After nearly ten years as a Scientologist, Jon Atack now spends much of his time sharing ideas and methods to help undo the damage caused by coercive and mind controlling groups and religious sects like Scientology and Jehovah’s Witnesses. [Adapted from the original article found HERE.]
An acknowledged cult expert, Atack spent years helping people who had left Scientology and other similar organizations like Jehovah’s Witnesses. He recently spoke to students on the UK’s first course dedicated to controlling and coercive behavior.
Atack came to the University of Salford to talk to students on the MSc Psychology of Coercive Control program – which deals with methods used by organizations and individuals to manipulate people.
Jon, who now directs the Open Minds Foundation, shared his own experiences helping former members of Scientology and other similar groups to recover. He also stressed the importance of teaching young people how to develop a healthy skepticism to avoid being exploited or controlled by individuals or organizations.
Atack described the purpose of his program this way:
“We want to show young people how they can resist being drawn into a coercive relationship, whether that be with an individual or with a group.
“Coercive control exists throughout society, whether it’s in intimate relationships, in organizations that are sometimes called cults, in radicalization, in the white supremacist groups which are now on the rise. Even in business and multi-level marketing – you find the same dynamics and the same techniques being used.”
From Domestic Abuse to Criminal Gangs
The course, which took on its first group of students last September, deals with the use of coercive control in a wide range of situations – from domestic abuse to human trafficking – and from criminal gangs to political and religious organizations.
Tutors work closely with charities and police forces involved in tackling these issues to give students an in-depth understanding of how perpetrators control their victims, and what the authorities can do to help people recover from those experiences.
“I think what the University of Salford is doing here is truly pioneering. This is something that should be taught from primary schools through to universities.
“Our society has become absolutely riddled with coercive behaviour, because it’s become acceptable to bully people, and there are individuals and groups everywhere who prey on the vulnerability of others. Bringing this to public attention by training people at master’s level who can go out into society to explain these issues to the world is immensely significant.”
Helping survivors recover
Those in charge of the program were enthusiastic in their praise of Atack, his background, and his objectives.
Dr. Linda Dubrow-Marshall, Co-Programme Leader at the University of Salford, said:
“Jon Atack is somebody who has a unique experience of working with the survivors of a coercive organisation and he brings vital perspectives to bear which have been shown to be very effective in helping people leave and recover from the effects of coercion.”
Dr. Rod Dubrow-Marshall, Co-Programme Leader at the University of Salford added:
“This Masters programme – the first of its kind in the UK – aims to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the psychology involved in coercive control, and so the insights that Jon Atack was able to provide were absolutely invaluable.”
[Please note that Barbara Anderson is an Advisory Board member for Open Minds Foundation.]