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No Longer The Victim

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No Longer The Victim:

Of all the tactics used to manipulate and control the thoughts of cult members, "blaming the victim" is by far the most effective. Not only does this tactic shift blame away from the central figure during their speech or actions, the strategy continues to strengthen in power as it propagates through the entire group. When members leave the group, memories of victim blaming haunt them. As victims, they know they will be blamed for their leaving.

Throughout history, victim blaming strategies have been used as a means of control and justification for social injustice and horrific crimes. From human rights violations during the Civil Rights Movement to victims of rape and more, manipulators convince crowds of people to believe that their victim is entirely or partially responsible for any harm that befalls them. It is so effective that even the victims are sometimes convinced.

Religious cults use victim blaming to amplify the effects of shaming. In cases where rape or sexual molestation might paint the group in a bad light, the victim's clothing, appearance, and even personality are blamed instead of the person committing the crime. When the cult's doctrinal stance causes hurt or harm to specific people or groups, those targeted are blamed. Most importantly, when information is presented that is critical to the cult, the presenter is blamed to distract others from the information.

After members leave a group that practices victim shaming, they immediately start looking over their shoulders. Knowing what they would have thought or said against a person who left the group, they know the words, phrases, doctrine, and insults that will be used against them. Former members sometimes catch themselves imagining what might be said about them before it is even said, and cutting ties with friends or family who were vocal in blaming victims. After healing, however, they are strong pillars of strength for other victims.