How to recognise mandated shunning

Recognising Shunning

Mandated shunning is the deliberate isolation of a former member by a high-control group

When does shunning become mandatory shunning?

The key difference between shunning and mandated shunning comes down to whether the shunning is organised. As highlighted in our glossary, shunning is the practice of isolating an individual through exclusionary practices. It is unpleasant and recognised as an extreme form of bullying. Mandated shunning on the other hand refers to shunning being specifically prescribed by the group as a required behaviour of its members. If a current member refuses to shun a marked person, she or he will be shunned as well.

How does it work?

High-control groups maintain a lot of their control by erecting high barriers between those who are in the group and those who are shunned. Stipulated behaviours and rituals serve as a boundary between group members and non-members. They may not be a physical barrier, but they are just as enforceable, encouraging members to detach themselves from those who don't conform.

Mandated shunning is one threat that is used to keep people in line. Faced with the reality of a total loss of connection and support from family and friends, it serves as a chilling preventer of dissent, disruption, and ultimately departure from the group.

For the group, those that are shunned are often viewed as, at best, insignificant, and, at worst, as an infidel or even heathen. Either way, they are considered not worthy of attention or support and are typically ignored. When an existing member of the group fails to comply with group expectations, either by flouting the rules or by choosing to leave, the same lack of worth is applied and the individual is shunned or ostracised. For the group, the person is now ‘out’ and in many ways has totally ceased to exist. The problem is, the group is likely fully entrenched in the life of the individual, and the practice of totally ignoring the individual, or even actively dismissing them, can have devastating or irreparable consequences.

How to spot mandated shunning

There is a marked difference between removing one from the group, and actively having all remaining members ostracize the person who was removed.

When we consider the difference between shunning and mandated shunning, we look for:

  • Avoidance/ignoring: deliberate or habitual avoidance or ignoring of an individual when ostracized. In the event of shunning, we expect most or all of the remaining members to shun the individual in question. The action is widespread within the group.
  • Majority action: in the event of mandated shunning, all of the remaining members are required to shun the individual in question.
  • Pre-determined: mandated shunning is not a reactive trait arising from disappointment or disgust. It is a premeditated, expected behaviour in response to a member breaking the rules. i.e. group members expect to be shunned in response to certain behaviours. It is typically highlighted in the group manifesto.
  • Corrective: when describing the act of mandated shunning, it will often be viewed positively by the group as a means of corrective or protective action.
  • Fear: mandated shunning is often viewed with fear by the group membership, seen as a disincentive to leaving or changing their membership.
  • Trauma: typically, mandated shunning will result in significant damage to the individual. This can include psychological and relational health and wellbeing, financial stability, loss of confidence, extreme pain, and in extreme cases suicide. In many cases, the effects are so bad that an individual will seek to return to the group as the only viable alternative to the pain they are suffering.
  • Shame: former group members often feel a deep sense of shame, despite choosing to leave, having contravened the ingrained ‘laws’ of the group.
  • Formal denunciation: it is not uncommon for groups to specifically isolate former members by circulating communications about their indiscretions and failings. This ultimately results in the group members shunning the shamed individual.

Your donation supports the legal battle

There are several European court cases underway that will prosecute either a specified high control group, or will set a legal precedent that mandated shunning is a crime. We are seeking to fund cases with the ICC in the Hague and the European Court of Human Rights.


How you can help

We are looking for people who have experienced mandated shunning, who understand organizational bullying, who want to make a difference or would like to be volunteers to help us make mandated shunning a crime.