The following post originally appeared on the Mercy Survivors website. If you are a former resident of Mercy Ministries in need of support, contact Mercy Survivors at info [at] mercysurvivors [dot] com.
This is often a question on a Mercy Ministries survivor’s mind after her experience at Mercy Ministries. If you read more widely than Mercy Ministries’ promotional material, it is likely you have come across suggestions and references to Mercy Ministries being a cult or destructive group. Each woman in our network represents her own thoughts and feelings on the matter, but many have found it helpful to ponder that question and seek out information on what actually constitutes a cult or destructive group. And in that process, many girls have identified that Mercy Ministries exhibits many traits that are typically operational in cults and coercive groups.
In order to assist you to form your own view, we provide the following information: –
During the period of media interest in March 2008, there were some articles published suggesting that Mercy Ministries was a cult. One article by Ruth Pollard of the Sydney Morning Herald, (the journalist who originally exposed Mercy Ministries in Australia), quoted South Australian Labor MP (Member of Parliament) Ian Hunter as saying that Mercy Ministries was “money-making cult, posing as a Christian-based counselling service”. Ms Pollard published a further article n which Mercy Ministries was condemned as “cult-like” by two Psychiatrists in with regards to its practices and discouragement of autonomy.
Another article drew attention to the comments of Raphael Aron of Cult Counselling Australia expressing concerns about Mercy Ministries, which he further elaborated on in a televised interview. Mr Aron has since published a book, part of which discusses Mercy Ministries at length. (Book title and Amazon link will be inserted shortly).
First hand experiences vs cult criteria
A resource that many of us have found helpful is Steven Hassan’s BITE model of destructive mind control. It lists four main areas of criteria, and if you look at each item on that list and compare it with our experiences or what you may have read in the various media articles, you will quickly see that much of the criteria applies to reported experiences of Mercy Ministries. Destructive mind control techniques are used within cults or destructive/coercive groups. One former Mercy Ministries resident compares this list with her personal experience in her own powerful words.
Another survivor breaks down her experiences and observations at Mercy Ministries in a series, and what she shares gives insight into the dynamics that are present at Mercy Ministries ,  and . She also draws upon Dr Robert J Lifton’s criteria for thought reform, a highly recognised authority on cult dynamics . Again, you will identify many common themes linking this criteria with the many stories that have surfaced over the last number of years.
Lastly, another survivor speaks of coming to terms with her experience at Mercy Ministries and overcoming the effects of cult dynamics.
If you search our blog list or even the internet, you will come across the personal blogs and websites of many young women affected by Mercy Ministries from around the world, manifesting the themes of thought reform and destructive mind control typically found in cults and coercive groups. You will also come across oodles of comments responding to various media articles and the like where women have shared their own stories.
It is helpful to get an understanding of what these criteria and the forms in which they may manifest. To assist you in this regard, we recommend the following websites:
Dr Robert J Lifton’s Criteria for Thought Reform
Steven Hassan’s BITE Model of Destructive Mind Control
To list all sources that tell of specific criteria would be quite a feat, but rather than duplicate the masses of information already available, we encourage you to consult Google and the like.