Slonim Woods 9: A Memoir

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Slonim Woods 9: A Memoir

Slonim Woods 9: A Memoir

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There were a lot of things that were really challenging about writing it. In some ways, writing the book was less challenging than the process — and I’m having a great time talking to you — but the process of talking about writing about this is harder, because the experience was all about loss of control. Someone else got to take control and it’s as if whatever part of you that you look to to make decisions or to tell you what is right and wrong— this guy was there instead. But Ray would explode at the smallest perceived betrayal, like the time one of his kitchen pans had a mysterious scratch.

People are so negative about the word ‘brainwashing,’ ” he sniffed. “I don’t see what’s wrong with it. That is what I’m doing. I’m washing your brains. You should tell your dad that.” Levin reflected on his former friendship with Talia Ray, admitting that when he was able to escape her father's clutches and free himself from the man's "cult," he chose to cut all ties out of concern for his safety. The fact the book is called “Slonim Woods 9” rather than “Larry’s chaotic overcrowded apartment in the city” is something of misnomer. Certainly, it sounds more ominous that way. Most of the book takes place in the apartment that Ray has either rented or conned someone out of. (Because how does an ex-con rent an apartment in NYC?)I realized some time ago that life is more often than not completely random. I still find meaning, and even magic, in it all but understanding that we have little control over things was rather liberating for me. It has been my experience that those drawn to cults or certain "religions" are often looking for a meaning to the randomness. They need a reason behind everything. Learning to let reason fall by the wayside (at least when it comes to any sort of hidden meaning) made me feel more at peace and less susceptible to those who would prey on others. The indictment reads like something out of a made-for-TV movie. But it was all too real. The case against Larry Ray was built on eyewitness testimony and riveting, disturbing, disgusting details. Dan Levin wrote the book on the Larry Ray case Even an ocean away, the pull of Ray was strong. Studying abroad, Levin beganto hear voices, an irrepressible inner monologue. I think it is challenging to watch, but I hope that it means that people encounter the reality of these things that do happen in our world, that have been around us all the time, and I think it's worth remembering that Lawrence Ray took those videos because he wanted to use them against us and the fact that we now get to use them against him, and use them to help other people, is incredibly empowering." On Larry Ray's Abuse This is not obviously a self-help guide, this is not a how-to. But I'm sure when you talk to people, they ask you, "What are some of the red flags that I should maybe pay attention to?"

Even if Larry wasn’t a special government operative, at the very least he had some kind of connections,” Levin writes. “Which meant that if I just left, or acted against him, I would never be safe.” When I talked to those reporters and time went on, I was thinking more about it. First of all, for myself, I wanted that not to be true. I thought that if I wrote this book maybe it would mean that people would understand this experience a little bit better and breach that gap, not just for me, but for my friends. There's a support group in New York that I went to for people who had escaped cults and that helped democratize my understanding or complicate my understanding of what a cult survivor is or what a cult is. There were people in those support groups that were in what most people would describe as an abusive partnership, but we were talking about it in terms of cult dynamics. All of this helped me see myself inside of this a little bit more. I mean that’s part of the challenge of memoir, of course, but this is an extreme example of that challenge. All these years later, Levin has learned to frame what happened to him, to look at it, not as something that defines him, but as something that happened to him. According to audio recordings (Larry maintained a vast archive of his so-called therapy sessions) and video clips included in the show, Larry alternately soothed and berated them. He frequently accused the students of breaking his stuff and, even if they didn't remember doing so, they'd get so confused they'd eventually admit doing whatever he said they did.It was Levin who first began working with director Zach Heinzerling on making the documentary , and he explained why he felt it was necessary for the video recordings of their abuse to be included in the three-part documentary, despite feeling triggered by it. The book dedication is “To the friends I cannot reach.” Sad to know that some of his friends are still caught in Larry Ray’s web. Ray made it clear he hadpowerful friends. There he was in photos with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, with President George H.W. Bush. There was a letter somewhere, they were told, thanking Larry for singlehandedly ending the war in Kosovo. An inside look at the ‘Satanic, neo-Nazi’ pedophile cult that ensnared NYC man arrested on gun charges An intense tale of coercion, humiliation, gaslighting, and physical torment. It’s also one of hard-won survival, and creating a life after the unimaginable.” — Salon

When you were writing this, were you able to talk to anyone else who’d been in the cult with you to help remember details or process or anything? Chilling . . . eloquent . . . a powerful portrayal of a young man’s ability to emerge whole from an experience intended to break him.” — Publishers Weekly Levin befriended Talia Ray at Sarah Lawrence and soon fell under the spell of her father, who spun wild tales of international intrigue — and got them to explore group sex. FacebookDuring the six-hour-long conversation, Ray told Levin he was a master manipulator who once worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency and had apparently helped negotiate the end of the Kosovo War in 1999. One of the things I came away with was an understanding of how tenuous our attachment to our reality is. We currently live in a world, in a country, where people believe very different versions of reality than we might believe. It feels it's conceivable that someone could think that clear historical events occurred completely differently than we think they did. This was an experience with a man who was able to make me question what had actually happened an hour ago, a year ago, ten years ago. Part of that was just that slow burn of manipulation and the pressure, the abuse. There was also peer pressure, and me seeing my social group believe these things made me want to believe them. All of these things, they exist in other facets of our social lives, but it's just when they're turned so far that they wipe out every other aspect of just being a regular human being that they become this toxic thing.

I think that when people see the documentary, the part that feels important to me about it being on video, the way it is, is that people will be able to see these unbelievable things."Levin's book — the first account of what happened from someone who lived through it— suggests the seeds of the criminal enterprise outlined in Ray's indictment lie along a wooded path near the center of the Sarah Lawrence College campus, in Slonim Woods 9. Reconnecting with his friends from his days at Sarah Lawrence College has also been a fulfilling experience for Levin. I’d like to think I’m not, frankly, so psychologically fragile that I could be manipulated by someone as Colonel Kurtz ugly as Larry Ray, but that’s what we all think. This guy is a full-on psychopath who seemed to get genuine pleasure sexually and financially exploiting these kids. I think I’d take one look at him and get the eff out of that bizarre house with Larry sleeping in one bed with his daughter and his lover (at the same time!?) and everyone else huddled on the floor next to paint cans being accused every other day of deliberately breaking some overpriced object as a manifestation of anger.

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