Boyle Presents at International Cultic Studies Association

Professor Robin Boyle presented at the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) on July 4, 2019 in Manchester, England. Her topic was ‘Legal Developments in the USA: Combatting the Surreal- Human Trafficking, Child Marriages, and Predatory Alienation.’ The conference was jointly organized by ICSA; Psychology of Coercive Control Masters Program, the Connected Lives Diverse Realities Research Group, and Criminal Justice Hub at the University is Salford, UK; and Info-Cult/ Info-Secte of Montreal, Canada. It attracted over 200 registrants from around the world, including mental health professionals, lawyers, academics, sociologists, and former and current members of cults and high demand groups.


Professor Boyle’s presentation covered several subtopics. First, she addressed federal laws in the US that can be used to achieve criminal prosecution of cult leaders, focusing on the recent federal case of United States v. Raniere; Keith Raniere led NxIvm, a purported self-help organization. That case concluded after 6 weeks of trial in E.D.N.Y. with a guilty verdict on all seven counts, including human trafficking and racketeering. Professor Boyle pointed out that these convictions were obtained without introducing the legal theories of undue influence and brainwashing, theories that have been challenged in U.S. courts. She mentioned California state law that expanded the factor test of undue influence. She pointed to recent national laws pertaining to coercive control in England and in Ireland.

Second, Professor Boyle  discussed U.S. federal law pertaining to immigration. Specifically, she described the legal challenges asylum seekers face when claiming that the cults from which they escaped on foreign soil meet the federal statutory definition of ‘social group.’

Third, Professor Boyle discussed the problems with child marriages. Advocates for raising the legal age of marriage have been successful in several states, including New York. There are 13 states that currently have no minimum marriage age.

Last, Professor Boyle provided recent information about developments in New Jersey. A few years ago the state authorized a study on the topic of Predatory Alienation, which was accomplished by the Center on Violence Against Women and Children at Rutgers University School of Social Work. As a result of that study, an advocacy group drafted legislation that is pending before the NJ House and Senate; these bills seek to define Predatory Alienation, authorize public awareness campaigns, and create referral services and screening programs.

Professor Boyle has written extensively about legal theories that can be used to combat cults and high demand groups. Her work appears in a book chapter, essays, and articles published in peer-reviewed journals and law reviews.

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