In 1984 the Cult Awareness Network
compiled a list of more than 2,000 groups about which they had received
inquiries (Hulet, 1984). As of May 24, 2003 ICSA (formerly AFF) had 4426
groups listed in its electronic files, which are populated mainly as a
result of inquiries or news reports. I would not hazard an estimate of
what percentage of these groups would be at risk of harming members. The
quality and quantity of data on individual groups is simply too low to
groups appear to
be small, having no more than a few hundred members.
Some, however, have tens of thousands of members and formidable
Several surveys shed some light on the
number of people who may have been involved in what they perceived to be
Hartley (1985), who surveyed a random sample of
1,000 San Francisco Bay area high school
students, found that 3% reported being members
of cultic groups and that 54% had had at least
one contact with a cult recruiter.
Langone (1984) reported that 3% and 1.5% of high
school students in two suburbs of Boston said
they were cult members.
and Reimer (1982), in surveys of the adult
populations of San Francisco and Montreal, found
that approximately 20% of adults had
participated in new religious or para-religious
movements (including groups such as Kung Fu),
although more than 70% of the involvements were
transient. Other data in this study suggest that
approximately two to five percent of the
subjects had participated in groups that are
frequently thought to be cultic.
A weekly omnibus
survey conducted by ICR Survey Research Group
for ICSA/AFF in 1993 found that about 1% of
respondents said that they had been involved in
a cult or what others might consider a cult.
survey of more than 1000 physicians (who are
accustomed to making differential diagnoses)
found that 2.2% reported that they or a family
member had been involved in a cultic group, with
"cult� clearly defined as a noxious group. It
seems reasonable, therefore, to estimate that at
least two million Americans have been involved
with cultic groups.
In the research
study that led to the development of the Group
Psychological Abuse Scale (Chambers, Langone,
Dole, & Grice, 1994) subjects' average age of
joining was 24.8 and their average time in their
groups was 6.70 years (308 subjects from 101
groups; 60% left on their own without outside,
formal assistance; 13% had been deprogrammed;
17% exit counseled; 9% ejected by their groups).
Assuming a lifetime incidence of
2,500,000 people having belonged to cultic
groups, a "lifetime" period of 30 years, and an
average length of stay of six years, I roughly
estimate that approximately 500,000 people
belong to cultic groups at any one time and
approximately 85,000 go in and out of cultic
groups each year.
However, as West
(1990, p. 137) says, "cults are able to operate successfully
because at any given time most of their members are either not yet aware
that they are being exploited, or cannot express such an awareness
because of uncertainty, shame, or fear."
Therefore, in any survey, however random, the actual number of
cultists is likely to be much greater than the number of persons who
identify themselves as members of cultic groups or even of groups that
other people might deem cultic. Because
the group members do not identify themselves as such, they are not
likely to be identified as cult-affected by psychotherapists or other
helpers unless the helpers inquire into the possibility that there might
be a cult involvement.
F., & Reimer, B. (1982). Participation
rates in new religions and para-religious movements. Journal
for the Scientific Study of Religion, 21,1-14.
A., & Langone, M. D. (1984).
Preventive education on cultism for high school students: A
comparison of different programs' effects on potential vulnerability to
Studies Journal, 1, 167-177.
Chambers, W. V.,
Langone, M. D., Dole, A. A., & Grice, J. W.
(1994). The Group Psychological Abuse Scale: A
measure of the varieties of cultic abuse. Cultic
Studies Journal, 11(1), 88-117.
Organizations in our Society. Hutchinson,
KS: Virginia Hulet.
Research Group. (1993, Aug. 4-8). Cult screening
test. Media, PA: AUS Consultants.
E. (Feb. 1993). Survey
reveals physicians� experiences with cults.
Pennsylvania Medicine, 96, 26-28.
L. J. (1990). Persuasive
techniques in contemporary cults: A public health approach.
Cultic Studies Journal, 7,
126-149. (Reprinted from,
Galanter, M., Ed., Cults and new
religious movements. Washington,
D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, pp. 165-192.)
P. G., & Hartley, C. F. (1985).
Cults go to high school: A
theoretical and empirical analysis of the initial stage in the
recruitment process. Cultic Studies Journal, 2, 91-148.