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Getting Out : Seeking Justice

Responsibility and Abuse

from Lauren - Wednesday, July 31, 2002
accessed 2055 times

I’ve been following with interest the polemic between Albatross, Geek and Wolf in Albatross’ post, “I propose a debate”.

Ever so slightly, I can understand where Geek, Wolf and others are coming from with their posts. There are, however, two key factors that I believe they (and many others) do not consider when the subject of Zerby’s and Kelly’s guilt or innocence in matters of abuses in The Children of God/The Family come into discussion.

These factors are: Responsibility and the Definition of Abuse.

I am not a psychologist, but it would seem to me the mentality of “forgive and forget” when applied to the widespread abuse of others stems from an underlying belief that the accused are not actually guilty of wrongdoing beyond the “we’re all humans and we all make mistakes” zone & that therefore, the abusers should simply be forgiven and we should all “live and let live”.

I believe that the “we all make mistakes” reasoning should be reserved for genuine human flaws – ie, Berg’s alcoholism, Zerby’s meddling in the intimate details of people’s lives better left private, poor judgment of character, etc. It should not be used in the case of recalcitrant child sexual molestation, physical abuse or situations where countless people have had their lives and emotions traumatically scarred in the name of God, and the perpetrators continue to refuse to acknowledge the part that they played in bringing these abuses about.

There are some who have visited this site and have illogically and redundantly harped on the fact that because there are people who have had it worse than we have, those who relay their experiences are either a) exaggerating, b) giving in to peer pressure, c) a bunch of whining losers or d) trying to blame someone else for their problems. To these individuals, I state my belief that to claim any of the above is fallacious and over simplistic. It is a mockery, it is insensitive and it indicates a disbelief that the events being relayed by the individuals were in actuality, abusive.

If “someone else having it worse” is the criterion for what is abusive and what is not, then anything short of baby rape, sexual slavery with pregnancy resulting in death, genocide and physical mutilation should be considered acceptable forms of behavior.


My views on responsibility revolve around Zerby. They apply to Kelly by implication and connection.

One thing many of us tend to forget is that without Zerby, there would have been no “Children of God”. FGAs in the Family use this argument to defend her, as if because of her loyalty to Berg, she is unequivocally absolved from insanity. Prior to Zerby’s arrival on the scene, Berg was a washed up, down and out loser. Only Zerby knows her own motives behind her reverence and loyalty to Berg. The rest of us can assume whatever we want. Regardless of what prompted her to do what she did, it had innumerable repercussions.

Zerby’s faithfulness to Berg was the beginning of the “Mo Letters”. Without Zerby, every word Berg uttered 24-hours-a-day would not have been recorded, transcribed and a large portion of it dished out for Family members to gobble up. Zerby pushed Berg to lead the Family (remember that old “TK” called “Thank God for Maria”?) Even as early as 1993 Berg had relinquished a great part of the leadership of the Family into Zerby’s hands while he retained the spiritual head. (Remember the “Back on Track” series? Berg didn’t even know what was going on in Europe until after the fact.)

Zerby knew exactly what was going on in her own household in regards to the sexual activities the children were involved in. She didn’t stop it, but rather published the juicy details for Family members to feed on as an example. It only starts there. Zerby has not been a helpless bystander that did nothing but take orders, transcribe tapes and bring Berg more wine.

But assuming that that’s all she was, the simple fact that she stayed with Berg and supported him through thick and thin can only mean that she approved (or at the least, condoned) his actions, his writings, his doctrines and his policies. She still refuses to acknowledge that the sexual aspects of the Law of Love when applied to children are inherently wrong and against the Laws of God. Why? Whether Zerby’s motives for supporting Berg in all his ways were driven by blind love and adoration, desire for power or because of fear are known only to her.

Definition of Abuse:

The accusations do not stop at child molestation or sexual abuse. Zerby (and Kelly by implication) are responsible for so much more. When the subject of guilt or innocence and “who is to blame” for the mess that took place in the Family comes up, inevitably the subject will revert to sexual abuse against children. It took place, I have no doubt of that. I don’t at all swallow the Family party line that the sexual abuse was sporadic and that the Family leadership (ie, Berg and Zerby) didn’t know it was going on. From the Family’s own writings at that time it’s painfully obvious that they not only knew, they promoted it. Perhaps they were not aware that it was damaging – perhaps they had only heard “good reports” (considering the victims were to young to write, this would be no wonder). I will cut them that much slack. But they were aware of it.

Agreed: Berg was the main offender in his household (although, from reading the “Story of Davidito” uncut, Sara probably runs a close second). What about the host of other abuses that were suffered by an even greater number of young people in the Family than those that suffered from sexual abuse? What about physical abuse? What about emotional abuse? What about sleep deprivation, food deprivation, beatings, exorcisms, silence restrictions, public humiliations? Who was responsible for implementing these? Berg? Zerby? Kelly? And do these not also count as abuses?

To the Family’s sanitization department, they certainly don’t. Perhaps to people like Geek and Wolf, they don’t either. Again, I revert to the argument of “having it worse”. Just because children in the Family did not have their eyes seared out with hot irons or were not locked in their rooms for the first 14 years of their lives does not mean that they did not suffer abusive situations.

Zerby was directly responsible for the “dark ages” of the Family. I would venture to say that one of the roughest time periods in the lives of almost every Family young person (both those still in and those now out of the Family) would have to be the DTR & everything that followed right up until the Charter. With it came the victor camps, the silence restrictions, the harsh discipline and much more. Zerby may not have “done the deed” so to speak, but it was because of her insolent desire to pound square pegs into round holes and thus create little cookie cutter disciples that many of our young people went through horrendous time periods in their lives.

Zerby and Kelly have both said that they are sorry that these things happened and that it was never intended, but not once have they personally taken responsibility for the hurts and said, “The buck stops here”. It would seem that Zerby has no problem claiming title to the leadership of the Family, but is incapable of taking responsibility of the leadership when it comes to taking the blame.

If they can apologize on Berg’s behalf posthumously for not foreseeing potential problems with his sex and Law of Love doctrines and for not putting guidelines into place to prevent those problems, why can’t they apologize for themselves while they are still living? Why can’t they say, “I’m sorry that these things happened to you. I never would have done them myself, but I am to blame for allowing the policies to be put into place without including guidelines to prevent abuses. Because I am the leader and because the DTR was my doing, I am responsible for your hurt and I’m sorry, please forgive me.”

Why “Forgiving and Forgetting” is not possible

It takes a special soul to be able to forgive an act for which the perpetrator superciliously continues to hang on to the “rightness” of & it takes a practically immortal soul to be able to both forgive AND forget. There are, I’m sure, quite a number of abused former members of the Family that have been able to put the abuses behind them, forgive those involved, and chalk it all up to experience. I’m sure that just about everyone on this site has done that to some degree or other.

Forgetting, however, is another matter entirely. I don’t know about everyone else, but I am perfectly capable of forgiving the perpetrator of a crime and still hold an interest in seeing justice met. Because I have forgiven and am not bitter, does not mean that I’m content to let abusers walk along their merry way arrogantly assuming that they are justified in all actions because of their superior position of being God’s spokespeople to the World.

The Family has cleaned up its act with sexual abuses. Wonderful. There are no more victor camps. Thank God for that. Are we to automatically assume that the long line of experimentation resulting in traumatized lives is now over? I would hardly think so. Until the Family policies allow for public schooling (without shame or feeling out of God’s will) then there will continue to be educational neglect in the Family. As long as the Family discourages system jobs or lucrative forms of fundraising that aren’t high witnessing opportunities, there will continue to be children forced out on the street to raise funds for their Home. Perhaps to some people (and certainly to many Family people – and it would seem especially to Family leadership) these are not abusive situations. But if there is anything I personally look back on with utter abhorrence, it was the thousands of hours I spent as a young teenager beating the pavements, frozen and under-dressed in order to put bread on the table and wanting nothing more than to go home where it was a few degrees warmer and I didn’t have to listen to yet one more person’s rejections. My official education stopped at age 12. Anything beyond that is only accredited to the fact that God has gifted me with aptitude and I was a voracious reader. Am I to believe that these types of actions are no longer occurring today?

I believe that what infuriates and causes people to refuse to simply “forget” is the fact that top family leadership continue to show no remorse for the policies that they themselves instituted and were responsible for; policies which resulted in wide spread damage on countless levels (emotional, psychological, educational, mental, etc.) to innumerable young people and children – some children so young they weren’t even talking yet.

What’s worse is that these same leaders have in their purblind self-righteousness set themselves up to be the instructors, placed in position by God to pass on His words for the Family to follow and obey.

Karen Zerby (or whatever her name is now) is personally responsible for untold emotional and physical damage done to the second (and third) generation of Family members directly under her administrational and then spiritual oversight. In her blind obstinate drive to legislate righteousness, we have a generation of messed up kids. Even now she continues to plunge headfirst into one new spiritual doctrine after the other, that, while some may find helpful, have done nothing but confuse and drive others away from Christianity. Jesus had something to say about people like her, “He that kills you thinks that he does God service”. When she called for all 10-12 year olds to have the same dedication as adults, she thought she was doing God service. When she instituted victor camps, she thought she was doing God service. When families were split up during the “separation era”, she thought she was doing God service. When “witches” were hunted down in the Family, she thought she was doing God service.

Piously, the Family leadership calls for (and prays for) the young former Family members to forgive and move on with their lives. Of course, they are only concerned for us; bitterness is not healthy, they say. Zerby, please note that even God doesn’t forgive until we confess and repent.

Reader's comments on this article

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from lucidchick
Friday, August 09, 2002 - 18:16

Thanks, Lauren, for this article-- you bring up some excellent points. Maybe only Zerby will ever know what her motivations were. I sometimes find myself idly speculating as to the ratio of deliberateness vs. insanity involved, and whether it changed over time, and if so how. But I think people who try to defend the group because they were "serving the Lord" or "sincere" are getting the concept of "motive" mixed up with that of "intent." They seem to think that having a "good" motive would clear them. But while absence of a motive may incline a jury to not find a defendant guilty, it is not an element of any crime that I am aware of (this means that prosecutors don't have to prove motive, and a good motive is not a defense). Intent, on the other hand, is an element of many crimes (for others you don't need it). For these crimes, the defendant must have intended to do the deed that is outlawed. In the case of the abuses in the Family, it was intended that every instruction decreed by the letters be followed. That is why each letter was published (don't try to kid us, we remember that a mere suggestion was "an order given in love").
(reply to this comment)
From afflick
Saturday, August 10, 2002, 12:25

"Ratio of deliberateness vs. insanity"! Very well put, lucidchick! From their actions in the past, TF does not appear to me to be brilliant in any way, just very, very lucky.
The Davidito Book was sheer madness! Has there been a publication more self-increminating? Perhaps "The Last State", where DB documents the cruelty and torture suffered by his young teen granddaughter at his own hands? That GN alone greatly helped the prosecutors' cause during the British Isles custody case.
Not very smart on The Familys' behalf.
And then, their solution to clean up all the porn and smut illustrated in their childrens' reading material? Why, have the kids draw bikinis and underwear over the nakedness, of course! Preferably with a permanent marker.
In answer to the accusations of criminal wrongdoing set out in James Penns' letters, the leadership responds by having loyal members compile essays of how 'cool' Peter is, and how 'Mama' once gave someone a chocolate bar!
They have not been smart so far in their choice of counter-attacks, so I have come to the conclusion that they are, in essence, 'winging it'. Not consulting with high price lawyers and spin doctors, but just making it up as they go along.
But how long can they be this lucky?(reply to this comment
From Wolf
Sunday, August 11, 2002, 00:14

You’ve gotta admit, they have some degree of intelligence, they keep coming up with all these “strange truths” that keep the flock fascinated and distracted from the real issues. And if they do ever answer complaints they choose to answer somebody stupid (like that letter from “Daniel”).

BTW Lauren, well written, but I resent being grouped with Geek. I agree with Lucidchick, Zerb’s blinded by insanity. Not that it excuses her.
(reply to this comment
From Apostate the Apostle
Wednesday, October 02, 2002, 23:41

Strange how the 2 words of my name are so similar.

Anyway Wolf, I couldn't disagree with you more that the Zerby/Kelly/WS triad have some degree of intelligence. Not so!

Sorry the aggressive manipulations of those who hunger for power over lesser beings than themselves does not prove intelligence in an empirical sense. It's simply survival and the will to power of the beast that they manifested superior to their followers.

Sadly, it just proves how uneducated and lacking in rational thought every follower was/is/will be of every fanatical cult.

We were uneducated/stupid/religious fanatics/ who digressed to the medieval
mental state required for slightly more manipulative and sneaky survivalists to use us to their hearts content.

Educate yourself and you will see. If you have solid evidence of crimes performed against your person to catch these posing familiar tricksters good luck!--otherwise leave these losers and fanatics to their just deserts and employ your mind and resources for the future. Unless you need to work things out in your mind by using this site and then to move on--I would like to tell you that you are much more intelligent than a cult leader and need not waste your time on losers.(reply to this comment
From lucidchick
Sunday, August 11, 2002, 13:36

Wait, Wolf: please read what I said just a bit more carefully before "quoting" me. I said that I speculate about the ratio of deliberateness to insanity. Blind Zerby may be, but I think the jury's still out on how large the component of sheer cruelty has been in her perpetuating this nightmare and having forced it so harshly upon us. I agree that there has to be a dearth of sanity distributed through the various levels that keep this thing going, but I am not ready to dismiss Zerby as "not guilty by reason of insanity."

When I read Ricky's story of growing up under his "mother's" direct tutelage (imagine, she was not even softened by "maternal instinct" toward the child she herself bore), I hear echos of the first-hand account I heard from Merry Berg (Mene) years ago. Zerby tiresomely repeats how "busy" she and Kelly are. They are busy running the group day to day, checking in the cash receipts, paying for "pubs," squirreling away the rest...that does not look like a person disabled by mental illness, in contrast to the raving lunacy of Berg in his later years, dependent on his sherry and his human (sexual) sacrifices for subsistence.

When I look back at the days that seemed unending when I was not allowed to think, when I slaved away day in and day out and rather than be appreciated -- or, better yet, paid -- for it, I marvel at the lack of empathy or humanity the leaders displayed. They are sick for having gotten off on making us suffer (it's called sadism), but the very persistence of the group, however it tries to metamorphose, the practical reality that this intricate scheme is still operating, bespeaks a chilling knowingness that to me says the component of deliberateness is very high.(reply to this comment
From Apostate the Apostle
Wednesday, October 02, 2002, 23:48

Lucidchick I have to tell you that Zerby exhibits classic signs of autistic behaviour--lack of feelings(she always made a big thing about her own crying--it was obviously not natural for her)constant activity, spurts and starts of frenetic activity with weak strange physical maladies. Lack of rational thought but at times bizarre disciplined brilliance often found in latent(undiagnosed) cases of autism.
By their fruits you will know them.(reply to this comment
from psycosomatic
Wednesday, August 07, 2002 - 18:22

Right on Lauren!! But some of your story goes beyond me(i guess i don't really wanna digest all the rotten disgusting parts, even though they're probably true, know that i think about it..)

I just found this website today(the first "systemite lies" i've ever fallen upon since i left) and it caused quiet a reaction in my head. Since i've left the family i've managed to forget(or so i thought) it all by hardening my heart and becoming cynical and distrustful. I've never even tried to look at the family from another point of view (than the fam member view) since, until i fell upon this site. when we left the family we destroyed all the "Mo letters" etc.. but i would like to read some of them again in a different state of mind and a different point of view than when they were read to me as a child, especially those mentionned above(The story of davidito, Mene's series orhoweverit'scalled as well as all those other letters that were so conveniently cut out or tipexed b4 i got my hands on them. Could someone HELP me PLEASE!?? send me an email or something. Thanks ALOT!! (i won't say GBY or some other common conjunction of the like; thankfully they never really stuck)
(reply to this comment)
from lucidchick
Friday, August 02, 2002 - 09:21

Notice the wording in the first sentence of "Liberty or Stumblingblock:"
"[T]he controversial issue of our teens' involvement with older adults..." ...they could muster the wording to shift the blame to the children in that one, but when confronted with questions they don't want to answer, they cite as an insurmountable obstacle the problem of coming up with wording that will leave them totally off the hook (see post on this site regarding letter from anonymous young people in the Family).
(reply to this comment)
from Jules
Thursday, August 01, 2002 - 20:56

Lauren, this was so well written and I completely agree with you on this issue.

Zerby and Kelly were both aware of the effects of sexual abuse on children. The 1986 publication "A Liberty or a Stumbling Block" (a BAR memo to all Family adults) addressed this issue and the effects. It's interesting that this document was written by Sara D., Zerby herself has never, to my knowledge, acknowledged the damage that sexual abuse causes children. As you so aptly pointed out, she has acknowledged that abuse was widespread at one point, but there has been no attempt at compensation or support for victims. Below are excerpts from the "A Liberty or Stumbling Block" document.


This controversial issue of our teens' involvement with older adults has been a great concern to us for a long time. There have been numerous & varied reports of this happening. --Some experiences seem fine & were not hurtful, others were certainly questionable, but many others were definitely bad & obviously not the Lord.

We of course believe in God's Love & the freedom & liberties of love, sex & nudity in its proper place & with the proper people, but the actual testimonies & personal opinions from the young people themselves seem to point to the fact that overall, older adult sex with young people has not borne good fruit.

Not only have the reported incidences been unpleasant & confusing for the teens, especially girls, but they've been dangerous from a legal standpoint, since the System is dead-set against it & would love to use it against us, & in fact has in any & every way possible. . . .

We recently received honest feedback from some of our teens themselves when we had the opportunity to read through over 100 Teen Questionnaires from our first TTCs. It was very heart-breaking to see from especially the teen girls' own testimonies that overall, sex has not been a good edifying experience for them as children or young teens, & has left most of them stumbled & fearful & overall very regretful of almost every experience they've had with adults, but not with young people, not with their peers! Not only girls, but even some of the young male teens too have had all sorts of encounters with adult men.--Some System & some not!. . .

The only conclusion that we can draw from all of this is that not only is it il-legal & red-hot, sure-fire dynamite with the System, but it has been emotionally dam-aging to some, & just not handled right. . . .

Children definitely don't "need" it, & even young teens who are sexy can do it themselves or find another teen. More often than not, it's usually the adults who are pushing it on them in the wrong way & wrecking our children's whole perspective & attitudes about beautiful God-given pleasures such as love, sex, men, babies, pregnancy & all!. . .

It's such a heartbreak to read on these Teen Questionnaires, as an overall majority opinion by especially the younger girls, that almost every one, in stating their true feelings about adults' "sharing time," said: "I regretted it afterwards.". . .

In almost every one of especially the girls' reactions about sexual experiences with older people, they've said they regretted it afterwards, or didn't really want to go through with it, or thought that the adult party was doing it for themselves.
(reply to this comment)
from Tuneman7
Thursday, August 01, 2002 - 20:25

Absolutely correct Lauren.

Zerby and Kelly had personal knowledge and involvement in situations involving adult-child sexual cross-overs.

Zerby had firsthand knowledge of situations occurring in victor situations. The excuse of other people doing the deed is not a valid one. Reports were sent to her bi-daily on all of that stuff.

I do not believe in the concept of "shepherding" etc., in the least. However, in the Family, much is made of the "responsibility of loving shepherds" etc., in the family.
Zerby and her accomplices are thugs and liars. Even if they weren't, at the very least they are a prime example of shepherding of the poorest kind if they hold to their claim of "not knowing" and being apologetic for the bad things that happened. The fact of the matter is they knew, they lied and they willfully covered up. The people who suffered, -- children and young teenagers who are maimed for life because of their actions --.

To apologists and people who make ridiculous arguments like, "others have had it worse": well, I'll degress but you certainly are out of touch with reality at best.

The whole subject is so blatantly clear that it's not even worth time typing stuff out. Any anyone who doesn't understand the issue, again, I'll degress.


(reply to this comment)
from someone
Thursday, August 01, 2002 - 07:13

That was fantastic!!! I am not a former member or a member but I have been studying Cults and from what I have read on "The Family" or COG your attitude is TOPS!!! And I hope that one day justice will prevail.

Good Luck!!
(reply to this comment)
from cm
Thursday, August 01, 2002 - 04:00

Lauren, Well done.

I thank you for saving us all a lot of time. Next time we get a 7*, we will refer them to your post instead of arguing with them.
(reply to this comment)
from Joe
Wednesday, July 31, 2002 - 20:00

well done lauren! I have one question: when were witches hunted in the Family?
(reply to this comment)
From porceleindoll
Thursday, August 01, 2002, 20:04

In Japan there was a woman accused of being a witch, actually two I can remember, the first one I'm thinking of, her son committed suicide approximately 16 years ago, I believe he hung himself in a tree, he was a young teenager.

The second woman, her husband got his back cracked while surfing, the Family jumped on him and her, with her getting a 'witch' label.

Then there's Genesis who was married to Eman Artist, her baby's head got cracked, and Berg jumped on her for being a witch and that it was her fault. We find out later that Eman had abused the baby in a fit of anger.

Anyone who considered an alternative form of thinking or exploring or voicing an opinion outside of the Family's view of Christianity or even commonly accepted Christianity, was in danger of receiving the label. I suppose I could receive the same label too.(reply to this comment
From JoeH
Friday, August 02, 2002, 17:03

But the term was used figuratively am I right? Not literally referring to someone who does black magic and yadayada? Although nothing's too crazy for berg(reply to this comment
From porceleindoll
Friday, August 02, 2002, 20:46

In the cases I mentioned the term was definitely used literally as in 'they are a witch' trying to use their black magic on God's children.(reply to this comment
From Albatross
Wednesday, July 31, 2002, 22:32

I have been bested. That was amazing. Thank you.

Daniel(reply to this comment

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