Mind Control in Domestic Violence and Cult Groups


Date: Saturday, December 2, 2017

Time: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Location: 1670 Whitehorse-Hamilton Square Road, Trenton, NJ 08690

SKU: 12217 Category:


Mind Control in Domestic Violence and Cult Groups: The Struggle to Break Free

December 2, 2017 10 AM – 4 PM

Elizabeth R. Burchard, LSW

Service providers working with the domestic violence (DV) population may be familiar with images of physical and sexual assault in an intimate or familial setting. However, despite the presence of sometimes bizarre, antisocial behaviors and doctrines, high demand, destructive groups (cults) share more commonalities than differences with DV. From this perspective, intimate partner violence may be viewed as a cult with one member, and a cult as “DV in a fabricated family.” Misconceptions about cult systems drive a judgment that participants have free will and choose not to leave. This myth perpetuates a “blame-the-victim mentality.” In truth, no one makes a conscious decision to enter a destructive relationship. Intimate abusers mask their true natures during a “honeymoon” period, and controlling groups deceptively recruit new members, often with sophisticated techniques of social and psychological manipulation. Coercive control is utilized to maintain a framework of power, oppression, and exploitation, and the innate, powerful drive to form attachments reinforces trauma bonds, which are sometimes perceived as “love.” Recognizing the aggregate forces at play allows us to enter the victim’s inner world and to empathize with an entrapment in a web of unhealthy boundaries, fear, obligation, guilt, and cognitive distortions. From the viewpoint of the seven domains of wellness, this workshop will address six stages of cultic relationships: Innocence, Mind Control, Fear, Realization, Emergence, and Enlightenment (acronym – “I’M FREE”). Case studies will highlight the effects of undue influence and the obstacles to asserting human rights and regaining personal power. In relationship to the CBT triangle, cult expert Steven Hassan’s “BITE Model” of mind control will be analyzed as will social forces operating in destructive groups. The concept of “traumatic narcissism” will be introduced in the context of the psychopathology of abusers, including DSM-5 antisocial and narcissistic personality disorders and the delusional disorder of megalomania often manifested by cult gurus. Finally, the processes of exiting and healing will be explored highlighting psychodynamic and environmental challenges and trauma-informed, evidence-based therapy for survivors. Attendees’ handouts will include client-friendly tools.

5 DVS Credits: Mental Health

If you have questions about the training, please contact lcarson@njcedv.org. If you need technical assistance with registration, please contact acampos@njcedv.org.


Additional information

Registration Type

Member, Non-Member

Domestic Violence Specialist (DVS) Certification

The Domestic Violence Certification is the first-of-its-kind curricula designed to recognize the work of advocates working in a range of different roles. Domestic violence is complicated and the certification process also ensures that advocates and other professionals are well prepared to work with victims. It is a requirement for continued employment at some agencies and requires certification every two years. Learn more.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons
Translate »