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Getting Out : Media Reports

Article in April Edition of Seventeen Magazine

from tuneman7 - Tuesday, March 07, 2006
accessed 2750 times

Highly sensationalized and somewhat inaccurate article in April 2006 edition of Seventeen Magazine.

Available at:

You can read the article; it's very sensationalized.

Sarafina and I had worked with the reporter Leah Paulos on this article. And then spent our time with their fact checker.

We were very concerned about the information that they were putting in this article and sent several letters to them about it.

I'm including my email to their fact checker. I can't include her email to me for legal reasons.

Email to Jill Benz Director of Research Seventeen Magazine From Don Irwin Transmitted Jan 31, 2006


Hi Jill,

It was nice speaking with you today on the phone.

I have to say, I'm quite concerned with the many inaccuracies in your current draft. I'm happy to work with you to correct your draft's current inaccuracies. It's very important that facts about this man's life are accurate. When inaccuracies are printed and credited to children who have grown up in the group, it detracts from the weight of what happened to us, which was horrible enough in its own right.

One other note is that many of my peers and I do not consider ourselves "ex-members", we never joined, and thus the term "member" does not apply to us. Our parents who have since left the group are ex-members; I never joined, so I guess I'm a "survivor", or an "escapee", really. The term "ex-member" is in a sense somewhat insulting to those of us who were born into this group, we had no choice and left once we had options.

A few notes:

1. Incest: Berg practiced incest, with his daughters, and his granddaughters, Joyanne Treadwell, and Merry Berg, and mentioned on several occasions in his writings that he saw nothing wrong with it. However, there was no directive to practice incest, and incest was not widely practiced in the group. There were however, many instances of step fathers taking sexual advantage of their step daughters, etc. There are also several instances of children of leaders having long standing sexual relationships with their parents; it was not, however, prevalent within the group. At no time were parents instructed to have sex with their children. However, on several occasions Berg responded to questions from mothers asking about their sexual relations with their sons, and basically said it was "okay", in as many words. In my experience, however, I didn't see any examples of incest growing up, that's not to say that it didn't occur, I know for absolute certain that it did, but it wasn't rampant. Berg encouraged anyone in his inner circle to have no boundaries in their sexual behavior, enough said.

2. Rick and Elixcia wanting to leave to have a child: Inaccurate, Rick never wanted to have children. They left in order to get out of an abusive situation because they were fed up with the cult. Also when Elixcia turned 21 she would be fair game for the older men at Zerby's compound and would have been under daily pressure to "share" with them, so they got out of there.

3. Rick hearing his sister screaming in pain from sexual encounters: I am unaware of this situation. Davida was cajoled into servicing Berg sexually. She was woken in the middle of the night as a little girl and dragged into Berg's quarters for molestation, she suffers nightmares to this day about those instances, as Rick mentions on his videotape. So that was bad enough.

Rick did hear Merry Berg screaming from the beatings she received at the hands of Sara Kelley and other keepers. Berg systematically molested her prior to the corporal punishment, and later continued to molest her even she was tied to beds etc. To this day Merry Berg suffers severe post-traumatic stress disorder and will have vivid flashbacks of an old man with a beard; it will send her into a panic, that's how bad this monster (Berg) was.

Some questions that you may want to put to Claire Borowick if you speak with her: (note: These are all matter of public record in a court case in the British Isles, so they'll be hard pressed to not be truthful in their answers.) Read the findings of the Lord Justice Ward, which implicate Berg, Zerby and Peter Amsterdam directly at the following location:

The initials MB were used for Merry Berg, and thus, cannot be refuted honestly since the judge accepted her and others' testimony as "very credible" and in fact, true.

Claire always attempts to paint detractors as lying or exaggerating, putting specific questions to her will shut her up, mark my words, she will not answer the questions.

"Is it the case (yes or no) that Berg, sexually fondled his granddaughter Merry Berg?"

"Is it the case (yes or no) that Berg, performed oral sex on his granddaughter Merry Berg?"

"Is it the case (yes or no) that Berg, sexually fondled his granddaughter Merry Berg, in the presences of Karen Zerby?"

"Is it the case (yes or no) that Berg, ordered that his granddaughter Merry Berg be tied to beds and beaten at night?"

"Is it the case (yes or no) that the current leader of the group Steven Douglas Kelley, 'shared' (had sexual contact) with Merry Berg and other minors who were in David Berg's household at that time?"

My replies are below in caps.

Let me know if you have further questions.


Don ==================================

(I'm also including another email from Sara to Jill addressing many of the same issues.)

Email From Sarafina to Leah Paulos Transmitted Feb 1, 2006. =================================

Leah, I'm a bit concerned about your article. Many of the facts are highly exaggerated and sensationalized. I spoke with your research person Jill and she read me some of the transcript and I cannot agree with much of the way your article was worded and what it suggests. It's very important that you realize this is not a game. Any thing that you quote comes back to us. We want to be truthful and not sensationalized or twist what happened.

The comments I refer to are as such: When you refer to Ricky's sisters, he only had one, Techi. The woman he refers to as his sister when he confronted Sue/Angela was Davida (Sara Davidito's daughter, although he does refer to her as his sister and so does she, she is in fact not his biological sister. They grew up together and were as brother and sister and were always regarded as such within the group but after his death and memorial the COG/ Family international has gotten technical with our reporting and points out that he is not her sister. The are only looking for idiosyncrasies, they never cared before and even referred to her as such but now they will attack any small incorrect statement.

The statement of the cult pushing and encouraging sex between parents and children is a far stretch. It was never documented saying such. There were incidents such as Berg did have sex with his daughters, that much is documented by a book his daughter wrote and by Faithy (his younger daughters testimony) and he sexually abused his grand daughter Mene while she was tied up in his basement. There are other incidents where this happened with in the group but it was not officially forced or suggested but rather happened closer to the leadership where they interpreted the “law of Love” in their own way. In cases that it happened it was not reported as a negative thing but rather explained away and excused.

Ricky did not hear about his mothers visiting his grandparents from "" but was living with me and went to visit his grandparent and aunt and heard it from them on his visit.

I never hear Rick say that he heard his sister while having sex" screaming in pain" this is in my opinion a false statement. If he was disturbed by anything it was seeing Mene tied up and being beaten. When Ricky was at the teen training you refer to him as being introduced to the "sharing schedule" he was introduced to it long before and it was never introduced they way you portray it. Berg never said "on wed's you will share with this person" It was suggested and they created the appropriate environment for it. Later it was obvious what it was and you were reprimanded and demoted if you refused. But it was tricky, as they did not physically force you. It was more like sexual harassment. You know if you didn't it was frowned upon and there would be consequences.

Also when Ricky called his wife, he did not hang up on her, he spoke with her for many hours. Also they did not leave because they wanted to have a child, in fact Ricky never wanted to have kids. There are many other inaccuracies, more then I've seen in any other coverage. I think you need to postpone this article until you do more research. I cannot stand behind this article with so many mistakes as it's detrimental to what we are trying to do. We need the truth out there and the truth alone is enough with out the extras. We cannot afford such mistakes or misquotations, as it will discredit us and the truth we are trying to expose. Please call me about this or I will have to report this to your superiors at the magazine and post this on our site. I find this article lacking of proper research and misrepresentation of my interview. Much is true but it the few things that aren't that will discredit it all. Please make it right or don't do it at all.

Sincerely, Sarafina


In any case, some truth got out, but a lot is sensationalized and basically nonsense. I spoke with Leah and said that the thing which most concerned Rick was the abuse that he saw those he considered sisters suffer. The magazine misquoted this and said the abuse his "sisters" suffered.

Sorry to pick on natts, but I feel it's important to speak only the truth and not embellish, the truth is horrible enough. I think it's important to try to set the record straight, whenever possible.



Reader's comments on this article

Add a new comment on this article

from tastypants
Sunday, April 23, 2006 - 23:09

seventeen mag. is a piece of shit....they wrote an artcle about my friend who killed himself and they only went to one scource...some psycho bitch that wasnt even good friends with him..half the shit they wrote was bull was the worst article i have ever read.....they obviously hire a bunch a seventeen yr. old should bitch them out and make them print another article not just a correction in the back that no one will see
(reply to this comment)
from Bev
Friday, April 21, 2006 - 23:13

i would like to receive a printable copy of this article. Thank you for your consideration.
(reply to this comment)
from Rain Child
Monday, March 13, 2006 - 04:44

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 admire you so much for wanting to get the facts right. I was talking to an FGA who left recently, and she said that one of the things that stopped her from seeing how wrong the Family was for so long was the fact that all the stories coming through from ex-members were highly exaggerated or sensationalised, so this FGA believed that they were all lies. She said that if they had been more accurate she would have listened sooner. (okay, don't get into a big debate about it, I'm just telling you what she said) Some people on this site think that I'm always standing up for the Family, but that's not it at all, I just want to make sure the facts are straight. I had my gut full of 'spin doctoring' in The Family and never want to do it again. You know what they say, "The truth will set you free", and as you mentioned, we don't need to exaggerate. We just need to be honest.
(reply to this comment)
from exister
Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 10:39

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?)

Did the reporter completey conjure up that detailed report of Smith's death or is that based on statements that Ricky made before he died?

The clear intent of this article is to appeal to the tastes of excitable teenagers, with accuracy being only a secondary consideration. Given the magazine that it is in I think it's impact will be neutral. Hopefully those who read it will consider the source before getting all fired up about these inaccuracies. Also not that none of the inaccuracies are actual quotes from us, but rather appear as the authors conjectures.

Let us all stay on the same page and steer away from embellishments lest we suffer the fate of poseurs like Frey.
(reply to this comment)

From tuneman7
Wednesday, March 08, 2006, 17:13

None of us gave her that info on Smith. I haven't read the police report, perhaps that has more details. I don't know.(reply to this comment
from vixen
Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 03:42

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?)

'Sorry to pick on natts, but I feel it's important to speak only the truth and not embellish, the truth is horrible enough. I think it's important to try to set the record straight, whenever possible.'

Hey there! What a shame, eh. It *really* annoys me when reporters do this. I suppose they rationalised it by saying that it's *only* a 'teen magazine', but you're right, it does detract from the truth of what you're saying. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I think that under no circumstances should you feel that you need to apologise for wanting the facts to be accurate! I'm sure that we all want that too.

Props to you for being willing to do what it takes to raise awareness of the abuses perpetrated by TF.
(reply to this comment)

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