The Mirror: My parents let evil cult use me as a child sex slave

From XFamily - Children of God


My parents let evil cult use me as a child sex slave

The Mirror/1999-05-11

By Paula Robinson

RAPED when she was only nine, Kristina Jones was systematically sexually abused for years by members of the cult into which she had been born. Kristina, 23, spent the first 12 years of her life in the Children of God sect - and the evil that was done to her happened with the consent of her parents.

Eventually she escaped from the group's clutches - only to sink into a hell of drugs, alcohol, sex and attempted suicide because she couldn't live with the knowledge of what she had been through. Here, in her own words, is her horrifying story.

SOMETIMES, when I watch my mother Valerie running around after my younger brother and sister, the feelings of jealousy and anger are so great I have to stuff my fist into my mouth and leave the room.

They have absolutely no respect for her and treat her like dirt. But in her eyes they can do no wrong. And if anyone tried to hurt them, well, she'd do everything in her power to protect them.

I ask myself again and again: "Why couldn't she have been like that with me? Why couldn't she have cared about me? I don't care about the material things I had to do without when I was Rosie's age - she's 11 - or the fact that I had to run the house and look after the kids because Mum didn't know how to.

What I find hard to forgive is the fact that when I needed her most, to protect me from the sexual and physical abuse I suffered at the hands of her cult "brothers", she was nowhere to be found.

What's made it worse is that she refuses to accept responsibility for any of it. It's not that she doesn't believe the abuse happened, but she can't understand why I find it hard to sweep it all under the carpet and let bygones be bygones.

Whenever I try to broach the subject she immediately goes on the defence, crying and blaming everything on David Berg, the American founder of the Children of God cult, for turning out to be a false prophet and leading her astray. She pledged her life to him and his group when she was only 16, and as far as she's concerned she's just as much a victim as I am.

I do feel sorry for her, but when your earliest memory of your mother is seeing her walk into your bedroom, witness you being given oral sex by one of her friends, even though you were only two years old, and yet turn on her heel and walk away, it's hard to bury your own feelings just to make her feel better about it. When she joined the group in 1973, she thought they were just another religious organisation. But, by the time she had met and married my father, Simon Peter, who was also a member, moved into a commune in Kent with about 20 other members and my elder sister Celeste had arrived in 1975, they must have realised that the group believed free love, incest and intercourse with their children were considered to be the will of God.

I don't think either of them questioned Berg's words. After all, he was God's right-hand man. If they felt uncomfortable with this aspect of his teachings, they didn't dare show it. Probably it was easy to kid themselves that, disgusting as some of it sounded, it had to be all right. I can understand that, but now that I'm a mother myself I can't even begin to understand how they could have exposed their children to it.

Of course, none of this went down too well with the rest of society, and by early 1976 newspaper reports about sexy goings-on in the group made it necessary for them to consider leaving the country.

David Berg conveniently received a message from God, telling him the group was needed in India, Africa and South America to save lost souls. My mother and father were excited by the idea of reforming all these foreign sinners, so off they went. I was born in Bombay later that year.

We lived in about 30 communes in different cities - Bombay, Madras, Rajasthan, Poona. Families were moved around all the time to prevent any real friendships between group members. My life revolved around, prayer, Berg's teachings and sex.

I don't remember the first time I had sexual intercourse with someone - I was too young. Children slept in the same room as their parents, and for a few years I was used to waking up in the middle of the night and seeing my mother and father having sex together.

Adults were going in and out of each other's rooms all night, and my parents were no exception.

Little children were taught that nudity was good and that sex was the best way of showing someone that you loved them. Refusing to sleep with someone who wanted you was the biggest sin you could commit, and you were punished for it.

To ensure that we toed the line, Berg produced a pamphlet especially for children. It had diagrams of naked people in it and showed in graphic detail how to give blow jobs.

He also recounted how much he'd enjoyed being sexually abused by his babysitter when he was six and how he wished he'd had a chance to have sex with his mother.

So, although some of us were no older than two or three, we were going around believing that having sex at any age was a blessing instead of an abuse.

When I was about four I was moved into a dormitory with about 10 other children. Adults would come in to read us bedtime stories and have sex with us. In a way, you welcomed it. Discipline was very strict, and when you were constantly being criticised, beaten and punished you were grateful for any kind of attention.

By the time I was 12 I'd had sex with at least 25 men, including my stepfather Mike. I don't know how my parents felt about any of this. They never talked about it.

My father didn't interfere with any of the children, and he never touched me or my sister.

I don't know if he was aware that other men did. We belonged to the group, and parents weren't allowed to show their own children any special attention.

In 1978 my parents split up and my father suddenly took Celeste and went to Sri Lanka. I don't even remember missing him. I had about 15 other "dads" to take his place.

As for my mother, all her attentions were focused on the group, my baby brother David, who was a year old and the new man, Mike, who she'd left my father for.

We became strangers. I spent the next five years listening to her being physically abused by Mike, listening to her sobbing her eyes out most nights, and - worst of all - having more and more kids I knew she didn't want.

Even though I was only five or six, I can remember despising her weakness and feeling ashamed of her. I had no friendly feelings for her at all.

It would never have crossed my mind to try to talk to her about the beatings and the abuse, or how scared I sometimes felt. Group members regularly informed on each other, and I couldn't trust my mother not to do the same to me.

No matter how right sex was supposed to feel, you got tired at being pawed at all the time, especially by men you didn't like. Sometimes I'd be too frightened to go to bed at night, because I knew that someone would creep into my room.

Saying No wasn't even an option - you'd immediately be accused of "selfishness". I was forced to have sex against my will more times than I can remember.

The first time was when I was just nine. A 17-year-old group member cornered me in the bathroom and pushed me on the floor. I was terrified, but although I struggled I didn't scream. That would have attracted someone's attention and I would have been punished for withholding myself.

He was much stronger than me, so in the end I stopped struggling and lay there quietly while he had sex with me. I stayed on the floor for a long time after he'd gone, crying my eyes out - quietly, of course, to avoid attracting attention. When I was 10, a group member aged 28 raped me on a working trip to another city. Again I kept it to myself. I had no one I could confide in, no one who could have helped me.

In 1987 Mum became pregnant with her seventh child. She was still with Mike, but because of all the free love and sleeping around I don't know if my three little brothers were all his.

She was depressed and sick all the time and couldn't pull her weight in the group. Worse than that, she was unhappy, and any sign of unhappiness and discontent was bad.

So the house leader decided it would be best if she went back to England for a while, just until the baby was born and she felt better. I didn't even know she was leaving. She didn't say a word to me.

I just came home one day after singing in the street to raise funds and was told by Mike that she'd taken the two youngest children and gone.

Any other child might have cried their eyes out, but I just thought: "Oh." Her going meant absolutely nothing to me. How could it? She'd never shown me she loved me, or even that she cared.

Now I was expected to do everything she had done, from looking after my two little brothers to sharing a bed with my stepfather and having sex with him. Despite that, I liked him - loved him, even.

He was more of a dad to me than my real one had been, and now he was the only adult left who I was close to. We didn't hear from Mum for almost a year, and then news came through that we'd have to leave India.

Most group members had no visas, and although the authorities had turned a blind eye for years, suddenly we were being told to go back to England and re-apply for permits. No one complained or asked questions.

We were like little robots, used to doing what we were told. My stepfather, little brothers and I arrived back in England on March 17 1988. My mother and a few group members were waiting to meet us.

We didn't know it at the time, but my mother had changed. She'd managed to get hold of a book written by Berg. It was an expose of her life with her father and the abuse he'd inflicted on her. My mother had gone from loving Berg to hating him. Even though she was still involved with the group, she was desperate to leave.

I knew Mike would never let her, so she decided not to tell him.

She waited until he was asleep and then she woke us up, made us get dressed, gather what belongings we had and leave. She knew that if Mike found us he'd take her children away, so she took us to a women's refuge.

I know he and some other group members did search for us, but a few months later we heard he'd gone to live in a group home in Australia.

At first I felt confused and panicky. After all, the cult was all I knew. But later I was excited and relieved. It was the first time my mother had taken charge and done something that showed she cared about us, that she even loved us. Besides, I was away from the abuse.

When the younger children were asleep, we sat and talked about the cult. She told me about the book she'd read and how she now felt about Berg, and I told her about the abuse - really poured my heart out to her.

She wept and told me how sorry she was. I started to feel I might have a mother who really cared about me. I desperately wanted her to put her arms around me and tell me it was going to be all right, that none of it was my fault.

But instead she started crying and rocking herself, saying it wasn't her fault but everyone would blame her. I was obviously in need of help and counselling, but she made me promise never to tell anyone what had happened to me. I was used to doing exactly as I was told, so it never occurred to me to disobey her.

Over the next four years I struggled to come to terms with it. At times I felt so dirty, so sick, so ashamed that I didn't want to live. I tried to commit suicide about three times.

Once, I sat on the railway lines, just hoping for a train to run me over and end it. I was 13. I was also being bullied and beaten up at school. I'd let slip to some of the girls that I wasn't a virgin, and after that I was an easy target.

I started playing truant and hanging around the streets - it seemed safer. As usual, Mum was too wrapped up in her own problems to notice. As long as I was there to look after the kids, do the housework and make sure the bills got paid she didn't seem to think about me.

When I couldn't find affection and understanding at home, I tried to get it through drugs, alcohol and endless boyfriends. I didn’t realise that in the outside world sleeping with just about anyone was a bad idea, and just before Christmas 1991 I found out I was pregnant.

My mother wasn't much help. She spent all her time lying on the sofa, crying her eyes out and feeling sorry for herself. When I told her about the baby, she told me she'd never forgive me if I had an abortion.

I cancelled an appointment I'd made at a clinic. If Mum disowned me, who would I have left? Even then I didn't get any love or support from her. When I went for my four-month check-up and the midwife congratulated me I burst into tears.

When I went into labour five months later, Mum refused to come to the hospital with me, on the grounds that she'd been through enough labours and it would only upset her.

I really wanted her to be there for me. It would probably have brought us closer together. That she wouldn't come actually drove us further apart.

I cut myself off from her and everything else. Seven months later, I moved out of the house. I was only 16 and I had a baby to look after, but I didn't care. I was so desperate to get away I would have slept in the street.

I found a house in Nottingham, two hours away from Mum's house in Luton, and concentrated on looking after my baby Jordan and getting on with my life.

I had relationships, but none of them lasted very long. I was too needy. If a man didn't want to have sex with me all the time I took it as a sign that be didn't care.

In 1993, Mum decided to apply to the Criminal Justice Board for compensation for her suffering at the hands of the group, and asked me to give evidence for her. Since I'd left home I'd been able to take a step back, and so I agreed to help.

They decided she had no case, but I did. I'd been a minor when the abuses happened and unable to protect myself. I was awarded pounds 5,000. I would like to have brought a criminal case against the abusers, but without knowing their real names - group members tended to take on biblical ones - there was no way to do it.

I used the money to travel to Australia. I needed space and time to think about my life.

Just before I left, my real father, Simon Peter, came to England to visit his parents. I hadn't seen him or my sister Celeste for 16 years. They were living in Japan, and although Dad had sent a few letters, that was all. It was sad meeting him again. I knew he was my dad and he looked familiar, but he was also a stranger.

He was still involved with the group and was angry with me for speaking out against them. He wouldn't accept that they were fundamentally evil.

He came over again last October and we write to each other every now and then. He has 12 other children besides me, Celeste and David, with a variety of different women.

He's very reserved and polite with me, but he loves children and he's really pleased about Jordan, so maybe that will help bring us together.

Two months after that first meeting with Simon Peter, I met my stepfather in Australia. It was organised through mutual friends and I saw it as another step in the healing process.

I talked to him about the group and the way he'd abused me. Mike was shocked - he hadn't expected me to remember. He didn't want to be confronted with it. He also thought I should rejoin the group.

All I felt was disgust. But the meeting and my trip helped me re-examine my life. I knew I didn't want to spend the rest of it sitting staring at the walls, like Mum.

When I got back to England in May 1994 I enrolled on a GCSE course. I got through those and went on to do three A-levels. It wasn't easy. I had Jordan and money was really tight.

When I got a place at Nottingham University last year to read law, Mum cried and told me how proud she was of me. It was the first time I'd ever heard her say that. I'd always felt I couldn't do anything right.

I'd like to think that there will be a time when our relationship will be different. Despite my feelings of anger and bitterness, there are times when I just feel so sorry for her. I know she's desperately lonely. She spends a lot of her time struggling with her own pain. It's the reason why, at times when I just want to hurl accusations at her, I bite my lip and leave the room.

My experiences with my parents have affected my relationship with Jordan in a positive way. We really are best friends. He knows I'll always be there for him, and I make a point of telling him I love him. I'm the adult - it's my job to take care of him, to protect him.

I'm happier than I was. I have my son, and I'm doing a course I love. I've also been in a relationship for about seven months. His name is Neil and he's the best person I've ever met. We got together through a friend. He's 36 - 14 years older than me. He's easy to talk to and I can be myself with him.

He knows all about the group and the abuse, and when I first told him he cried for me. It's also the first relationship I've had where sex didn't play such a big part.

I've still got a long way to go. I look at my mother and I know that letting go of the past isn't all that easy. Neither is forgiving and forgetting.

It's the reason I feel so resentful when I see her fussing over Christian, who's now 11, and Rosie. But she's the only mother I have, and I have to keep trying.

I also have to learn to accept that you can't change the past, no matter how you try. There's nothing my mother or anyone can do about the things I went through. I have to accept that and move on.

For the first time in my life, that's beginning to look possible.