Employing Trafficking Laws to Capture Elusive Leaders of Destructive Cults

64 Pages Posted: 15 Nov 2015 Last revised: 14 Dec 2016

Robin Boyle

St. John's University - School of Law

Date Written: November 9, 2015


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.

Keywords: Human Trafficking, Laws, Cults

Suggested Citation

Boyle, Robin, Employing Trafficking Laws to Capture Elusive Leaders of Destructive Cults (November 9, 2015). St. John's Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-0030. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2690453 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2690453

Robin Boyle (Contact Author)

St. John's University - School of Law ( email )

8000 Utopia Parkway
Jamaica, NY 11439
United States

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