Re: Sisters Detail Cult Sex Abuse from UK CNN
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Aired May 20, 2008 - 09:00 ET
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TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR:: Growing up in a cult. Sisters say they were put on a schedule for sex.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They called it the sharing schedule. But in fact, it was just having sex, you know, for two hours in the evening with the partners that the leaders chose.
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HARRIS: OK. Now, telling their stories to help others.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR Parents fighting to get their children back are returning to court this morning. Members of a Texas polygamist sect are attending the second day of hearings which could go on for three weeks.
460 children have been in state custody since a raid on the group's ranch last month. And state officials ordered the children's removal saying the sect pushes underage girls into marriage and sex. Members of the group insist there was no abuse. HARRIS: Lost childhood. Three sisters say they were systematically abused while growing up in a cult. Now they are going public. CNN's Paula Hancocks spoke to them.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Their carefree smiles hide a childhood that was anything but. Born into a religious cult, Children of God in the late 70s and early 80s Celeste, Kristina and Julianna tell me they were physically and sexually abused from a young age.
JULIANNA BUHRING, FORMER "CHILDREN OF GOD" MEMBER: They had a philosophy called -- doctrine called The One Wife where everybody was married to each other in spirit as well as physically. Everyone had sexual relations with everybody.
HANCOCKS: The Children of God was created in the late 1960s by David Berg, an apocalyptic cult which believed its members were God's select. The sisters were forced to make homemade videos to try and recruit more members and raise money by performing in the streets.
KRISTINA JONES, FORMER "CHILDREN OF GOD" MEMBER: We were out there saving souls, but we have to raise money. There was charts. You know, shiners and shamers. How much have you raised that day? How many posters? How many souls have you save?
HANCOCKS: Behind the fixed smiles on camera, the sisters talk of systematic abuse.
CELESTE JONES, FORMER "CHILDREN OF GOD" MEMBER: I was getting unwanted attention by adult men, men that old enough as my father. And then to top it off was put on a schedule twice a week to -- they called it the sharing schedule. But, in fact, it was just having sex, you know, for two hours in the evening with the partners that the leaders chose. And I -- I hated that.
BUHRING: That developed a lot of self-hatred and very low self- esteem as well. And you know, from the time I was a young teenager I started trying to commit suicide.
HANCOCKS: The sisters wrote a book about their experiences last year.
BUHRING: It was hugely cathartic to write. It was also a way of telling what happened, because the group had prevent in history and said that what happened to this whole generation of children didn't happen.
HANCOCKS: Children of God, now called Family International, declined an interview with CNN but in a statement released after the book was published said "The Family's policy for the protection of minors was adopted in 1986. We regret that prior to the adoption of this policy cases occurred where minors were exposed to sexually inappropriate behavior between 1978 and 1986. This was addressed in 1986 when any sexual contact between an adult and minor was officially banned. And subsequently in 1988 declared an excommunicable offense."
The Family International says it officially apologized to seven members. The sisters claimed it was more widespread than that. Kristina said she escaped the cult with her mother at the age of 12. Her two sisters only managed to leave in their 20s. A fourth sister, Davida, committed suicide. They say unable to cope with her past.
C. JONES: She got into, you know, abusive relationships, and drugs, and stuff like that. And after that -- and it was also that cry for help that was never picked up.
HANCOCKS: In facing their past, the sisters are trying to help other children still living within groups like this through their charity, Rise International, they're calling for religious cults to be more transparent and offer support to former members.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to learn trust and real love. And I think that's an important healer.
HANCOCKS: Paula Hancocks, CNN, London.