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How easy is it to get trapped in a cult? Cult deprogrammer says it can happen to anybody.

United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman (C) announces the indictment against Lawrence Ray aka "Lawrence Grecco." (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman (C) announces the indictment against Lawrence Ray aka "Lawrence Grecco." (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

A new documentary on HULU tells the story of Larry Ray, a twisted Pied Piper who lured his daughter’s Sarah Lawrence College roommates into a cult he created in a cramped Manhattan apartment. Initially they viewed Larry as a sage and mentor, but little was as it appeared.

Over nearly a decade he used sexual, physical and psychological abuse to brainwash them into believing that outsiders and their parents were trying to kill them, that one of them was poisoning another, and that they were victimizing him — breaking his possessions, and lying — and owed him thousands of dollars they got from their parents, and in one case, through prostitution.

How could this happen? Former cult member Felicia Rosario says Ray was a master manipulator, and that, “it could happen to anyone.”

Here & Now‘s Robin Young talks to cult and deradicalization expert Steven Hassan, Ph.D., himself a former member of the Unification Church (also known as the Moonies), about manipulation, brainwashing, memory altering, and the steps to recovery. Hassan is the author of “Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-selling Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults” and instructor of Understanding Cults: A Foundational Course for Clinicians, Concerned Public & Professionals.

Watch on YouTube.

Op-ed by Steve Hassan

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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