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Getting Out : Leaving

A letter to Julia on her blog

from Michelle81 - Monday, December 10, 2007
accessed 1081 times

I wrote the letter bellow in response Julia’s article : ‘Responding to the response to my response to CNN’ (I’m confusing myself) on her blog, I’m not really sure what possessed me to write all of this out and I’m not expecting a response. Since she closed her comments section I thought I’d post it here. :)


I feel the need to reply to your nicely written article 'Responding to the response to my response to CNN' (lol). like you, not because I think I can change your mind about anything but because I have a lot to say about this, and since you have closed the comment section I'll just have to send this to you directly.

I hardly expect you to read or listen to anything I have to say for the simple reason that you assume I am a 'Moving On'er' who wants to 'spread my cause' wherever I can.

Honestly I find that slightly amusing. I have not felt the need to 'spread a cause' for 10 years, since the morning I woke up and really started to think for myself about all of the family doctrines I had been taught from the day I was born, until the tender age of 16. You see I was very much like you seem to be, at that time. I strongly believed that I was in God's end time army, I lived my entire childhood looking towards that heavenly crown that I had been promised if I did what I was told, I was a true believer and would feel horribly guilty if I started to question any of it. I also believed that any of the accusations being made against The Family in the media where the works of the Devil trying to hinder all the good work The Family was doing. But that morning something changed in me.

It was a regular morning like any other except that I woke with an extreme sadness, I cried and cried, the tears would not stop coming, and I had no idea why I was so sad. I began to think about my life and I decided to detach my self from it, look back in an objective way and try to understand why I was so sad. I remembered all the times I had been a good girl, and taken care of all the babies by myself, done the cleaning, I had witnessed, I had performed the songs, and how many people I had convinced to say the prayer and be saved, I had always done what I was told and tried so hard to make the lord happy, but none of that ever mattered no matter how hard I tried I always felt as if I was alone, there was always a cold emptiness inside of me. Most days I was able to push that empty feeling from my mind and cover it with a smile, and read some Family literature and a happiness and sense of relief would wash over me, and I would think it must be true if it washes away my doubts and makes me feel whole, but it never lasted and there was always a battle going on inside of me.

That morning however, I began to wonder, if I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, living life in God's end time army, why did I feel so empty. Growing up in The Family always gave me a sense of purpose; I couldn't believe how lucky I was to be one of the few of God's special chosen people. But then I wondered, why? What made us God's chosen people, and not others? There are hundreds of other small religious movements in the world, maybe they don't get as much publicity as The Family because they don't have as colourful a past, but all of them have at least one thing in common, they believe that they are in fact God's chosen few. What makes The Family right and all the rest of them wrong? I immediately began to feel guilty that I was having such doubts, but then I thought if The Family is so right no question should be a wrong question, there should be nothing to hide and any reasonable doubt should have a reasonable answer, right?

I began to wonder about all the people I knew who had left and felt so strongly that The Family was not a good place to be, I thought back to my life and was sure that I myself had never been a victim of abuse, and that The Family was a safe and happy place for children. The fact is that I was not able to see it then, I had no idea what it meant to be abused if it was not directly inappropriate sexual contact (which I btw had never personally had), thinking back now I know that all the years I was left alone, taking care of babies starting when I myself was only 8 years old, that was abuse. All the hours I spent on the streets and going door-to-door, selling posters and tapes and videos to bring in money for the Home, that was abuse. The time that I was spanked in front of all the other O.C.'s and had desperate prayer over me by the whole Home for no other reason than to prepare me for my J.E.T.T. years that was abuse! I know this now but at the time I didn't think of it instead my thoughts turned to the people I knew and grew up with. My thoughts turned to my best friend when I was 7, in 1988 (2 years past the date that zero policy tolerance policy of sexual conduct between adults and minors was clearly stated), and how she had told me that her own father convinced her to have sex with him for a box of shiny beads that she wanted. When I mentioned this to my mother, she told to the Sheppard's, and I remember very clearly, the girl's father quoting David Berg's law of love 'unto the pure all things are pure', and he was right, according to Berg's teachings he had done nothing wrong. Their entire family was quietly whisked away to another home and the Shepard's made me promise not to say anything to anyone. I can only imagine what has become of that girl, the people in that Home failed to protect her from her obviously deranged father and instead of reporting it to the authorities to have him locked up, they sent him away to do whatever he liked with his daughter. That wasn't the only time something like this had happened, when any of my friends spoke up about an uncle behaving inappropriately they where either told they where liars and put on silence restriction, or the uncle was given a slap on the wrist and whisked away to another home to continue his pedophilia elsewhere, but it was always kept as quiet as possible, great pains where always taken so that that the younger children never found out.

I also began to think about all the publications that us children had to edit, colour in the naked people and cut out pages of the Mo Books, Life with Grandpas, GNs, and whatever else I'm forgetting, as well as completely throw out the Davidito book, and let’s not forget Heaven's Girl (which was destroyed years before but not before all the kids my age were made to read it). We were told at the time that there was absolutely nothing wrong with these publications but that the world did not understand and did not have the capacity to understand something that was so wholesome and pure. Do you remember a story called 'The Girl Who Wouldn't?' I remember it, and from what I remember it is the story of a girl who refused to have a threesome with a guy and another girl she was branded by our dear old 'Grandpa' as 'selfish' and full of the devil, just because she wasn't into other girls.

I wonder how much of the literature that was expunged are you familiar with? Are you familiar with the "Life with Grandpa" story where David Berg fanaticizes about having a sexual relationship with Techi, granted that one was when they are in heaven, but what could have been going through his head when she could not have been older than 10 in real life?

This line of thought was a huge turning point for me how could an entire movement based on those kinds of teachings possibly be God's chosen people?

I am not saying nor have ever said that there are not a lot of very good people in The Family who truly believe they are living meaningful lives serving God, and doing their best to make a difference in the world for good.

I agree with you that the media does tend to be bias and sensationalize everything, and not everything they say should be taken at face value. That is how they get their viewers and ratings. It is unfortunate if they did publish anything that was not true in this story, because what happened to Ricky Rodriguez and Angela Smith was a horrible tragedy and should not be used for TV ratings but should be a story we remember always so that the same mistakes, whomever made them, are not made again.
I personally find it very hard to believe that Ricky’s childhood had nothing to do with what he did. I remember seeing the naked photos of him and the naked older women when he was a boy in the Davidito book. As well as the sexual content of the book and how they would stimulate him sexually and allow him to hump Davida who was only 3 months old.
If you don’t believe me you can look it up for yourself its not too hard to find on google. I in no way condone what he did but there has to be some connection between his upbringing and what he did, mostly because he himself said there was.

I must admit, I envy the fact that you still believe in The Family, it gave me such hope for the future to believe. Before I thought all of this through, I was happy believing that I was fighting the good fight for a good cause. I’m not trying to take that away from you but what I am trying to do is show you that just because those of us who left have chosen a different path, it does not make us all evil bitter people bent on destroying everything that is good and holy, and maybe to give you and idea why I myself have chosen it, not that I’d expect you to care. I am truly glad that you did not have to witness the horrific things that I did and that such things are no longer the norm in The Family.
I find for me personally, time and distance has given me the advantage of perspective. I am able to see much more clearly through the haze both sides of the coin. There were some really good aspects of my childhood that I am grateful for, but I also saw so many bad deeds go unpunished even when there was every opportunity to do the right thing. I saw too many children horribly beaten, placed on silence restriction or in solitary confinement for something as simple as ‘answering back’. Too many small children neglected by their mothers and fathers because they where too busy serving the Lord. That is something that I cannot forget.

I don't necessarily have a 'cause' to flight for as you may think, but instead I recently have begun to feel strong on my own, to feel as though I am finally free from the guilt that plagued me while I was figuring out what to do with my life. I feel like I finally have self worth and feeling self worth and that respecting yourself is not a bad thing, and that I can use my creativity and personality, which was so often stifled when I was a child. I am strong enough stand up and say something when I see something I feel isn’t right. I no longer need Family literature to make me feel whole because I have found myself on my own terms.

It saddens me to know that there are so many people still, figuratively, held captive by the guilt that has been so ingrained into their hearts and minds if they begin to wonder or question, as I was.

It has been a long hard road to the truth and it had taken a lot of courage to stand on my own in the cold dark world we live in. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

I wish you all the best.


Reader's comments on this article

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from Thank You,
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 - 10:01


Michelle81, you are a thoughtful person.
(reply to this comment)

From therli
Friday, March 14, 2008, 13:35

do you think julia is going to read that?(reply to this comment
from calmbomb
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 - 09:52


That first letter you sent to her was great Michelle. I felt as if I were writing it myself.

I liked that you brought up the multiple forms of abuse that we suffered while growing up in TF. I've been through minor sex abuse, but I can say with all my heart that the postering in parkinglots in the heat of the day and constant childcare was just as dangerous, if not more dangerous to us children than sex abuse. It was a whole lot more common, it was an every day abuse, and is still happening in TF. I think some of us tend to belittle those abuses types of abuses that we went through.

The sad thing is that it has never really stopped, and somehow TF is doing a good job legally keeping it up.

Anyway, great letter Michelle.

(reply to this comment)

From calmbomb
Wednesday, December 12, 2007, 12:11


Lame typo:

"I think some of us tend to belittle those abuses types of abuses that we went through."

I appologize, I was doing two things at once. Hehe.(reply to this comment

from Michelle81
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 - 09:24


What do you know.. I did get a reponse. Here is what Julia had to say. I'm just posting this because I would prefer it to be an open subject and because I don't really feel like making my own blog on this subject.. this is the best place I know to post it.


I read your letter and I'm truly glad that you were able to find self-worth and are now able to use your creativity and personality since you've left TF. We both know that The Family is most certainly not the
place for everyone and I applaud you for deciding it wasn't the place for you and going on to lead a different life where you now find satisfaction. I would do the same without guilt if I felt there were
things in The Family's lifestyle, past, or doctrines that I couldn't reconcile with.

I'm sorry you assumed I was speaking to all former members when I criticized some of those whose stated goal is to destroy The Family. It would be ridiculous for me to think that all ex-members are "all evil
bitter people bent on destroying everything that is good and holy". I have plenty of friends and two sisters who are out of The Family and I don't like them any less, nor do I consider them any less of a person. I'm truly sorry if any former members without an agenda to hurt TF felt that I had them all pegged as evil. I guess that aspect of things wasn't as clear as I hoped it would be. Thinking about it now, one reason I didn't articulate that point more clearly is because former members are just a part of life in The Family that's as ordinary as food and water; not evil, not unusual, just a natural, normal part of life like any friend or acquaintance would be. Having to mention that I feel just fine about 98% of them and think they're perfectly decent human beings would have felt as unnatural as saying "Now Mom and Dad, I'm not talking to you when I address our bitter detractors". Again, my bad for not making it clearer.

I'm sorry that individuals in TF didn't know/neglected/ignored the clearly stated and policies issued by Family leadership in the case of your friend. If people were unaware of the policies about adult/minor sex so that they didn't think to report the abuser and the leader who covered for him then I'm truly ashamed of them and I agree that it's a total travesty - although not "The Family's" fault (although perhaps that's not the point you were making, I wasn't quite sure)

As far as your personal experiences in TF, they are just that, your personal experiences and it's your prerogative to view them the way you do. If you feel the things you went through constituted abuse then who am I to tell you that it wasn't? I experienced many of
the same things you mention here and I feel differently about it all, but again, it's a matter of perspective and I don't think we're going to get each other to feel any differently on this point.

Michelle, I honestly hope this is not offensive to you but that's all I'm going to say in this letter. It's 12:27 right now and I have to wake up early tomorrow.My problem is that I can never condense myself, as you
may have noticed from my ungodly long second post there, and so the thought of having to do that all over again about something that I really don't want to argue about anyway is not something I can convince myself to do at this late hour.

It's probably not satisfactory for you to hear that I have what I feel are valid, reasonable answers to all of the questions and issues you brought up but it's the truth. And since you don't really seem like you'll
be convinced even if I spent a long time arguing my point, I don't really see the logic of doing a point by point reply. Although I seem to have gotten myself into a few debates lately, I actually really dislike
the whole process of debating. I really hope you don't feel I'm just blowing you off because I don't care about all this or I don't have answers, but I'm just being realistic about what it's actually going to
accomplish. Will you feel differently about The Family or certain issues pertaining to it after I tell you my opinion? I doubt it.

But that's really okay, because I think we both agree that we're satisfied with the way our lives are turning out - at least that's what I know about my life and what I gathered from your letter about yours.
And so is it okay if we just agree there and agree to disagree on the other issues? Thank you for not trying to tear down The Family (and I mean that sincerely) and I truly hope you're successful in whatever you
choose to do to better your life.


And for anyone that cares to read here is my reply:


I know this is a pointless debate because nothing I can say or do will make you change your mind. You will have find your own way.
All I can say is that what happened to my friend, happened over and over again, in many different countries and to many different people, of course all of the details weren't necessarily the same, but I can hardly say that it wasn't The Family's fault, the doctrines that Berg preached where what enabled the sick bastards to do what the did with no fear of reprimand.
I find it curious that you feel that you have valid, reasonable answers to all of the questions and issues I brought up. Do you have a valid reasonable answer to the Davidito book, Heaven's Girl and all the the questionable literature? Or the practices of the victor programs (which is what I was subjected to when I was beaten in front of my peers and humiliated in front of the entire, 70 person home)? Or the fact that Berg blatantly encouraged child/adult sex and even incest?
The only reason the polices where changed and literature expunged was because there where too many legal problems, not to protect the innocent children being harmed!
I don't expect you to accept that, its taken me many years of living independently to accept that!
I think you misunderstood my intentions. I personally would love to see TF disbanded and all the evil pedophiles and sadistic power hungry bastards hiding in the ranks locked up and the keys thrown away. I'm sure all good people that are currently in TF could find another way to find meaning in their lives and serve the God they care so much about. After all people shouldn't need a church or organization to tell them how to live should they? I just don't fight for that cause because I don't want to it consume my life. TF has already too many years from me and I don't intend to let them take any more! Also because I don't believe there is much that I can legally do, I will just have to be content to wait and see if the FBI investigations or any of the other legal actions being brought against TF will prove to be successful, but I'm not holding my breath, I was in a home that was raided and had to testify in court, I know only too well the way we were trained to respond to any questioning from law enforcement.

That's great that you are able to reconcile with The Family's lifestyle, past, and doctrines.. personally it makes me physically ill to remember the sharing charts with my 12 year old sister's name on it!

Anyway, in the interest of conserving brain cells and not wanting to bang my head off a brick wall anymore, I will say goodbye and I truly wish you the best. Sorry if this seems harsh or offensive but it truly frustrates me to no end that people still buy into TF's garbage half truths, half-assed apologies and weak excuses but I understand why you do, I was once one of you.


(reply to this comment)

From therli
Friday, March 14, 2008, 13:40

this is incredible. she did reply. i think its funny how most family people pretend to be all opened minded when they're talking to their brothers or sisters that left the family. they don't want to appear completely stupid. but when it comes to talking about these subjects with other family people, it's a truly different story. (reply to this comment
from Michelle81
Tuesday, December 11, 2007 - 07:14

I did send this letter to the email address she left.. but I thought I'd also post it here.
(reply to this comment)
from Hydra
Tuesday, December 11, 2007 - 05:54

She left her email address in her last blog entry for those who wish to communicate directly with her.
(reply to this comment)
from steam
Monday, December 10, 2007 - 20:45

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
In case you do read this Julia. I wish you all the best. There are a few comments you made that made me think there are some things you may not be aware of. One is that there are no career second generation ex-members. The only ones I know of who have (I assume) made anything at all from telling their story are maybe the authors of "not without my sister". You mention that the testimony of Beth and Techi contradict that of the others raised in that environment. However Beth specifically avoids answering as to whether she experienced and witness large level of sexual contact among adults and minors, not something one would avoid when that accusation is made if the accusation were unfounded. Maria and Peter have also never outright denied it. In addition I do not know all of Techi's writing, but I am pretty sure she never denied it. Consider writing Beth and asking her if she is or would be comfortable raising her own kids with the sexual atmosphere she experienced growing up. I think even if you do not do this you can guess the response if you could get a straight answer. Read a few pages on the web of the Davidito story My Little Fish chapter unedited and directly photocopied, and then imagine how you would react if you found out one of your kids was being cared for in that way. If you believe that it is important to "thin ownself be true" this sort of reflection should give you some real concerns. Once again I wish you all the best.
(reply to this comment)
From Come Chat?
Monday, December 10, 2007, 20:54

(reply to this comment
from afflick
Monday, December 10, 2007 - 17:32

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

I've been thinking about Julia a lot, too, lately. From her writings, I can tell she is a thoughtful young adult, that she's loyal and hardworking and a good friend.

Even though I don't know her at all (or maybe I met her when she was ten, in L.A.) I don't think she'll visit this site and read these postings. But maybe she will and there are a few things I wanted to say to her.

First, we are working on unequal footing. While I understand what it's like to be in your position, you haven't had the experiences to be in mine, so we will not have that mutuality of human experience when discussing our differences.

Second, thank you for admitting that TF did allow child abuse before 1986 (I would say even for a few years after 1986, but again, I am just grateful that you admit this at all). I also thank you for not claiming all of us born into the group who have left and subsequently found this website are lying. That is a very logical and non-flammatory position and I appreciate your candor.

When you recount your arguments against the allegations Ricky and Davida brought against the leaders of The Family, their parents and direct overseers, you mention that Bethany (Chris Kelly's daughter) and Techi (Karen Zerby's daughter) have never mentioned any abuse suffered as children. And these two testimonies satisfy you that the leaders of The Family are not pedophiles.

Yet, when regarding any evidence used to boslter an argument, the source must be considered. Is the testimonial coming from somone who owes their livilihood and support to those they are defending? Under what circumstances are the testifiyers living? In Davida's case, she is complely on her own and not depending on TF for money. She is able to say whatever she likes without fear of being cut off from The Family, as she is already cut off. While she might lie, what motivation would she have in that? In the real world, a childhood in a cult carries a stigma and is embarrassing to disclose. Her motivation, and Ricky's, comes from a different life circumstance than either Bethany or Techi, who continue to live in WS without the education, the job experience to cut themselves off from your group and live on their own while supporting their children.

So, the source must be considered.

Next, in the comments section of your blog, one of your posters equated the sexual physical and emotion abuse related by those who have left TF as equal to the "abuse" suffered by Family members when they lose a contact or support due to the media's attention on TF old practices. This is an eye-opening statement and may help me relate to how your generation defines our abuse. Perhaps you see it as an inconvinience suffered by us that we can't let go. Perhaps you see it as a detriment to our short term happiness, the way that a meal hoped for from a now-refusing provisioning contact may be for you.

It is not abuse in the casual sense. It is actual suffering. I don't know how to express this to you in a way that you'll understand. It is the ruination of lives, hearts, relationships. Children are very impressionable and when sexual contact is forced upon them, the consequences are long-term. Much different than a hard day fundraising.

I never felt empty in The Family. I never felt I didn't have friends once I became an adult. After a few years of Victors and DTR, TF did mellow a lot and children stopped being required to do the fundraising, children were, in most cases, protected from the sexual advances of adults. I was traveling, meeting friends, having fun. When I was about twenty-four I started feeling different. I started reading the newspaper. I started wanted to learn more about the political situations in foreign nations. I became more curious. And this is why I left, I wanted to do something more "brain-worthy".

I have no idea what you think or feel or how happy you are. I was very happy with my circle of friends, my schedule, the shared financial responsibility. Whether you're happy or not, you are growing up. You are not yet the person you will eventually be. And maybe someday you'll understand this post a bit more. I hope so. I do, even if you don't believe it, want young people in The Family to be happy. I don't call for the disbandment of The Family, as you claim. But you are right that I believe Zerby and your uncle are pedophiles and yes, I want them in chains. So, yeah. Bit of a a disagreement with you there.
(reply to this comment)

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