Oregon Review of International Law
In the 1970s and ‘80s in the United States, American newspapers raised public awareness about cults. Capturing headlines were articles about women, and later men, who followed Charles Manson to the extreme length of committing “Helter Skelter,” a cold-blooded killing spree. Cult activity continued to exist, out of sight and unobserved, until culminating in tragedy when it would, again, become the topic of a news story. Even when cults did not achieve “front-page” status in the news, they continued to recruit adults and raise children born into the group.
Destructive cults are the focus of this paper. Cults continue to evade our justice system here in the United States and abroad. This paper seeks to offer a fresh legal framework which, I posit, could aid in the capture and prosecution of cult leaders. I posit that law enforcement and the international community use anti-trafficking laws and resources to capture cult leaders, prosecute them for the harm that they inflict on their adherents, and provide services to former cult members. In this way, the religious or political dogma of cults — often an obstacle to holding them accountable for their criminal behavior — is no longer a barrier to prosecution.