Naked Men: The ManKind Project and Michael Scinto

The organization was supposed to make him a better man. Instead, his parents say, it made him a dead one.

Marc Young, attorney for The ManKind Project Houston and Sawyer, says the kidnapping allegation has no merit.

"I really do feel sorry for Michael's parents having to go through this," he says. "Michael had a troubled adult life and obviously he was seeking some answers that he didn't find. But I think the evidence is going to show that at the time, (Michael) requested to stay and that he fully participated when he wanted to and when he didn't, he didn't."

Still, Kathy Scinto believes the last words of her son, penned in the letter to Adams.

"It breaks our heart," she says, "to know that Michael tried so hard to get help and everybody turned him away."

The last time Kathy ever saw her son was two days after he had secretly sent the letter to the sheriff's office. It was also eight days before she would learn of his death. Scinto was supposed to serve as best man at his brother's wedding in two weeks, and went to meet his mother at a Schlotzsky's for lunch to discuss the upcoming event.

But that Sunday, she says, "Michael told me something he had never told me before. He said he thought he was sexually abused by several boys when he was about six years old."

Kathy Scinto had been in the dark about this, but apparently Sawyer was not. According to the police report, Sawyer said that during the retreat Scinto told him about the abuse. It was then that Sawyer told Scinto it would be best to share his recently unearthed memory with the group. Sawyer also told Scinto there was a licensed psychologist on hand that could help him if he wished. Sawyer told police that Scinto made the decision then to remain at the retreat.

But Ralph Scinto doesn't buy any of that.

"Michael felt anxiety after being forced to give over some deep secret in front of all those men," he says. "He couldn't handle it, or thought he shouldn't have told all those strangers. He was embarrassed and ashamed to divulge his secret. It made him feel bad, and he left there feeling even worse about himself."

It is not easy getting people who have attended The ManKind Project initiation weekend to talk about it. The Press contacted dozens of men who said they could not discuss it because of the confidentiality agreement they signed, or because they were scared of retaliation.

Real estate developer David Ward is an exception, perhaps because he views the retreat in a positive light.

"It's a chance for a man to walk through his life and see some of the places that he's stuck," he says. "I don't know if I would have done it the way they did, but the concept and their goal, I believe, is a good and important one."

Ward is no longer an active member. He moved from Houston to Sealy and says it's too far a drive to remain in the group. Ward attended the same weekend as Scinto in July 2005, but doesn't remember him. But like Scinto, Ward knew very little about what he was getting himself into beforehand.

"I was told about it by a friend and thought it would be a men's retreat with challenging events," he says. "The reality was different than I thought."

Ward is careful to walk a fine line in describing the weekend.

"I believe that they are digging deep to try to get emotion from people," he says. "And sometimes you have to do that to get someone to unearth things that are down deep. So I understand the reasoning. There may be a way to process this over several weekends as opposed to the way they do it all at once...without demanding the right response and saying, 'We're not going to stop until you get to the other side of this.' It is easy to be skeptical, but I understand what they are trying to do and where they are trying to go. But they really don't want you to reveal too much about what happened."

Brad Emel, mayor of El Lago, says he attended one of the retreats several years ago, but decided not to stick with the organization.

"It's cool, you know, I enjoyed it," he says. However, "I felt like I just didn't need the type of reinforcement they offer."

When asked why, Emel said, "Because my life's not that fucked up. I've got a pretty good deal going."

When asked specifically about the nudity and rituals, Emel denied knowing anything about it and then said, "I don't know that I'm really that comfortable talking about that."

Cult tracker Ross and an anonymous man who attended the training years ago set up chat rooms for men and their families who feel victimized by the ManKind ­organization.

Ross began his ManKind Project thread in November 2005, and the anonymous man, who calls himself Warrior X, began his on Yahoo in August 2004. At one point, The ManKind Project's entire protocol manual (running more than 100 pages) was posted on Ross's site. Ross says he doesn't know who put it there. Soon after, the organization's attorneys contacted Ross demanding that he remove the copyrighted information. Ross complied, but was allowed to keep portions of the manual on his site under the fair-use laws, he says.

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1 comments
t.ariel.terry
t.ariel.terry

There are many other programs like this, including in the realm of evangelical christianity: 

twentyfourseven worldwide

24-7 leadership academy

teen mania honour academy

They fulfill most all the conditions for cult-status, and while they promise to be a launching pad to a great life, there are many silent sufferers(myself included) who spiral off in to greater depression and woundedness...secrecy as to the process, complete misrepresentation, or lack of representation of what is involved in the process, a fanatical devotion to leadership, mind and body control..usage of trauma to invoke change etc...very dangerous so please be warned

 
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