Editor’s note: This interview deals with themes that may disturb some readers.
Author Faith Jones was raised in the cult group Children of God (later known as The Family and The Family International). For most of his childhood, Jones lived in a commune in Macau, an island off the coast of China.. She spent hours reading the doctrine, memorizing the scriptures, singing, and praying.
“We grew up very isolated in a remote village with sporadic home studies and lots of household chores,” she says.
And, she said, there was sex.
In 1968, Jones’ grandfather David Berg had founded the group around the belief that God is love and – going further – that, therefore, sex is divine. Berg preached that men could practice polygamy and that women should freely “share” their bodies whether they wanted to or not, because sex was their service to God.
“Grandpa saw sex as a bodily need,” Jones says. “It was felt that within the group, women were expected to ‘share’ with men, even men whom they didn’t like, in order to make sure that [the men’s] needs have been “taken care of”. ”
At its peak, The Family had around 10,000 members, living in 170 different countries. Initially, the cult taught that girls reached the age of consent around the age of 12, although the group has increased this age slightly over the years. Jones says she was brought up to think that the sexualization of children was normal.
“I don’t remember not knowing the sex, not having heard about the ‘law of love’ [and] ‘sexual’ sharing, “she said.” You would have a ‘sharing’ schedule on the wall that would tell which woman was supposed to have sex with which man on the schedule. ”
When Jones was 23, she found the courage to leave the group. She attended Georgetown University on a scholarship, then went to law school at the University of California, Berkeley. She now has her own legal practice and a consulting business.
Jones looks back on his childhood in new memories Sex worship nun. The “nun” in the title of her book is an ironic reference to the isolated devotional life she experienced as a member of the cult. “I grew up much like a nun… except there was a lot of sex involved,” she says.
Jones notes that the patterns of abuse and rape she describes in the book are not limited to cults; they are also prevalent in society in general. Stopping abuse, she says, “starts with this principle of self-ownership, which is that I own my body and no one has any rights over it.”
On girls and women forced into sex and the threat of imminent punishment if they don’t comply
The psychological manipulation was very strong, and it all combined with the fear of punishment. … We are talking about children who are brought up and undergo quite severe corporal punishment. So really hard spankings and things like that, which is already trying to put a child in a position where he is afraid to say no or to displease adults. … We were taught that we had to say “yes”. We weren’t taught that we could say ‘no’, because if we said ‘no’ then what did that mean? We were not submitted to God. …
So the coercive element of this is when you’re taught, This is what God wants you to do. … There was [letters written by David Berg] called “The Girl Who Wouldn’t Want”, for example, which lambasted public humiliation for this woman who wouldn’t submit to a particular type of sex with one of the leaders. And so it was right in our face if you wouldn’t submit to it, if you weren’t willing to do it, it meant you were unyielding before God.
Now, if you were unyielding to God, then you had to be broken. Your pride, your independence, your ego had to be broken so that you became more submissive and submissive to God and willing to do whatever God / the group leaders told you to do. And it was justified using the scriptures of the Bible.
A kind of prostitution on “dredge fishing” to obtain donations from people outside the group
Basically, women would go to bars, sometimes even escort services, and they would flirt with men, businessmen, and often had sex with them, not always, but often had sex with them. them to recruit them. And not necessarily always to recruit them into The Family – [but] as a way to get them to want to pray and receive Jesus, and also to donate, or to help support the group or help support women and their families. Because … we weren’t allowed to have jobs – it was considered working for the system or working for men. And so we had to support each other with donations. And often [cult members] have grown into sizable families living in very poor countries with no real means of subsistence. So a lot of the houses were very, very poor. And so, it was seen as a way to help them.
On why she decided to leave the cult
I left because I got depressed in the group. I couldn’t see a life I wanted for myself. That endless round of dishes, babysitting and serving and having sex with men I didn’t want to have [sex with]. It was so painful, I think, and I had been exposed in school through different experiences in my life… including, you know, coming to America for a semester. My first experience [was] culture shock when I was 12, but these had opened up and exposed me to learning and education, and I’ve always loved to read, loved to learn. It was a passion in my life. And because we weren’t supposed to read any publications or books or novels or things outside of the group, outside of the [David Berg’s] “Mo Letters”, I was so bored. I was desperate to expand my mind and learn other things and have a sense of independence. …
So that’s what really pushed me to leave the band. And it was only after I left and stayed in the company for a few years that I was able to build a new frame of the world so that I could even go back to those experiences and say, “Oh wait, this is it. what that was wrong. That’s what a violation was. “So when I left I didn’t see it like that. I just knew I had to get out and expand my world.
By coming to terms with her past and the fact that she was raped
It happened when I was in college, in fact I was dating someone who was a lawyer and … I had kept the fact that I had been in this group a complete secret, because I didn’t want people to see me as that cult kid, i wanted them to see me as who i was [to be]. So eventually my boyfriend found out and sort of brought the truth out to me. And when I described some of those experiences to her, [he responded with] shock and horror and anger, and he said to me, “You know it’s rape. If you are forced to have sex with someone you don’t want, it’s actually rape. ” And it was just like, whoa, some kind of light bulb went on.
So I realized, the fact that I felt so bad about it, that I was repelled by it, and that I had such a hard time doing it, [it] was not my fault. It wasn’t that I was inflexible with God. It is because it was in fact a rape. So it completely changed my way of seeing and seeing things and seeing the world and my experiences. It was hard. It was difficult trying to make sense of it in this new way. But it wasn’t until later in life … that I was able to clearly identify what those lines were, what had been violated, both with child sexual abuse and with the coercion and abuse that had taken place in the group around sex and around the body of women.
Sam Briger and Thea Chaloner produced and edited the audio for this interview. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Meghan Sullivan adapted it for the web.
Copyright 2021 Fresh Air. To find out more, visit Fresh Air.