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Getting Out : Media Reports

The Little Girl Seduced in the Name of God

from weegirlie - Thursday, March 10, 2005
accessed 5425 times


Article in the Evening Standard on 9 March 2005

The Little Girl Seduced in the Name of God

By David Cohen

The moment of truth, when Abi Freeman's facade cracks, when she blurts out her secret and runs from the room, arrives at the end of our interview. For four hours, Freeman, 47, spokesperson in Britian for the notorious free-love cult, the Children of God - now called the Family - has given me the official line. She assured me - with an infectious smile even, that in her 30 years as a member, she had never personally encountered any sexual abuse of children.

Her mask begins to slip only when I get ready to leave her office in Luton and ask about her daughter. Until now, Freeman, a slim, articulate woman with wild, hippy hair, has refused to answer questions about her daughter, who was once in the cult herself.

Why did she leave? I ask. "She has her issues," Freeman says tersely. Are you still in touch with her? "We're going through a bad patch." She hesitates. "Okay, so something happened," she snaps. And then it comes. "My daughter was sexually abused in the Family when she was 12 by two 15-year-old boys. Okay? And maybe she walked in a couple of times when I was having sex." She jumps up, angry and confused. "Don't tell me that my daughter has mental health problems because I'm in the Family".

That is why I set out to find Abi Freeman's daughter, to hear the truth from her own lips. Susuan, now 24, left the cult eight years ago. She and her mother haven't spoken for 14 months. But when I finally catch up with her, in a Midlands cafe where she sits and talks for two hours, I am struck by the fact that her first concern is for Abi.

Was her mother being truthful, I ask? She says: "I don't remember the incident my mother described when I was 12." But suddenly she is shaking violently, and lights a roll-up cigarette to steady her nerves. "No, the incident I remember happened when I was nine. I was sexually abused by a 15-year old boy. It happened again, on two occasions, when I was 16. But this time it was by 40-year-old men. Those men are still in the Family in the UK, even though they openly admitted what they did."

She pauses. "There is more," she says presently, speaking softly. "So much more. This sexual abuse is not just in the part, as my mother tells journalists - as my mother made me tell journalists."

Little in recent years has been heard of the Children of God. But in January, on a lonely desert highway in Arizona, 29-year-old Ricky Rodriguez - the son of the cult's leader, Karen Zerby, and the stepson of its late founder, David Berg - brutally stabbed to death his former nanny, Angela Smith, 51. He said she had sexually abused him as a child. He then shot himself in the head. Five years ago, Rodriguez had lived in the Family's commune near Luton. Susan knew him personally, from when the lived in a commune in Hungary.

In a video Rodriguez made before he died, he said it was really his mother he wanted to kill - "and then all I need is one bullet for myself". His revenge has reverberated through the dozen Family communes hidden away in secret locations around the UK, including the one in Hertfordshire which Abi Freeman shares with eight others. She says that there are now 8,000 cult members worldwide, including 400 in this country, of which only the hard core - about 100 - live in communes.

Rodriguez's death has caused former members to come forward with their stories of abuse. Susan is telling her story for the first time.

Known in the cult as Davidito, Rodriguez was no ordinary member. He was once heir apparent to the Family. His childhood, involving sexual abuse in the name of "free love", was not only chronicled and photographed in a Children of God book but was held up as the prototype of how to raise their own children.

He was also the product of the cult's controversial practice of "flirty fishing", which started in the Seventies in London. The cult sent women members out into society in order to seduce and recruit men. "Hookers for Jesus" they were called. His own mother was one, and she conceived Rodriguez with a stranger whom she "flirty fished".

Susan was devastated to hear of his suicide, but says: "I am not surprised. I have tried to commit suicide myself. I understand why children who grew up in the Family would want to kill themselves and why they would want to kill their mothers".

She says that she still has nightmares and flashbacks about her time with the Family: "Do you know what it is like to live with that? I understand what Ricky did, although I would never harm my mother, even though she has destroyed my life, even though she is a horrible, horrible person."

Susan was born into the sect in 1980 after her mother had run away from her middle-class Manchester home to join the cult's Hampstead commune in 1974. Her mother, then a rebellious 17-year-old, had thwarted her parents' ambition for her to go to Oxford University, and ditched her birth name, Rosalind, in favour of "Morning Star" and, later, Abi.

Life as a child inside the Children of God, Susan recalls, was always dictated by the writings of David Berg, known as "Father David", who had founded the cult or church in 1968 in California.

He had drawn from the hippy counterculture of the Sixties and was offering a heady mix of communal living, Christian evangelism and free love. But by the Seventies, Berg openly advocated sex with outsiders and, most perversely, with children, believing that sex was an important way to pass on "Jesus's love". Orgies were common.

Only in the Eighties, with the advent of Aids, did Berg repudiate his flirty fishing and child-sex teachings as "mistakes".

Susan's first years in the cult, her mother accepts, coincided with its "problem years". Abi Freeman allows that she flirty fished and admits: "It was a wild, over-sexualised atmosphere." But since 1986, she insists, "our communes are totally safe places to bring up children".

Her daughter, however, tells a different story. Her abuse continued long after 1986. "The reason I left the cult was because I don't want to have children there," Susan explains. "I would have no way of protecting my children from physical and sexual abuse".

The last time Susan saw her mother, she says, was when she visited her commune in December 2003. "My mother told me that a young child had been sexually abused by a member of the Family. This was just 14 months ago.

"When I was 15 or 16" she continues, "we had a reporter come and stay with us. My mother asked me to take her for a meal and a drink. I was taught never to tell outsiders what happens, that they 'don't understand God's way'. My mother was pleased with me because this reporter went off and wrote a glowing article. But just after that, I was abused, twice, by two different 40-year-old men. At first, my mother refused to believe me. But then the men admitted it. One was excommunicated for three months, then allowed back in. He's still a member. The other got off scott-free."

She adds: "Other things happened I can't go into. My mum later taught me we're not supposed to say no to men. I used to dress in baggy clothes and not shower. It was my only defence [against men]. It didn't always work."

Today, she lives independently of the cult in a flat with her boyfriend. She has taken some GCSEs and A-levels, but struggles against bouts of depression that her doctors say, according to her, is "the legacy of her childhood".

The internet is full of similarity tragic stories of abuse told by survivors. Some, like Kristina Jones, 28, from the east Midlands, are willing to speak using their real names. She tells the Standard: "By the time I was 12, I'd had sexual relations, against my will, with about 20 men and older boys. I was told it was 'sharing God's love'. That's how life was for me - adults having sex with children. It was the cult's Law of Love policy, the only life I'd ever known, and I didn't question it".

Kristina, whose mother fled the cult and removed her when she was 12, agreed to accompany me when I met Susan, having counselled her in the past.

Susan's testimony goes beyond what has been seen and heard in teh UK before, and raises deeply troubling questions about the activities of the Family today: Are young people now growing up in the cult told about its sordid past? Does sexual abuse still go on?

Abi Freeman loudly denies it. Keen to prove that the Family has put its dark past behind it, she arranges for me to return to Luton and meet eight young members of the Family. Aged 18 to 27, they are waiting in a circle for me, all bright and shiny. After belting out Jesus songs, one tells me: "We're here because we don't like lies. The lies are that abuse in the Family was widespread and is still happening today".

They are, they tell me, Christian missionaries who live in normal suburban homes where finances - from charitable donations - are pooled. Home-schooled, their days begin and end with prayer and song, and much of their time is spent handing out Family literature. "Nothing bad sexually has ever happened to any of us," one assumes me.

When her young charges have finished talking, I ask Freeman: How can you represent an organisation that has brought such damage to your own daughter?

Freeman is abruptly stony-faced. "Come on"" she says, and turns accusingly to the assembled youths. "Before he came, I told you that this journalist has upset me greatly. I want you to know that what happened to my daughter is of no relevance to the Family. Abuse happens. Children who grow up in our communes are safer than children who grow up in society."

"Yes"" shouts one of the young women, rising to her feet in passionate indignation. "We don't need to know about some little thing."

Reader's comments on this article

Add a new comment on this article

from Ralph Crayon
Tuesday, March 15, 2005 - 20:45


MoonCityNewz, the offical paper of the moon (with the heavenly city inside of course) has just covered this story see:
(reply to this comment)

from Real Names at all times
Friday, March 11, 2005 - 17:47

lets from now on call all these fruits by their real names - scratch Abbey Freeman from your minds, its a cover, i think all her non-fam family also live in the UK, so its no wonder she doesnt advertise as an advocate for pedos and child beaters in hiding using her real name which is as somebody posted here Rosalind Hora. Rosalind Hora, its no wonder she is the rep for europe, I know there is more on Rosalind Hora, what do you think Rosalind? Maybe there will be follow up articles and your picture will grace more newspapers, its all the devils work though, right? nothing what so ever to do with child abuse, Rosalind Hora what does the future hold for you?
(reply to this comment)
From Yehuda
Friday, March 11, 2005, 19:12

Rosalind Hora!!! Oy, oy, oy! Alles svetzer?(reply to this comment
from Abi's photo on xfamily
Friday, March 11, 2005 - 13:13

can you guys put her photo and profile on the internet????? Would be good!
(reply to this comment)
from Anon2
Friday, March 11, 2005 - 06:46


Interesting that the journalist's surname is "Cohen". Frankly, I'm surprised he was even able to get an interview, I clearly remember Berg pointing out somewhere that the name Cohen is "very Jewish". Didn't he even assign that name to the main villian in the Heaven's Girl series?

Funny (and depressing) how shit like that sticks with you after 20 years, long after you've renounced such absurd conditioning :/

Anyways, Kudos to the journalist for writing such a gutsy piece.

(reply to this comment)

from moon beam
Friday, March 11, 2005 - 04:44


On radio last year, Abbey states defiantly, that no family girls were sent out to do prostitution, in this article she admits she had and that it had been a policy of the family. Go figure!
(reply to this comment)
from Baxter
Friday, March 11, 2005 - 04:26


Where was it i heard that excuse?

Something about the statistical possibility of abuse in relation to occurence on generic social standards. Something like, if a certain percentage of youth are abused in normal society are abused, then it's understandable that it will happen in isolated communities as well. Some sort of insane weaselly reasoning!

(reply to this comment)

From analysis of variance
Friday, March 11, 2005, 09:43

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(

I frickin' HATE that spurious, bozone argument about the occurence of sexual abuse (SA) in an isolated community such as TF being comparable to that of the general population. First of all, the general prevalence in the general population is 1:4 girls and 1:6 boys. That's a HUGE prevalence to begin with.

Using prevalence rates and other risk factors, epidemiologists can predict just which groups within the general population are likely to have higher and lower incidence of a condition such as sexual abuse. Incidence rates are newly identified cases with a condition; prevalence rates are the measure of a condition in the population at a point in time.

Statistical estimation models with variables like "prevalence rate in 1996", "degree of social isolation," "cultural norms about male dominance," "cultural norms about role of women," "level of knowledge about SA," "hierarchical versus egalitarian organizational structure," and "attitudes toward self-determination" will associate strongly with incidence rates (new cases) of SA in a group like TF. Without even doing the math, I can tell you that the risk factor loadings for a sample of Family people will predict a much higher incidence rate for sexual abuse than would be found in a sample taken from the general population. (reply to this comment

From exister
Friday, March 11, 2005, 13:01

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?)

Another factor that must be considered is the severity and context of the abuse. Sexual abuse is not a strictly binary happened/didn't happen phenomenon. Surely being repeatedly sexually assaulted and told it was God's will is far more traumatic than being touched inapropriately once by that creepy gym teacher.(reply to this comment

From analysis of variance
Friday, March 11, 2005, 16:55

I believe a verystrong case can be made that what happened in TF in the 1970s and 80s constituted ritual, cultic abuse. British protective services have done the most work on setting up legal criteria and precedence defining this level of intensity. When the class action suit is filed, Britain would be a good place to file due to the likelihood that "ritual, cultic abuse" can be linked to higher damages for survivors. Problems could arise in a U.S. class action suit around the extent of damages associated with "ritual, cultic abuse" because U.S. protective service investigators & attorneys have serioudly screwed up some high-profile court cases prosecuted as "ritual, cultic abuse."(reply to this comment
Thursday, March 10, 2005 - 16:39

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?)

For years in the UK, whenever TF wanted to do some PR whether it was via a radio interview, a talk at the ICA or some academic conference they trotted Abi out and she parrotted endlessly about the glories of TF and how the movement had transformed itself, becoming almost mainstream. Any questions about abuse or other negative aspects of TF were dismissed by inferring something along these lines...that the early days of any young overzealous movement, led by young headstrong hippies was bound to yeild some mistakes. No big deal. She always spoke with an air of authority. It seems those days are over.

How tragic that she still chooses to support TF now in view of the content of this article.

(reply to this comment)

from S.O.S.
Thursday, March 10, 2005 - 12:04

Is there a link to this on the paper's site? Thx!!!
(reply to this comment)
From Shaka
Thursday, March 10, 2005, 12:16

Yes, if someone has the link, please post it. I can find nothing in the Evening Standard.(reply to this comment
Thursday, March 10, 2005, 15:28


the Evening Standard is available by subscription in an e edition version at this link

It costs about £5 for a months subscription and you can access back copies. Free weeks trial on special offer.

Many of their articles are also posted online in the free version of (reply to this comment

From Shaka
Friday, March 11, 2005, 19:26

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'm not interested in subscribing to the Standard, but is there any link for the article itself and accompanying pics if there are any?(reply to this comment
from BenKill
Thursday, March 10, 2005 - 10:53

what is her family name? - I saw the pic in the ES and I felt a cold shiver run down my spine...
(reply to this comment)
Thursday, March 10, 2005, 11:36

It's in the article.
System name-Rosalind
Family names in order- Mornigstar(once married to hal) Then Abbey.
Photo of her coming soon.(reply to this comment
From names
Friday, March 11, 2005, 13:24

I heard she legally changed her name from Rosalind Hora to Abi Freeman a while back.(reply to this comment
from also...
Thursday, March 10, 2005 - 08:28


was anyone directly abused by her or privy to info that she allowed abuse to occur??
(reply to this comment)

From Christy
Thursday, March 10, 2005, 13:27

I lived with Abi, her daughter, and her ex-husband off and on for a few years. It was in big homes so I never got to know them too well. Abi was always kind of hippyish and a little off kilter. I don't think she was ever abusive, but I was never under her direct care. For one thing, she was always a secretary and didn't have a lot of contact with the children or teens. I remember her husband being pretty strict, but I don't remember any examples of abuse.
To "Susan" (I'm assuming you don't want to be identified by your real name): I'm so sorry to hear about what you went through. I hope it wasn't under my own nose that this first incident happened. You're very brave for speaking out. It sounds like you are starting to get your life together, and I wish you all the best.(reply to this comment
from photos
Thursday, March 10, 2005 - 08:26


Does anyone have any photos of this hag Abi Freeman? They could be very useful!
(reply to this comment)

From weegirlie
Thursday, March 10, 2005, 08:29

Yes, there was pictures of her in the article, but I couldn't find it on the website, I only have the actual article itself.(reply to this comment

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