• May 2015. Report on the FECRIS Conference in Marseille, France.
  • September 2014. Fundamentalism to Religious Violence by the Family Survival Trust,  London. Speaker: Professor Stephen Kent, University of Alberta, Canada.
  • October 2012. Spiritual Abuse by the Family Survival Trust,  London. Speaker: Nataline Daycreator. Introduction by the Reverend Robin Ewbank.
  • April 17th 2010. How Cults are Infiltrating World Institutions by the Family Survival Trust and FECRIS (European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Sectarianism),  London.
  • April 15th, 2009. Scientology: Deception & Infiltration,  London. Hosted by The Family Survival Trust and AGS Hamburg.


Report on the FECRIS Conference
May 2015

REPORT – FECRIS Marseille 2015

The FECRIS Conference provides a forum for the world’s leading experts in cultic abuse to meet and talk and to share ideas, knowledge and experiences. The Conference is a safe place for researchers, practitioners, campaigners and support groups to mingle with former cult members and families of people who remain trapped in cultic relationships. The value of this unique forum was acknowledged by the board during the AGM.

After several years as Chairman of FECRIS, Tom Sackville retired and was replaced by Danièle Muller-Tulli. Good wishes to Danièle for success in this important role.

The theme of this year’s Conference which was hosted in Marseille by GEMPPI, was ‘Deliberately Planned and Encouraged Confusion Between Cults and Religion’. Serge Blisko, President of MIVILUDES, presented the opening speech which outlined this subject. He said that the widespread use of exploitative cultic abuse undermines democratic institutions and social functions. Those who employ these methods deflect criticism by claiming that their critics want to deprive them of ‘freedom of belief’ or that they are not accorded proper status as ‘religions’. Blisko also talked about the growing problem of ‘religious’ terrorism and its links to cultic behaviour.

Anne Khodabandeh, representative of The Family Survival Trust, was in a unique position to brief M. Blisko and the audience about this issue. She explained that it is possible to construct a model for describing and analysing the use of cultic abuse by terrorist entities without mentioning religion. Anne then went on to describe the deceptive recruitment and brainwashing methods used by terrorist groups and said that from her fifteen years as an activist in this field she was able to suggest solutions to tackle this phenomenon. This briefing was greeted enthusiastically by M. Blisko and the audience.

There were several informative and interesting talks and also first-hand testimonies. Some stood out as particularly interesting. Pierre Le Coz Director of the Department of Social Science at the Faculty of Medicine, University Aix-Marseilles, gave a fascinating presentation in which he described step by step how individuals can be brought under the influence of a manipulator using specific psychological techniques.

In contrast, Alexey Voat a researcher from Moscow, gave a very pertinent presentation on the Aum Shinriyo cult’s use of the internet for deceptive recruitment. Voat had undertaken to act as a recruit to delve deep inside the cult’s workings. His revelations were instructive for understanding any other cultic recruitment over the internet.

Olivier Faelens, President of SAS Seckten from Belgium, inspired the audience with his advice on how to avoid false arguments presented by groups such as The Church of Scientology, with its continual demands for debate on the subject of whether or not it is a true religion. The real issue, said Faelens, is the internal harmful practices. It is these we must insist on addressing when debating cultic abuse.

Anne Edelstam, journalist, talked about Fundamentalism. She described the history of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and how in spite of the people’s revolution, its creation of alternative social structures dedicated to the reintroduction of fundamentalist strictures on society still have the potential to undermine the country’s democratic processes.

Finally, leading cult expert Janja Lalich explored the struggle for justice in the American legal system. She described several case studies and talked about her own experience as an expert witness and how the cults deliberately exploit ignorance and misconceptions regarding cultic abuse. This talk linked the various issues raised in previous speeches with the subject of the Conference: ‘Deliberately Planned and Encouraged Confusion Between Cults and Religion’.

During the Conference the audience participated with lively and informative questions and discussions at various points in the day. A light lunch was served al Fresco in a convivial atmosphere. The host association GEMPPI is to be congratulated on the success of the Conference. The simultaneous translators are appreciated for their hard work in bringing the full content of the speeches and interjections to all the audience. The new Chair of FECRIS, Danièle Muller-Tulli closed the Conference and thanked the outgoing Chairman Tom Sackville in his absence for all his hard work.

[Note: FECRIS – European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects – created in 1994, serves as an umbrella organisation for associations which defend cult victims in more than 30 countries, including 5 non-European organisations. FECRIS is active at an international level with representation at the UN (ECOSOC).]

Fundamentalism to Religious Violence
September 2014
The University Women’s Club, Audley Square, London

Special Meeting of the Family Survival Trust. The University Women’s Club, Audley Square, Mayfair, London.

Speaker: Professor Stephen Kent, University of Alberta, Canada

Introduced by Tom Sackville (Chair), Audrey Chaytor (Trustee and Organiser) and Anne Khodabandeh (Trustee)

The Family Survival Trust Special Meeting was introduced by its Chairman Tom Sackville. The charity is fortunate to benefit from Tom’s invaluable political skills – having served as a Home Office minister. His charming and effective leadership has ensured that the charity has maintained a leading and significant voice on the issue of cultic abuse for many years.

The Special Meeting was organised by Audrey Chaytor, who has supported and helped families and individuals affected by cultic abuse for three decades. Her uncompromising quest to help them understand and deal with the mechanics of what is known by experts and lay people alike as brainwashing, inspired her to arrange this talk by the Guest Speaker, Professor Stephen Kent. As a highly respected academic from the University of Alberta, Canada, Stephen’s thorough research and talks have, over many years, provided valuable information and insights in the field of cultic abuse. This talk, titled ‘Fundamentalism to Religious Violence’ was very well attended and this current and controversial subject attracted many newcomers.

Anne Khodabandeh, a Trustee of the FST charity, first introduced herself as a former member of a foreign terrorist group with fifteen years expertise of activism in the field of cultic abuse and terrorism. She then spoke about the approach of the Family Survival Trust to the issue of religious violence.

“I am here today as a Trustee of the Family Survival Trust charity. As such, I need not remind anyone that the role of all cult awareness and support groups is not to tackle terrorism. That is the role of government. Terrorism is a very serious issue.

However, the reason Steve Kent’s talk today is so valuable, is to help us understand and engage with the use of cultic methodology in the recruitment and training of terrorists.

As a charity, the FST will develop the necessary knowledge as well as the courage to take this forward into the valuable and much needed role of supporting affected families.”

Addressing the audience, Anne continued, “Beyond this, as informed and concerned citizens, we all can play a part in lobbying government to educate young people about the dangers of deceptive recruitment, and to develop an effective exit strategy for terrorists who leave the field to return home. While they rightly may face legal prosecution for criminal acts, we need the help of their families and communities to reintegrate them back into a normal life.”

Steven Kent’s talk focused on the manifestation of religious violence among various religious groups. He examined the influence of fundamentalist interpretations of sacred texts from the Jewish old testament to the Muslim Qoran to explain the different types of violence adopted by various groups.

He gave an example of Buddhist monks protesting Chinese occupation in the 1950s who chose to self-immolate as the maximalist position of their religious beliefs. This was compared to the current manifestation of Islamicist violence perpetrated by ISIS which chooses to behead victims by selectively referring to passages in the Qoran – almost as a fashion.

A lively discussion followed. In particular the issue of Muslim dress code was raised in terms of the adoption of the Niqab by western middle class educated Muslim women. Anne Khodabandeh explained the structure of terrorist organisation by using the ‘onion’ analogy. At the core of the onion are the suicide bombers and beheaders, these are surrounded by financiers, logistics and arms suppliers, but beyond that are layers and layers of people not identified as terrorists but who support and hide the innermost activities. Some do this by creating diversionary issues like provocative dress. But, the oppression of women is common to all religions and cultures and should be properly addressed as a cultural issue rather than detract from the central question. The urgent central issue that needs to be addressed is: how the civilians at the heart of this ‘onion’ are subjected to the psychological manipulation that turns them into killers. It is these mechanisms which lie at the heart of terrorism rather than the interpretation of religious texts.

Professor Kent confirmed the use of brainwashing as a controlling and organising tool in violent religious groups.

The FST extends its warmest thanks to our Guest Speaker, Professor Stephen Kent, and to all the people who participated in the Special Meeting.

Spiritual Abuse
October 2012
The University Women’s Club, Audley Square, Mayfair, London.

Hosted by The Family Survival Trust. The University Women’s Club, Audley Square, Mayfair, London.

Speaker: Nataline Daycreator

Introduction by the Reverend Robin Ewbank

How Cults are Infiltrating World Institutions
April 17th 2010
Millennium Hotel Mayfair, Grosvenor Square, London

Hosted by The Family Survival Trust and FECRIS (European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Sectarianism). Millennium Hotel Mayfair, Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, London

The programme featured speakers from the United Kingdom and Europe, discussing how dangerous cults have lobbied and permeated government and private institutions in recent years.

Speakers at this event included:

    • Tom Sackville, former Home Office Minister and Chairman of the Trust, as well as President of FECRIS;
    • Audrey Chaytor, Chief Executive of the Trust;
    • Georges Fenech of MIVILUDES (Interministerial Mission of Vigilance and Struggle against Cultic Excesses), Paris;
    • Dr. Masoud Banisadr, author and former member of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran;
    • Ursula Caberta, Director of AGS Hamburg;
    • André Frédéric, Belgian Federal Parliamentarian;
    • Dr. Carmen Almendros, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the Autonomous University of Madrid;
    • Caterina Boschetti (author and journalist) and Paolo Doppieri (film director), Italy;
    • Dr. Tatiana Karpacheva, Associate Professor of Philology at the Moscow City Pedagogical University;
    • Philippe Detilleul and Nathalie De Reuck, journalists and authors, Brussels;
    • Daniel Picotin, lawyer, Bordeaux

Subjects included ideas on how to combat abuse and criminality; rehabilitate victims; promoting European cooperation; the links between cults and terrorism; consumer protection laws as a way of protecting potential victims; experiences of cultic lobbying in legislatures; definitions of psychological violence; legal understanding of cultic activity; the infiltration of schools by potentially abusive cultic groups; questionable healthcare practice by unqualified groups posing as therapists and practitioners; and cross-border legal cooperation in dealing with dangerous infiltrators who do not restrict their operations within the borders of one country.

Scientology: Deception & Infiltration
15 April 2009 10 am – 6 pm
Millennium Hotel Mayfair, Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, London

Admission £25 Concessions £20 A light buffet lunch will be provided

Hosted by The Family Survival Trust and AGS Hamburg. Millennium Hotel Mayfair, Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, London.

A programme of specialist speakers presented papers to highlight the many dangers posed by Scientology towards individuals and society in general.

The programme included a series of lectures and time for questions.

Speakers at this event included Tom Sackville, former Home Office Minister and Chairman of the Trust; Ursula Caberta, Director of AGS Hamburg; Christophe Heroufosse of CIAOSN, Brussels; Dr. John Butler, clinical therapist with special interest in mind control techniques employed by cults; Peter Martinelli, Deputy at the Common Council of the Corporation of London; John Duignan, ex-Scientologist; members of Anonymous; and Audrey Chaytor, Chief Executive of the Trust.

The subject was the infiltration and deception employed by Scientology to recruit members and persuade public authorities of its viability. The various investigations into Scientology, past and present, were detailed.

Brainwashing: a Threat to Us All
30 April 2008
The University Women’s Club, Audley Square, Mayfair, London.

Hosted by The Family Survival Trust. The University Women’s Club, Audley Square, Mayfair, London.

Professor Ben “Zablocki”, world-renowned expert on the sociology of religion, who currently holds the chair in Sociology at Rutgers University, USA, gave the keynote speech at a seminar presented by the Trust.

He sought to prove that brainwashing exists as a technique widely used by those seeking to exert inappropriate control over others, including by pseudo-religious organisations whose activities can have tragic consequences for individuals and their families, and terrorist groups who pose a global threat to public safety. He is currently writing a book on the subject of brainwashing.

Tom Sackville, former Home Office Minister and Chairman of The Family Survival Trust, commented:

“It is a matter of great regret that our UK authorities have for years followed the advice of local academics, some of them known to be involved with or even supported by cults, instead of common sense: they have thus adopted an irresponsibly laissez-faire policy based on the idea that brainwashing does not exist.

“Any rational observer can see that this is nonsense – how can young people be turned so absolutely against friends and families and throw away their lives for the benefit of obviously bogus religious leaders, or plot to blow up themselves and hundreds of innocent bystanders, unless their minds have been systematically interfered with?

“I hope Professor Zablocki’s visit will help alert UK government and media to the connection between abusive cult behaviour and national security, and demonstrate that mind control techniques are a potent weapon in the hands of evil people.”