Deprogramming from the Unification Church
by Brian Sabourin
I had been fundraising for about one week when my mother called the center in Boston, telling me my father was having heart problems and asked me if I couldn't come home that weekend to care for the farm so that they could get away for a while. I immediately said "Yes," and promised to take a late bus home on Friday. After I had hung up, Antony, my center director came to me and asked me if I thought my parents were being honest with me, and if they could possibly have other plans for me besides those mentioned. I answered him that my parents were not the kind of people to act like that; that they would not lie to me and join the deprogrammers without first having a heart-to-heart talk with me. Furthermore, I told him that I had already warned them about these people, and said not to get involved without talking to me first. I believed my mother was being honest. So, it was considered safe for me to go home.
When Friday, July 4th (1975) came around I was again out fundraising, feeling and doing better than I ever had. I made $125.00 in about three hours' time. I was feeling great. At 4:30 I came back to the center and packed up my things. Everybody said goodbye to me and I was brought to the bus terminal by Christina, the girl who first introduced me to the church. She told me that she was very worried about me, and that everyone else was also. I reassured her of my parents' "good heart" and left to catch my bus, but I missed it by 30 seconds. I waited around until the 7:00 bus left Boston for Middleburry. That bus I caught, and later arrived at my front door around 1:30 in the morning. I quickly ran up the driveway and entered the front door. I was shocked to see everybody still up, waiting for me. I gave my mother a big hug and kiss and told them that they shouldn't have waited up for me. About then I noticed how worried and uneasy they all were. My father told me to sit down and that he wanted to talk with me. "Couldn't that wait until morning?" I asked. "I'm terribly tired."
"No, as a matter of fact, it can't," he said. So I sat down and started to explain what I had been doing for the last three months. But they could not understand me, or wouldn't understand. They kept interrupting me, saying that I didn't love them anymore, and that I was brainwashed. I couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing. I kept trying to explain myself to them, that I was not brainwashed and that I truly did love and care for them, indeed more than I ever had. But they would not believe me. This went on for about 75 minutes, until they were so upset and miserable that I felt as if I had to do something drastic in order to prove myself to them. I told them what had happened to Ann Devine and they said they knew about it. Hearing that, I became suspicious of them and began to get worried. I told them about the deprogramming sessions, and I told them I would be glad to talk with one of these people if that was what they wanted, and if they felt it would help answer their questions and make them feel better. They said they would appreciate that, if I didn't mind. I told them that I expected to be treated fairly and that the only purpose of it would be to resolve that questions which they had. I warned them about how deprogrammers had handled Unification Church members before. But, they said they would make sure I was treated fairly.
At that moment my mother called to some people to come from a nearby room, who up to this time, I had been unaware of. Suddenly my old wrestling and football coach, two of my uncles, and a close friend from school came in through the door and stood around me. Needless to say, I felt stupid. I had been tricked. They had planned to abduct me all along. I kept asking questions about what their plans were, and they said everything would be fair and that if I wanted to return after it was over, I could. So, odds being what they were, I . . .
It was about 3:00 in the morning. I got in my uncle's car, with my father and uncles sitting on either side of me, and was driven to an old hunting cabin in New Hampshire. I couldn't sleep during the car ride; I was too nervous and scared. Many times during the trip I felt sick to my stomach and nauseous, nearly passing out.
We got to the house at about 6:00 in the morning. I immediately recognized my future deprogrammers, Mr. George Swope and Carl Waranowski. I had seen them during a meeting at Durham, New Hampshire where CARP's membership as a qualified student organization was being re-considered.
They told me to get out of the car, and then escorted me into the little cabin. I walked around inside the cabin while the deprogrammers talked with my parents and relatives on the outside. After a while everybody came inside. Mrs. Swope and few other people had just arrived. My mother, father and uncles came over to me, saying that, "We're all behind you, Brian," and "We know you can do it . . ."
My mother then hugged me, and patted me on the head saying, "All these people have taken their holiday off just to help you, Brian. Now just listen to what they have to say. . ." She was treating me like a child. She treated me as a mother would treat her mentally sick son! I asked her if she was o.k. and told her that I already knew what these people were going to say, and if they would only let me, I could explain everything. She started crying then. I embraced her and tried to console her, saying that I had never thought out any decision as much as I had my decision to join the Unification Church. I told her that I loved being a member and that I had full use of my mind and free will. "Isn't that evident?" I asked. But she only cried more. Then I told her that I would be alright and that if everything went like they said it would, we would all learn something. My mother then turned and walked out the door to talk with the people outside.
My father then came up to me, shaking my hand and patting me on the back, saying, "You can see how worried and upset your mother and I are over you Brian, so just listen to these people, they're here to help you." I again said that I was fine and didn't need help from anyone. I told him that I had never been happier doing what I was doing, and that I could clear the whole problem up if they would only listen to me and give me the time to explain myself. My father shook his head and said, "Brian, I know you can pull yourself out of the problem you've gotten yourself into, and that is what these people are here for, to help you." I got the distinct feeling that he and everybody else there regarded me as one would a person with a drug addition. Shortly after this, he left too and my brother and friend Ray came into the room with me. I talked with them until the deprogrammers came into the room.
Then, at 6:30, they started in on me. Immediately they started yelling at me. Calling me a liar, telling me that I hated my parents and would even kill them if Moon told me to. They said that I should be ashamed of myself for causing them this worry!! I started to say that it was they who had caused my parents' confusion and not . . .
It wasn't long before I realized that this wasn't going to be anything like the "open-minded" and "fair" meeting which I had been told it would be. But, I didn't want to give up. I sincerely believed that I could eventually break through to these people and show them the ridiculousness of their accusations. So, I decided to be patient and understanding and talk only when spoken to, and explain myself when I thought they would be genuinely interested in listening.
Needless to say, they never changed. I started to get intense headache, but there was nothing to take for it. I felt sick to my stomach, exhausted, and scared. I hadn't eaten since 3:00 p.m. on Friday. After about 4 hours of this stuff, I got up out of my chair to sit in a more comfortable chair behind me. As soon as I moved, they all jumped up out of their chairs and started towards me. When they saw that I was only changing chairs, they sat back down again, and resumed their "therapy".
This continued until around noon when lunch was brought in for us. They said they were going to feed me "just like the 'cult" fed me," and gave me a single hot dog and a tables spoonful of baked beans. I sad down to eat, my hands were shaking, and I still felt sick and my headache was getting increasingly worse. I closed my eyes to pray a prayer of blessing for the meal, when suddenly Carl pushed me backwards in my chair, saying, "You ain't going to pray to Moon anymore!" I said, "What? I was only going to say grace before I eat!" But he continued to rave on about it, calling me a zombie-liar and a brainwashed pimp. I felt really sick by this time but I forced myself to eat what food they gave me.
My parents came back and gave me those sort of "pseudo-comforting" statements and detached embraces. They were crying and looked miserable. At that point I vowed to God that I would make it through this mess and help them to understand where they were wrong and regain their trust. I told them I was all right and not to worry because everything was going to be all right.
They left shortly after they came and the deprogrammers continued their barrage with renewed vigor. But I wasn't going to sit back and take it anymore. I sat up straight by the table and threw it right back at them. It wasn't long before I realized that this was useless, and decided to continue in the way I had before.
Many things happened that day. I didn't think I would make it through it without vomiting or passing out. They continued this until 3:00 a.m. the next morning when, seeing that I wasn't going to break down right off, they said I could go to bed. I undressed and got in my bed, when I bent down to pray. Carl quickly pushed me over, shouting, "I told you before! You ain't going to pray to Moon no more!"
They woke me the next morning at about 6:30. I got up and ate some cereal for breakfast while they began my "deprogramming" again. Even though the sleep was short, I felt a little better. But my head still ached, I felt weak, and had an empty feeling in my stomach.
After breakfast, Mr. Swope and Carl started in again. Their pattern and presentation were the same as the previous day. I knew I could explain and clarify all of the accusations which they were making if they would only give me the chance. But they never intended to. By this time I realized that the entire purpose of these sessions was to break the victim down, and in my opinion, forcibly "brainwash" him into believing that the Unification Church and Rev. Moon are evil and corrupt, and everything which he had believed in was wrong, contrived for the purpose of trapping people like myself. They preached their version of the Bible at me constantly, inserting Rev. Moon's name into all of the most despicable passages. I simply couldn't believe that a Christian minister and professional psychologist like Mr. Swope could use his knowledge in such a fashion on people like myself.
The second day continued much like the first day had, with my parents making infrequent visits at the request of the deprogrammers. Yet it was fortunate for them that they only visited me this much, because whenever they came, it only proved to be miserable for them. For example, on the second day when my mother and father came, my mother started a conversation with me. She said, "Brian, can't you see how wrong you were to join such a movement at this? Can't you see how Moon is just brainwashing you kids?" When I said, "no," she started crying and crying.
I simply didn't know what to do! Comforting them by saying everything was going to be all right was an outright lie. Nothing was going to be all right as long as I was prevented from explaining myself to them, and as long as they believed that I was brainwashed it was hopeless. I thought a lot about trying to escape and explaining everything later when we all could be more calm and reasonable. But I knew the deprogrammers would never leave them alone, and would easily convince them to try more drastic measures for getting me out. Furthermore, I couldn't stand to see them suffering like they were. I knew that I would hurt them very deeply if I escaped. So. . . I decided to stick it out. I wouldn't try to escape, not even if they gave me an easy opportunity. I planned to outlast them. I would listen to them and listen to them until they ran out of energy and breath, then I would explain myself and show them the ridiculousness of their actions.
Well, it didn't work. . . They took time out, exchanging themselves with other loudmouths while I was always there, catching it.
As time went on, I became weaker and weaker. My headache was constantly with me, night and day. I would frequently feel so much like vomiting that I would visually measure the distance to the sink and estimate how quickly I could make it there, hoping that the deprogrammers wouldn't misinterpret my intentions and stop me mid-way.
The second day ended like the first, except an hour earlier. I got to bed at 2:00 a.m. and was woken about 7:00 a.m. the next morning. The third day was virtually similar to the second and first days. Yet I was quickly becoming weaker. By this time I started to pretend to agree with them on certain points to defray some of their attacks. Yet this proved to be my undoing later when they discovered this and came down on me even harder.
I hadn't changed my clothes or brushed my teeth or anything since they got me on Friday. I felt and looked wretched by this time. Yet this was all part of their game. By the end of the third day I know that I was hopeless to think of ever reasoning with these people, or with my parents as long as these people were around to influence them. But I still would not try to escape, because of the effects which I believed this would have on my parents, even though I had some good opportunities.
The fourth day was the same as the rest, except for the change in me. I was really sick. . . I couldn't think straight if I had to by this time. I was totally caught up in a mesh of conflicting loyalties -- between my parents and the church -- and didn't know where to turn. I still believed and wanted to belong to the church at this point, but I no longer could remember or explain my reasons why. As the deprogramming continued, my mind discontinued. I started to become really scared of what was happening to me. I even started to feel brainwashed, if you can imagine what that feels like. So when the fifth day rolled around, I knew my time was limited. They were allowing me to get more sleep by now, around five to six hours, but it was nowhere near enough. I had started to fall asleep during the sessions by the third day, and by the fifth day, it was more than a struggle to stay awake. Whenever I would start to drop off they would kick me to wake me up. Once, I pretended to be asleep to see how far they would go in order to try and revive me. When the kicking didn't bring a response, the slaps did -- I opened my eyes . . .
One particular event of the fifth day still stays with me. Mr. Swope was reading the Bible and telling me to read various sections, which he picked out. I was really becoming frustrated by his demeaning remarks and suddenly started to sarcastically read the passages in just the way he had been sarcastically reading from my Divine Principle book. I had no more that uttered two words when Rev. Swope catapulted out of his chair, grabbing me by the neck and hair and violently shook me shouting, "I'll teach you to take the Lord's name in vain, you little bastard!" while Carl reiterated and punched me both in the back and in the back of my head. This incident startle me, but I was not hurt. Actually, I welcomed the change from the boredom.
The fifth day ended and the sixth day came. As soon as I got up, I knew I wasn't going to make it through the day without having an emotional breakdown. While eating breakfast I remembered back to my first day, when I had said to my deprogrammers, "you aren't going to be satisfied until you have me grovelling on the floor, are you?" to which Carl said, "Well, that would be a good start."
That day, these insults seemed to strike right at my heart. The tension built up, my confusion and desperation finally climaxed, and I burst out into a fit of tears. I couldn't stand it anymore. Whenever they made an accusation I would shake my head and agree with them, while in my heart I knew they were wrong. They accused me of "faking" my breakdown and pressed me again and again with their accusations. Each time now I would agree with them, I was so confused. . . I felt as if, well, maybe I had been brainwashed, maybe I was wrong. So I even started to participate in their game. I came to help them, and did whatever they said, and tried my darnedest to see everything the way they did because I really began to believe that I had been brainwashed and these were the only people who could help me.
From that day on, I outwardly began to sing their tune while inwardly feeling myself to be a hypocrite, believing this dichotomy to be due to the Unification church's unscrupulous brainwashing of me.
They kept me in that cabin for 12 days before letting me out. Every day I would break down like I had on the 6th day and they would treat me the same way each time. They treated me better as I proved to sing their tune better. Each night for the next week, I would be brought back to the cabin to sleep, and re-hash all of the material the next day. I remember what it felt like going into the cabin each night. When we drove back to it after the evening dinner, now held at the Swope's house, all of the scenes of my deprogramming would flash back into my head. I would start to feel sick again, and my head would begin to ache. So great was my dread of that place that I would feel stuck rigid in my car seat. When we arrived, it took all I had to force myself out of the car. I would then run to the door, waiting to get in, fighting off my tears, fear, and the miserable, wretched dread which I had for that place.
I was at the Swopes' house for about two weeks and then I was driven all over the Northeast to visit other ex-members. During this time I started to feel better. I felt I was thinking more clearly now since I was "deprogrammed." Yet I still had some imperfections, which they all did their best to correct in me.
After about a month of this I was brought home. It felt good to be back and away from these people, but I in no way felt good. I was constantly depressed and miserable. Yet I tried my best not to let anyone know, partly because I was afraid of a barrage of questions and strong talk, which I had had plenty of, and also because I thought my psychological condition was due to the brainwashing I received from the Unification Church. I continued in this schitzophrenic way from about two months after I was home, until my own depression, desperation, mental confusion, and physical sickness forced me to start all over again. I decided to force myself into researching everything. Once I started this I began a daily recuperation to my previously healthy self. I started to feel much better.
Today I have written two papers as a result of the research, and feel pretty good again. I know clearly who to believe in now, and believe me, it's not the deprogrammers!