I am at work, and one of my responsibilities as office manager is to answer the phone. In this age of privacy, almost one fourth of my customers have ‘private’ or ‘caller unknown’ as their identification on my caller i.d. machine. So I think nothing of answering the call identified as ‘caller unknown’.
”Why aren’t you dead yet?” the voice asks, then hangs up.
I sit there, feeling as if I have been kicked in the stomach. It hurts most because the call comes from a source close to me: my mother, a leader in the group that I left, who is very angry with me for my decision. Apparently she would rather have her child dead than out, and this hurts.
One of the issues that most survivors leaving an abusive cult must face is that of receiving threats from the group. These threats can take various forms, including:
-Hang up calls. These can occur in sequences meant to trigger a survivor, or else the cult escapee may be literally flooded with dozens of hang up calls, one after another. The message is obvious: the calls communicate to the survivor silently that the cult knows where they are.
-Phone threats: these are verbal messages meant to intimidate and harass. For instance, when I first considered leaving the cult, I got a phone call from San Diego. There was a baby crying in the background, then the sound of a young child screaming. The caller, a man, then said, ”Isn’t it nice to know that your children are still alive?” My children were in San Diego, living with my husband, and I was being told that there safety depended on my decisions.
-Accessing calls: these are similar to the hang up calls, but when the survivor answers, tones are played, music may be played, or a name spoken which is meant to trigger an alter to come out. For instance, the person calling may ask, ” Is Karen there?” This is an alter created in the person who is supposed to be triggered out. If for some reason the alter is not triggered out (i.e. the survivor is working in therapy to break this programming) then the caller will say, ”I’m sorry, I have a wrong number.” This makes it sound innocent, but a survivor should be suspicious if there are 50 ‘wrong numbers’ in the period of a day or two.
Phone threats and messages are the first level of threats that a survivor will face. But if for some reason they anger individuals in the group, or if the group wants the survivor back badly enough, then the next level of threat can occur. This is abduction and harming the survivor.
I should know. This happened to me two months ago, and is one reason I have not posted here as frequently in the past weeks.
But I also refuse to be intimidated by this group, and so am choosing to speak out in spite of what happened.
When the group believes that they are truly losing control over the survivor, they may step up their efforts beyond phone threats. Instead, they will look for a time when the survivor is alone and vulnerable. Or, they will call and trigger out an alter, and tell them to meet a ‘friend’. This is often done to littles, who are trusting, and keep hoping that they will receive love or a ‘treat’ from those they look up to.
Once the person is lured or found alone, then abduction is usually easy for the cult to do. The person will be forced into a van, or vehicle. They may be driven to a house, or the abuse may occur in the back of a van with windows drawn.
These people are able to brutalize quickly and swiftly in a small space, and have the equipment with them when they make a ”call”. The victim will be told things such as ‘You haven’t been doing your job’, or other threats. Their internal programming will then be reinforced, with torture or even rape as punishment for disobedience. The victim will be gagged during the punishment to prevent others from hearing what is occurring. This will also usually occur in an isolated area, far from houses or intrusions.
The victim will then be returned to a nearby area, or to their car, and told to ”remember what they learned”. When it happened to me recently, I was told, ”See how easy it is to find you? Think about your children, and how easy it would be to do the same to them.”
What Can Be Done I immediately reported the abduction and abuse to my therapist, my husband, and my pastor. I considered calling the police, but wondered how they would receive the following: ”I was abducted by a man who I don’t know in a cream colored van with a temporary license plate, so it probably isn’t the real one. He used a halt command on me given to him by my mother and my trainer from San Diego, since they are the only two who know this, that’s why I didn’t fight him when he tied me up. He shocked me, so there are no bruised, and sexually abused me with an instrument, so there’s no semen.” He wore gloves the whole time, so there are no fingerprints. I blocked this all out for five days, and just remembered it today.”
My husband, pastor, and therapist all felt the police would probably not follow up on this report, so I didn’t file it. But what happened also shows how careful those who threaten and abuse are to cover their tracks and to make identification difficult.
At the same time, I am taking steps to be safer. 1) Don’t be alone: I am being especially accountable for my time, and don’t drive in isolated areas.
2) I have quit answering ‘unknown caller’ calls at work. Instead, I told my boss that I have been receiving harassing calls from unknown callers, and will only take calls that are identified and with a number.
3) I am working hard in therapy to look at how I was triggered, the codes that were used, and how, and to undo them. I am also dealing with the immense amount of panic and suicidality that this incident caused, which was the first clue that something HAD happened. I have been calming down littles, and reminding older parts inside that they don’t have to believe lies or do what these people tell them.
4) I have asked for help, which is very difficult for me, from my support system, including my church and my husband and children. Their encouragement, prayers, and help has made a huge different to me.
They told me to be silent. I refuse to. They told me not to tell. I refuse to agree with them. They told me I’m not ‘doing my job’. I plan to continue to not doing it, because they aren’t my owners, and have no right to tell me what to do.
Only by breaking the power of the lie, can a survivor break free of the control of these people. And this is my goal: to become, and to stay, free. Blessings, Svali