Finding A Safe House (Svali Blog Post)


This information is mirrored from

One of the greatest problems that confronts a survivor of cult abuse trying to escape is “Where do I go now?” Often, the person has been surrounded their entire lifetime by both their family of origin, who are members in transgenerational cult groups, and even their closest friends are frequently members. The person may need to make the difficult decision to flee the city they live in (or the rural area, since these groups also operate in the country) and move to a new area.

Alone, friendless, cut off from family, and frequently without funds, this person must try to make a new life, at a time when they are very vulnerable.

The lack of Safe Houses for a person trying to leave the cult has been an ongoing concern of therapists and pastors who work with survivors. There are several reasons for this relative lack, that include:

1) The time commitment needed: it is a true commitment of time and resources to decide to open one’s home up to survivors, one unfortunately that many people simply are not willing to make.

2) Lack of understanding or training for lay helpers about DID and ritual abuse: many churches do not understand ritual abuse, and few lay people understand it without training. There are many misconceptions about DID and ritual abuse, ones that can be easily corrected with seminars. Dr. Jim Friesen and his associates at Shepherd’s House in the Los Angeles area have created a model for the church community in reaching out to and helping survivors, one that I would recommend that all lay people and pastoral staff interested in working with ritual abuse survivors read.

3) Cult plants: it has been reported that frequently the cult will have members pose as caring, “Christian” supporters, who will offer their homes or even create “shelters” for ritual abuse survivors, but who then reaccess the survivor. This creates a fear for the survivor in knowing where to turn, or where a true safe house might exist. Unfortunately, there are those who prey on the vulnerable, and the survivor must use caution when agreeing to live somewhere.

4) Unhealthy homes: there are also frequent reports of noncult, but abusive situations that survivors find themselves in when they go to live with a supposedly “safe family”. I have heard survivors report being locked in closets, enduring verbal abuse, physical abuse, and even sexual abuse in situations when they were placed in “safe houses”. Others have told me of enduring living in homes filled with garbage and feces, which is another form of abuse.

Sharing this is not meant to frighten survivors, but to underline the need to exercise caution when looking for safe housing. Just because a person welcomes others into their home does not guarantee that they are safe.

This means that a survivor must be cautious when entering a

new living situation. Some guidelines for looking for a true safe living situation might include the following:

  • Is this place recommended by someone that I trust, and that I KNOW is safe, who doesn’t have a hidden agenda?
  • Is the place clean and habitable, within reason?
  • Why does the family want to work with survivors? How did they become interested? What are the dynamics in the home? Do the spouses have a healthy, good relationship?
  • What are the expectations of the survivor? Helping with household chores is fine, and so it keeping ones room and living areas clean. Daily hours of backbreaking “free labor”, or an unpaid childcare service for 40+ hours a week without pay is not, especially if the survivor is still fragile.
  • Does the survivor have access to competent, professional therapy? This will also be important in the healing process, and to help stay cult free.
  • What is the practicing belief system of the “safe family”? I have heard of accounts of survivors being led into a new, nonsatanic cult group with abusive practices in a supposed safe house.

 How isolated is the living situation? Will the survivor have access to transportation at times, to get groceries or to therapy? How will this need be worked out?

 How will the family handle attempts by the cult to access the survivor? Safety issues? How will they also help the survivor prevent their own recontacting the cult? These issues should be discussed openly and honestly, and plans for dealing with these situations made. Often, survivors will leave a true safe home for fear of endangering family members, since the cult will often threaten the family the survivor lives with. But normally, the cult will not kill outside people, they tend to threaten but not follow through, because they do not want police investigations.

 Is there outside accountability in the home to others, as well, such as a therapist or the pastor? Is the family willing to interact with the therapist, and learn about DID and ritual abuse? Or is their attitude a closed, “we know everything we need to know” attitude?

Anytime a survivor finds themselves in an unhealthy or abusive living situation, they HAVE THE RIGHT TO LEAVE. Coercion into staying in a living situation that is unsafe or unhealthy is wrong, and should be another indication that the situation is not a good one.

There are groups that are dedicated to helping survivors find safe housing. I will not list them here, but visiting some of the major newslists for survivors will give information. But any survivor should investigate carefully any living situation before entering into one.

Other resources for finding safe housing could include contacting therapists in your area with a known, national reputation for being safe, for resources; contacting local churches or known safe pastors with a good reputation, or contacting safe house lists that are known to be safe.

  • Important note: I myself do NOT have lists of safe houses and cannot address individual questions about them. Thank you.