California Patriot: Courage and self-reliance

From XFamily - Children of God
From Berkeley News Center

Campus News

Courage and self-reliance

Abusive past hasn't stopped Daniel Roselle

California Patriot/October 2005

by Kerry Eskenas

We are encouraged from a young age by our teachers and parents to pursue goals, to never give up, and to believe in ourselves. Far too many of us, despite this support, sometimes lose hope and subsequently abandon our dreams. Daniel Roselle had none of this support, yet he was able to succeed despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Roselle was raised in a religious cult called The Family International, which sanctioned the sexual abuse of members' children. After twenty years of enduring abuse, continuous attempts at indoctrination, and very limited contact with the outside world, Roselle bravely turned his back on the only kind of life he knew. His parents assured him that he would fail in his efforts to start a new life outside of The Family.

Despite the fact that Roselle had no formal education beyond the first grade and had never been exposed to ideas beyond The Family's own, The Family was unable to convince him to think and act the way they wanted him to. He was able to maintain an independent line of thinking despite The Family's attempts to brainwash him. In Roselle's words, "As a child, I was fully invested in their culture. I had no other experiences to measure my life against . . . [but] while on one hand working to intensely indoctrinate us, The Family unwittingly gave us the tools to question their regime . . . I think perhaps the sheer extremism of The Family's belief system and its myriad of contradictions forced us to look elsewhere. I also wonder if perhaps some understandings of right and wrong are simply innate."

After leaving The Family, Roselle had only $50 with which to make his way in the world. He states, "I spent the next six years working and reading every book I could get my hands on." At the age of 25, he began taking classes at a community college. When it came time to transfer to a four-year university, he applied to UC Berkeley and was accepted. He is currently a history major and has helped two of his brothers leave The Family and make it to UCLA. In the last four years, about 15 former Family children have enrolled at UC schools, and most are at the top two schools, UCLA and Berkeley.

Roselle, contemplating these success stories, says, "We were deprived of formal classroom experience, of having high school transcripts, of parents who took concern in our success, and of a timely start to our education. But perhaps in those hardships we found the drive to push ourselves through the obstacles."

He adds, "My parents have not displayed pride or pleasure in the academic accomplishments of myself, or those of my siblings. . . . At times I have gone to various college orientations and looked wistfully at the other students with doting parents who take such obvious pride in their children's academic accomplishments, but I realize that this is not what has been given to me. . . . My parents for so long have not been participants in my welfare or my success that it is only when I see others and their supportive and loving parents that I realize that I am denied that."

Roselle plans to become an attorney and has broad interests in law, but part of what he plans to do is to work for legislation that protects the rights of children who find themselves in groups like The Family. He has already helped establish a foundation that aims "to aid cult-born young people when they decide to enter society at large." He explains that protecting children in cults is difficult because "what contact these cults have with law enforcement or academics studying them is very carefully scripted and choreographed. The victims of abuse often don't recognize what they went through was wrong until they have left the cult and become adults and have had to deal with the very negative repercussions of years of mental, sexual, and physical abuse."

Roselle says, "In the U.S. we are still dealing with the question of constitutional guarantees for freedom of religion and the very real need to safeguard the well-being of children in some of these religions. Often these two very important things seem at odds. Sadly, it is often those who hide behind the constitutional guarantees who win out at the expense of the child victims."

Many can learn from Roselle's example of overcoming even the most extreme disadvantages to reach success. Of those who feel incapable of reaching success independently, he says, "Sometimes I think that if they could have the opportunity to understand that their lives can get better incrementally, it will keep them alive and fighting. Sometimes we just need someone to tell us it can be done, and to show us how to do it."