(ETH) – A ‘Children of God’ cult survivor has recalled her harrowing torture at the hands of the religious order. Sharen Seitz, 33, remembers being beaten and spending hours locked in a closet forced to memorize Bible passages as a punishment for minor misbehavior.
For a long time, she says she did not even know who her parents were, as she was encouraged to view all members as family. Sharen, of Boulder, Colorado in the US, grew up inside the Family International commune until her family fled when she was six.
The cult, which consisted of runaway hippies, was founded in 1968 by preacher David Brandt Berg and was later known as the Children of God. The society quickly grew using a technique Berg termed “flirty fishing”, where he would order women to recruit men by engaging in sexual activities.
Men were allowed to have more than one wife and the cult was reported to the FBI for allegations of incest, child abuse, and rape. Rose McGowan was born into the commune in Florence, Italy before her family fled when she was nine. Joaquin and River Phoenix were part of the branch in Venezuela before the family escaped.
Sharen claimed she and other kids in the cult were taught sex was a way of sharing God’s love with people. Although she says she endured physical abuse, she cannot recall being sexually abused. She said: “There was a lot of physical abuse and a lot of emotional abuse. “There is a chunk of my memories from the age of three to five that are missing.” FULL STORY