by Lauren Manning (Canada)

I’m Lauren, I’m 28 years old. I live just outside of Toronto, Ontario and I volunteer with an organization called „life after hate“, which works to help individuals disengage from hate groups. I spent 5 years in hate groups and remember how difficult it is to leave that toxic network behind.

I also hope to make amends for the damage I once did. It’s just like an addiction; I was attracted to it because I was looking for somewhere I could escape to where I felt significant in my own mind. I was raised in an middle class family and from the outside; we looked like we had everything.

Since I was a kid, something just internally felt really „off“, like I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. My dad was sick with cancer since I was 7 years old. My grandfather was toxic and would regularly make nasty comments about my weight, my appearance, my academic short comings at school and anything else he could find. I didn’t know what to do about my grandfathers actions; I tried to loose weight, but it seemed no matter what I did, it was never good enough for him.

My dad was my best friend and died when I was 16, there after I was left with this huge void. I started self harming and binge drinking, however I found those weren’t enough to fill that void. I joined the movement when I was 17. I met the guy who recruited me, he be-friended me and made me feel like I mattered. He didn’t need to put in much effort to recruit me, I already thought he was cool and the idea of this secret club he was in sounded interesting. The brainwashing didn’t start all at once. Little by little, I would say something in conversation and he would lead into his own narrative about the alleged victimization of the white race. He told me that I was better than those around me… He referred to everyone else as ’sheep‘ and told me that it was good to be different. It was easy for me to feel opposed to the mainstream since I didn’t feel accepted by those around me. Anytime I was with him and his friends, that’s when trouble started.

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