Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence and the Dangers of Joining a Cult

Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence premiered on Hulu on February 9th. The three-part mini-series follows the students of Sarah Lawrence who followed Larry Ray and became part of his cult.

This mini-series portrays what happened at Sarah Lawrence College starting in 2010 and goes up until Larry Ray’s arrest almost a decade later. It’s a documentary series that analyzes the dangers of cult life and how a group of intelligent young people were drawn to Ray’s larger than life personality and promises for the future.

This blog post is all about the Hulu series Stolen Youth and the dangers of getting involved with a cult.

Stolen Youth Summary

The series starts out with interviews of a few members of a group of friends, who lived together in college. Everything began when Talia Ray, a member of the friend group, had her father Larry Ray stay with them after he was released from prison.

To ease their minds, Larry Ray said he was wrongfully accused and made up a story about a conspiracy. Quickly, he won over most of the roommates with fake stories about his impressive career, including working with military intelligence to meeting with former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Ray eventually integrated himself with the group. He started by cooking for them and listening to their problems, eventually turning into their counselor and confident. That’s when things started to change.

While some of the friends distanced themselves and eventually moved out, others chose to stay and become further ingrained in Ray’s cult.

After college, some of Ray’s mentees moved with him to New York City. After some time, they followed him to New Jersey. Things progressed after college with Ray forcing the women to have relations with him. He even filmed the encounters to use for blackmail. He did his best to make them rely on him for everything, including food and water.

Members escaped little by little, but it took two women until Ray’s arrest to be able to leave. In February 2020, Ray was arrested by the FBI and in January 2023 was sentenced to 60 years in prison, after being convicted of 15 crimes back in April 2022.

Not much is known about Ray’s daughter Talia, who started the whole endeavor when she invited her dad to live with her in college.

Many of the other people involved in the cult are trying to live normal lives now and start their careers, which were put on hold for many years.

Life Lessons

The problem with watching true crime shows about victims is that so many people are judgemental online after learning what happened. We wrote about this last year: The Scam Game: Why Do We Blame the Victim? We want to remind our readers not to blame the victims because everyone is capable for falling for a scam. However, not everyone is vulnerable to the same type of scam.

The major life lesson from Stolen Youth is to be careful. Watch out for yourself and for those around you. People like Larry Ray exist and they don’t feel remorse for how they use and hurt people. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, below we included some warning signs that might help you identify a con artist/cult leader.

1. They Try to Isolate You

One of the first things that Ray did was try to isolate the students from their friends and their families. Isolating people means that they have to rely on the cult leader for everything, who eventually becomes their whole world. Ray convinced people that everyone was out to get them and they could only trust him.

Be wary of anyone who tries to isolate you from your friends and family. They almost always have an ulterior motive. Ray made sure that these students limited their interactions with everyone outside the cult.

2. They Lie

This might be hard to notice at first and is easier to see from the outside if you suspect that someone you know is getting involved in a cult. Paying attention to the suspected liars body language can help to an extent. However, if these people actually believe their own lies, it can be harder to spot.

Our advice is to do your own research about the person in question. Can you disprove some of their lies? If you can, it’s time to distance yourself.

3. They Seem Too Good to Be True

This person’s life is fascinating and unbelievable. Which might mean that it isn’t real. This doesn’t mean that every successful person is a con artist. But like Ray, look at the facts at hand.

He bragged about his amazing career, even though her just got out of prison. He also blamed everything bad in his life on outside forces and conspiracies. Cult leaders have this trait in common with Ray.

4. They Create a Cult of Personality

Cult leaders enjoy being the center of attention and being worshiped. They want to be viewed as heroic and more impressive than nearly every other person. They are able to create a cult-like following. Followers believe this person almost has a divine right to rule, lead, etc.

An example of a cult of personality is Kim Jung-Un in North Korea. Look up how his citizens view him and his accomplishments. It feels insane that they truly believe that their leader is unstoppable. But Ray did this, on a much smaller scale.

5. They Want to Know Everything About You

Again, this isn’t suspicious on its own if you’re making friends. However, strong friendships begin in an authentic way where you slowly reveal more about yourself. If the person wants to know all about you right when you meet, that is a major sign that something is off, especially if they try to be around you constantly.

Ray becoming all of these students’ confidants is the perfect example. A man in in his 50s trying to be best friends with a bunch of students suspicious. Then he starts dating a woman in her 20s? That’s just creepy.

12 thoughts on “Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence and the Dangers of Joining a Cult”

  1. Oo, love the sounds of this series as I love a show that breaks down a complex question into an engaging show that answers pressing questions I feel like so many of us have; I certainly have often wandered about the allure of cult culture. Thanks for sharing! xx

    Liked by 1 person

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