CAUTION: This article contains graphic descriptions of child abuse and may be disturbing for some viewers.
Merry Berg on the cover of the November 1992 No Longer Children
newsletter (see: Merry's Story
Merry's parents, Paul Berg and Judy Helmstetler (1971)
Merry Berg, known in The Family as Mene (currently uses the name Lucy), is the granddaughter of David Berg — founder of the Children of God/The Family. She was born in June 1972 to Paul "Aaron" Berg and Judy "Shulamite" Helmstetler.
Merry was invited to her grandfather's compound in December 1983 at age 11, where she stayed until August 1987. During this time, as well as while attending Victor Programs and Music with Meaning, she underwent severe physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Some of the abuse was documented and published in the internal Family publications The Last State?–The Dangers of Demonism! (ML 2306) and It's Up to You!–Mene's Farewell from the King's House! (ML 2524).
Merry left The Family for the United States in November 1990, aged 18. She currently lives in California.
Life in The Family
- Editor's Note: Much of the abuse described below is disputed by Family leaders, many of whom are either alleged or documented to have been directly involved. Merry's testimony, however, has been categorically supported by witnesses including Ricky Rodriguez and Davida Kelley, as well as by Lord Justice Sir Alan Ward, a British senior judiciary who presided over a three-year custody trial involving The Family in which Merry served as a star witness.
According to Family publications, from the age of eleven Merry was regularly invited by Family leaders at the group's Music with Meaning center in Greece to join them in alcohol consumption and watching pornographic videos. At this time she was also filmed performing stiptease dances along with other Family women and young girls, recorded for David Berg. She has testified that while in Greece she was sexually abused by multiple adult men, including Jeremy Spencer and Christopher Carruthers.
After moving to her grandfather's compound in the Philippines, where she slept in a walk-in closet adjacent to his bedroom, Berg repeatedly fondled her while Karen Zerby watched.
"I find that Berg and Maria came down to her bedroom and whilst Maria and Sarah were talking, Berg got into her bed in their presence and fondled her. This happened on a number of occasions. She was called to his quarters. He was invariably impotent and they did not have sexual intercourse though he once tried to penetrate her, so there is no evidence of incest strictly defined. He did rupture her hymen with his finger. They had oral sex. That was oral sex by him on her … At one point they went through a mock celebration of marriage. Maria was fully aware of what was happening."
— Judgment of Lord Justice Ward
In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 2005, Merry's brother Don Irwin stated, "Mene's first experience with full intercourse was with Ricky Rodriguez at the age of twelve. This was orchestrated by Berg, who wanted Ricky to get her pregnant. … Berg wanted to continue his family line though his granddaughter."
At age fourteen in 1987, after criticizing David Berg and confessing to seeing images of demons, Merry was subjected to extreme and protracted physical and psychological abuse, some of which was documented and published for Family members worldwide. Following are excerpts of one such publication, which constitutes a verbatim exchange between Merry and her grandfather:
49. I have a rod here, will you please bring it to me.. You see this? Pass it to her, let her feel it. I want you to feel this, how heavy it is.
64. … If they have to use a rod to beat him [Satan] out of you, fine, you've got my permission. (Sara: Yes sir I'll do it!) If you've got to slap her to wake her up and get her out of that kind of spirit, slap her! Slap her good! Knock her around! Let her have it! …
74. Now get out, you damn devil, and leave her alone, or I'm going to whack the daylights out of her! (She cries.) Thank God that's the first time I think I've seen tears! Are you sorry? (MB: Yes sir!) But if you're not sorry, I'm going to make you sorry!…
81. You think you're going to make it up there (in the system) somehow? The only way you could make it is to be a whore, that's all! You wouldn't even be an FFer, you wouldn't even be doing it for God, you'd just be doing it for a living. You'd probably end up on drugs — a drug demon possessed, alcoholic, diseased whore and soon dead! Now is that what you want? (MB: No sir!)…
114. The Lord took hold of her head … and yanked it around and back and forth and side ways to side ways by my hands until I was afraid I was going to yank her head off or break her neck! God was so angry... And then I hauled off and slapped her I don't know how many times tonight, hard, right? (MB: Yes sir!) And hit you....
145. … if it takes a good beating up to make you want to get rid of it, then we're going to beat you up!…
183. … if that doesn't work then what can we do? We can't kill you, that's God's business. We'll have to get rid of you.
185. Nobody want's to sleep with you, they're actually afraid of you because you've been under the control of the Devil…
189. I suggest you tie her to the bed.
190. Make sure she goes to the toilet the very last thing. I don't care if you wet the bed, dear, your hands are going to be tied to the sides of that bed at night
194. If beating doesn't get the hell out of you, you're going to get the hell out of here: I want you to memorise that. (MB: If beating you doesn't get the hell out of you, you're going to get the hell out of here!)
199. She's not to be alone at any time from now on. Someone is to be with her at all times who is big and strong and spiritual enough that you just absolutely knock it out of her.
215. If you don't get rid of those demons … you may have to get whipped in bed caned in bed.
Merry Berg later recounted this episode in court tesimony, as quoted from Justice Ward's Judgment:
"I upset them when 13/14 because I began to realise grandfather was a hypocrite who made rules for people which were not necessary for him. He would write one thing one day the opposite the next because God was changing. He was very contradictory. He was a chronic alcoholic. It was very confusing. When he was sick he would drink and call different women in for sexual relations or sexual comfort. It was very difficult to respect this man when he was so drunk. I now look back at his writings as the ravings of a drunk madman. Another thing that upset me at 14 was that I was losing my faith in the group and in the prophet - all the things I believed in. I had violent pictures and images and they said that showed I was listening to Satan. They would say that Satan and demons were attacking me. I do not know if it was my imagination but I was seeing demons. In bed I would get out terrified because I thought the spirits would attack me sexually. I would try to cover myself up. I would confess to Sara, my stepfather, Faithy and others because I was afraid of Satan and wanted to be right with God and wanted the group's approval. They would slap me. Later they gathered the leadership together, pulled my pants down and spanked me publicly which was humiliating because these people were important to me. Six months later when my grandfather was told, he commanded them to beat me with his rod whenever I had violent thoughts or saw monsters.... Many times they would beat me, they took my head and beat it against the wall and bruised me. I was helpless and knew nothing else. My stepfather spanked me with his hands. It all felt like torture and once I fainted, throwing up. They said I was throwing up demons. The exorcising terrified me".
— Merry Berg, court testimony
Lord Justice Ward described it as follows:
"Who could blame the girl for lacking respect for a man so revered by others when she knew from her personal knowledge that he was foul mouthed, drank too much and sexually abused her. For this she was brutally punished. Her crime was to have yielded to Satan. That led to a time of two months when she had five major exorcisms performed over her. She was subjected to total immersion in the Word, full-time, with top leadership "reading aloud along with her to keep her mind and mouth and eyes and ears occupied and for a constant infilling of the Holy Spirit." They prayed over her, even fifty times a day. She was 14 years old!"
— Judgment of Lord Justice Ward, 1995
About a year later Merry was sent to a Family Detention Camp in Macau, where after further abuse including being locked in her room for six months, she suffered a complete mental breakdown. She did not at first receive appropriate psychiatric care, but after it was eventually provided she was sent to the United States to live with her grandmother Jane Miller Berg.
Merry with her aunt Deborah Davis
, who has also both spoken against and been the subject of vilification by the group (November 1992)
Outside The Family
After moving to the States, Merry began attending a Bible college, but soon broke down again and underwent further psychiatric treatment. Upon recovery, Merry refused to live with her grandmother and instead moved in with Deborah Davis, her aunt.
She went on to give evidence of her experience in The Family during a groundbreaking child-custody case in the U.K. involving The Family, as well as speaking on American televison about the same.
Merry Berg has been vilified by Family leadership to the point that many Family members consider her insane and possessed by demons or Satan himself.
Though the cult had long since been publishing internal documents demonizing and humiliating Merry, when she began speaking out publicly about abuse she endured from and under the care of Family leaders (see Merry's Story), Karen Zerby, Sara Kelley and others stepped up the offensive.
Among other such documents is False Accusers in the Last Days! (ML 2820), written by Zerby in 1992. Following is an excerpt of its content:
The Choice: To Believe Dad [David Berg] or Mene!
78. … Some of the things our enemies bring up can be quite difficult to try to explain or defend, so it's not always the best tack to try to analyse & explain every little accusation detail by detail. Sometimes it's better just to say, "Okay, who are you going to believe? Whose version are you going to believe? Are you going to believe what Dad & we have said about the situation? Or are you going to believe what Mene said about the situation?"
79. Why would anyone in the Family ever believe Mene above the Prophet? Dad is the man who changed your life & who has faithfully given you the Words of the Lord all these years, whose prophecies you have seen fulfilled & whose words you have seen work! -- And whose fruit has been wonderful, beautiful, and far-reaching! So why would you believe this girl who very obviously went completely insane? -- Whom we know was completely taken over by the Devil, & whose life was one long fantasy, starting from when she was a tiny child playing in her backyard, & then through the years has lived in a world of fantasy & daydreams.-- A girl whose fantasies eventually became so real to her that she could not distinguish the imaginary from the real. -- Not to mention the fact that she was given over to the Enemy that she was heaping curses on people merely because they corrected her. From the time she was a little girl she was obsessed with spirits of exaltation & power, obviously not the Lord's Spirit.
80. She had those devilish spirits before she ever came to be with us. She's purposely yielded herself to those things & as sweet & as beautiful as she looked, & as meek & docile as she seemed to be, she was like a roaring lion going about seeking whom she could devour. (1Pet.5:8.) But the Lord allowed her true condition to remain hidden from us, so that we would invite her to come to live with us, so He could give her a chance to be delivered from those demonic spirits that were plaguing her & those terrible attitudes that were hindering her. We did all we could to rescue her, but she chose not to be rescued. We did all we could & gave her all the love & care & honour as Dad's granddaughter, much more than she even deserved, to try to help compensate in some way for losing her parents, & all those years she hadn't been able to see her grandfather, etc.
81. So I believe that the bottom line for everyone who hears Mene's "atrocity tales" is that they have to make a choice. And for people in the Family, that choice would be easy, because why would anyone in the Family accept the word of this crazy girl, who completely yielded herself to the Devil, over Dad's account of what happened? Of course, the reason there's a strong temptation to believe Mene's tale is because she's really got her story down pat, she goes into all kinds of vivid details with every person & what they supposedly did.
89. … She was fucking the Devil & throwing horrible violent curses on everyone around her, describing these in vivid, gruesome detail!
"And I got the most gruesome picture of Mene with her mouth all red & dripping, drooling with blood like a vampire! Of course, she’s just a little ignorant nobody, but it shows you how the Devil is using her. Even Deborah is just being used" — David Berg, 1992:3
In what is seen by many former members as the end result of David Berg's self-fulfilling prophecies, today Merry is addicted to methamphetamine, turning tricks on Southern California beaches and struggling to stay alive. Her mother has claimed that "She's just given up on life."
See also: Joyanne Treadwell Berg