Episode 99: Cults in Our Midst ft. Jen Kiaba

When Jen Kiaba was growing up in the Unification Church, known as the Moonies in popular culture, a main mantra was “absolute faith, absolute love, absolute obedience” which did not leave most people much room to question authority. Violence was not condoned but children were often hit, and as she came of age and noticed other contradictions, she didn’t have a safe space to process her feelings or make decisions that were right for her. Finally, when she faced an arranged marriage like that of her parents, she knew she had to leave. And when she did, she lost everything: her community, her family, and the only structure she had ever known. Slowly, slowly, she rebuilt her life and today she is an artist and activist who educates others about cults, coercive control, and high control groups. Jen believes cult education is vital because people from a broad range of backgrounds and experiences are vulnerable and she sees similarities between cults and American workplaces, such as amazon, everywhere. In this episode she shares her story, helps identify cult tactics, and offers an inside look at how these groups take root.

Jen Kiaba is an artist and educator who grew up in the infamous Unification Church, a religious group referred to by popular media as “the Moonies” and a primary example of a cult. After escaping a forced arranged marriage, she fought her way out in her early twenties and went on to earn her BA in Art History at Bard College.



I’m a writer, a teacher, a native New Yorker, and I love hearing about people’s lives. When I think back to my elementary school days at PS 20 in Flushing, Queens whenever we began social studies or a history lesson I wasn’t that interested in learning about battles, topography, or politics. What I wanted to know was how people lived: What their families were like, how they adapted to their circumstances, what they ate, how they celebrated, how they felt.
Sociology became my major at Binghamton University and in my life so far I’ve been an actress, a salesperson, a Zoo Keeper’s Aid, a volunteer animal trainer, an ELL teacher, a mother, and a wife. I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had, all of which led me to create this podcast which is one of the most rewarding projects I’ve undertaken. I couldn’t ask for a better job than having in-depth conversations with survivors, thought leaders, authors, social justice warriors, and people who believe that we are all connected and then getting to share their stories, insight, and vulnerability with listeners.
I’m so glad you’ve landed on this page. I hope you find stories here which resonate with you and that you’ll tune in every week. 


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