In the Media

Carol Merchasin says ‘Orgasm cult’ may have violated federal human trafficking law (Insider)

Nicole Daedone, center, founder and former CEO of OneTaste, departs Brooklyn federal court on June 13, 2023.


One element of OneTaste’s “forced labor scheme,” according to the indictment, was recruiting and grooming “OneTaste members to engage in sexual acts with OneTaste’s current and prospective investors, clients, employees and beneficiaries, for the financial benefit of OneTaste.”


One attorney whose practice focuses on sexual abuse allegations against religious groups, cults, or “spiritual communities,” told Insider that the former members can seek some form of civil legal reparation through a federal law called the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA), which states that whoever forces or entices a person “through fraud or coercion” to “engage in a commercial sex act” is in violation of the law.  

Carol Merchasin, an attorney at McAllister Olivarius who leads the firm’s sexual misconduct in spiritual communities practice, said that it’s often difficult to hold religious groups or cults accountable.

She argues in her paper about applying (TVPA) to cults that these groups may cite “religious expression through the First Amendment” to operate as they please, and US law currently offers scant ways to bring a lawsuit “claiming coercive control.”

But perhaps “the biggest legal obstacle,” she writes in the paper, is the statute of limitations, which sets deadlines for victims to file a lawsuit. Some states, including New York and California, have enacted laws that provide sexual assault survivors a brief window to pursue cases even after the statute of limitations expired.

“We don’t have enough resources and we don’t have enough tools in the legal justice system to go after these cults and spiritual communities,” Merchasin said.

The solution, according to Merchasin, could be through a nascent application of the federal human-trafficking law, and she turns to a case that was made against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein as a prominent clue.

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