Hendriks Commission wrongly concludes that in Germany about half of the victims manage to get out successfully

In the final conclusion of the final report of the Hendriks Commission[1] (p. 47) talks about German research which allegedly shows that many survivors manage to successfully exit cult networks. The report literally says: "It strikes the Committee that in Germany a large percentage of victims manage to withdraw from the network unaided". Earlier in the report (p.24), the commission writes something similar: "German research, moreover, shows that about half of victims manage to successfully exit the network." [2]. That sounds hopeful! Might cult's extreme torture and intimidation techniques not be so bad after all if so many people manage to get out, often even without help? Time for a standstill and further investigation. Where does the Commission get these statements from?

Is it true?

In subreport 4 'Overview of research', on p. 10 under the section 'Possibilities of withdrawing from the cult/network', we find more information about these firm conclusions of the committee. It writes: 'Despite victims indicating that they find it difficult to withdraw from the cult's influence, several studies conducted in Germany show that many victims do manage to do so. For example, the study by Behrendt and colleagues (2020) found that 64 % had completely left the cult and 12% had done so partially. Nick and colleagues (2018) indicate that 53% of the victims got out of the cult without help and only 1% through justice. The remaining victims managed to evade the cult's influence with the help of counselling or therapy or a combination.'

These little phrases, which look hopeful, trivialise the enormous distress and sticky situation survivors find themselves in. It does not do justice to the reality faced by aid workers like us at Friends of Esthers and many others. We see that it takes a lot, besides intensive professional trauma support, to escape from the cult's grip. And that, without intensive and long-term help, adult survivors who are still abused do not succeed.
Is it really true that German research shows that in Germany, a large percentage get out without help? The answer is a resounding 'no'. On examining the two scientific articles[3] referred to, it appears that the committee draws its own totally misguided conclusion from this. 

What do these studies say and what don't they say?

The study by Behrendt et al (2020)

The former study aimed to investigate how survivors of organised abuse, describe organised and ritual characteristics of this abuse. The study was conducted using pre-existing recordings and conversation records of interviews with 33 survivors[4] by staff of the 'Unabhängige Kommission zur Aufarbeitung sexuellen Kindesmissbrauchs (UKASK)', which was created to investigate the nature and extent of sexual violence in Germany. Initially, 46 reports were selected (p.79) of which 13 dropped out, the reason is not given. In the conclusion, the authors indicate the limitations of the study: the interviews were not originally conducted for their research purpose, so the interviews were not thematically structured. This means that it depended on what was discussed in the interview, to what extent and how extensively certain themes were discussed.

What does this mean for the stated exit rate in Behrendt et al's study?

Of the 33 interviewees, 64% said they had exited and 12% said they had partially exited. This conclusion absolutely cannot be generalised to the Hendriks committee's statement that 'about half of victims manage to successfully exit the network' for at least two essential reasons. First, victims who report to the UKASK are, by definition, already victims who have reached the point where they dare to come out in any way. As such, this sample is by no means a representative reflection of 'all victims in Germany', which, by the way, the study itself does not claim.

Second, the same research indicates that in 73% of the cases there are indications that the person in question has dissociative identity disorder (DIS). Anyone who knows anything about DIS, and the Hendriks Commission should know quite a lot about it, realises that self-reporting about 'being outed' is then absolutely no guarantee that this is actually the case. With DIS as a result of organised abuse, there are memory walls between person parts, so it is quite possible, for example, that one person part thinks it is free of the offender network, while another person part still goes to cult meetings every Friday night or is forced to prostitute itself.  

Nor has it been verified with a close relative whether they also suspect that the abuse has stopped, or have doubts about it. While this too is certainly no guarantee, it can provide some support to a survivor's self-reporting.

The study by Nick et al (2018)
The second study relied on by the Hendriks Commission is one in which 165 survivors[5] of organised abuse completed an online questionnaire. No personal interview or other contact was made with the respondents. Of the 165 respondents, 57% said they had disengaged, 24% said they had not, and the remaining 19% did not complete anything. More than half of those who say they got out (53%) indicated that they did not have substantial professional help in doing so. In this study, as many as 91.5% of the respondents indicated that personality parts had split off as a result of the violence. What do these numbers say? The authors of the study themselves indicate that these data on exit rates, among other things, have limited value. They write[6] rightly that a certain psychological stability and recovery from dissociation is needed to provide reliable information on issues such as violence, groups of perpetrators and whether or not they have 'got out'. They also indicate that because of the way they acquired respondents (mostly through support organisations), they mainly reached survivors who are already in the care system. They thus also indicate themselves that this group is by no means a representative reflection of the total group of survivors/victims of organised abuse in Germany. So, while the authors of this study indicate for two very valid reasons that their that data on the percentage of dropouts have limited value, the Hendriks committee writes something quite different on the basis of that same study!

Misinformation or disinformation?

Care may be required of a committee with the important task of bringing the nature and context of organised sadistic child abuse in the Netherlands into the limelight. Correctly interpreting scientific research is certainly part of this. The conclusions 'It strikes the Commission that in Germany a large percentage of victims manage to escape from the network without help' and 'German research incidentally shows that about half of the victims manage to successfully exit the network' are based on quicksand. It is misinformation at best and disinformation at worst[7].

Be that as it may, this misinformation features prominently in the report - even in the final conclusion. It indirectly and subtly trivialises the professional, extremely malicious violence and blackmail with which this cult holds its victims in a stranglehold.   

What does the above tell us about the quality of the Hendriks Commission report as a whole? The mental health treatment group put in a letter 14 other points in a row why it considers the report severely underwhelming. Every reason for an independent second opinion!


Werner de Jonge & Aline Terpstra, February 2023

[1] The commission that investigated organised sadistic child sexual abuse between April 2021 and December 2022

[2] Hendriks Committee final report "Between disbelief, support and detection" on page 24 and page 47 respectively.

[3] Behrendt, P., Nick, S., Briken, P., & Schröder, J. (2020), "Was ist sexualisierte Gewalt in organisierten und rituellen Strukturen?", Zeitschrift Sexualforschung, 33, 76-87 and Nick, S., Schröder, J. Briken, P., & Richter-Appelt (2018) "Organisierte und rituelle Gewalt in Deutschland: Kontexte der Gewalterfahrungen, psychische Folgen und Versorgungssituation", Trauma & Gewalt, 12, 244-261


[4] These are people who see themselves as survivors of organised sadistic abuse.

[5] See footnote 4

[6] Nick, S. et all (2018) 'Organisierte und rituelle Gewalt in Deutschland: Kontexte der Gewalterfahrungen, psychische Folgen und Versorgungssituation', Trauma & Gewalt, 12, 247

[7] 'Disinformation is untrue, inaccurate or misleading information intentionally created and disseminated to make money or to harm a person, social group, organisation or country.

Something else is misinformation. That is misinformation spread more or less by accident.' Source: https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/desinformatie-nepnieuws