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Update: Center for Healing Spiritual and Cultic Abuse

September 9, 2011

Update September 29, 2011: It appears that at least for the time being, following the resignation and protests from several of his advisory board members and staff about John Knapp’s postings that denigrated his former client, a former associate and me, Knapp has removed the postings in question from both his FB page and the CHSCA website blog (the CHSCA website appears to be completely down) although his state board investigator has already been made aware of them weeks ago. As a result, some of the links in this posting might no longer be accessible. However, the anonymous smear campaigners seem to have found a way around that, by posting links directly to the IP address that are still active — this is fine with me because Knapp’s profanity laced rantings against me and his former client provide strong support for my opinion that these are not the writings becoming of a licensed mental health professional. People can read them and decide for themselves if this is the sort of mental health professional they would want to trust. Thanks for the help in supporting my points, anonymous smear campaigners who apparently are too ignorant to recognize that they are helping, not harming me by posting the links that Knapp himself has had the good sense to delete because in my opinion, his own writings are far more of an embarrassment to him than they are to me and make him look very bad indeed. People can read his postings for themselves and decide which might be considered “hate speech”: his rantings against his client and then me, for standing up for her or my writings calling him out on what I regard as his highly unprofessional and inappropriate behavior, to put it mildly.

Contrary to the lies that have been posted by the anonymous internet smear campaigners who have been trying to piggyback off of all this, that I have been “censured by a group of skeptics”, that is far from being the case and several of those skeptics have resigned from CHSCA and appear to want to have nothing further to do with it. Furthermore, CHSCA is not a “skeptic” organization; it was supposed to be a cultic and spiritual abuse recovery organization and many practices within the anti-cult movement when it comes to cult recovery are questionable and cause, in and of themselves, for skepticism. Unfortunately, there are a growing number of people who were victims of cults who, after involvement with anti-cult organizations, feel that they and/or their leaders were just as manipulative and abusive as the cults they were in, but some leaders in the anti-cult movement hide their heads in the sand about this and are dismissive of anyone who dares to point this out, although there are exceptions.

If Mr. Knapp wishes to apologize to all parties concerned, I, for one, would consider accepting such an apology, provided he publicly apologizes and retracts the statements he has made that I consider to be highly inappropriate (e.g. calling his former client and me “cyberstalkers” when, in fact, there is nothing we have done that even remotely fits the legal definition of such) and provided he has come to an understanding of what he has done and shows evidence this behavior will not recur with anyone.

Here is an update to my previous posting about events surrounding John Knapp’s Center for Healing Spiritual and Cultic Abuse. My intent in continuing to write about this is to explore whether there are any lessons that might be learned from all this, for skeptics as well as believers. Karla McLaren has pointed out that these are two very different cultures. Nevertheless, none of us are exempt, it would seem, from getting into these types of situations.

Several board members and staff have now resigned, so contrary to the lies that have been posted about me being “censured by a group of skeptics” it appears that several of the prominent skeptics involved no longer wish to remain on John Knapp’s advisory board or staff. A conversation which, in times past, would likely have taken place behind closed doors, has now taken place on John Knapp’s [previously] open facebook page (although he initially tries to claim it was all about a Baby Got Back video he posted, scroll down to later discussion, which reveals concerns that had nothing to do with that video and everything to do with John’s postings about his former client and me on the CHSCA website). He tells off several of his former staff and board members who tried as tactfully and kindly as possible, to express their concerns to him regarding his postings to the organization’s website (the eight most recent postings were devoted exclusively to attacking me, along with his former client as well as a former associate, Lema (Lom) Nal — go here to read my rebuttals to some of the falsehoods contained in these postings). It has also come to light that in 1996, similar events appear to have taken place with his Margaret Singer Foundation, although since Dr. Singer was not online, there are onlysecond-hand reports of what allegedly transpired between Knapp, Margaret Singer and attorney Ford Greene. Not so today. The widespread use of the internet has really changed things.

To sum it up, to date, Doug Mesner, Shane Bugbee and someone who identifies herself on the website as “Amanda” (who in the past appeared to have been one of his most ardent defenders) have all resigned, expressing serious concerns about Knapp’s behavior and postings on the CHSCA website as reasons. Advisory board members Janja Lalich, PhD and Karla McLaren also expressed serious concerns, to which Knapp replied that they were free to resign. However, although the names of some of the other advisory board members have been removed, Janja Lalich’s name remains [currently the website appears to be completely down as of Sept 29, 2011]. Does this mean that she still supports this organization, in spite of the material Knapp has posted? Given that he did remove the names of the people who requested it, this appears to be the case thus far. Janja Lalich continues to lend her name to this organization. Even though she expressed disapproval for what he had posted on the website, apparently it was not important enough for her to resign her advisory board position. Her choice, of course, that she has the right to make,  just as I have the right to make the my choices and express my opinions about those who would stand by and support what is, in my opinion, outrageous verbal abuse towards a former client and former cult members. The board investigation will run its course and I will keep readers updated on the outcome. The entire dialogue can be read by going to his facebook page.

Take note: Change is on the way. The anti-cult stars might be immune to criticism from one another and that kind of cronyism may continue among some, but they will have to answer to their State Boards for any violations, if licensed and in my opinion, it is high time that some of them be called out on their behavior which has gone far beyond simply being prima donnas.  Note that I am not saying that this applies to everyone in the anti-cult community, but it does apply to some.

Again, I want to emphasize that this was quite an impressive board with highly respected figures in the skeptical and anti-cult communities. Some have said they joined because other credible people were on the advisory board and vouching for the organization. This just goes to show that skeptics are not exempt from the kinds of mental shortcuts (heuristics) all human beings take, such as trusting the word of a respected, accepted authority. As one advisory board member told me months earlier, Michael Shermer was on the board, so it must be okay. Not so fast. Let’s face it, though, we all do this, myself included. Although I didn’t go for this one, I have freely admitted to having done so in the past with some real dozies so I am in no way intending to suggest superiority and I write about this in the hopes that something can be learned from all this.  Ironically, these kinds of human tendencies that override critical thinking are what Michael Shermer has written extensively about. Hopefully, this will serve as a lesson to check things out carefully and first-hand before giving them our endorsements or if we don’t have the time, refrain from endorsing.

Although Knapp continues to publicly accuse his former client who filed a complaint with his state board about him, of cyber stalking and cyber harassment, I have yet to see any evidence that anything any of the individuals he has named have done that even remotely fits the legal definitions of the term. Although I wholeheartedly agree that the public does need to be protected from actual cyber stalkers, it is concerning to me that misuse of cyber stalking laws could have unintended consequences for whistleblowers and protesters who are exercising legitimate, constitutional rights.

One Comment
  1. “[…]Unfortunately, there are a growing number of people who were victims of cults who, after involvement with anti-cult organizations, feel that they and/or their leaders were just as manipulative and abusive as the cults they were in, but some leaders in the anti-cult movement hide their heads in the sand about this and are dismissive of anyone who dares to point this out, although there are exceptions.[…]”

    “[…]My intent in continuing to write about this is to explore whether there are any lessons that might be learned from all this, for skeptics as well as believers.[…]”

    You state both the above in the body of your post, which I’ve reread quite a few times.

    I hope less heads stay buried as various peoples’ harmful anti-cult experiences come to light.

    I am also interested, as you state, “in lessons to be learned”.

    (For any readers, I’m the former client of Knapp.)

    I was involved in a “cult” for 28 years, from the ages of 18 – 46. Prior to that long-standing loyalty, I was involved in at least one other group for,1-1/2 years, that some consider a cult,

    I guess some would call me a “cult-hopper.” I thought I was a “truth seeker,” a “searcher.”

    I left the 28-year relationship and got involved (only on the periphery and for less than 1 year) with a splinter group of the group I’d been involved in for 28 years. [The splinter group, btw, was extremely helpful and I am thankful for that. My experience in the splinter group was not coercive, though others have told me their experience was.(Perhaps similar to cult involvement – the deeper one is to the core, the more control is exacted.) ]

    Upon leaving the 28-year relationship, I also took the path of online involvement with an anti-cult discussion forum, which after a year began to feel uncomfortable for me (little red flags) and culminated in a small scandal (which opened other background information). I hired Knapp (whom I was led to believe by Knapp, was not of the anti-cult ilk) mainly because of what had happened within that small anti-cult community.

    I think I think….that I was more vulnerable when I became involved with the anti-cult forum (after leaving the cult looking for the truth regarding the group and my own indoctrination) and then even more vulnerable when I became involved with a licensed cult-recovery therapist (after the harmful experience in the anti-cult forum and looking for answers for my own emotional health) than when I became involved with the “cults” (as a “truth-seeker”).

    At this point, I’d say the last involvement (with a cult-recovery therapist) has been the most harmful, But…I may feel that way because it is so fresh.

    It’s all made me quite shy of groups and very hesitant to join any sort of “movement.” Don’t know if I will ever do such a think ever again…which in one sense is sad. Of course, I still am responsible for that too; ie: if I never involve myself with another movement or if I do. Whichever I choose, I imagine that choice will be involvement on the periphery. It will take some time to gain trust in myself to be be able to discern what is a healthy group and when/if that group begins to veer in an unhealthy direction…to know when the little red flags are accurate or if/when the little flags are me projecting. And then to know how/when to speak up.

    I don’t want to become paralyzed.

    I’ve described my 28-year involvement with the “cult” as a “slow chronic illness.”
    I had described (up until the events at the end of August, 2011) my anti-cult brush as a “car wreck.”
    Since the events at the end of August, I describe my anti-cult brush as a “train wreck.”

    Injuries vary with all three: illness, car wrecks, train wrecks.

    My father became a quadriplegic from a car wreck. Yet, my dad, even while paralyzed, lived a full life. He managed (we, the family, managed) to find ways for him to stay involved and active in life, though that was of course limited.

    My end hope in all this scenario involving Knapp would be at least some reconciliation. I realize that is probably a far-fetched hope. But, I can still hope.

    Thanks again Monica for speaking up and continuing to share your insights and experience.

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