How I Escaped the Sarah Lawrence Sex Cult After 10 Years of Mental and Physical Abuse

After ten years of living in the Sarah Lawrence "sex cult," Felicia Rosario is sharing her side of the story

People/February 8, 2023

By Gillian Telling

In 2010, Felicia Rosario, 40, was living in Los Angeles and working at a hospital where she was doing her residency for forensic psychiatry. A hard-worker her whole life, she'd defied the odds of her working class upbringing in the Bronx and graduated from both Harvard and Columbia Medical School, and couldn't wait to be a doctor. She would never have believed you if you'd said that six months later, she'd be trapped in a cult in New York City alongside five other young adults, where she'd end up mentally, sexually and physically tortured for the next ten years by a sadistic madman.

Rosario's story, along with several other of the Sarah Lawrence cult victims, are now the focus of the new three-part Hulu docu-series Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence, coming out Feb. 9. The show explains how Lawrence "Larry" Ray, ended up conning the students, bilking them out of over $1 million and coercing several of them into being sex trafficked.

The twisted story began when Ray was released from prison for securities fraud, and would up sleeping on his daughter Talia's couch. She was living in an on-campus apartment development at Sarah Lawrence, and it was supposed to be for a few days only.

Ray, 62, never left. Instead he began charming Talia's roommates and friends with delicious dinners and wild stories of traveling the globe, being in former Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev's inner circle and of being pals with New York City Police commissioner Bernard Kerik and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. As he entertained the students, he also began having long, late night intimate talks with them about their lives, their problems, their past traumas — and pitching himself as a self-help guru who could make their lives better.

Soon, several of the students were completely devoted to Ray, grateful for the way he was purportedly "fixing" them. A year later, they all crammed into a one-bedroom apartment in the Upper East Side, where the real horror and abuse began — and where Rosario came into the picture.

"I met Larry because he was helping my brother Santos," Rosario tells PEOPLE exclusively. (Santos had briefly dated Ray's daughter, Talia.) "He was happier and doing better. And then he was helping my sister Yalitza, and she was happier. I'd also met Talia when she was dating my brother and I loved her. So I had a lot of other people vouching for him. He was like a friend of a friend of a friend — cool, trustworthy, reliable. It didn't occur to me he would be the person he ended up being."

Ray immediately began wooing Rosario, who found him attractive. "He could talk about anything," she says. "He was just a very interesting and dynamic person. Like you wanted to hang out with him."

Their relationship escalated quickly. She went back to L.A., but soon he was "love bombing" her, sending her gifts and flowers while at the same time depriving her of sleep as much as he could.

"He'd keep me on the phone all night long," she says.

The tiredness began to wear on her. He soon started telling her stories about how many people wanted him dead — career criminals and mobsters — and he started to tell her that they wanted her dead too, just for associating with him.

"Little by little, he took over my mind," she admits. "I don't even know how he did it. He made me feel like there truly were people after me, people coming to hurt me, and that people had hurt me in my past."

Ray convinced Rosario that he was the only one who could protect her, and she believed him. "He broke me. He made me fall apart," she says. "In the series, you can even hear him gaslighting me."

Not knowing what else to do, Rosario went to New York, where Ray was physically and mentally abusive to his followers.

He recorded their sexual interactions, which he then used to blackmail them, threatening to send to their parents and post online if they didn't do what he said. He made the girls have sex with strangers, telling them it would help with their past traumas of being sexually abused.

"He did this with everyone. He rewrote everyone's childhood, and he said all kinds of horrible things happened to me. He had me saying that my dad had prostituted me, and that I was sexually abused by him. All sorts of horrible things that just were not true," Rosario says.

Eventually, most of the students escaped Ray, but his complete control over Rosario and another former student, Isabella Pollock, would last a decade until a 2019 New York Magazine article exposing the cult came out. Subsequently, the FBI arrested Ray on sex trafficking and other charges later that year.

With Ray not around to continue his cycle of abuses, Rosario slowly began to come out of the spell she was under and regain a semblance of her former self. She'd initially agreed to participate in the Hulu series in defense of Ray, but after his arrest, she realized how wrong and bad things had been for so long. After that, she went back to the producers to tell them she wanted to explain what really happened in the cult and tell her side of how she got sucked in.

"It became about just setting the record straight," she says. "And then as I got more back into my old me, the real me, the doctor hat came back on and I was like, you know what? This is important for other people to hear. This is important for other people to know. And hopefully I can help other people get better, or get out of these situations that they might be in — or even help stop it from happening to begin with."

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