Georgetown alum describes her ‘Life in a Cult’
In the middle of top student Jenny Hunter‘s (COL ’93) senior year at Georgetown, she was recruited by a classmate into a burgeoning Christian cult, the International Church of Christ. After years of participation, which included an arranged marriage to a man she did not love, she left the ICOC in 2004.
On Tuesday, the Division of Student Affairs and the Office of Campus Ministry hosted a discussion entitled “My Life in a Cult” with Hunter and Drew Bratcher, a writer for Washingtonian who first publicized Hunter’s story in an article for the magazine in 2008.
“I had written on sports, events, and even the Georgetown bulldog … I found this letter from a woman named Jenny Hunter willing to share her story about being in a cult and breaking away from it. I took it,” Bratcher said.
Hunter followed the journalist’s brief talk with her story. During her senior year at Georgetown, in her Performing Arts in Contemporary Society class, she met a young girl whom she befriended over the course of the year. She ended up joining the girl at an “international dinner” which turned into a bible study. She continued to attend the studies, and shortly thereafter, she became disciple in the group that hosted them—the International Church of Christ, often called the ICOC. Three days after graduation, she moved out to San Francisco to devote herself entirely to the organization.
“I rejected all of my previous dreams: law school, the Peace Corps. I just got a temp job, because all that mattered was saving souls. They put me on leadership track and had rules for every aspect of my life. I was allowed to date from a selection of three different men … I ended up marrying a man I did not love and having two children,” Hunter said. “The organization held control through these things called discipleships, and they held disciple groups—meetings where one or two people were singled out and bashed for breaking rules and not being enough like Christ.”
After eleven years in the organization, the realization that the organization’s leaders were fundamentally wrong drove Hunter to remove herself.
“How did your family fail at intervening?” a member of the audience asked during the Q&A. “They were probably just a day too late. If you find yourself or someone you know in a similar situation, act as soon as possible. Stay on their case. Whatever you do, do not let them move out to San Francisco in order to lead the organization,” Hunter responded.
Photo: Richard J. De La Paz