from Peter - Tuesday, May 20, 2008
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Sisters detail cult sex abuse 3:23
"Three sisters talk to CNN's Paula Hancocks about growing up in a religious cult and a childhood of abuse and violence."
Aired May 20, 2008 - 09:00 ET
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR:: Growing up in a cult. Sisters say they were
put on a schedule for sex.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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
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
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
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."
Family International says it officially apologized to seven members.
The sisters claimed it was more widespread than that. Christina 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 (ph),
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.