• Lisa

Minot Woman Shares Research in D.C.


Article from 2014 about some of my work;

Minot resident Lisa Kendall has made it her mission to expose and counter abuse associated with cult activity using all available tools, including social media.

In July, Kendall will travel to Washington, D.C., as one of a prestigious group of about 100 presenters at the International Cultic Studies Association’s annual conference.

There she will share the knowledge she’s developed in using Facebook and other social media to connect with people in cults and obtain information to document illegal activity that can be used to bring perpetrators to justice.

Kendall, whose interest comes from her own family’s experience with a cult, said she was invited to present but still had to submit her information for review before receiving final acceptance to speak. The use of social media in advocacy is a cutting-edge tool but one that seemed logical to Kendall, who has spent years building up an online network.

“There is a sense of urgency because others aren’t doing it,” she said.

Kendall was 9 years old when her mother decided the family should enter the Move of God in Portland, Ore. Kendall left the cult at age 19, but it wasn’t until about three years ago that she began devoting herself to advocacy work on behalf of cult victims, especially children who have suffered physical and sexual abuse. She documents abuses associated with members of the Move of God while working with legislators and protective service agencies to better protect children in all cult groups.

Working with victims of abuse is not the type of work that a person enjoys but it is one that needs to be done, she said.

“Having a master’s in public administration, I felt obligated to do this,” she said, explaining that her knowledge gives her an ability to take action that isn’t available to people living in cults where education is suppressed.

She also has been driven to get involved to honor her deceased sister, who had suffered medical and physical neglect as a child in a cult environment.

Because children in cults typically live in insulated communities, they are vulnerable to opportunists whose abuse is excused by the community, Kendall said. Adults as well can be abused. They may be financially exploited, as she was before she left, she said.

She said her work in building evidence to prosecute child abusers has helped convict offenders or at least pressure cult groups to kick out violators they had been harboring.

Through social media, she is able to encourage young people in cults who want to leave but are intimidated.

“There are places they can go,” she said. “The idea that they can leave it’s empowering.”

Researchers estimate between 3,000 and 5,000 cults in the United States. It’s estimated that one in 100 people will belong to a cult at some point in life.

Kendall is writing a book about her experiences called “No Place Like Home.” The book will be largely a memoir but also will be a resource for victims of cults.

Kendall has collaborated with others around the world who share her passion for preventing cult abuse. They include Rita Swan, a former instructor at Jamestown University in North Dakota and president of Children’s Healthcare is a Legal Duty. CHILD is a membership organization founded in 1983 to protect children from harmful religious and cultural practices, especially religion-based medical neglect.

Kendall will be giving away copies of Swan’s book, “The Last Strawberry,” at the Washington conference and has arranged to have the books for sale at Main Street Books in Minot.

Kendall came to North Dakota about two years because of the local opportunities in her career field but has spent much of her time working on her research, which has a national and international scope.

She recently founded Counter Cult Coalition, whose mission is to reverse the negative impact of cult activity through research, healing, exposure, prosecution and supporting human rights. The coalition’s goal is to strengthen mandatory reporting laws, fund research projects and use social media to reach victims and prosecute abusers.

As a first step in supporting the project, people can “like” Counter Cult Coalition’s Facebook page.

Among those supporting Kendall’s efforts is Staples in Minot, which donated the printing services for materials she will need at the conference scheduled for July 3 to 5.

A portion of her presentation will be in French, so she is brushing up on her language skills, she said.

Her presentation will be directed to law enforcement, therapists and other professionals. It focuses on the research capability of social media and how to reach young people using that media, how to tailor a message and use statistical features of Facebook Insights to maximize those efforts.

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