Profile: Lisa Monroney
“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” ~Joseph Campbell
The Rocky Mountain Resource Center, where Lisa Monroney volunteers much of her time, working mostly alone in the narrow basement space, is located in Fort Collins, Colorado. “It’s really in the middle of nowhere,” Lisa says. “We are the only such resource in this part of the country.” From this tight, restricted space, the walls lined with books, Lisa investigates groups, shares much-needed information, compiles reports, connects people to resources, and encourages those individuals that there is life after a cult. She is guided by a quote that reads, in part, “...We all have a duty to speak out against violence, abuse, and hate.” She also produces a newsletter each month.
Mr. Harold (Hal) Mansfield originally founded the center in 1981; he developed it for 30 years, helping countless numbers of people and receiving many awards from grateful civic groups along the way. When Mr. Mansfield retired in 2011, he said, “When you deal with the dirty underside of life, you want to come out in the sunshine and do something different,” a testament to the difficulty of the work. He entrusted the center to Lisa Monroney, a testament to the faith he had in her profound integrity, common sense, and courage.
Courage is a character trait Lisa has in abundance. When she was just 21, she was recruited into The Way International. Subjected to sleep deprivation, thought reform, and other destructive elements, she says, “I was anxious all the time.”
One of the group’s mandates was to proselytize. Doing exactly that one day, she was abducted by a man who kept her for 3 days, subjecting her to unimaginably brutal treatment. When he was finished with her, he released her, and she made her way back to the group, where she was told that the whole incident had been her fault because of some lack in her belief or her spiritual vigilance. Lisa left the group after about three years, but it was not until 10 years after she had left that she found out it had been a cult.
Facing and trying to assimilate these experiences has been an ongoing effort, but Lisa guards against allowing them to determine who she is. “I don’t want PTSD or depression to define me.” It seems that in facing her own demons she has wrested treasure not only for herself, but for others, as well. Asked what her most gratifying moment was in relation to her work, Lisa answers that it was when she was teaching a class about cults and related her own experience. After class, a young man of 19 came up to her and told her that he had been born and raised in the very group she had been a part of. They talked, and Lisa took the time to meet with him a day or two later. A few days after that, she received an email from this young man saying that he had left the group. “I was thrilled to hear this!”
Lisa went to college and earned a master's degree in sociology. She teaches sociology at two colleges and has created a course called Cults and Extremist Groups, which has run for two semesters and is very popular. Lisa has two children: a daughter, Elisha, 22, and a son, Isaiah, 19. She has a close, congenial relationship with her ex-husband. She cooks, bakes, loves to read, and to watch movies and some television. Her life is filled with family, friends, colleagues, students, and untold numbers of people she has never even met who have been helped by the work she does. In addition to all this and to her work at the Rocky Mountain Resource Center, she is a facilitator at the ICSA-sponsored Former Member Workshops held in Colorado.
Her life itself is proof positive of what, when asked, she would like to tell former members of harmful groups: “Know that you can not only survive, you can thrive.”