An Investigation into Cult Pseudo-Personality: What Is It and How Does It Form? Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 3, 2008, Page 217

“A woman in her 40s had been told by the cult that her father had sexually abused her, and this affected her deeply, causing her terrible trauma and resulting in a severe split within the family. When she came to me for therapy, we explored this possibility. As she chewed the issue over, she realised she had no memories at all of being abused by her father. She checked the claim out with him and her mother, and they confirmed that he had not abused her. She did not need to integrate this belief; she needed to chew it over, digest it, eliminate it, and return to her pre-cult view of her parents and reconnect with them.”