The Children of God began as a typical 1960s commune, which preached peace and brotherly love. In 1978, the Children of God changed their name to The Family. But now many former members insist that they were mislead and part of a dangerous cult that practiced child abuse, prostitution and incest.
John is an ex-member who escaped with his wife, China. He says, “They took away all of our contact with the outside world.”
Kristi, who also fled the cult, agrees. “I felt like I was constantly controlled, and constantly beaten into submission,” she says.
The group’s founder, David Berg, preached his own interpretation of the Bible. He commanded women to be “hookers” for Jesus, even coining the term “flirty fishing,” which encouraged female members to use sex to recruit new converts.
One ex-member recalls, “It was all just a very physical act. Like cooking an egg, and making toast, you sleep with somebody. They’d go into clubs en masse and pick up men and have sex with them.”
Sexually suggestive videos were made to show how other members were recruiting around the world. Berg began to call himself “Moses David,” and constructed the “Mo Letters,” which were publications of his writings and speeches to serve as guidelines to his followers. In the letters, Berg suggested that women send him videos for his personal viewing pleasure. Many times these videos included children.
Children were often sent to “victor camps,” where they were “rehabilitated” according to Berg’s standards. Some people who leave The Family call themselves the second generation.
Jim, who escaped from the cult 25 years ago, says, “The monsters who run the camps have their way with these kids. The beatings, the silence restrictions, the rapes ” all that stuff ” happened from these real sadistic animals.”
China, a second-generation ex-member, says, “Because we were so isolated, nothing was normal. I didn’t go to school. I didn’t meet friends.”
Several ex-members were so haunted by the abuse that they committed suicide. One survivor, Ricky Rodriquez, made headlines earlier this year when he murdered a former cult member and then killed himself. He was David Berg’s son, and was raised to be the Second Coming. Berg wrote The Book of Davidito, a disturbing depiction of Ricky’s childhood, including graphic photos of young Ricky’s sexual encounters. The sexual abuse with Ricky started when he was just 14 months.
“The Book of Davidito was a childcare manual of how to raise their kids,” explains John. “Rick unfortunately felt a burden that wasn’t his to bear. That eventually led to his suicide.”
Thinking he could forget the memories of abuse, Ricky left the group in 2001. Before committing suicide, Ricky made a chilling video outlining his plans to seek revenge against his former abusers. It has been reported that anywhere from 10 to 31 ex-members of The Family have taken their own lives.