Such manipulation is generally not considered a crime.
Internet predators, terrorist extremists, human traffickers, pimps, abusive partners, gangs, swindlers, and other destructive individuals and groups use psychologically damaging manipulation to isolate teenagers and adults of all ages from their relatives and friends. As explained in “Mind-Hacking Alert: A Young Adult’s Guide to Recognizing Undue Influence and Resisting Abusive Relationships,” 16- to 24-year-olds are particularly at risk.
Predatory alienation arising from extreme undue influence devastates not only the people being controlled, but also the family members and friends who love them. Time alone typically does not resolve the situation or heal the emotional harm done by this predatory behavior. (See Expert Interview.)
“A tie to a parent may be the most important bond in a young adult’s life,” according to family science researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Texas at Austin (New York Times, May 31, 2012).
Yet, presently there is nowhere for loving, responsible families to turn when they are attacked from outside — when a family member is maliciously manipulated and turned against them.
Life experience and formal education do not guarantee immunity from extreme undue influence that can lead to elder abuse. The best defense for those 50 and up — and those who care about them — is to familiarize themselves with the deceptive, high-pressure tactics that underlie scams, exploitative relationships, and other methods that take advantage of individuals in their senior years, and learn to recognize the circumstances when they or their loved ones are most likely to be at risk.
NJ Safe & Sound’s “Mind-Hacking Alert for Seniors: Protecting Yourself and Your Loved Ones from Undue Influence and Elder Abuse,” explains:
To request your free copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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There is presently no mechanism for a family to safeguard its members over age 16 from predatory alienation and undue influence.
Since 2012, concerned citizens have been working with New Jersey lawmakers to draft legislation to better protect families in cases of undue influence and predatory alienation, regardless of the age of the targeted victim.
In a strong bipartisan show of support for this effort, in 2017 the NJ Senate and the NJ Assembly unanimously passed Public Law 2017, Ch. 64, which requires New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families and Department of Human Services to study predatory alienation and its effects on young adults and senior citizens.
See the Legislative Update page for further details.
As a result of that law, a research team from the Center on Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) of the Rutgers University School of Social Work conducted a study of predatory alienation and its effects on young adults and senior citizens and presented their findings to the governor and legislature. The report is available on the Rutgers University VAWC site and on the website of the NJ Department of Children and Families.
• Study of Predatory Alienation Final Report PDF
• Predatory Alienation Study Executive Summary PDF
Various degrees of social influence are all around us. Our “Spectrum of Influence” bookmarks clearly outline the difference between ethical (safe) influence and undue (unhealthy) influence and the warning signs of mind-hacking.
What can you do if you or someone you know seems to be in danger of being manipulated into an exploitative relationship? Here are some helpful tips.
Download the “Think for Yourself: Outsmarting Mind-Hackers” flyer.
Whether we call it malicious manipulation, thought control, coercive persuasion, or brainwashing, there is a definite process by which people can be convinced to surrender their ability to think critically, suppress their own identity, and cut themselves off from those they previously trusted and loved.
Read the slideshow summary of Undue Influence 101, a presentation organized by NJ Safe & Sound, which outlines the many ways undue influence can hurt people of all ages and backgrounds, how the process of thought control works, and strategies for coping with its effects.
Go to the Video Presentations page to hear experts explain the basics of undue influence and predatory alienation.
For more information, consult this Reading List
To document the need for protection from inappropriate external influence, NJ Safe & Sound is collecting case studies from families who have suffered this trauma. Please fill out one of our confidential questionnaires if you or a loved one have been affected.
Are you the parent, guardian, or relative of someone who has been or is now being alienated from you?
If so, please fill out Questionnaire A.
Have you been or are you now being turned against your parents or family?
If so, please fill out Questionnaire B.
Do you know of an alienation outside your own family in which someone has been or is now being turned against his or her family by an external influence?
If so, please fill out Questionnaire C.
Foster support for legislation against extreme undue influence and predatory alienation by urging your legislators and the governor to address these issues. You can use these sample letters/emails, which can be tailored to your own situation. If you live in New Jersey, you can find contact information for the legislators who represent your municipality by clicking on the name of your city at www.njleg.state.nj.us/districts/municipalities.asp. Residents of other states can go to their state legislature websites.
To ask a question or submit a comment, contact NJ Safe & Sound.
Media inquires can be made here.
"The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society
and is entitled to protection by society and the State."
— Article 16.3, Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations