The Children of God is a famous worldwide religious sex cult. A woman who escaped the cult as a teenager is sharing her brutal story of abuse. And there have been some famous members in this cult as children as well. Hollywood actors Rose McGowan and Joaquin Phoenix have both shared details of their own early childhood experiences in the sect. All have shared details of what it was like living among the faithful. Dawn Watson, who grew up in the cult in Brazil, dreamed of escaping from the abuse she was subjected to. Like Rose and Joaquin, she made it out, but it left emotional scars.
While in the cult, Dawn was taught how to have sex at a young age. She was forced to perform sex acts on ‘uncles’ and was shown images of naked women nailed to crucifixes. They call themselves a Christian sect, but this is not Christianity… not even close. Girls and women were forced to take part in something called ‘flirty fishing’. They would either prostitute themselves for money for the commune, or use sex to draw in new membership.
Dawn was determined to not live under the cult’s rules and oppression. She escaped Children of God, which is now known as Family International, when she was 13. Being free of the nightmare of abuse she went through will take the rest of her life probably.
She’s now 29 and said in an interview, “As you learned to brush your teeth as children, we learned to have sex: “This is what you have to do this is how it happens.” We learnt God is love and the way to express God’s love is through sexuality. I never knew anything different from that. I think that no one will truly understand, unless you have lived it, what abuse is. And abuse I say in all forms. Abused sexually, abused emotionally and abused spiritually.”
“My alone time was something I cherished a lot. I think that was my escape. I used to have a dog called Midnight and he was the cutest thing and he had a big doghouse and I would sit down in that doghouse for hours and hours and just look at him. And he seemed to understand everything that was going on and it was a therapy for me. Because I could talk to him about anything and I knew he wasn’t going to judge me. He wasn’t going to punish me.”
The Children of God began in 1968 and was founded by David Brandt Berg in Huntington California. By 1972, there were 130 communities of full-time members scattered throughout the world – including Brazil where Dawn was raised. Dawn explained: “David Brandt Berg had a lot of darkness inside him. Before he even began this community he had problems with his own children. He used to abuse at his own children. He was kicked out of the church before starting this community because he wanted to have many wives. He didn’t know how to have one woman.”
Dawn was born into the cult and lived in it with her mother and brother. By then, Berg was a shadowy figure who existed to the members through his teachings and status as “Father David.” Dawn recalls as a child being exposed to images of naked women nailed to crucifixes, and ‘Hookers for Jesus’ captioned posters, produced by the Children of God. They were taught that sex acts were a part of God’s expression of love.
Questioning the ways of the cult was frowned upon and those that did were punished. Dawn explained: “A lot of the kids would get scotch tape on their mouth as in you don’t talk about things that are not of this culture or our belief systems. We had a spanking room that I was always in and out of. I remember one day, we were just kids being kids, and we ended up getting a punishment and I remember I got so many spankings that my whole leg was bruised and I remember going to my mom and saying: “Is this love?””
The cult secludes itself from the outside world to keep strangers and interlopers out. Children don’t receive a real education. But at even the young age of 13, Dawn sensed that the teachings of the cult were wrong and she decided to run away. She left behind her mother and brother and spent three years staying at the homes of various ex-members in Brazil. Dawn lived from home to home, but felt free. She was then raped when she was 15 at one of the houses she was staying in. She was crushed by it and called her mom, who had found her way out of the cult as well. Dawn went home to her mom.
In 2014, Dawn sold most of her possessions to pay for a ticket to Date with Destiny, a self-help event led by entrepreneur and life coach Tony Robbins. There she publicly shared her story for the first time. In 2016 she started her own non-profit, Dawn Watson’s Institute. She said: “I take people that have gone through extreme amounts of pain and I help them go through the process that I’ve gone through in my life of forgiveness of emptying, of owning what they have. Helping people start to break the silence within themselves, what they went through. And then they can begin the process of healing. I think the way that I relate to my past, it really defines how people will relate to me. I felt like the more I am ashamed of my past, didn’t want to talk about it. But now I talk about it as ‘this is me and I am not ashamed of it. This is where I came from’.”
I can’t imagine going through that, but this girl survived and so do others. She has quite a story to tell.
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