International Journal of Coercion, Abuse, and Manipulation (IJCAM)

Vo. 2, pp. 27-40 (2021). First Published, November 10, 2021. DOI:

Preventing Predatory Alienation by High-Control Groups: The Application of Human Trafficking Laws to Groups Popularly Known as Cults, & Proposed Changes to Laws Regarding Federal Immigration, State Child Marriage, & Undue Influence

Robin Boyle-Laisure


In this article, I summarize some of the significant legal developments in the United States that have taken place within the past year. First, United States v. Raniere was a criminal case launched against the founder of a purported self-help organization, NXIVM, and several of his associates. The Raniere case established precedent for using the human-trafficking statutes, among other grounds, to pursue justice for victims of high-demand groups. Second, the number of asylum seekers is increasing annually, and some of these undocumented immigrants are escaping from their countries-of-origin cults, gangs, and other extremist groups. However, once they arrive in the United States, there are many statutory and court-imposed requirements for establishing asylum; lawmakers should clarify or eliminate some of these requirements in order to fulfill the original purpose of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Third, setting the minimum age for marriage would help to reduce the number of child brides who are often pressured by cults and high-control groups.Fourth, still in need of refinement is the legal theory of “undue influence,” which potentially could aid cult victims in civil lawsuits against overreaching organizations and individuals. And finally, pending in the New Jersey legislature is the Predatory Alienation Bill, which calls for ongoing public-awareness campaigns, alienation counseling, and other remedies.