Metro woman in 'sex cult' probe
by Bob Mitchell and Dale Brazao
The family of a Canadian woman being detained in Buenos Aires in connection with a religious cult involved in alleged sexual abuse of children fears for her well-being.
"My sister is in a precarious position," said Steve Borowick in an interview last night. "She is in a tough position."
Susan Claire Borowick, 33, and a Spanish man named Rafael Martinez Gonzalez, 39, have been identified as leaders of a cult known as the Family of Love, according to Argentinian police.
They were detained last week following a series of raids on nearly a dozen Buenos Aires homes. Altogether, more than 200 men, women and children were originally rounded up during the raids.
Borowick and another Canadian, Jesse Jude Mara, 21, are among the 17 people still in custody following the raids.
More than 140 children, including Borowick's 12-year-old son Esteban, have also been sent to a state institution and are undergoing tests to determine whether they were physically or sexually abused.
Federal Judge Roberto Marquevich ordered the raids after former cult members reported alleged incidents of kidnapping, physical and sexual abuse of children, incest and prostitution.
Marquevich has spent most of the weekend examining videos, books and magazines seized during the raid. One of the tapes seized shows a father having sex with his daughter; another shows children masturbating in front of adults.
But Borowick's brother Steve said these allegations are "preposterous" and that the group was basically a "loosely-based group" made up of people who shared a common religious belief and to describe them as "fanatical" or even "a cult" couldn't be further from the truth.
It was a loosely organized group and people were free to come and go, he said. "They were not fanatical . . . at no point was there ever any attempt to recruit any family members."
Steve said his sister was also only the "educational" leader of the group and had nothing to do with the group's decision-making policies.
"My sister is a well-spoken person who is highly intelligent and it's because of her intellect that she became the spokesperson for the group," Steve said.
"But this is not the kind of thing that my sister would be directly involved with. I know my sister. From a moral standpoint, anybody who knows her would find it exceedingly difficult to believe that she would be involved in anything like what is being alleged.
"My sister is a very compassionate person . . . I personally don't think she would hurt a fly . . . in fact, if you were to describe her, you would say she was saintly.
"I grew up with her . . . she went down there to live because to some extent she was disillusioned with the materialism of North America. That's what has driven her since a child and what we're hearing about her now just doesn't add up."
Steve said that she had become the spokesperson because she has been living with the group since 1981 - and as such has become the target of the investigation now underway.
"I have travelled through Latin America and I know what Latin American justice is like," Steve said. "My sister is in an extremely precarious position. Effectively, in Latin America, you are guilty until proven innocent.
"The rate of conviction is extremely high down there. If you are charged with anything, nine out of 10 times, you are convicted.
"If the government decides to shut down this group, then that will be it. I'm not saying there is no justice down there. It's just that their justice is not the same as ours.
"We were all extremely shocked . . . devastated and our only concern is with what is going to happen to my sister and her child.
Steve said that if you were with a company for a long time, you would be regarded as a leading member of that company and that's basically the situation with his sister.
"I don't believe she in any way is a leader of the group in regard to policy making or making decisions," Steve said.
Steve said that his mother and various other family members and friends have visited the group on several occasions and have no knowledge of any of the activities that the group is alleged to be involved with.
"They have never seen, absolutely never seen any of the things that are being written about," Steve said.
"My mother has been there on more than one occasion and she has been there with other relatives and other friends and I can assure you my mother would say that all of the children living down there were very well adjusted, that there was no indication of any physical or sexual abuse and that they were extremely happy."
Steve said his sister travelled to Brazil when she was 16 on an exchange trip sponsored by a local service group. She spent an entire year in South America, visiting Brazil and Argentina.
She returned to Burlington and graduated with honors from Nelson High School but then returned to Argentina to visit friends that she met during her initial visit.
Instead of returning home, Steve said she fell in a love and married a man named Cacha deSabbatos and had a son.
"It is my understanding that her husband was already a member of the group and she simply married into it," Steve said. "They have since separated."
Marquevich yesterday told an Argentinian television station that prosecutors would try to prove the existence of a prostitution network led by the cult leaders.
However, the cult's lawyer Hafez Zeine said the Family had been previously targeted on similar charges but that judicial authorities have never been able to prove anything. He described the group as a "missionary community," whose members don't smoke, or drink alcoholic beverages and dedicate their lives to God.
Zeine said the group is living a very austere life, maintaining clean and orderly homes and providing their children with great affection and protection.