‘Stolen Youth’: Sarah Lawrence Cult Victim Felicia Rosario on Reliving Past Trauma
Lawrence “Larry” Ray prayed on the insecurities, past trauma, and innocence of college students over the course of almost a decade. The father of a student at New York’s elite liberal arts school Sarah Lawrence College, he moved into his daughter’s dorm room in 2010 where he sexually, psychologically and physically abused students he had groomed with “therapy sessions.”
The headlines of a sex cult and its manipulative leader are countless, but Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence further brings faces to names and delves into Ray’s dark influence over others. The three-part Hulu docuseries looks at the unsettling crimes committed and mental anguish through recordings and video. Survivors also provide their own firsthand accounts as they look to pick up the pieces of their lives.
Among the victims was Felicia Rosario, introduced to Ray by her brother Sarah Lawrence student Santos and sister Yelitza. The Harvard grad and Columbia medical school student became so enthralled that she would refer to him as her “husband.” She was there along with Isabella Pollock right up until the FBI raided the home they were staying. In January, a federal judge sentenced Ray to 60 years in prison after facing a slew of charges including sex trafficking, extortion, forced labor, and conspiracy.
Here Rosario opens up about the emotional turmoil shown in the docuseries and what she hopes viewers get from watching.
What led to you agreeing to participate in the docuseries by [director] Zach Heinzerling? Did your reasoning change as you become more aware of the hold Larry had over you?
Felicia Rosario: When the opportunity came to do the documentary, I was still with Larry. Larry decided he wanted to proceed. I was doing it to help him, really because he didn’t give us a choice. Then after he got arrested. I started to really start to see what was happening and what was going on. I realized the situation I was in, and I went back to Zach. After I figured out what was going on, I didn’t want to talk to anybody. Then I came back to Zach and was like, “I don’t want people to think Larry is a good guy. I want to make sure people know the truth about who he was and what he did to me.” And so I wanted to set the record straight. And set the record straight on me.
In what way?
The journalists made me out to be this broken person. People didn’t characterize me as who I was and who I actually had been before I met Larry. I was just Larry’s broken girlfriend. There was so much more to me than that I felt was important for people to see. That this happened to a normal successful person. It really could have happened to anybody. Finally, once I was further along in my healing I wanted to do it to help other people.
Did sitting down and reliving these dark times early in the interview process help you find clarity?
Absolutely. It was incredibly therapeutic to sit down with him and talk through what was going on in real-time. Go through the memories and really process them. You can see that in the docuseries, me talking to him and having these epiphanies. It was incredibly helpful to talk to someone willing to listen. We were looking for the same thing. We were both trying to get to the truth. Having that partner in Zach helped. He asked tough questions, but those are the hard questions I wanted to find answers to for myself.
During your testimony against Larry, you recounted instances of wearing a diaper and having to suck on a pacifier. There is also a really tough clip in the doc where he takes you to the floor and pins you down after you just want to go to sleep. Through it all, you’re still professing your love for him. When you look back when was rock bottom for you?
Unfortunately, that wasn’t a rock-bottom moment. There was so much more that happened that wasn’t in the series or even wasn’t necessarily introduced into court. He left me outside for a week without food and just a bottle of water. I wasn’t allowed to leave the property or otherwise, he would report me to the police that I had stolen valuables and he would get me arrested. That’s just one of the things. There was so much more. To be honest, that clip you saw of him bodyslamming me in the kitchen and me screaming, I don’t even remember it happening. Sitting here talking to you right now, I don’t remember. I definitely have blocked out a lot of the horrible things he had done to me for my own sanity.
Do you remember the last conversation you had before he got arrested?
We had just had a five-hour session. Our first sitdown with Zach for the documentary. We had been going over, Larry really had been going over the story and the conspiracy against him by [Bernard Kerik] and others. My last conversation with Larry was talking about the documentary and trying to figure out Zach’s angle.
What was it like to have that reunion with your whole family? How difficult was it to build that initial bridge first with your parents and then with your brother and sister?
Reuniting with my family was very challenging and one of the scariest things I’ve done. I was excited to see them but also dealing with the fears that Larry had instilled in me for years. I was so happy to see my mother and I felt her love instantly.
If you were to speak to Larry one more time, what would you say to him today?
What is life like for you now? How close are you to practicing medicine again?
Life is good right now. I have my family again. I’m reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. I am working and living independently. I don’t have a path back to medicine yet, but I hope to find my way soon.
Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence premiere, February 9, Hulu