Local woman can relate to Smart’s alleged brainwashing

KFXO, Mar. 13, 2003

When first discovered, Elizabeth Smart denied her true identity to police, which points to mounting evidence that Smart’s captors brainwashed her. Experts say mind control or brain washing happens most often to people who are part of a large group or cult.

A type of mind control can also happen in situations similar to Smarts’, if the people in control threaten the victim or her family with violence. Portlander Donna Grobey understands what its like to totally turn one’s self over to the power of others. “You know I started out as Donna, but I became what they wanted me to be,” says Grobey about her experience with a cult.

For three years in the late 1980’s, Grobey was part of a religious cult in New York City . She lived with the cult group, giving them all of her money. The cult controlled her time, who she dated, and discouraged her from contacting family or anyone else outside the group. Grobey says she stayed nearly three years out of fear. “Well in my particular group, if I left my church I was going to hell. So I wasn’t going to go anywhere, I was scared to death.”

Portland State University sociologist, Randy Blazak, feels Elizabeth Smart’s captors could have also used religion to scare the little girl; brainwashing her into thinking everyone in the outside world is evil and cannot be trusted. “Brainwashing in the common sense is a very gradual change of our sense of self,” says Blazak about cases in which cultists deny their families or personal history.

But Blazak feels it’s more than likely, they threatened Smart personally, and told her if she didn’t obey they would also hurt her family. “They have this threat of violence hanging over their heads, if not to them, then to the people they care about, and that’s enough to keep people from running away.”

It took an intervention by Grobey’s family to get her out of the cult and then she says it was like someone had pulled the rug out from under her as she slowly realized that everything she had become and believed in over three years was a lie. Elizabeth Smart may be going through a similar transition.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday March 14, 2003.
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