When you hear the word cult, there are likely a few things that come to mind- the Manson Family, Heaven’s Gate, Jonestown. You likely picture seedy leaders with God-like egos who exploit vulnerable people under the guise of community, structure, solidarity, and hope. Although many cults have been founded with good intentions, they often sour in some way.
Many people in those situations remain blinded by the future they are promised by their charismatic leaders, but some do eventually wake up and realize the manipulation, subjugation, and systematic brainwashing that is rampant within the groups. Those people who manage to get out and reintegrate into the “real world” sometimes take years to fully realize and talk about what they experienced, and while many don’t talk about it at all, others feel compelled to do so as a warning against the seemingly idyllic cults they escaped. Here are just a few of those stories.