Reflection on the Life of Daphne (Lady) Vane

Reflection on the Life of Daphne (Lady) Vane

By Gillie Jenkinson

I was very sad to hear of the passing of Lady Vane (Daphne) on January 28, 2021. In this reflection on her life, I will concentrate on her contribution to the cultic-studies field; but she was also well known in other fields.

I have known of Daphne since the 1990s when I was beginning to realize that I had been in a cult and was investigating who and what was around to offer support. I then had the privilege to meet with her at various ICSA and FAIR (Family Action Information and Resource) conferences, and she was always warm and welcoming. In a field that deals with so much abuse and so many controversies, I always found her to be fair-minded and balanced in her views and treatment of others, even those whose views she strongly opposed!

In the last 6 years or so, I had the great privilege of knowing Daphne as a friend, and I stayed with her several times. We had great chats and, above all (for me!), she encouraged me enormously in my work. To encourage someone means to give them courage to do what they are doing, and Daphne did this in spades, not just for me, but for numerous people. This was in part because she recognized how hard it is to work in a field that deals with the dark side of humanity and the impact doing that can leave.

Lady Vane was awarded the ICSA Rosedale Award at the ICSA Barcelona Conference in 2011. This is what Lorna Goldberg said about her in the award ceremony:

It is my pleasure to announce the recipient of this year’s Rosedale Award: Lady Daphne Vane. I first met Daphne about 30 years ago at a retreat sponsored by the American Family Foundation (AFF), the predecessor to ICSA. At that time, AFF was a fledgling American organization, but it already was reaching out to leaders in cultic studies throughout the world. Of course, Lady Vane was invited. From the early days, she was involved with Family Action Information and Rescue, which was later changed to Resource (FAIR) [and then Family Survival Trust (FST)]. Daphne has been a friend and colleague to ICSA members practically since its beginning in 1979.

Lady Vane, a qualified teacher for many years, specialized in English and the use of drama as a learning medium to help develop confidence and the decision-making process in students. She had her first direct connection with cults in the early 1970s, when her daughter experienced the loss of her partner, who had been recruited by the Unification Church in the States. Lady Vane was able to see firsthand the deleterious effects of this event. With this understanding, she was motivated to help others, becoming involved with FAIR, set up to help families adversely affected by a loved one’s cult involvement. She served this organization for many years and was Chair for two of those years. During her time at FAIR, she also helped collate the experiences of many UK cult-affected families, and worked on legislation.

Lady Vane’s insights into and advice on the international dimensions of cult issues have been very valuable to ICSA and other organizations. A natural bridge-builder, she has worked to strengthen links between various associations both in the States and Europe by becoming a welcoming and unifying presence at different conferences. In June 1994, Lady Vane became a founding member of the European Federation for Research and Information into Sectarianism (FECRIS). She was Vice President for 2 years. During the 1980s, Lady Vane also was active in reaching out to the medical and psychiatric professions, and she arranged numerous lectures in the UK given by various experts in the field, including Drs. West, Singer, Clarke, and Halperin.

Despite her accomplishments and credentials, Daphne always has been an unassuming, tolerant, and articulate advocate of dialogue and cooperation. When my husband, Bill, and I arranged a Skype call with her to obtain some background information, Daphne spent most of the call asking us questions, even getting us to reminisce about our first date. The point is that Daphne always focuses on others rather than herself. We are honored to bestow the Herbert L. Rosedale Award on a true pioneer in our field in “recognition of leadership in the effort to preserve and protect individual freedom.” Congratulations, Daphne!

When Lady Vane died, I was asked by her daughter to tell people of her passing. I contacted Family Survival Trust (FST, formerly FAIR) and asked if they would like to add something to this reflection on her life. This is what Tom Sackville (previously a Member of Parliament in the UK) had to say:

I was so sad to hear the news about Daphne. She made a powerful, yet highly elegant contribution to the efforts of all who try to oppose cultic activity, and to support victims and their families.

I first met her when she came to my constituency Bolton in the early ‘80s and told me of the shameful lack of government responsibility and policy towards the whole subject. Later on, I tried to move a very unwilling Home Office in a better direction, and on leaving Parliament I became Chairman of FAIR, later the Family Survival Trust.

Daphne was a considerable force and greatly valued in FECRIS, the French government-supported, pan-European federation of anticult groups. She nobly represented the UK on their board for many years, and skillfully engineered, against some determined opposition, my candidature to succeed her. This opened many doors and resulted in my spending a fascinating (though often frustrating) 5 years trying to coordinate fractious, multilingual meetings of diverse organizations eventually covering most of the world. Unfortunately, cultic abuse is a global, perhaps we should say human, problem.

Daphne will be greatly missed.

Although Daphne’s passing may have gone quietly and unnoticed by many, she lives in the hearts and minds of those who knew her and whose lives she touched—which is many.

About the Author

Gillie Jenkinson, PhD, is an accredited counsellor and psychotherapist in the UK and is experienced in delivering counselling face-to-face and also by telephone and Skype. She served two internships at Wellspring Retreat Center, Ohio, and has many years’ experience working with trauma victims, including survivors of spiritual/cultic and sexual abuse. She has developed an approach to counselling former members, “time away for postcult counselling.” Gillie was a member of an abusive Bible-based cult in the 1970s. She is a regular presenter at conferences and a published author, including coauthor of a chapter entitled “Pathological Spirituality” for a medical textbook entitled Spirituality and Psychiatry, published in 2009 by RCPsych Publications in the UK (second edition in press for publication in 2021). She is the Mental Health Editor for ICSA Today. Gillie’s doctoral research dissertation is entitled Freeing the Authentic-Self: Phases of Recovery and Growth From an Abusive Cult Experience. Hopevalleycounselling.com and info@hopevalleycounselling.com