April 10th, 2008
08:00 AM ET

Polygamy: What happens to the kids?

Editor's Note: Steven Hassan is a licensed mental health counselor and an exit counselor and was a guest on Wednesday's AC360°.

I applaud the authorities in Texas who stepped in to rescue the hundreds of children and women who experienced what is likely years of sexual abuse. I am not shocked by the reports of what life may have been like inside the compound, since I've heard first hand and counseled two runaways a few years back from this group.

In fact, during my 30 years as a mental health counselor, I've helped thousands of people who were brave enough to escape from various dangerous cults. Mind control can easily happen to anyone, and often in the most unlikely of places.

As a former member of the Moon cult, I've experienced the dangers of mind control, and know that traditional psychotherapy almost never works. Today, I work with ex-cult members from various cults around the world who seek me out for specialized counseling. My experience and the methods I use and developed over the past three decades (Strategic Interaction Approach) allows me to help victims recover from symptoms other mental health professionals are not trained to address.

It is vital for society to recognize the signs of mind control, and have made this my life mission. My organization, Freedom of Mind Resource Center, Inc., keeps track of the hundreds of cults that lurk in society. Many go under different names and most are extremely dangerous.

Two cult groups that authorities need to expose is the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries – the similarities to power hungry Warren Jeffs is frightening – and another organization called The Children of God, also known as The Family. Both these groups sexually abuse children and women.

In fact, it has been reported that children as young as three years of age have been sexually abused in The Family group, which was led by the late self-proclaimed prophet Moses Berg. I've counseled runaways from both these groups, and hope that local and state authorities take action, like we are now seeing in Texas.

– Steven Alan Hassan M.Ed. LMHC, NCC

Hassan is author of  Combatting Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-selling Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults, and Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves

Comments to the 360° blog are moderated. What does that mean?

Filed under: Polygamy
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Linn Lane

    To whom it may concern,
    My name is Lynne Lane, my husband Anthony Lane and I are trying to find his
    three children. We know they are with their mother who lives within the Tony
    Alamo Ministry Cult. He has several compounds across the nation, we think the
    children are somewhere in Arkansas or Oklahoma but we are not sure. Tony Alamo
    moves them around so it is very difficult to know exactly where they are. The
    children are 13, 11, and 9, two girls and a boy. The girls are in danger of
    being married off to much older men within the cult or even Tony Alamo himself
    who is in his seventies. The children in the cult have been reported to being
    sexually, physically and emotionally abused. We are very concerned. We have
    tried contacting local and national authories in this matter but there is no
    coorperation. We need natioal exposure to stop this evil, horrible man from
    abusing anymore children.
    The top story today about the compound in Eldorado, TX is very similar to what
    is going on within the Tony Alamo Cult. This man needs to be stopped. We need to
    save the children before it is to late. Please we need help exsposing this
    terrible man amd getting those women and children out of there. You can find
    everything you need to know about the Tony Alamo cult at Tonyalamonews.com. You
    can contact me at anytime by email. My email address is LynneLane@charter.net
    Thank you for your time.
    Lynne Lane

    April 14, 2008 at 4:14 pm |
  2. grace

    Do the people from the Texas group and the people of the Colo. group visit back and forth?This young girl stated this guy abuse her and he states he did not leave Colo. Could she have been taken to him in Colo.?
    What about phone records,gas tickets ect. ?
    These people are so evil I would not put anything past them.

    April 14, 2008 at 3:07 pm |
  3. Wind

    How wonderful that there is this resource out there that will help these precious, wonderful people. It is absolutely disgusting that there are communities of people raping and molesting children. it's not enough that they are doing that in general, but in the name of God!

    Anyone with half a heart should be just as appalled and sickened by "organized child rapists and molesters". They should be so sickened by it, in fact, that they should step up to the plate and do whatever it takes to split these cults wide open.

    I remember (as a young teen) Tony and Sue Alamo Foundation when it was in Saugus, California. Thankfully, my dad wasn't so impressed with their charismatic ways to actually join them.

    Thank you dad and thank you, God!

    How anyone actually survives that type of life, I'll never know.

    Keep up the good work in helping people coming out of the cults. It would be nice to see a nationwide effort like this.

    April 11, 2008 at 10:56 am |
  4. Robin Fahlberg

    I spent 14 years in a left political cult. Steve Hassan was a great help in coming to terms with and recovering from the experience. I know him as an incredible human being who is dedicated to assisting people in learning to think for themselves, and educating the public about groups like this that enslave others. Education and public awareness that the victims of these groups are not willing participants and are deceived and manipulated into the group is not only not a band-aid solution – it is probably the most effective solution. This case has nothing whatsoever to do with religion or religious freedom. It has nothing to do with the government persecuting people because of their religion. It has everything to do with criminal actions of child abuse, child sexual abuse, rape, kidnapping, and false imprisonment. It is the actions of FLDS that are being targetted not the religious beliefs. 13 years old is not the age of consent. Neither is 14, 15, or 16 in Texas. Children are required to go to school and it is a crime to keep them out.
    Yes, there are other crimes being committed by other people in the country that require the attention of our authorities. That does not excuse this cult of committing these crimes. I applaud Texas on doing what most states will not in relation to these abusive groups. Usually the attitude of authorities seems to be the same as it used to be with domestic abuse – that the victims were there because they wanted to and could just leave if they didn't like it. This is not the case just as it is not the case with domestic violence.
    As always, I am is awe of the continued work that Steve does in this area.

    Robin Fahlberg

    April 10, 2008 at 5:19 pm |
  5. ajwilliams

    I spent nearly 30 years in a high control group and got help through Meadowhaven in Lakeville MA. Meadowhaven and Steve Hassan are two highly important resources in helping people like me get the help desperately needed. You don't have to be in a compound like the girls to be brainwashed. Anyone that tries to tell you that you can't have an opinion (lack of critical thinking) should be avoided! Run from that group!
    People are easy prey to churches because it's easy to obey knowing it's the will of God. There's a bit of truth mixed in with mind control and before you know it, you're hooked.
    Yes, cults will always exist. Education is an important tool to help us avoid getting sucked into high control groups. And I wouldn't not consider Steve Hassan or Meadowhaven a bandaide. The work is intense and fulfilling. I wouldn't be alive today if not for the help from Bob & Judy Pardon at Meadowhaven.

    April 10, 2008 at 4:39 pm |
  6. Diane

    It is extremely sad that these cults are even allowed to go on in this country under the name of religion. It is really sickening what they do to these poor kids and women. I am glad that at least there is someone who has been through it as yourself and can help them get through the transition period and go on to have a normal life outside of the cult.

    Diane, Ga.

    April 10, 2008 at 2:18 pm |
  7. Slater

    Mind control and brainwashing are nothing new. It has been used for years to control people of certain groups or cults.

    As an Average American, I get what these cults are about. What I don't get is how these men are able to carry on breaking the law cloaked in religion. While I can appreciate that there are professionals such as yourself Mr. Hassan, this is a band aid for an issue that needs excavation at the roots.

    This is the solution I am looking for, as an average American. How can we stop this before professionals need to come in and pull out the box of band aids? Clearly there is a market for it or it would not be so wide spread.

    This is one of the disappointing products of focusing our energies on the welfare of other countries. While we attempt to uplift social and economic progress of other countries, ours spirals downward. Who is going to save the savior?

    If we regulated our own welfare system better, it would probably be obvious that if a large number of underage women are claiming welfare in one concentrated geographical area, this should be a red flag. Are we color blind or just too busy trying to police other nations that we are neglecting our own?

    April 10, 2008 at 12:29 pm |
  8. Thomas Richards

    This man Steve Hasaan may seem like a good caring person but really, he is against religious freedom and uses these types of cases to springboard himself into the limelight. Truth is, those girls were all over the age of consent. And with their parents permission they can marry whoever they want. I wish they would spend this much time on exposing and talking about real abuse. like at the hands of the pedophile priests. Of course I highly doubt this message will not pass through the CNN moderation filters. Mind control? a McDonalds commercial is mind control. A cult? The U.S. miliitary is a cult. They lied to get me in there. And then I couldn't just quit like your so called, "dangerous cults" Then in the military you end up dead. That didn't happen to the people here. And it didnt happen at Waco or Jonestown. Those people were all murdered by the U.S. government.

    April 10, 2008 at 12:22 pm |
  9. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    I remember the Alamo group from when I was in high school. My family would drive from Louisiana up to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousins. We'd always eat at the Alamo Restaraunt on the way up. They had pretty good food and gifts. At the time I remember the wife of Alamo having died and them wanting to resurrect her. They had pictures of her in a glass coffin. I may not remember this all the way, but it was freaky. The women who worked at this place all looked similiar (long hair, etc..) and had a deep devotion to God. Tony Alamo was very charismatic when I saw him in there. I remember my aunt and uncle saying the Alamo group was just a weird part of Arkansas, and we'd all just joke about it all. No one thought a thing about it. (And my uncle was a psychiatric social worker with a MSW from Tulane and my aunt was a psyciatric RN with a MA in English from UNO). At any rate, during their stay in Arkansa the Alamo place closed. Apprently the church was more in overdrive than we thought, though, during the early to mid-1980's. Eeks. We were supporting this place unknowingly. It brings up the point that these weird groups can crop up and be part of a community, and no one thinks they are anything other than oddities until it is too late. FLDS is the latest case in point.

    April 10, 2008 at 10:53 am |
  10. Teresa, Kent, Ohio

    Steven: us "commoners" arent shocked by the reports about whats going on at the compoundS either. Even in the general population sexual child abuse happens way too often.

    Steven: why is it MALES, mostly, cannot control their sexual desires?
    Why is there always an underlying SEXUAL authority in these cults?
    What makes these men think they have the right to destroy children's innocence and therefore, ruin our world and future?

    Thank you for your work in trying to fix society and especially helping our most precious assets: the children.

    April 10, 2008 at 10:34 am |