Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.
Lifetime recently aired a docuseries called Surviving R. Kelly, in which many of those close to the R&B singer explore allegations levied at him due to sexual abuse and behaving like a sex cult leader.
Despite the many accusations and parents who pleaded that Kelly release their daughters, the women who were allegedly being held against their will said all was well at the time. Still, the people who worked for Kelly, including his friends, family, and even his ex-wife, have now come forward on the show to discuss the rumors.
Many cults are associated with religion, but not all of them are. Regardless of their nature, most cults and cult leaders have certain common traits. CBS outlined some factors and signs that could indicate that you or a loved one are being manipulated, influenced, or brainwashed by a cult-like organization.
Leaders are often charismatic, and they may show signs of narcissistic behavior. You may feel drawn by their charm or power, or they may even claim to be divine.
Once a cult-like group has drawn you in, the group or leader may try to isolate you. You might feel the need to cut off contact with friends and family for the sake of your relationship with the leader or the group.
You may be pressed into forking over your money for the group. Or you could be pressured into giving yourself over in some way, be it spiritually or sexually, or by service. Pressure is a common sign you could be in a cult.
Questioning the leader or the group’s beliefs or practices is often met with substantial intolerance. You could potentially be brainwashed into believing whatever the leader tells you to believe. Independent thought is often discouraged, and questions might be met with penalties.
If you speak or act against the group or leader, you may be punished, shunned by everyone involved, physically beaten, locked away, or kicked out of the group.
There’s a good chance that the leader of this group will expose and exploit you in a variety of ways. An example might be forcing you to divulge any dark secret you have, and then using it against you later to get what they want.
What If I Think My Family Member Is Being Brainwashed?
It might be difficult for a victim to realize they’re being brainwashed, but family members and friends will likely see more clearly when a loved one is being manipulated. If you think you’ve spotted warning signs that a family member has joined a cult-like group, it’s wise to approach them with care and concern. The person involved might not see what you see — and they may even be defensive about the people they’re involved with.
If you want to check up on a suspicious person your family member has interacted with, you can run a background check to learn more about their associates and activities. Although cult members are not always involved in criminal activity, it’s possible that their manipulative tendencies and use of force has led to run-ins with the law.
Your loved one may not actually be involved in a bona fide cult. However, cults and toxic relationships have similar signs. If you know what to look for, you may be able to help a friend or family member who’s being controlled.