Resource Series #3: Victims and
Leaving a cult can be a harrowing experience. When you’ve been cut off from the real world, you may run into lots of logistical and conceptual problems that make the outside harder to navigate. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are counting on your lack of experience with the outside world to send you running back to them.
But you don’t need them in your life. There are lots of great resources out there that can offer you help leaving a cult. Today, we’re going to talk about Villains and Victims and what they have to offer.
Who Is Villains and Victims?
Villains and Victims is a mental health advocacy non-profit that helps people understand depression and other mental health challenges through the lens of pop culture. Based out of Richmond, Virginia, the group attends local events, comic cons, and releases podcasts and movie reviews. Their reviews and shows don’t just talk about the heart of the media– they address the mental health messages these films contain, and talk about how you can apply them to your own mental health journey. Their goal is to educate and engage individuals on mental health awareness, hoping to one day eradicate mental health stigmas.
What Does Villains and Victims Do?
Villains and Victims’ approach is that mental health issues can make you feel like a villain and a victim all at once, and that that’s ok. There’s no one right way to deal with or talk about mental health concerns. Through podcasts, film festivals, events, and writing, they are able to take a show, not tell, approach to talking about mental health in a not-so-serious setting. They make mental health issues more approachable and help connect people with the resources they need for their own wellbeing.
How Can Villains and Victims Help Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses?
A lot of ExJWs experience the outside world through media. Maybe it’s music that allows you to take a step closer and see the outside. Maybe it’s movies, or video games, or genre fiction. Although you aren’t allowed to have so-called “bad associations” with worldly people, plenty of kids and adults on the inside make connections through storytelling.
And that’s how Villains and Victims makes connections. Mental health struggles like depression and anxiety are often easier to understand when you can put them in the context of a story. And for many ExJWs, understanding mental illness and escaping the stigma around it is a major challenge.
It can be really difficult to understand mental health, especially when you’re coming from an ExJW perspective. Growing up in a cult, you are subjected to emotional control and thought-stopping behavior, and you’re rarely allowed to express yourself. Furthermore, the JW organization intentionally creates stigma around mental health, and causes issues through its oppressive policies. As early as 1975– almost fifty years ago– membership as a Jehovah’s Witness was identified as a risk factor for major mental illness. Cults prey on people with preexisting mental illnesses, offering them false hope and fake solutions.
This is where the resources and community provided by Villains and Victims can be helpful. You don’t have to confront these emotional issues head-on in a way that’s uncomfortable and hard to understand. Instead, you can embrace the idea of metaphor and allegory to understand what’s going on with you, and you can see that you’re not alone. By exploring their takes on media and just listening and watching, you can learn vital information about mental health issues that might be affecting you– and some actionable tips to deal with them.
Lots of ExJWs are advised to attend therapy, and therapy is often very helpful. But if you’re not ready to confront the past on that level, or you don’t feel emotionally ready, that’s ok. You can engage with your mental health in other ways– like the storytelling that Villains and Victims offers.
This is the 3rd post in our resource series. You can see the others here:
Check out our Resource Series tag for more information and to see all of these great resources.