When Kristina signed up for school in Great Britain, she was seen as a freak. She was the only 12-year-old in her class that did not know who Michael Jackson was. In fact, she was almost completely oblivious to the culture of Western teenagers. However, she knew the love of Jesus, or at least one of its versions.
Until that age, she had been repeatedly raped by men that were stating the name of God during the act. They were the believers.
Her sister, Celeste, was chosen in a selection process to biblically meet Jesus with the prophet himself, David Berg. In order to do this, Celeste was asked to take off her clothes and do sexy poses in front of a video camera, at the age of six. She failed.
When she was 13 she had to redo it, thus earning the right to end up in the bed of lower-rank believers, all in the name of Jesus.
Kristina and her sister Celeste are just some of the countless children that escaped from the cult Children of God, started by American David Berg in 1968.
In the beginning, The Children of God seemed to differ little from the hippie communes that sprung in the Western world. Besides peace and love, though, Berg was also preaching the imminent end of the world.
The leader of the sect knew the method of making it into the Heavens, though, in the context of the imminent end. The Children of God were thinking of themselves as the true church of Jesus, and David Berg taught them that the saying ”Jesus is married to His church” must be taken ad literam.
David Berg/Photo: davidberg.org
Sex was seen as an act in which the son of God unites with His believers. The believers were encouraged to imagine that Jesus was the one they were making love to. In the case of men, they had to imagine they were women during the act, since homosexuality was considered a sin.
Problems appeared, though, when it was though that children should also be a part of the communion with the son of God.
Celeste says that she was only one of the minors asked do sexy poses. The film was actually some kind of casting so that, described by the FBI as a pedophile, could choose his partner in bed.
A history of abuse and its consequences
The Law of Love, instituted by David Berg, self-proclaimed the last prophet of the Lord, allowed every adult in his sect to willingly choose a sex partner, no matter whether he was married or in a relationship. Free love was much encouraged.
Since the physical act of love was considered an act of piousness, including children in such rituals was not seen as pedophilia, but as a religious benefaction.
The practice was called ”sharing” and, even though it was not mandatory, those that refused were accused of poor faith. The sharing included young girls as well, such as Celeste or Kristina.
The two sisters, born in India, spent their childhood moving from one country to another.
Photo: Church Street Films
Members of the sect, just like leader David Berg, were constantly moving in order to avoid the law. Starting with 1968, The Children of God had spread in dozens of countries, with the practices including pedophilia bringing the cult to the attention of the FBI and the Interpol.
Berg himself died as a fugitive in Portugal, in 1994.
Kristina made it to the UK in 2000, after her mother took her from the cult where her daughter were basically serving as prostitutes.
Celeste remained with the sect and her father, himself accused of raping a 12-year-old during the cult practices.
When her own daughter turned 4, in 2001, she left the sect behind, for fear that the same thing would happen to her daughter as well.
The two would later discuss their experience, in order to help other victims of the cult break from the abusive practices.
Life after the cult
Besides the sexual abuses, life inside the cult also meant a lot of work for children raised in the communes.
The cult initially rejected the system and everything related to it, such as school or jobs. After all, the end was near, and such occupations did not have a point anymore. Missionary work was encouraged, on the other hand. Adepts, including children, were spreading fliers and forecasting the end of the world.
Photo: Church Street Films
Later on, since the end kept being delayed, the adepts were granted permission to go to school, take on jobs and were also given permission to respect the laws of the countries they were living in.
It all happened in 2010, when the so-called Reboot took place. The remaining leaders of the cult tried to get along with the law. The children raised in the cult The Children of God suddenly saw themselves in the situation of living within the society, something they were not familiar with.
This was also the case for Michael Young, a Texan who had been raised within the cult and who, after the Reboot, was forced to abandon the missionary work he had been doing since childhood and take on shaping balloons for children’s’ amusement.
Young, who benefited from the reintegration programme offered by a college says that when he first dated a girl, the talk seemed as strange to him as Michael Jackson was to Kristina, back in the UK. His partner had invited him to play video games…
In other parts of the world, other children or young adults are still struggling with the mental damage made by the life within the cult.
In Australia, dozens of children are recovering after being raised in isolation by Anne Hamilton-Byrne, a Yoga teacher who thought of herself as the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.
Byrne, the one who started up ”The Family” cult, adopted children whose hair she cut and dyed blonde in order to look as similar as possible.
The children were taught to adore here, with any mistake being punished through beating and starvation. The children were also given LSD in order to become aware that they will be the ones to inherit the Earth.
After Anne Hamilton-Byrne’s death, reintegrating into society was tough. Some children renegaded their mother, others, even though they admitted the abuse they were subjected to, couldn’t detach themselves from her memory, whom they still cherish.
In the USA, France and Germany, other children leaving “The Twelve Tribes” cult are trying to cope with the modern lifestyle. Home-schooled and isolated from other communities, the accusations of minor abuse poured over the years.
Among the values taught to children are discipline with a stick or the belief that the races have to be kept separate, and slavery was necessary.
Mathias, one of the children that left the sect, says he felt like an alien when he came into contact with the ”outsiders”.
The problems of children breaking from the cult and are trying to live their lives outside of it have been studied by psychologist John G. Clark.
According to him, although some children manage to integrate the childhood experiences in a healthy way, most of them will have deep scars as adults.
The symptoms of breaking from the cult include depression, guilt, fear, paranoia, slow speech, rigidity of facial expression and body posture, indifference to physical appearance, passivity and memory impairment, according to Dr. Clark.
Margaret T. Singer, another psychologist who worked with victims of cults, says there is no well-defined psychological profile of those integrating in such a group. Not only vulnerable people or with identity issues can make it in such a situation, with the conversion being more linked to the personality of a leader and not the adept’s profile.
Treating all that manage to break from the cult, according to psychologist Louis Cozolino, is more efficient within a group therapy, as long as the conditions are different from the ones that the victim managed to escape.