30 People Who Used To Be In Cults Share What Their Wake-Up Calls Were
Being raised in a cult profoundly affects the child’s development and dramatically impacts their future. Children raised in religious groups often feel hated and hostile because of the brutal treatment growing up. Certain rules imposed by the cult ‘leader’ are often manipulative, unethical, and inhumane even.
Emotional manipulation is a powerful tool, and only a few find the strength to resist it. Even after leaving the cult, the psychological consequences remain. The research involving children who had lived in a cult showed that 70% lost their families, almost just as many found the experience traumatic, and 27% reported child sexual abuse.
People joined a thread on Reddit to share the hells of growing up in a cult and opened up about the moments they realized it was time to flee.
More info: Reddit
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I got punished for my own sexual assault. I was victim blamed. The abuser was twice my age (I was mid-teens). I was forced to repent. For what, I am not sure as they wouldn’t answer that question.
As I got older and looked back, I realized that everything they’d told me was a lie. If you do everything you’re supposed to, you’re supposed to be blessed. If you break the rules, you have challenges/obstacles/lessons and must repent.
But if Jesus dies for my sins why do I have to repent? And what am I repenting for? I didn’t consent I any of that. Nor could I from a legal standpoint.
The only obvious answer was that it was all bulls**t. Then years later, a widely publicized case with similar circumstances became international news. And the victim’s clergy person stood up on CNN and said she was forgiven. Forgiven. For being raped.
I had noped out years before but when I saw that particular press conference I had to get therapy to deal with all that rage. Guh
When I was the one who got shunned for defending a child from a pedophile.
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This happened to my classmate in the fifth grade. Her family were Jehovah Witnessers. She needed a blood transfusion but the family refused and she died. I don’t remember the specifics of her condition but WTF. The whole class cried for weeks. Try wrapping your little 11 year old brain around that.
When I learned that, if a women was going to be raped, it would be better for her to kill herself than risk having her “blood lineage” tainted.
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Every women needed to bear a child with the cult leader. We were given drugged sweets, such as cookies, for food.
I’m 41 years old and kind of had the blindfold pulled that a lot of the “evangelical” organizations I’ve worked with in my life have been cults.
In my teens we went to a church that told you who you could hang out with, what you could watch on TV, what movies you could see, and picked who within the church you could be friends with. 99% of the leaders told you how to run your family but had kids who were either teenage pregnancies or a baby daddy, illiterate homeschoolers, high school drop-outs or drug addicts. There were stretches where we went to church two times a day – even during the week. They encouraged people to get their kids out of school for revival meetings, home schoolers postponed their classes – it was consuming. They started arranged marriages, with several families petitioning my parents for me to marry their daughters – they almost went for it but stopped because it seemed “weird”.
As I moved off to college they recommended a mega-church they got a lot of their messages and such from. This church did more of the same. They encouraged high school seniors to put off college a year and PAY THE CHURCH $3,000 for an opportunity to work there for year for an internship program that guaranteed ministry work experience. This program micro-managed your life to the hour, included intense hazing for new members that routinely sent students to the hospital and stacked them all into student housing so that you could focus more on the program.
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Ex-Jehovah’s Witness here.
My first hint that something was wrong was the amount of control exerted in our day to day lives. No beards, no long hair for men, no tattoos or piercings, no shirts with “edgy” artwork like band shirts or shirts with skulls, no entertainment they don’t approve of, etc. Other witnesses are trained to report you to the elders if you’re not following their guidelines, such as if you have a position of respect in the congregation but someone sees that you have a rated R movie, they’ll report you to the elders and you could lose your position and good standing, which will change the way the congregation treats you.
What really tipped it over the edge for me though was their doctrine that all non-witnesses deserve to die at Armageddon by gods hand, simply for not being witnesses. Armageddon is supposed to be urgently imminent, and over 99.9% of the world will die just because they’re not witnesses. That didn’t sit right with me. I had been working in retail for some time, and the people I worked with were every bit as intelligent, compassionate and loving as any witness I knew.
Eventually, these issues became too great for me to bear, and I committed the ultimate sin, researching information that criticizes the religion. We were taught to be terrified of anything that remotely criticizes the religion and it’s leaders. I finally pushed against that fear and did the research. Woke up instantly. Realized why they taught us to fear “apostate” information so much, it’s because they know it’s all true and they don’t want us to see it
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I wasn’t supposed to make friends with any other kids unless they went to our church.
Nothing is wrong. Our Supreme leader knows all and loves us all equally. Sure, he only has sex with the cute teenage girls, but that is his right and responsibility as the one true representative of God. May his seed be strong and plentiful.
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When I met with my mother about difficulty coping with my arranged marriage. I explained to her the abusive aspects of the relationship and how much it was breaking me down, and her response was that it was my job to be quiet and if God wanted to change my husband, he would.
I suddenly realized, sitting across from her and looking her in the eyes, that she had let my father take my childhood innocence and had zero qualms about my mistreatment now at the hands of my husband.
I knew when I hugged her goodbye and cried all the way home that I would never see her again. It’s been four years since I ran away.
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Former Jehovah’s witness too. The first time I realized something was wrong was when a huge core belief changed in 1995. ( The end will come before the generation that saw the events of 1914 died…changed to.. well it’s changed 7 times since then) I was confused and it didn’t compute that my entire life’s beliefs changed over night. I struggled on awhile until shortly after my then husband beat the s**t out of me and for some reason HE called the elders over to help and the elders told me ” Be a better wife so he doesn’t get angry” I was done then. DONE.
When I realized that God does not use flaming swords to force little girls to shag old dudes.
When I realized that any of those old dudes could still technically ask for me or my daughter as a “spiritual wife” and we’d have no choice.
When a devout member very seriously told her son that she’d rather have him graduate from the Church’s education program than from high school. (Seminary gives neither credit, nor real world experience—It’s just brainwashing.)
When the same member told me that—though it might be hard—she’d offer her children up like Abraham did with Isaac, in a heartbeat, if the Prophet commanded it.
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When my parents told me they’d let me die rather than allow me to get certain medical procedures.
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After watching The Day After in the 80s, I asked my mom if we knew the nukes were coming, who would she rather spend her last moments with me or the cult leader, she choose him. I came up with my own survival plan after that. I was going to skateboard to safety.
My mum was a Jehovah’s Witness. She raised me alone, without my father. I was just a kid (around 6-9 yo) and I was not comfortable with everything and everyone. I felt something was wrong, the way they talked, the way they smiled. When she got cancer, at the very beginning she refused some treatments, she even went to a “brother” doctor who claimed he could treat cancer with herbs. When she became very ill, they begin to “let her go” and focus on me. At that time she was at home, with my aunt and my nana with her. When my aunt and my grandma gone crazy about them and forbidden to came at home for me, they just disappeared. The sad side of the story was that she lived in the community for years, so she didn’t have other friends than them. Who just dissolved, leaving her alone. She died in 1992.
To answer the question, I think the first time I realized something was wrong was when THEY realized that I realized (sorry for the game of words), the whole community start acting strange, too many attentions, too many smiles, very creepy.
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Scientology. When they took our second house.
When my youth group leader said that telling poor people about Jesus was more important than feeding them or housing them.
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When I was told doing independent research on the doctrine would lead to being shunned by my friends and family. i.e. fall in line bitch. Jehovah’s Witness.
Jehovahs witnesses. When my sister got pregnant out of wedlock, went to the elders (group of old men residing over congregation) to confess and repent. They decided to disfellowship her, meaning all other Jehovahs witnesses had to shun her, even immediate family. When asked why this was the decision, they reinforced to us how they basically communicated with god by spirit and this is what god intended. I knew it was bs. Left very soon after and never had anything else to do with them. All of my immediate family eventually did, one by one and last year I celebrated Christmas with all of them together for the first time since 1999.
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It’s hard to pick a first time but I knew I needed to run when I was taken shopping for a wedding dress at 12 years old.
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When we were told that we couldn’t go to college. I was about 15 when I realized that we weren’t allowed to. The elders said it was because of the end time coming and wasting time, and worry about fellowship in the world. It is because they want to keep us stupid. That was the year I left. That was compounded because the same year my cousin tried to kill herself, and they told us not to visit. I hadn’t been baptized yet (you wait until you are old enough to study and consent) so I told the elders that if we weren’t allowed to talk to her in her greatest time of need, they could shove it.
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When my mom said that I was so bad at housekeeping that if I got abused by my future husband, “he would be within his rights as head of the household”.
Fundie cults are the worst
When my step bro only had to pray for forgiveness after molesting me, no other actions were taken.
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When I started attending a school run by my cult after years in public school and it wasn’t just the rules that were different, but the social norms.
Example: only allowed to sleep 5 hours a night. Intense bullying for talking to boys after breaking up with my boyfriend. Odd forms of physical/psychological punishment when students broke rules. Being taught that masturbation is unhealthy, that getting piercings put holes in your aura (that can only be filled with diamonds lol), and that sleeping with men puts holes in a woman’s arc line (which impacts her ability to bond with her infant).
Most of the things were relatively benign at the beginning. Rumours floating around over the years were always dismissed as people trying to disparage the image of our teacher, or profit financially, or they were ‘crazy’. It wasn’t until the beginning of last year when the truth about the abuse and corruption in the community started to surface!
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When I realized that the doors to the 13 story former hotel building we were all living in was locked and you had to sign out to leave.
No one (from children to adults) could leave without an explanation to where they were going and when they’d be back.
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When the ‘Elders’ told me that I could no longer speak to my younger sister anymore because she was in ‘bad standing’ with the organization. She’s the only family I have left. They made her out to be this monster just because she wasn’t actively going to church. That’s when the glass shattered for me
I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and my sister and I are still close. She’s doing great things for herself and I do not regret my decision at all. Dont let someone else make decisions for your life, you’ll be much happier!
When I realised that medication and painkillers existed, that other people gave them to their children when they were sick, and that my parents could have helped me when I was suffering but chose not to.
And that watching television doesn’t make someone a bad person haha.
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When the leader kept my mom up for 2 days straight. He was making her cook, clean, be on him hand and foot all while berating her. yelled at her she was an evil woman going to hell, he was too godly for her, etc. 3 am and I hear him screaming at her, all biblical bs, and she’s crying. she broke down and he drove my mom, my sister and I to the ER and said she had to check herself into mental health because she’s psychotic. We are there for 3 hours. They turn her away and she comes out with abuse pamphlets.
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Not in a cult per say, but was in one of those evangelical megachurches. Started as a nice corner church; the piety was genuine.
I dont think that the pastor planned the whole thing – he seemed a genuine preacher until the church grew exponentially. Like went from a few hundred members to 15,000 in less than 2 years. Then his main focus was maintaining (entertaining) the masses, which drove him to do stupid things.
Many weird things started happening. Especially, one day he “had a revelation” that the congregation needs to expand further and members have to, I am serious, give out all the GOLD they were wearing. I know a lady that got into serious trouble with her husband because she gave away her gold wedding band.
My last straw was when he promoted himself to Apostle and renamed himself “Paul”. Apostle Paul. Okay.
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When my brother started asking (politely) how our religion was founded and how our family got involved and generally just questions about life: they don’t believe in evolution or kissing before marriage.
And they would bite his head off about it at age 11. It made me realise they were being defensive because they had no answers. If you can’t explain why you’re in a religion, you get the f**k out.