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Children of God The Family

News Summaries from ICSA PeriodicalsMiss Indonesia, Kerenina Sunny Halim, who competed in the Miss World Contest in South Africa in December, told the Jakarta Globe that she is a member of The Family International, an American cult with a history of child and sexual abuse scandals. She characterized The Family as a “non-governmental organization” for which she did humanitarian work in Aceh after the 2004 Asian tsunami. An Indonesian representative of The Family referred to the sexual abuse as “ancient history.” He said some members might have done things they shouldn’t have done, as in any family, pointing to the Catholic church’s sexual abuse scandals, for example. [csr 8.3 2009)

Members of The Family [formerly The Children of God] in Uganda — like The Family communities elsewhere in the world still fighting the “sex cult” stigma gained in earlier years — say that they are more liberal than they used to be. For example, a parent allows her daughter to marry a Muslim. “We have changed our perception of non-members,” she said, adding that the group no longer uses the term “systemites” to refer to non-members. The Family says there were 1,238 Family homes and 10,202 members worldwide in 2005. Stephen Kent, a professor of sociology at the University of Alberta, who has studied and written about David Berg, founder of The Family, believes Berg’s repressed sexual emotions “exploded” after the death of a mother who had punished him for sexual experiments as a child, experiments he continued when he came to lead a group of free-love hippies. In Lustful Prophet: A Psychosexual Historical Study of the Children of God’s Leader, published in 2002, Kent writes: “Berg, alas, is not a great religious figure, and his solution to his own childhood-based guilt brought havoc unto those who relied upon him for guidance. He alienated the older generation of his mother’s friends, destroyed his own marriage along with the marriages of others, probably lost a son to suicide, “eroticized” the relationships with his daughters and granddaughters, and denounced his eldest daughter, all in the process of the pursuit of his own passions.” [csr 7.2 2008)

Children of God/The Family
Second Generation Follower Tells of Abuse
Danielle Roselle, a new student at the University of California Berkeley, left his Children of God (COG) family in 1995, at the age of 20, even though “They said that if I left, at best I’d end up working at McDonald’s, at worst I’d be a heroin addict and end up on the streets. But you know, that’s what they set us up for,” he said, as he recounted his life among the second generation of a notorious group that sanctioned and encouraged sex among children and between children and adults. “We received no education and were allowed few contacts on ‘the outside’.”[csr 4.3 2005]

The Children of God, now calling itself the The Family, says a “zero-tolerance policy” against abusive treatment of minors has been in place since 1988, and its web page carries testimonies from current second-generation members attacking accounts like Roselle’s and speaking of the many benefits of growing up in the COG. (Bonnie Azab Powell, UC Berkeley News, Internet, 9/16/05) [csr 4.3 2005]

Children Of God (Family International)
Says Sex in Group Seemed Normal
Kristi La Mattery, who grew up in the Children of God, says in a series of interviews with the Chronicle that she and her sister were trained to believe sex among children and adults in the group, and the use of sex to draw in new members, was a sacred duty. She tells how she once fell in love with a convenience store co-worker, a fundamentalist Christian boy, whom she shocked when she initiated sexual relations, which she believed to be benign ‘witnessing.’ (Don Lattin, San Francisco Chronicle, Internet, 2/27/05) [csr 4.2 2005]

Life in Cult
As a boy, Ricky Rodriguez, who grew up in the Children of God — and recently left the group, killed a woman associated with it, and then committed suicide — watched his father have sex with different young women on a “sharing schedule” while he was himself assigned a different older teenage girl each afternoon. [csr 4.2 2005]

Having grown up with virtually no socialization in the outside world, Rodriguez and his wife, a fellow former member, found life very difficult after communal living. They knew nothing of checkbooks, job interviews, or resumes. They were surprised to learn that they would have to furnish their first apartment. [csr 4.2 2005]

A former member says Rodriguez felt sorry for the young women with whom he was forced to have sex, and he felt guilty for not fulfilling the prophecy of his father Moses David Berg, COG founder, that he, Ricky, would lead his people “out of sorrow and bondage,” which he eventually interpreted as freeing them from the evils of COG. His suicide note spoke of the murder as doing something for his people, for other victims like him. “OK, maybe I didn’t technically do the right thing, but I tried to do something to help. I didn’t just fade away.” (Nita Lilyveld, Paul Pringle, Larry B. Stammer, Los Angeles Times, Internet, 3/13/05) [csr 4.2 2005]

Children of God (Family International)
Founder’s Son Apparently a Suicide
California and Arizona police are investigating an apparent murder suicide involving Richard Rodriguez, one-time heir apparent of Moses David Berg, founder of the Children of God — now called the Family International — the evangelical sex cult. Rodriguez, who left the group in 2000, was the subject of the Story of Davito, a book with explicit photographs published by the Children of God to promote a lifestyle that included sex between adults and children. Police think Rodriguez shot himself with a pistol after stabbing to death Angela Smith, whom police say Rodriguez accused of sexually abusing him as a child. [csr 4.1 2005]

Steven Kent, a professor of sociology at the University of Alberta, said the highly sexual climate of the Children of God “did real damage to that second generation,” and he agrees that there have been suicides in recent years among children who grew up in the group. “While no one can justify what he [Rodriguez] did, you can understand his frustration and rage,” Kent said. “He and others from that generation have never seen justice from all the abuse they suffered.” [csr 4.1 2005]

In a video tape he made the day before Smith’s murder, Rodriguez says: “Anger does not begin to describe how I feel about these people and what they have done. Rage. I get livid.” He apparently had a plan to kill several people who he says abused him in the group. “There is this need… I have a need. It’s not a (expletive) want. It’s a need and I wish it wasn’t, but this need for revenge, it’s a need for justice. . . My mom is going to pay for that. She is going to pay dearly one way or another. If I don’t get to her…man if I don’t get to her and life goes on, I’m going to keep haunting her in the next life.”[csr 4.1 2005]

Claire Borowik, a spokesman for The Family, which claims it has outlawed adult-child sex, said that Smith had not been Rodriguez’s nanny, and added that although he was “an obviously disturbed young man,” the group had given him “ample financial and emotional support” to help him with the difficult transition to independence of the group. [csr 4.1 2005]

A Family spokesman describes the organization as a Christian fellowship with 4,000 children and 4,000 adult members who lived in 718 communal houses in 100 countries. She said it sends aid workers and missionaries to disasters, and its musical troupe, the Family Singers, have at various times sung in the White House. (Don Lattin, San Francisco Chronicle, Internet, 1/11/05; Becky Pallack, Arizona Daily Star, Internet, 1/12, 13/05; Laurie Goodstein, New York Times, 1/15/05) [csr 4.1 2005]

Children of God
HBO Developing Documentary
HBO is developing a documentary on the Children of God, the international cultic group prominent in the 1970s and 1980s — and still operating — accused of virtual enslavement of women and children, prostitution, polygamy, rape, sexual abuse of children, and incest. The co-producer is former member Noah Farr, who has spent many years helping his siblings and second generation members escape the group. (Nellie Andreeva, Reuters in Hollywood Reporter, Internet, 4/26/04)[csr 3.3 2004]

Children, Now Grown, Tell of Raid Experience
Several young adults who grew up in the Children of God (COG, now called The Family), some of whom are still associated with the communal organization as missionaries, recently recounted their traumatic experience of 1992 police raids in the Australian states of Victoria and New South Wales that took 128 children from six COG communities into temporary custody. [csr 3.3 2004]

One of those taken in the raids as a youngster says the children were strip-searched for signs of sexual abuse and asked whether they had had sexual contact with their parents or other adults. He adds: “They’d ask: ‘Have your parents touched you?’ And the kids are, like, ‘Yes.’ What kind of question’s that? And these guys are writing it down like its evidence.”[csr 3.3 2004]

Another says authorities asked her two-year-old sister what she was drawing on a slate. “Are you drawing a man?” ‘Yes.’ What kind of man? ‘Just a man man.’ What else goes on the man? And she’s, like, ‘Er, eyes?’ No, what else goes on the man? ‘Hands?’ No, what else . . .’ It was stop, leave her alone.” The children were all released back to their parents after a week in custody, although the court case to decide their ultimate fate, and the media frenzy surrounding it, further traumatized them. [csr 3.3 2004]

Today, the now grown up children say they were treated with suspicion for years because of their association with The Family. One recalls her singing group being ushered out the back door of a hospital in which they were performing when the heads of the institution found out they were connected to The Family. “They didn’t want us to have any contact with the children in the hospital. . . as if we were going to infect them.” [csr 3.3 2004]

In the years after the raid, said one, “My brothers and sisters started wetting their beds. When cars would come up the driveway, kids would run.” Many had nightmares, fear of the future, and a loss of trust for authority figures. Many who tried life outside the group returned, seeking a haven. (Peter Wilmoth, The Sunday Age, Internet, 5/9/04) [csr 3.3 2004]

COG was then infamous for sexual “sharing” among couples, and literature which authorities said was “pervaded by lascivious and prurient obsession with matters sexual, with a particular emphasis on young boys and pubertal girls.” COG was known for its “flirty fishing” doctrine, which encouraged female members to win recruits by offering sex. The young adults say these COG sexual attitudes and practices may have characterized the group in the 1960s, yet they saw none of it, having been born in the 1970s. But the director of Community Services Victoria, referring apparently to the group’s literature, said in 1992: “These children appear to be being raised according to a number of norms and doctrines which threaten long-term psychological damage and incapacity to perform as ordinary members of adult society.”[csr 3.2 2004 2004]

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