ICSA Annual Conference: How lessons learned from the SGA community can be applied to the Rehabilitation and Reintegration context

Enryka Christopher

Friday, June 24, 2022, 2:00 PM-2:50 PM – Online

Countries globally face the challenge of developing and implementing programs to support children and families recently repatriated from formerly Islamic State (IS)-controlled territories. These youth face multifaceted challenges of integrating into a society that is culturally, ideologically, and politically different from the one they grew up in, often from birth. “Second Generation Adults” (SGAs)–children raised in cults who now identify as members of the ex-cult community–similarly contend with issues related to integration, including redefining their sense of self, making sense of past ideological indoctrination, and loyalty conflicts. In addition, both SGA and repatriated individuals are known to struggle with mental health issues such as cognitive distortions, post traumatic stress symptoms, and low sense of belonging.

Innovative, grassroots initiatives have formed over the past few years to help the SGA community deconstruct ideology and support one another with adjustment to new ways of living outside of totalitarian systems. Creative therapies, peer support groups, and web-based resources developed by and for the SGA community share common elements with recommended intervention guidelines for repatriated populations. Consequently, these SGA initiatives may provide useful models for rehabilitation and reintegration of children and families from IS-controlled territories.

This paper will showcase interventions and resources created within the SGA community and offer a framework for how these initiatives could be applied to rehabilitation and reintegration efforts with repatriates from IS-controlled territories. First, an environmental scan will identify existing interventions and resources for SGAs, as well as any available evidence describing their effectiveness. Second, intervention guidelines for repatriated populations will be summarized, highlighting themes that parallel interventions and resources that have been developed for the SGA community. Finally, the paper will conclude with a suggested framework for applying lessons learned from work with the SGA community to rehabilitation and reintegration efforts with those from IS-controlled territories.

Enryka Christopher

Enryka Christopher is a Clinical Research Specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. She works with the Trauma and Community Resilience Center on several projects related to community-based interventions to prevent and counter targeted violence and terrorism. She also works under the University of Chicago on research of best practices for the reintegration and rehabilitation of children and spouses repatriated from formerly Islamic State-controlled territories. Projects she works on outside of her formal work include those involving mental health within the SGA community. As she herself was born and raised in the Unification Church, Ryka aims to utilize her lived experience of reintegration to apply useful lessons to parallel fields. Her research interests include victims of human trafficking, displaced populations, mental health, population health, humanitarian contexts, trauma, and resilience.

ICSA Conference
ICSA Annual Conference 2022