Sectarian drift: how to help a loved one get out of it?

Your sister has invested in yet another training course to become rich? Has your companion drastically changed his behavior since he’s been seeing a whole new group of friends? Your best friend assures you that she can now cure any disease with magical thinking? Be careful, your loved one may have fallen into the hands of a sectarian drift? How to help him? Explanations.

Perhaps you are one of the listeners of Shock Meta, this podcast produced and hosted by Élisabeth Feytit. Former follower of the New Age, this producer and director of documentaries has been reaching out since 2019 to, among others, former or former “believers” from sects or sectarian excesses: Jehovah’s Witnesses, anthroposophy, but also currents or practices that we think less dangerous like yoga, coaching, astrology or cartomancy. If all these practices are not associated with cults or sectarian aberrations, some people may face “gurus”, isolate themselves from their families, spend a fortune on training on “positive thinking” and ” law of attraction” with no result other than significant loss of money or serious psychological damage.

Do you think you have someone close to you whom you consider to be in danger and/or under the influence of a guru? But you don’t know how to react, how to help him? Listening to Méta de Choc can give you the first keys to understanding the mechanisms of control and the need to remain present or present for your loved one. The Miviludes (for “Mission interministérielle de vigilance et de combat contre les adrivages sectaires”, the government agency in charge of observing and analyzing the phenomenon of sectarian aberrations) also provides several essential courses of action to be aware of in order to avoid impasses . We’ve got it covered for you.

What is a sect or a movement with sectarian drift?

Before going further, it is necessary to understand what a sect or a sectarian drift is. We often imagine a group of people organizing human sacrifices in the name of Satan as very closed movements, where people are chained to a guru, without being able to be free of their thoughts as of their movements. The American criminal Charles Manson, at the head of the “Manson Family”, offered a boulevard for this type of representations that you inevitably guess caricatural.

On his websiteMiviludes specifies from the outset thatthere is no precise definition of what a cult is : “Respectful of all beliefs and faithful to the principles of secularism, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, the legislator has always refused to define the notion of sect”writes the agency. “For the same reason, there is no definition of religion in French law. These are notions that refer to everyone’s private life, by definition excluded from the scope of intervention by the public authorities, subject to the absence of disturbance to public order and compliance with laws and regulations. »

In addition, the French system is therefore not interested in sects or beliefs, doctrines or ways of thinking as such. He is interested in sectarian excessesthat is to say “the practices, methods, acts and behaviors of any group or individual, whatever its nature or activity, which undermine public order, laws and regulations, fundamental freedoms and the security or integrity of persons through the implementation of techniques of subjection, pressure or threatsor through practices favoring mental grip and depriving people of part of their free will. »

Every year, Mividules receives requests for referrals concerning potential sectarian aberrations. In 2020, for example, it received more than 3,000, according to its latest activity report. It can then, depending on the case, report a movement, a group or a person to justice or even request an intervention. But before contacting the government agency, you must make sure to gather elements that can allow it to characterize a sectarian drift.

On its website, the AVREF (association helping victims of abuses of religious movements in Europe and their families) has also published a list of reported communities (not limited).

For this, Mivdules has listed on its website a list of red flags :

  • mental destabilization
  • the exorbitant nature of the financial requirements
  • break with the original environment
  • the existence of attacks on the physical integrity
  • enlistment of children
  • antisocial discourse
  • public order disturbances
  • the importance of legal disputes
  • the possible diversion of traditional economic circuits
  • attempts to infiltrate the authorities.

Of course, the agency specifies that a “a single criterion is not enough to establish the existence of a sectarian drift and all the criteria do not have the same value”. These warning signals exist for information only.

To go further in your analysis of the situation, you must indeed observe your loved one. Has his behavior changed in just a few weeks or months? He or she has invested a lot of money in training with questionable outlets? Or drastically changed certain pillars of his life (diet, clothing, relationships, etc.)? Here again, the Mividules takes stock:

  • adoption of a language specific to the group
  • change in eating or clothing habits
  • refusal of care or discontinuation of regularly prescribed medical treatments
  • situation of rupture with the family or the social and professional environment
  • exclusive commitment for the group
  • absolute submission, total devotion to the rulers
  • loss of critical thinking
  • stereotypical answer to all existential questions
  • enlistment of children
  • existence of harm to physical or mental integrity
  • lack of sleep

Particular attention should also be paid to the economic assets of the person you suspect of being linked to sectarian aberration:

  • acceptance of increasingly strong and sustainable financial demands
  • engagement in a process of indebtedness
  • legacies or donations to natural or legal persons linked to the group to which the victim belongs
  • obligation to buy or sell certain materials or services as an essential condition of belonging to the group
  • participation in conferences, internships, seminars, retreats, in France or abroad
  • existence of scams or misleading advertising on the substantial qualities of a product or service.

Finally, the Mividules also details criteria that can attack social and democratic life ranging from “disorder of public order” Passing by “misappropriation of official trademarks, designs, titles and models to cause confusion in the minds of the public”.

What actions to take?

If you recognize several of the criteria mentioned above, you can then enter the Mividules.

To do this, just go on this link.

You can approach victim support associations (the list of associations can be found here), alert the gendarmerie or even seize a State administration (the contact details are to be found the).

Before contacting the agency, you can also ask it for its opinion on a potential sectarian drift. via this other link.

Stay tuned

In the meantime, stay present for your loved one: check in on them, don’t close yourself off to them and avoid being teased about their beliefs. It would be the best way to cut ties and therefore to close the opportunity to get out of it. Finally, be patient. Some people take several years before they can escape the grip of a movement or a guru.

According to Mividules, there are about 500 sectarian groups in France, among which there are 500,000 followers.

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Sectarian drift: how to help a loved one get out of it?

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