Episode 11: “The Vow’s” Mark Vicente

October 6 Episode 11: “The Vow’s” Mark Vicente

Leah and Mike talk to Mark Vicente about the HBO documentary series, The Vow, the similarities with Scientology and common themes of high control groups.

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The Vow on HBO


  • Sarah says:

    Hello! I have never been involved in scientology but I love to listen to your podcast and have also watched The Aftermath. It is amazing what you guys are doing!
    I grew up in the Mormon church and I have lots of family that is still members. I would just like to correct you and say that the mormon church does NOT “disown” or become a suppresive person. I am no longer a member and am still very close to my entire family. I think you are mistaking it for other religions like Amish.
    Your show is awesome, keep it up!!

    • Kim says:

      I was just coming to say the same thing! I came home early from my Mormon mission and came out to my family and have been with my partner whom I served my mission with and we lived with my parents for 2 years and visit her family regularly. I have not been shunned or looked down on by anyone I know from the Mormon church.

  • scully says:

    What books did you guys read about dealing with trauma? Or websites or movies or anything really

  • Jeanean says:

    Great show, I look forward each week. . I’ve been watching The Vow and was so excited to listen to this episode with Mark. Keep up the good work.

  • Megan Couperthwaite says:

    I found this episode fascinating and really scary.

    How easy it is to suck someone into a cult because they believe in the surface ethos and only once they are steeped in it do they start to see some flaws in the model. Then how hard it is to extricate oneself from a poisonous situation.

    You are doing valuable work in exposing these groups. I know you have most knowledge of Scientology but it is so helpful to see the similarities between the different groups. It would be interesting to see more organisations exposed.

  • JAMES S. MARNER says:

    This episode was very good for comparisons. I enjoyed it. Here’s today’s suggestion. I’ve long thot that just below the surface of American culture is fascism, or something cultish. If my opinion has any purchase, I’d love to hear Leah & Mike discuss how certain American cultural vibes prime people to steer towards a cult. For example, where I work, is very cultish. At the top is that strong man who gaslights & denigrates his employees, efforts to keep us in line. No one will speak out against this abuse. I would say that is exactly what’s going on in the White House. Our cultural myth paints us as strong, independent loving citizens. In contrast, I see the willingness to be lead away. In American it takes three people to form one full consciousness. So, what is it about American culture that primes so many people to drink the Kool-aid?

    • Dave says:

      Hi James,

      I’m a former naval officer and a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and I do outreach for victims of organized harassment. I agree with you, there is an element of facism in American culture that’s a bit hidden.

      Scientology and NXIVM aren’t the only ones who do organized intimidation stalking and covert harassment. These types of attacks are happening to thousands of people and if you have the money and political connections, you can hire people to perpetrate this type of abuse.

      I have a degree in control systems engineering and I worked in electronic warfare and nuclear engineering. I do outreach for people who -in addition to the harssment covered in Scientology the Aftermath and The Vow- are attack with the same weapons that were used on the US diplomats in Cuba and China.

      There are tens of thousands of victims and when they are properly attacked with “Fair Game” style harassment tactics, the victims are dismissed as mental cases. The media calls it “Havana Syndrome.” However, it’s just an an attack with a new fangled microwave based human-machine interface system. It’s like the stuff Elon Musk is demonstrating with his Neuralink company.

      I want to change that. I’d like to see these weapons shifted from the sketchy nebulous world of Scientology/NXIVM/Harvey Weinstein style revenge attacks to an open commercial market.

      This same tech can be used to give people with paralysis the ability to use and feel sensation in their damaged limbs. However, we’re sorta stuck in the in-between where the government doesn’t want to admit that this weapon has been around for a while and that corrupt political types have given the tech over to groups like Scientology and their political supplicants. They fear the embarrassment and blowback, so they don’t do the right thing.

      For what it’s worth, I was presented the kool-aid you are talking about and I refuse and chose the difficult path. I was “fair gamed” for trying to raise awareness of this issue. So I would say that it’s not America culture that primes people to “drink the kool-aid” it’s the threat of violence and violence against loved ones. It’s just hard to do the right thing especially when you’ve been tricked into doing the wrong thing and you are now a bit culpable. It’s like the Milgram’s Experiments.

  • Jane says:

    Hey Mike, Hey Leah.

    Great couple of episodes recently – loved hearing from the lawyer and hearing about what’s happened to Marty. Very mystifying, but there is still hope, even if that’s all there is. As I said in my last comment, I’ve been watching/listening to your both for years now, as have many folks, and we’re so grateful to you for fighting the good fight. On that note, as a fellow Texan we’d be glad to have you both! You’re welcome here anytime. Mike, I got a whole jar of vegemite with your name on it. It’s about 14 years old but I’m sure it’s still good 😀

    So with this episode I just wanted to make a quick comment about something Mark said. He was describing how he would go to Keith Raniere with all these problems and complaints not realizing that Keith himself was the problem. I’m paraphrasing obviously because he said a lot of things and it just reminded me of a quote I wrote down a long time ago to describe that kind of situation: “It’s like a drug addict going to their dealer asking their dealer to help them get off drugs.” That inherent catch-22 or paradox or whatever it is that makes people blind to the fact that the person they are going to for help is actually the person that CAN’T (and won’t) help because THEY are the problem. I just thought that was a pertinent observation. Very interesting episode.

    Anyway, can’t wait til next week. Going to watch The Vow now.


  • Spencer Quinn says:

    ‘ just a quick note to say thank you for your podcast–I am a voracious listener!
    Listening to this episode today, it dawned on me that perhaps a lot of my fascination with cults and people who get free from cults comes from my background growing up as a fundamental Baptist–I never thought of them as a cult before, but boy does it look like a cult from the outside looking in with lots of years between my experience then and my experience now. Crazy!
    Thank MYSELF and my rational mind, I managed to get free!

  • Katey Wallace says:

    Hi Leah & mike. I have a few questions. According to my understanding if an event happens to you it’s your fault. How will scientology be explaining Covid 19 and do you think they’ll be taking any precautions?

    Also when i listened to the podcast about Heber. His niece was concerned if he was even alive.. Surely if someone dies in scientology their bodies get released? Or what on earth happens to them? Is there a scientology cemetery?

    Doing a great job guys. Keep heloing people. ❤️ ❤️

  • mystery boy 2000 says:

    Holy shit this podcast was good. I wish the best to all of you guys. I felt the emotional pain you felt. And yes, I read your book leah and I give a shit.

    Mike, you have my respect and admiration.

  • Martin says:

    Hi Mike and Leah,

    Love your podcast. This was by far my favorite episode of any podcast that has ever dealt with cults (and I listen to a LOT of these).

    I think this could be a new format for either this podcast or others that deal with cults: having a survivor of one cult interview a survivor of another.

    The parallels that you all drew between Scientology and NXIVM, as well as the uniquely familiar terms that you traded (“codified gaslighting” – so on point), brought this episode above any other cult survivor interview I have ever heard.

    Perhaps this could be your next series? Leah and Mike interview a survivor of a different cult every week. I think your expertise on having actually been survivors yourselves, rather than just a “cult scholar” like most interviewers, makes your dialogue so much more enlightening in this context. You ask things that no interviewer who hadn’t been in a cult themselves would think to ask.

  • Jessica Smith says:

    Hey Leah and Mike!
    I’m obsessed with you guys and I totally believe that you guys are doing amazing things!

    I do want to clear some stuff that you stated in the episode. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or commonly known as Mormons. In no way, shape or form do we believe in shunning those that have left the church. AT ALL! They are members of our family and just because they believe different does not make them less than. In fact, on of the goals of our faith is the unification of families! I can’t speak for others who might have had a negative experiences with their families but I know for sure that doctrine and policies never state that one must shun or disassociate with those that leave the church.

    Thanks! I hope you read this and keep up the good work.

  • Cherie says:

    Just wondering after seeing the parallels with Nxium and Scientology if any Raniere charges strike you as likely to be applicable to David Miscavige? Similar to Scientology these charges started with those who escaped being willing to testify. The human rights violations that are occurring with so many witnesses seems similar. If anyone could get it done I know it’d be you guys so I’m just wondering…legally what’s the differences that keeps Miscavige from getting charged?

  • Dave says:

    I’m working my way through the podcasts and I just jumped into “The Vow.” I’m on episode 5. Is anyone else watching it? I need to find out where the blog for this series is.

    I do outreach for people who are abused in this manner. The last 5 years have been amazing for docseries on this topic. Alex Gibney’s “Going Clear” kinda paved the way, then Scientology and the Aftermath came along, then Survivng R. Kelly and Epstein Filthy Rich, and Athlete A.

    I do outreach for people who are attacked in this same way but with the added horror of being attacked with the same weapons that were used on the US diplomats in Cuba and China. The media portrays it as if it’s only diplomats and spies that are being attacked, but there are tens of thousands of people who are literally human trafficking victims of this abuse.

    Each time one of these docuseries comes out I get the sense that we are getting closer and closer to the day that our group can be freed. You kinda go into a learned helplessness trying to get people to understand. It’s a long difficult process trying to communicate this information. In the back of your mind, you know that you’ll get there eventually, but it’s a huge burden to bear in the waiting for the story to break.

    Oh, and the previous scene of “The Vow” was just saying something about that. The Oxenburglar lady was just lamenting that the story hasn’t been published yet because the editors view the NXIVM story as ‘evergreen’ (Did you see what I did there? I teased Catherine Oxenberg knowing that she is someone who has the horsepower to push a story like this out in the open. That’s what I do. I travel in the comments section trying to do good. I am pathetic.)

  • Elizabeth says:

    This episode gave me so many “a-ha!” moments as I continue to process my own aftermath from working/living at an LCMS small liberal arts college in Westchester NY. Although not a cult, many of the same tactics of fair game and harassment was practiced by the current administration and the president’s wife. The “mobbing” culture is so common in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod however not many are brave enough to speak out against it. After 911, the college campus which housed our district’s office received bomb threats because the bishop of our district participated in the 911 prayer service at Yankee Stadium. Conservative clergy believed that act was against LCMS doctrine and they considered it an “interfaith service”. Bomb threats. I believe a death threat may have been thrown in the mix but I can’t be certain. I was a student at the Lutheran college at the time and also worked in the district office that summer in the evenings…it was a terrifying time. The pastor of the LCMS church in Newtown received flack after participating in community prayer services after Sandy Hook.
    These few pastors get paid by hard earned money if parishanors to harass others and hide behind doctrine and sometimes aliases.
    Here’s a link to an article about the LCMS mobbing culture: https://www.lutheranforum.com/blog/mobbing-systemic-spiritual-abuse-in-the-lcms

    Mike-I sent a message on your blog that explains a little more about my experience.

    Thank you both Mike and Leah…you have no idea how your show and your podcast remind me I’m not crazy.

  • Carole says:

    i just started listening to the podcast. I immediately stopped listening and watched The Vow. I am confused. I thought this whole thing was a recreation, but when I Google Keith R, I get the picture of the guy in the series. Was this actually a real documentary? I see how anyone could be duped into either of these situations, but I was sure I was watching a recreation. How the heck did they manage to make this show?

  • Alms ottens says:

    On this episode is really good except for when bring up the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints better known as the Mormons. As a member this church. I want to tell that we do not practice disconnection my brother has left the church and I still spend a lot of time with him. We believe that family is the most important thing. Half of my family are not members and we support them in anything they do. So please do not lump us with those cults. Also if you are need of help of any kind my church will help no matter what you believe.

    • Alma says:

      If you guys are still interested what a church does with tax exempt status that help the community then make a visit to Salt Lake City and your walfare square and the Humanitarian center and you can see what the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints does because it is amazing

  • Dawn says:

    Just catching up on this podcast. I think this was one of the best episodes so far. Trauma comes in all shapes and forms. My grandmother was raised Mormon. She was excommunicated from the church, but still lived with some of those Mormon practices her whole life. Of her and her 15 siblings, they all remained very close. Please keep speaking out. So many are behind you and support you!

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