The Scarlet Woman – a regular reader tells her story of leaving a cult

The Scarlet Woman was not a follower of Universal Medicine or Serge Benhayon. She came up against the group when someone she thought a trustworthy health professional began referring her to Esoteric practitioners. At the same time they failed to refer her for appropriate medical care. A lot of pain, illness, ineffective therapy and expense later, she feels betrayed and duped. She has been reading this site since and recently wrote to me with some heartfelt concerns about UM, and how much empathy she feels for the cult’s victims. Scarlet, you see, grew up in a cult that has a number of parallels with UM, and was in it for four decades before she got out. I thought it might benefit all of us, and ex UM students in particular, if she told her story…

Growing up in a cult

My Parents joined a cult a year before I was born, and adhered to the cult’s ways very seriously. My upbringing was very strict and very reclusive. The following is a sampling of the cult lifestyle they claimed to be ‘truth’ and ‘integrity’ – things they even sang songs about – and love too!

  • As a child I wasn’t allowed to associate with anyone outside the cult – including family members who were not in the cult.
  • As a school kid I was required to come home for lunch to minimise my association with ‘worldlings’.
  • There were many restrictions on cult members which to outsiders seemed weird, so this invoked a lot of ridicule and ostracism from fellow school mates, which made my school years very hard to get through. I always was told that it was good to stand out as different and that we were standing up against evil, and setting a good example – essential if you were seeking Divine favour. This was even though at times the ridicule would make me cry.
  • No extra activities eg: sports or academic pursuits were not to be participated in – ‘worldly’
  • The cult and my parents also took a dim view towards anyone in the cult who didn’t behave as if totally committed – again you were to have minimal association with them – as they were deemed bad associates who would weaken your faith.
  • We were all (young babies to the elderly and infirm) required to go to meetings each week, engage in daily readings and travel to conventions throughout the year.
  • Anti – cult writings or articles were not to be read – they were regarded as evil.

Cult Rules

At these weekly meetings we were constantly reminded of the following rules (amongst many others):

  • We weren’t to listen to worldly music. This cult also has it’s own music.
  • It was wrong to be in the company of the opposite sex unchaperoned because it would lead to sinful deeds (more about this this later).
  • At the meetings members were always exhorted to work harder and study more – while we were told to do all of this, we were also told we were still not making the mark and we were still met with harsh judgement. After all the years of commitment, how much progress had we made?
  • Missing these meetings was met with harsh judgment and we were told we would lose the Divine’s approval, which we were told we may possibly get some day, but could lose much more easily. If you missed meetings because you were ill this was met with displeasure and doubt.
  • We were constantly admonished on what to wear – nothing worldly allowed.
  • Proselytising was paramount, and we were judged adversely if we didn’t do it. So much so we had to report on our performance and were judged accordingly.
  • There was always talk about supporting the work financially although no fees were actually charged. The cult received its financial backing and all other support via guilt, fear and control.
  • At these meetings a lot of questionable things were spoken about – talks were often given on what is and is not acceptable sexual behaviour between a man and woman not only for single people (who must be chaperoned) but also between husbands and wives.
  • Enjoying this apparently transient lifetime was folly because our time here had to be spent striving to  improve ourselves for the next life. If we were lucky enough to make it there. And the list went  on and on.

A Cult Marriage

I was a dutiful daughter but never received parental approval. My marriage within the cult was virtually arranged. We were so young. I certainly married a narcissistic man, and religion was a powerful tool in his hands. He quoted to me dozens and dozens of times the cult’s teaching on how a woman must know her place. Submissiveness. Funny this narcissistic husband would also accuse me of being needy.

In my late twenties, I wanted to leave the cult (and him) but my life would have been made even more difficult by him and my parents, as well as the consequences of leaving the cult. At this time he had reached a leadership level within the cult. He was a very successful salesman in his secular life. I just got on with things as best I could. It was the lesser of two evils, so to speak.

After some years my husband felt he wasn’t receiving what he thought to be the right adulation from the cult (exacerbated by his narcissistic personality), so this caused him to have serious doubts about the cult and leave. He hated that I stayed with the cult, but for the first time in my life I decided for myself. I was by this stage sick of his control, although I had all the life just about sucked out of me. He was still successful in making me feel just like the cult did – guilty.

To cut a long story short, we divorced (he left me) and later, in my forties I left the cult. 

Why did I stay in the cult?

Well you may ask, (as I do often) being on the outside looking in, why did I stay in the cult for so long and not see it all for what it was many many years before?

Cults insidiously gain such control of every facet of you, they get into your mind through guilt, fear and confusion whilst every now and then doing some things that make sense. Along with all the wacko evil control etc, every now and then things appeared to be normal and good things would happen like people who were really ‘down and out’ suddenly felt good about themselves on joining. The cult writes about these experiences of people’s lives being changed in their books and talk about them repeatedly at meetings.

Cults have a so called brotherhood/sisterhood community, and this has appeal. As well as the sense of belonging with all the women who know their place (supposedly) and dress similarly and speak cult talk, with smiles and so called humility. Cults are controlling and work by confusing you – alternately being nice then being evil and so on. What also is a deterrent to leaving cults is the shunning that occurs if you do. You are then classed as a ‘baddie’ evil, worldly fit only for judgment/death. In my case that meant a lifetime of so called friends were gone when I left. Oh yes, they say you are free to walk away no one is holding you there, BUT there are always consequences. In the case of this cult, big time shunning, loss of all of your friends, and of course it’s your own fault because you left.

Surviving a divorce is hard for anyone but with a narcissistic person it is really not one to relish, it was a time of horror upon horror.

After we divorced I was on my own for 8 years, by choice. During this time I started to think for myself and establish myself. I started to see things from afar – slowly but surely little steps, I removed myself from unhealthy controlling influences piece by piece. You know the old saying:”You can’t see the forest for the trees.”

During this time the cult showed me so called concern for my well being. Some well meaning, some just to keep me there and feeling guilty. I also became aware first hand of a cult cover up with regard to a case of sexual abuse. Because I spoke up (being a woman that is a no no. Submissive remember) there were increasing negative feelings/judgements towards me. I thought, ‘how dare they teach chaperoning and what is proper sexual relations between a man and a woman and go on and on about it regularly and then feel that sexual abuse is a matter to be covered up’? This along with other hypocrisy and sick behaviour, like the cliques and constant judgemental undercurrents of others within the cult towards each other.

I FINALLY made the decision to leave. A decision I have never regretted. As with any major undertaking in life there was pain and sadness but there was also relief.

I put my best foot forward to reestablish myself in every way. I am currently in the best relationship anyone could ever enjoy, life is good. The problem I deal with now is a health issue.

My brush with UM

I was referred to a registered healthcare professional and unbeknown to me this practitioner is part of UM. It took awhile to twig, you do not expect to have to be on CULT alert when seeking the advice and expertise of a Doctor, Solicitor, GP, Dentist, etc.

This professional TRIED to refer me to many so called Esoteric Practitioners including Serge Himself, often using the cult talk; love, truth, integrity (Oh my fave words – warning warning!). Normal people do not have to reassure the world that they are truthful and loving and full of integrity, these are things you just do without all the bells and whistles. This health professional was very reticent against referring me on to medical specialists, for other medical problems that had arisen. I had to insist to be referred on for the medical care I desperately needed, but the practitioner was at every opportunity wanting me to go to UM practitioners and even SB himself. They couldn’t and didn’t help the condition I had.

It is through my medical connection that I have become aware of the narcissistic leader of the UM cult. They didn’t get me, but my heart really goes out to all who have been successfully proselytised. Needless to say how all this about UM & the Serge Benhayon cult makes me cranky.


I did my utmost to embrace life after the divorce and after leaving. After I made the decision to leave, I felt it was up to me to make my life meaningful and enjoyable. I can assure you I was very very cautious, but many things helped me recover.

The employment I had at that time required long working hours but the upside to that was I met many many people from the (non cult) public. Many confided in me (unsolicited), and told me their life story. My face must have said ‘please tell me your story’. To them my life looked like it was all tops. From these lovely people I really learnt that life is not a box of chocolates for most people. It was good therapy for me to think about walking in someone else’s shoes and being there for them.

I met and befriended my psychologist through my employment and she was an enormous help to me. Validating, and she progressively helped me to move on. Sadly for her, a little while after she had helped me she too was confronted by a huge crisis – she told me that she thought to herself: ‘I know someone who will understand.’ That someone was me. Imagine how little old me felt. So we were able to help each other.

Sometimes I cringe when people say to me how come you stayed in the cult? For so long as well? Duh! It’s an awful feeling, knowing you have been had and conned. If this is you as well with UM then try really hard to not worry about that, we just make sure we learn from it all. Remember these cults and their leaders are so controlling and are full of clever controlling conmen. After I came through the divorce and leaving the cult I really had to work hard to be able to trust anyone again. Professional counseling does help. Little steps, be strong, slowly but surely you do recover – just like you do from major surgery, it takes time and yes there is a scar, and sometimes a twinge of pain some time later to remind you. Regrets, yes there are many, but that’s life, behind every face there is a story. If only we knew then what we know now. May your experience do for you what my counsellor said that my experience had done for me: “Blast you into a happy future.”

The Scarlet Woman will answer questions in the comments if you’d like to ask her anything.

16 thoughts on “The Scarlet Woman – a regular reader tells her story of leaving a cult

  1. First of all, thank you Scarlet for your post and for writing it in purple after you found out it’s Sergio’s favoured attire.

    I have a few questions, which I’ll throw on here one at a time for you.

    How were the first months and perhaps the first year out of the cult for you? It can’t have been easy, so how did that feel and what went through your head?

  2. I really do hope my story might just help someone. At first the thought of writing my story was a little daunting. It is not my most fave subject to talk about over coffee or wine, but it is was what happened. For as much as I would really like to go back and change it all – I can’t, so I have had to own it and rebuild.
    The first few months were an absolute box of tricks emotionally. I felt alot of anger. Anger about the unbelievable hypocrisy and the despicable lies and inhumane dumping of guilt and the evil control. The clone-like cult hypocrites that present as softly spoken and neatly attired. HUH! I remember observing a bunch of rough looking beer drinking bikies and thinking to myself at least they aren’t trying to hide what they really are. There was a real deep sadness of course for the friends I thought I had and had lost. Especially when these friends saw me and then they turned the other way. For a little while after I left there was alot of pressure from so called well meaning friends to return to the cult. I was made aware by these friends how hard I made it for them as well and how sad they were. When they realised my decision was set in concrete – they weren’t allowed to try with me anymore.
    There was great relief that I was no longer under cult law and scrutiny, even though I had been judged so adversely by the cult. I also knew that it was up to me to rebuild my life I had no time to waste.

      • Yes I can relate to that. It is a very hard whilst you are still in the throes of trying to decide whether you should break free, by this I mean fluctuating between seeing the cult for what it is BUT at the same time being in a state of confusion, because the cult has really gotten into your head. Guilt – BUT it must be me – BUT- I must be evil BUT If I try harder I won’t feel like this. BUT then your gut is always telling you ‘make the break and get out.’ BUT where will I go? I will lose all who I know. BUT the consequences, cults are powerful. Oh yes, they say ‘we are not holding you, you can do what you want.’ BUT in there in the fine print there are consequences.
        I say blow the consequences and be true to yourself. Express yourselves here, make your complaints to the officials. It helps your healing, it helps others, and you start to reclaim your life.

  3. When you left the cult, you were also estranging yourself from your parents, is that right? Do you mind if I ask how you feel about their involvement now and the way they behaved toward you?

    • My mother had already died by the time this all took place and my father had estranged himself.

      It appears from what relatives say (relatives I was not allowed to be associating with due to the cult) the cult changed my parents.
      How do I feel towards their involvement? A mixture of emotions. What wasted lives. My parents (like me) did at the time what they felt was the right thing to do. Sad eh? Regrets and dismay but sadly the reality is no one can go back and change what happened.

      PS: When you have been involved in cults – you do have to wear that there are also some dire consequences that most probably
      will never be reversed eg: the divorces and estrangement within families to name just two. It’s so so wrong. Cults are not about love and truth and integrity. control and guilt and money – evil

  4. PS: Darkly please don’t lol but Gloria Gaynor ‘I will Survive’ lyrics were so so appropriate for me it became my anthem thru those tough days. Here’s the Lyrics…..a song full of attitude and good for the soul
    At first I was afraid I was petrified
    Kept thinkin’ I could never live without you by my side;
    But then I spent so many nights
    Thinkin’ how you did me wrong
    And I grew strong and I learned how to get along
    And now you’re back from outer space
    I just walked in to find you here with that sad look upon your face
    I should have changed that stupid lock
    I should have made you leave your key
    If I’d’ve known for just one second you’d back to bother me
    Go on now, go walk out the door
    Just turn around now
    (’cause) you’re not welcome anymore
    Weren’t you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye
    Do you think I’d crumble
    Did you think I’d lay down and die?
    Oh no, not I. I will survive
    Oh as long as I know how to love I know I’ll stay alive;
    I’ve got all my life to live,
    I’ve got all my love to give and I’ll survive,
    I will survive. Hey hey.
    It took all the strength I had not to fall apart
    Kept trying’ hard to mend the pieces of my broken heart,
    And I spent oh so many nights
    Just feeling sorry for myself. I used to cry
    But now I hold my head up high
    And you see me somebody new
    I’m not that chained up little girl who’s still in love with you,
    And so you felt like droppin’ in
    And just expect me to be free,
    Now I’m savin’ all my lovin’ for someone who’s lovin’ me
    Go on now…

    • FOR ONCE I AM NOT LOLLING! Seriously, I love that song. I’ve sung it at karaoke LOL.

      What I want to know is when did you discover it? Was it a naughty wordly secret while you were with the cult? Or did you discover it once you were out?

      I’ve also heard you like leopard print. I am also a fan.

  5. I can’t remember the exact timing as to when, but it was when I was still in the cult. This song just got played louder when I left
    all the stifled brainwashed hypocrites in the cult.

  6. Okay, a couple more questions. Was it scary entering worldly life, as in were you scared of the forbidden things? Or did you go on a wild binge/orgy/bender thing with gusto? (Probably what I’d do.)

    And what about the relationships among the women in the group? What was that like? Did you miss that dynamic when you left? Although women were told to be submissive, was that how you found them?

  7. LOL you have such a great sense of humour. No dark secrets, no benders. I was reclaiming my life not wanting to stuff it up more!!!!
    No I wasn’t scared of forbidden things. I am now in the best relationship anyone could wish for.

    Relationships with women in the group I did touch on this a little bit before. In a nutshell, no matter where women are in groups more often than not in or out of cults there are always a few bitches. In cults if they are that way inclined they can be even more judgemental and superior. So not pretty.
    Submission! Ugly word. Both Men and Women should be respected and loved. Rebellious women were frowned upon and counselled. Talks were given regularly about a woman’s role — submission!!!!!!

    • Hello Scarlet Woman, thanks for sharing your AMAZING story of redemption and claiming yourself back. One hopes that some doubtful UM members read your words and it helps them make the same decision too. I think it was important for you to highlight that it was an open cult you were involved in, much like UM, because it seems many of the members believe (or simply deny) they are in cult at all. Hard to leave something if you don’t know you’re in it in the first place I guess. Can I ask, was it a paternalistic cult like UM and was the leader/s portrayed as people of integrity and amazing? Were there also sexual undertones and shenanigans with those people?

      • Sorry to say but YES in answer to all of your questions. There were cult songs about integrity and love etc. Such hypocrisy with all that went on.You do not realise you are in a cult because NO cult says they are a cult.

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