How to Get a Family Member Out of a Cult

A family member may want to get out of the stronghold a cult has on them. It's effective to let them know we're willing to help if they make it known.
A family member may want to get out of the stronghold a cult has on them. It's effective to let them know we're willing to help if they make it known. | Source

What's In This Article?

  1. They Refuse Communication with a Suppressive Person
  2. Solution: Leave a Seed of Hope and Show Assistance
  3. Lay Low, Say Nothing, And Don’t Be Suppressive
  4. The Next Generation of Children Can Be Totally Lost
  5. Be Ready to Help With the First Request

There are many ways people get involved with cults. They may be married to someone who becomes active with it and they follow along. They may find satisfaction from the way they are treated at first. Or they need something more out of life and they think this is the answer. Even a trusted friend can suddenly introduce them to it, someone on a mission to indoctrinate more members.

If you know anyone who has lost a family member to a religious cult, this personal story may offer inspiration to help get him or her out. It may become impossible to communicate with that family member because they are brainwashed to an extent that normal communication fails. Or they may be threatened and afraid to share their feelings with other family members who want to help.

There are methods however. It might be possible to locate a weakness and take advantage of that vulnerability to break through their feelings. Once this is accomplished, sometimes a loophole can be found that will hopefully get the person to turn around and ask for help.

It's only our guess that they need help. We have to accept the fact that they may actually no longer want to be close with the rest of the family anymore.

If there's a sign of some kind that they want help, the next step is to find out how much help they want or need. It may be possible that their life is threatened by the cult in some way, and they may be afraid to make changes. We have to try to work with them and not pressure them. Pressure can only have a negative effect and we might lose the little chance we have to allow them to share their true feelings.

Communication with a Suppressive Person

The cult my sister was in considers people who try to get them out to be a Suppressive Person. They don't allow communication with people classified as such.

My father died without having had communication with his daughter. In the last remaining days of his life he tried and tried to get through to her. But his calls fell on deaf ears. She never responded to the numerous phone messages he had left for her.

Then he died without saying goodbye to his daughter.

I witnessed this and it wasn't pretty. He was classified as a Suppressive Person because he attempted to obstruct the progress of his daughter’s training within the cult. His attempts were met with hostility that created anxiety and confusion.

He left this world with deep emotional stress over having lost his only daughter to a cult that refused to allow any communication with him at that time.

I, too, never could get my sister on the phone when I tried to call her. I left messages. But she never called back.

My calls were only put through to her when I said someone was dying or that someone had died. So when my father died, I got to speak with her.

She came to attend the funeral. But she was distant and her visit didn't last long. The cult didn't let her stay to mourn the death of her father with the rest of us. She came and then left to return to the cult within a day’s time.

A few years later, after another long period of non-communication, I called to inform her that our Aunt had a heart attack. Of course I got her on the phone and she came to be with us for a very brief visit.

My Aunt recovered at that time, I’m glad to say. And something good came out of the situation. I stumbled upon a method for breaking through. It’s something that you can take advantage of, if you ever need to. I’ll tell you about it.

Solution: Leave a Seed of Hope and Offer Assistance

I took advantage of my sister’s visit to get in touch with her deep-felt feelings.

I detected she might be in need of help. I realized that she might have been controlled beyond her own wishes.

I could tell she was not herself. She had no mind of her own. I once knew her to have a strong mind when we were young kids growing up decades before.

I had to be careful not to alienate my sister. But at the same time I needed to plant a seed. So I told her,

"I suspect you are not happy. I'm your brother and I want to help you. But I'm not going to lift a finger unless you tell me that you want help."

When a cult member wants out, leave the door open for them to call and ask for help. Their call may come sooner than you think... "Will you come and get me?"
When a cult member wants out, leave the door open for them to call and ask for help. Their call may come sooner than you think... "Will you come and get me?" | Source

It worked. A few weeks later she called and said,

"Will you come and get me?"

Those were such precious words to me. I quickly responded with joy that I was getting my loved sister back!

I bought a one-way plane ticket to go to get her. When I picked up my sister I discovered that her kids (my nieces and nephew) were not living with her. They were living in separate quarters in a military style unit where they were brought up by the cult.

We rented a U-Haul, filled it with all her possessions, and we shared the driving to bring her home.

I wanted to bring all three of her children too. But I was met with anxiety and apprehension. So I gave in on that.

To this day I regret that I didn’t forcefully influence the outcome to bring back all her kids. But little to my knowledge at the time, there was a reason why it was so easy to pick up my sister and take her away.

I think it was so easy to get her out with no resistance from other cult members because she agreed to leave her kids behind so that she would be left alone. I got one of them out with my sister, but that didn't last long. All three of them are still involved with the cult life, 30 years later.

Lay Low, Say Nothing, And Don’t Be Suppressive

Things have lightened up and they are allowed to communicate with family now. It’s very different from 30 years ago. But the harm has been done. Any time I tried to discuss the cult and its effect on our family, I was met with a defensive argument that went nowhere.

I realized the only way to keep any sort of relationship, although really non-existent, was to lay low. I had to avoid saying anything about how I felt, about the past, about how their grandfather was emotionally destroyed, or about what I witnessed.

I know I can never ask questions or bring up the subject. I had tried.

They would just argue and insist that my interpretation is wrong or that my memory is faulty. I couldn’t deal with that! That kept us from regaining any kind of a relationship. And it created a further distancing and separation from the next generation of grand kids. I wish I had that.

The closeness I remember having with my two nieces and nephew long before they were mentally incarcerated, was long gone. I could have had a close heartfelt family connection with my sister’s kids and with the grand kids.

They are all in their own world, whatever that is. I believe they are all in denial. I am sure they have no clue why we have no close family ties.

I am certain that the grand kids are even further brainwashed and are totally clueless. I often wonder what they think. What they might be thinking, if they are thinking at all?

Would they ever reach out and ask questions? Or did the cult’s brainwashing completely remove their own ability to have their own thoughts, their own life, and their own sole!

The Next Generation of Children Can Be Totally Lost

What if a larger portion of the family is already drawn into the cult? What if children were born into the cult in a second or third generation? These children will not only be totally brainwashed but they won't even have a clue why they are disconnected from the rest of the family. That's the saddest thing of all.

This is why it’s so important to try to save a brainwashed family member before complete harm is done. The first generation of children may only be semi-indoctrinated. They may ask for help of their Aunts, Uncles, or others.

Years later the children may even forget that they wanted out. Or the memories may have been erased from their minds by some form of mind control. Or, on the other hand, they may just not be willing to admit a memory of the time they wanted out. This might be due to some fear imposed on them by the cult.

When they are young they may want their relatives to take them away. But it's not easy to take over the upbringing of a child. So the children are left with parents who are in a cult.

When these children grow up and have their own children, that next generation is totally distant and uninvolved with family members who are not in favor of the cult.

Be Ready to Help With the First Request

Remember how I helped my sister by planting a seed of hope and assistance that later blossomed and resulted in her call asking to come get her? Well, it can work for you too.

If you have a family member in a religious cult, and you’ve lost the ability to communicate, plant that seed and wait for it to grow. Do it before it’s too late. Then be ready to do whatever you can when the call for help arrives.

For all we know, these people are threatened. They may be brainwashed. Or they may simply be scared. They may be in a predicament that we don’t know about or one that we don’t understand and they may not know what to do about it.

I wonder if they ever have the same thoughts that I have. Thinking of why there is no family tie. Thinking of wanting to be on the other side. Thinking of asking for help.

If you ever get that call, be ready to run and welcome your family with open arms. Be ready to help them and welcome them to the real world.

© 2012 Glenn Stok

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Comments 18 comments

vox vocis profile image

vox vocis 4 years ago

I'm sorry to hear this about your sister and her kids. It's such a sad story. You must be suffering so much because of this. Is their father also in this cult?

We have to be there in case our loved ones need help, but if they don't want any help, then there isn't much we can do.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

Vox, Good to see you around. Yes their father is the one who got them all into it. But my sister remarried after I got her out. Thanks for checking this out.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

This really made my heart ache for you Glenn. It is their choice we know but their situation can only be truly understood by them after they leave it behind. I'm so sorry this has broken up your family ties and for the emotional stress it put both you and your Dad through.

I was so deeply relieved to hear your sister got out and she was so blessed by the seed you planted to allow her to make that decion and know she could count on you for help.

Thanks for sharing this important story so that others can be aware and beware.



Sue B. profile image

Sue B. 4 years ago


I found this to be a very honest and informative hub. I think it would help others who are also going through these challenges.

As I was reading your hub, I was thinking how much the experience of a cult and the difficulties separating from a cult are similar to gangs. Although gangs and cults are many differences, I think your hub can also help people attempting to rescue family members from gangs.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY Author


Thanks for your kind words. I do hope this ends up helping anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation. That was my main reason for writing about it.

Sue B,

Interesting point you made. I can see how the same methods of letting someone know we are waiting to help, can be applied to members forced to be part of a gang. It probably can be just as dangerous too. Thanks for stopping by.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean

Wow! You tried and you deserve to be commended. Let's pray that your efforts will still have some positive effect on the family members who have not yet responded. Thanks for sharing. You've given us so much to think about.

cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 4 years ago from Western NC

Wow. It's cathartic to share a story like this. Good for you for being there for your sister. She's lucky to have a brother like you. Some members of my own family are very religious - not members of a cult, I don't think - but I'm quite the inquisitive intellectual and they see me as a threat. It's rather sad. I don't communicate with them very much because when I do, they often are trying to convert me to their church. So, while I haven't had the same experience as you, I can understand the pain and frustration when people you love see you as a Suppressive person and won't have much to do with you. It's sad...I go on with my life, but it still tugs at your heart. Thanks for sharing this. I know it will inspire many. :)

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY Author


I’m thinking the same thing. Anyone anywhere in a cult needs to realize that they do have family out there who is waiting and willing to help. I guess it needs to start with dropping the defenses and ask for help. But, for those waiting, we need to make it known we want to help in any way we can.


I’m sorry that you have a similar situation where you have family who sees you as a threat, even though its not necessarily a cult they are involved with. These things are never easy.

KDuBarry03 4 years ago

Glenn Stok,

This is a very heartfelt and touching story. It is a shame that a cult would actually apprehend your sister and your family from having connections with you. This story is definitely an inspiration to many that, no matter what, family will be there for you and fight for you no matter what. Although I've never had an experience like this, I cannot help but imagine the pain you must have/be going through. You have a strong heart and a strong spirit to fight for your family to just talk to them.

Thank you so much for sharing this great story. voted up and sharing.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

KDuBarry03, Actually, I backed off when I tried to talk to my niece and she became very defensive. It worked with my sister, but her children are too far gone. I discovered they are also in denial when my sister told one of them in front of me how she was kept from communicating with us back when my father tried to get them out. Her daughter (my niece) refused to believe it. So I don't deserve the credit you gave me. I gave up fighting. I can only wait for them to ask for help. Thanks for reading and for the vote.

Sue B. profile image

Sue B. 4 years ago


Your hub has truly sparked my interest in understanding the concept of "cult" better. As I have been reading more, I'm realizing just how unclear things can be. Some define cult as any new religious movement while some use the word cult to describe only destructive movements/cults. Although I have never had this experience, as either someone associated with a cult or being a loved one of a cult member, I can understand how confusing this could be and hard to recognize.

I think I have always considered cults very easy to identify, as if it was a group of people with a sign clearly labeling the name of their cult. After reading your hub and a few sociological essays, I realize how informal a cult can be which adds to the risk.

The thought I wanted to share is that any group can be harmful to us-- both a "cult" or organized religion and any group can benefit us in some way- an informal group, a new religious movement or traditional religion. So how can we tell the difference between what is harmful and what is not?

It got me thinking about relationships and how we identify when a relationship is unhealthy for us. We can think this way in terms of our relationships to a group. What grabbed me in your hub is the social isolation or social restriction. This I think is our most obvious sign that something is harmful to us. Controlling behavior can be rather subtle. I can understand being in this situation could leave someone confused and unsure of their own opinion of the relationship. I think another good indicator of a harmful relationship is not being completely happy with the relationship or your life within the relationship and resigning yourself to the belief that it is easier to stay then to try to leave.

Thank you for getting me thinking!

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

Sue, You picked up on the correct item, the most obvious sign that something is harmful to us. My sister admitted, years later, that she was denied permission to communicate with the rest of the family when my father was trying to get her out. I never asked her, but I am sure she feels bad that she never had contact with her father in his last few years of life. You can't get that back. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

Hendrika profile image

Hendrika 4 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

Reading this is really scary. I have someone that is not really in a cult, but still pretty brainwashed into thinking in a certain way. Even this is hard to break free from or even to get the person to want and break free from it.

Cher Anne profile image

Cher Anne 4 years ago from Earth

Thank You for sharing this. There is a group on Facebook called Cult Awareness and Recovery(the open page)do you mind if I share it ?

Feel free to join.

Supuni Fernando profile image

Supuni Fernando 16 months ago from Colombo, Sri Lanka

I remember seeing victims of cults getting rehabilitation and it's not easy. Sadly I forgot the cult name, but the children faced insane difficulties learning and speaking. They had problems adjusting to the modern society as well.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 16 months ago from Long Island, NY Author

Supuni Fernando - My sister recovered quickly since she wanted to get out. But unfortunately her kids (my two nieces and nephew) are deeply controlled by it. I can't talk with them about it since they become very defensive. Thanks for your comments.

Say Yes To Life profile image

Say Yes To Life 3 months ago from Big Island of Hawaii

I was in a cult once, and so was my niece. I know what it's like to be brainwashed, especially with the threat of hell. I'm glad you were able to get your sister out of there. Yes it's hard; you can't directly confront them. They have to realize it on their own. I'm glad your offer to help worked.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 3 months ago from Long Island, NY Author

Say Yes To Life - It's good you and your niece got out of it. It was a long time ago since I got my sister out. But to this day my two nieces and nephew are all still in it. You are right, they have to realize it on their own before we can help. But they also need to get over the fear imposed on them for considering leaving. Thanks for your comment.

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