Hamilton Spectator: Member says he saw child sex abuse inside cult

From XFamily - Children of God

Member says he saw child sex abuse inside cult

Hamilton Spectator/1993-09-09, p. A1.

by Kate Barlow

A former spokesman for a religious cult being investigated after reports of sexual and physical abuse, says he saw children assaulted.

"It's all true. It's heartbreaking to listen to some of the children who've grown up in the cult," said Edward Priebe, in a telephone interview from his home in Chilliwack, B.C.

The 39-year-old graphic artist said he recently spent three weeks in Argentina helping authorities with their investigation into allegations of kidnapping, physical and sexual abuse of children, incest and prostitution by members of The Family, which is an offshoot of the California-founded Children of God.

Facing possible prosecution in Argentina is former Burlington resident Susan Claire Borowick, 33, known to cult members as Clara.

Her 12-year-old son, Esteaban, is believed to be among the 140 children taken into care after Argentine police raids on nearly a dozen Buenos Aires homes last week.

A cult member for 19 years, Mr. Priebe said the group's child- care handbook promoted oral sex.

He also said he saw children being sexually abused, but never took part in it. One incident involved a mother abusing her two- year-old son and another involved young children having sex.

Incest was actively promoted prior to 1987, he said.

Mr. Priebe wrote the cult's denial of such practices.

"The Family is saying child abuse is an excommunicable offence now, but until 1988 it wasn't," he said yesterday.

Mr. Priebe said he joined the cult at 17, expecting to be part of the "Jesus-people revolution.

"But it was nothing that you would ever associate with Christianity."

He soon began to realize that the cult was largely an excuse for wholesale sexual activity, including the rape of children.

He had a lot of questions, he said, but was "terrorized" by the memory of an exorcism he had been subjected to.

"It was one big orgy, one free-for-all. Everyone was married to everyone else," said Mr. Priebe.

Rumors of abuse of children have been surfacing for years, said Mr. Priebe, but it was allegations by two 20-year-old women born into the cult that caused the latest investigation.

The Family claims 9,000 members around the world, with 40 to 50 in Canada.

More than 140 children were taken from members' custody in Australia in May 1992 because of suspicions of abuse, but legal action was stayed.

A police raid in Spain also seized several children, but cult members were acquitted.

Drug charges in Argentina were dismissed in 1989.