Toronto Star: Sect members face sex, abduction charges

From XFamily - Children of God

Editor's note: Some names have been partially redacted to protect individual privacy or for other reasons at the discretion of the editors of

Sect members face sex, abduction charges

Toronto Star/1993-09-08


BUENOS AIRES - Charges have been laid against 17 people - including two Canadians - in the probe of a religious sect alleged to have assaulted children.

The charges, including rape, sodomy, kidnapping and involuntary servitude, were filed yesterday by Argentine federal judge Roberto Marquevich.

The Canadians are Susan Claire Borowick, 33, of Burlington and Jesse Jude Mara, 21, of British Columbia.

The judge ordered the raids on the Family of Love sect's compounds last week after former members reported alleged incidents of kidnapping, physical and sexual abuse of children, incest and prostitution.

Abigail B., a former member, went on national television here last night to accuse Borowick of not only condoning sex with children but of ordering AB to submit to sex at the hands of sect members.

Abigail said she had been sexually assaulted by sect members since she was 12 years old and was later forced to engage in prostitution as a way of attracting new members.

Abigail is one of four former members who have filed depositions with the judge. One is a Canadian whose name has not been revealed.

In an earlier interview with the newspaper Clarin, Abigail said she took her problems to Borowick, whom she described as being the leader of the sect, and was told to pray instead.

"Once when I became sick, she ordered me to pray and accused me of having the devil in my body, AB said.

Borowick "was responsible for the sexual abuse of children, 12 and 13 years old," Abigail told the newspaper, adding she was told of children as young as 2 being abused by their parents.

Sect members were taught not to question their leaders and disobedience was harshly punished. Her brother, who remains in the Family, was once whipped more than 200 times, she said.

A common punishment dished out to "rebels" who refused to toe the line was to force them to dig holes and fill them again for days on end, Abigail said.

She told of being constantly watched and of being let out of the compound only on fundraising missions, to sell posters and videotapes.

Abigail described life in the commune as mostly mundane with hours spent praying and reading the writings of the "prophet" David Berg, a former pastor who founded the Children of God sect in California in 1968.

Born at a sect home in Texas, Abigail said she was moved around to 10 of the sect's home before finally escaping in 1990. She made her way to the American embassy, which arranged for her to get back to the United States, where she is living with an uncle.

She returned to Argentina recently to try to get her brother out of the Family. Her sworn testimony, along with that of several otehr former sect members, was instrumental in the judge's ordering of the raids.

Some 30 adult members were arrested during the police sweep and more than 130 children were taken into protective custody. The children and their mothers are being held in child welfare centers where they are undergoing physical and psychological testing.

In addition to the two Canadians, the other 15 charged yesterday include two Argentines, four Americans, two Spainards, and one person each from Germany, France and Venezuela.

The investigation was also widened yesterday with the arrest of an American couple.

Jackie and John Roberts were taking part in a local television talk show condemning the police crackdown on the sect when officers arrived at the station, handcuffed them - while they were still live on the air - and took them to jail.

"We have nothing to say. Speak to our lawyers," Jackie Roberts told reporters as the couple, believed to be Texans, were led away in handcuffs.

The charges may be changed or dropped after further investigation, said a spokesperson for the federal judge.

Fernando Albornoz, a Family member scopped up in the raids and later released, said Abigail's allegations are part of a conspiracy by former members to destroy the sect.

Albornoz said the Family is "a loving group of Christians" who often do charity work at hospitals, orphanages and senior citizen homes.

"We love our children, they are the most precious things in our lives," said Albornoz whose wife and 5-year-old child are among those in protective custody.

Marquevich, the federal judge, said he was forced to act after receiving a complaint from an American father who had been trying to get his children out of the sect for more than two years.

They were left with sect members after their mother, Ruth Frouman, was apparently expelled from the group after developing breast cancer.

The woman then moved to the United States for treatment and later died.

But Marquevich said he was disappointed the Frouman children, aged 13 and 14, have not been found among the children removed in the raids.