The infamous Sarah Lawrence College sex cult is now at the center of a Hulu docuseries, featuring never-before-seen footage of the abuse and psychological torture students endured at the hands of parent Larry Ray.
“Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence” is helmed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Zach Heinzerling. The three-part docuseries explores the survivors of Ray’s sex cult that spanned over a decade. Ray, a former CIA agent, was convicted of sex trafficking, extortion, conspiracy, and other charges in 2019.
The official synopsis reads: With unprecedented access, “Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence” excerpts striking first-hand interviews with conman Larry Ray’s victims and incorporates personal audio tapes and video recordings to tell the story of his grim 10-year influence over a group of young people. The series follows the story from the cult’s origins in 2010 on the Sarah Lawrence campus until its recent demise when the last members find their own paths to survival.
Survivors describe being preyed upon within the university “bubble” on campus, with Ray encouraging former high school outcasts to build their own community under his watch. Ray’s “Quest for Potential” philosophy-turned-manifesto became the cornerstone for a drug-induced lifestyle that Ray oversaw and financially benefitted from. The trailer states that Ray was “building an army” with the students, and made millions of dollars from female students working as escorts.
Director Heinzerling explained that survivor Daniel Levin approached him about making a documentary on what really happened with Ray. “He said, ‘I want to make something that the survivors will be able to watch and see themselves in,'” Heinzerling told Vulture. “I went to a small liberal-arts college. I had a similar group of artistic-minded friends. And so I felt like, ‘This could be me.'”
Heinzerling continued, “You have a group of progressive-minded, quote, unquote ‘liberal’ students who are in an environment where they’re being told to find themselves. And in comes this kind of heteronormative, masculine, conservative person who makes very clear black-and-white decisions about these students’ lives and eases all these anxieties. I think it’s interesting to see that also in the context of a small liberal-arts college, where you don’t really associate a Trump type of personality being attractive, but yet he was to these really bright young students.”
Heinzerling described Ray’s reign as a “psychological prison” for his targets.
“I think the goal is to understand how it happened and to sympathize with the survivors and understand their story in a deeper way — and hopefully learn something about yourself and society,” he summed up. “You don’t often get to see someone heal from this kind of abuse [onscreen]. It showed a level of strength and courage in someone to rid themselves of that shame and embarrassment that they might have felt in the aftermath of this and begin a process of healing.”
“Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence” is produced by Story Syndicate and premieres February 9 on Hulu.
Check out the trailer below.