Potentially unsafe groups or leaders "come off very nice at first, they go for vulnerable people who are looking for answers, lonely, what you'd call 'normal people.' They're very good at what they do and can get people to believe anything. You might think you'd never get taken in, but don't bet on it. "
-- Margaret Singer, Ph.D.
By Rick Ross, Expert Consultant and Intervention Specialist
Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader.
- Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
- No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
- No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such
as an independently audited financial statement.
- Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending
catastrophe, evil conspiracies
- There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always
wrong in leaving, negative
or even evil.
- Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a
similar pattern of
- There are records, books, news articles, or television programs
that document the abuses of
- Followers feel they can never be "good enough".
- The group/leader is always right.
- The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or
receiving validation, no other
process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.
Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe
- Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the
exclusion of almost every
- Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower's mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused--as that person's involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.
- Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is
characterized as "persecution".
- Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation
and mannerisms, cloning
of the group/leader in personal behavior.
- Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions,
and definitions without
meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think
independently or analyze situations
without group/leader involvement.
- Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to
supercede any personal
goals or individual interests.
- A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.
- Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they
demonstrate an interest in the
- Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh
- Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and
under bad influences.
They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.
Ten signs of a safe group/leader.
- A safe group/leader will answer your questions without becoming
judgmental and punitive.
- A safe group/leader will disclose information such as finances and
often offer an
independently audited financial statement regarding budget and
expenses. Safe groups and
leaders will tell you more than you want to know.
- A safe group/leader is often democratic, sharing decision making
accountability and oversight.
- A safe group/leader may have disgruntled former followers, but will
not vilify, excommunicate
and forbid others from associating with them.
- A safe group/leader will not have a paper trail of overwhelmingly
negative records, books,
articles and statements about them.
- A safe group/leader will encourage family communication, community
interaction and existing
friendships and not feel threatened.
- A safe group/leader will recognize reasonable boundaries and
limitations when dealing with
- A safe group/leader will encourage critical thinking, individual
autonomy and feelings of
- A safe group/leader will admit failings and mistakes and accept
constructive criticism and
- A safe group/leader will not be the only source of knowledge and
everyone else, but value dialogue and the free exchange of ideas.
Don't be naïve, develop a good BS Detector.
You can protect yourself from unsafe groups and leaders by developing a
good BS detector.
Check things out, know the facts and examine the evidence. A safe group
will be patient with your
decision making process. If a group or leader grows angry and anxious
just because you want to
make an informed and careful decision before joining; beware.
The Ross Institute
Copyright © Rick Ross
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