School of Health & Society 01.10.22

Salford graduate appointed as consultant for new ITV project

Former Coercive Control master’s student, Richard Turner, has been appointed as a drama consultant for an ITV project exploring cults.

Richard was appointed to the role due to his own experiences with a Liverpool based cult, as well as his knowledge of coercive control and understanding of the mental health struggles of victims.

The Liverpool based cult that Richard was involved with teaches the Prosperity Gospel, which is heavily based around the idea of giving donations to the cult, as ‘the greater the gift, the greater the divine reward’. He spent three years with the cult, working as a support worker, attending their meetings and, eventually, lived with other members.

When reflecting on the beginning of his experience, Richard believes there were times he did find the cult to be odd. However, he felt extremely welcomed and supported by the members and felt glad to be a part of a community.

“I struggled with self-esteem issues and bullying during my teenage years, so it really touched me when these people started saying such kind things about me and being so welcoming. Looking back this was just their way of manipulating me but it’s hard to see at the time,” he said.

Richard began noticing signs of the cult leaders’ controlling behaviour during his relationship with his now ex-girlfriend, who he was not allowed to sleep in the same building as or even kiss.

“I started to realise we were being controlled and became concerned for both of our safety. After addressing my concerns, I felt like I was gaslighted by the members and shunned for my feelings.” He signed off from work with mental health difficulties and after several incidents, officially left the cult in 2019.

After leaving, Richard went on to study a master’s degree in Coercive Control here at the University of Salford. During his studies, with help of the university’s Launch project, Richard started a counselling service deigned to help those affected by cults deal with the aftermath

“I’ve found that it’s not just ex-cult members that want support, family members and friends are also coming to me. These cults have such a detrimental effect on the people involved and a lot of the time its very hard to notice what is actually happening.”

The cult that Richard was a part of is one of many in the UK. These communities are often very well disguised and overlooked. “People just see cults in extreme cases, like with human trafficking. They don’t see the controlling behaviour of smaller groups or view these groups as cults.”

With the rise in popularity of crime documentaries, and sudden interest in the cult community; Richard hopes there will be more accessible information about the warning signs for these groups, to help others understand the dangers.