from Jules - Saturday, June 21, 2003
accessed 2879 times
The following presentation was given by Daniel (Albatross) at the AFF Conference June of 2003.
June 13, 2003
I’m honored to be following professor Kent and Julia McNeil in presenting on this topic. I share with them an active interest in an area that has receive less attention than perhaps it merits, but an area I am sure will grow in visibility as those of us born and raised in counter-culture religious movements find our voices.
In preparing for this presentation I had hoped to focus exclusively on the efforts of myself and others to extract answers and accountability from the leadership of The Family, however as this effort progressed, it became obvious to me that my involvement was far more personal than just the shared pain of a childhood lived as a religious experiment, but rather that the engine that drove me was , that of a son sacrificed for a upstart religion that in the best of times seem bizarrely rudderless and in the worst out right hazardous to a child’s well being.
After discovering the movingon site in May of 2002, I was stuck by the commonality of the tales of abuse, neglect and hardship. I had grown up with varying levels of exposure to the abuses and was aware of my experiences and those of my immediate peers, but I was struck by the fact that these accounts were not limited to one geographical area, nor to a specific era in our history, but rather that they span a great many of the years of the COG/Family existence, and that it seemed that wherever the Family had been, there could also be found horrendous accounts of abuse.
It was with this in mind that I felt we needed to press for answers and accountability. I was not alone in these sentiments, and as the discussion progressed, we started to identify three major categories of abuse and neglect.
Firstly - and to many the most acute category - was sexual abuse.
This is a topic of tremendous complexity, but to state it briefly, we feel that there is ample data from the victims, group literature, court records, and even abuser admissions, to support the notion that for considerable period, the Family and it’s leadership structure supported, approved of doctrinally, or turned a blind eye to at the very least a highly sexualized atmosphere in which children were exposed to many sexual scenarios that would be considered harmful and abusive by most objective observers, and at the all to often extreme end of the spectrum, we were the victims of child rape, fondling, orgies, incest, sexually transmitted diseases, injuries of sexual nature and such.
It is the Family’s contention that while Berg and others theoretically discussed sexual liberties, they never intended for them to be practiced in the way they were. However, we as victims, (and I speak from experience as I was sexually abused by an adult at age 7) have a profound disagreement with that defense. The young people who by their own account suffered these abuses at the hands of Berg and his close circle would definitely not agree that these sexual doctrines were theoretical only.
We believe it is disingenuous in the extreme for the Family spokespersons to suggest that the usual obedience to leadership and policy from Berg and Co, stopped cold at the discussion of child/adult sex.
The second area is a broad area that we called physical punishment and forced labor.
As Professor Kent touched upon, the Family did not hesitate to use severe corporal punishment and hard labor regimens to modify our behavior. This was not accidental. Berg, and later his successor Karen Zerby, advocated and even practiced this extreme brand of control over those young people in their immediate influence, and advocated and organized the same for those of us who were further removed from them.
At the conclusion of a custody case in the UK, the Justice found that there was evidence to support the testimony of those young people who testified to the physical and emotional abuse during the proceedings. The scars both physical and physiological remain for many of us.
Many of us also spent a great deal of our childhood working for the Group. This work ranged from hours spent on street corners soliciting donations, to being primary caretakers for our younger siblings and other in the communities. This almost invariably led to woefully inadequate educations for the lucky of us and almost non-existent educations for the less fortunate. In fairness to the Family it should be noted that many of us did receive extensive doctrinal training. Unfortunately that training has almost no practical application when integrating into society at large.
Thirdly, educational neglect:
In the 1975 Berg letter called “The education revolution” he suggest that, and I quote ”since our children are going to be paperboys, they don’t need advance math.”
Sadly, many of us did not even receive the rudiments of math or other basic requirements.
There were various attempts thought the years to provide education for Family children. But we see these attempts as being perhaps on a par with education in some of the World’s least developed countries, and certainly below the level that a group with the organizational and mandating capacity of the Family should have been able to administer.
In short, it was Family policy to prevent us from obtaining what they saw for the most part as an evil public or private school education. As we see it, in mandating that their members act on that policy, they were therefore obliged to provide us with a viable and realistic alternative, something which they to a large extent failed to do.
In light of those three main areas, several of us began pushing for answers. As the silence from the Family continued, we began to demand explanations or help in tracking down those who were the most egregious of abusers. The one posting to the site from a Family spokeswoman early on, was pas perceived as a slap in our collective face, essentially agreeing to take some questions, but demanding a submissive and pacified tone. As can be imagined, the reaction from those who visit this site was swift and furious.
As the level of anger and disappointment at the lack of response from the Family grew, so did the commitment to mobilize and organize and network. This was a new trend. We had always been scattered and proud of it. After years in forced group thought and organizational structure we remain proudly and fiercely individualistic. But in order to find the justice and answers we seek, we came to understand that coming one at time pounding with our tiny fist on the castle door that the Family kept firmly shut in our face would have no effect. The results of this networking are beginning to be felt and we hope that it will be not only a force for justice but for charity and to help those who need it.
As a result of all this door banging, somewhere along the line the Family heard us.
On October 11th 2002 shortly after it’s email release to Family communities, one of our contacts within the group sent us the Family’s reaction to our efforts. It is important to note that this reaction was not an answer directed to us but rather to the Family member about us.
The answer in the form of a Family publication was titled Pray, Obey and Prepare, written by Maria and Peter (CM 3420, September, 2002).
Gandhi said, “ first they ignore us, then they laugh at us, then they fight us, then we win.” It seemed they had gone from ignoring us to furiously fighting us. If the tenor of the letter was intended to galvanize the Family members into action, it definitely had that effect on us on the outside. Young people who had previously bordered on indifferent were suddenly reacting with passion. I’ll read a few excerpts from their letter, pray, prepare and obey.
130. It has recently been brought to our attention by some of our faithful media folks that the postings on various ex-member sites are becoming increasingly aggressive and belligerent. There are a number of detractors who are trying to rally those who have left--even those who have been friendly for years--to unite to fight the Family. They're talking about trying to hinder our work through such things as class action lawsuits, requests for law enforcement investigations, personal lawsuits against individuals, criminal complaints, use of the media, production of their stories through documentaries, books, and writings, etc. (that last paragraph was directly lifted from an article I posted on the website. The only difference is that I said lawsuits against abuser, which they of course changed to read individuals.) 131. They're trying to round up as many alleged “abuse” stories as possible to provide investigators with some kind of “ammunition” to justify taking action against us. They're trying to draw the attention of the authorities to the education methods of the Family, attempting to convince them that our children's education is insufficient. They're supposedly trying to find out the locations of our Family Homes. They're trying to unite, pool their energies and resources, to bring the Family down. 134. Now, understanding that, it's pretty obvious why the Lord would reveal the following at this time: Following is a supposed prophecy we’ve come to call the “Vandari Prophecy” The Vandari135. (Vision:) I saw a clean-cut, handsome-looking man, around his early 30s. He looked like a nice guy, well-groomed, together, confident and on top of things. Then all of a sudden he morphed right in front of me into the most grotesque creature! He turned blood red from head to toe, starting from his head down.
136. His eyes look very bloodshot. His red cloak looks somewhat like the traditional cartoon picture you see of a ghost--the typical ghost covered in a sheet-–only this covering is clinging to him and it's blood red. Tthe outstanding and yucky thing about this is he seems to be dripping not water, but blood--from his eyes, his nose, his lips, his arms, his hands.137. It's totally grotesque, and if I didn't know the Lord is protecting me, it would be downright frightening. It's horrible, disgusting! One minute he's this handsome-looking fellow, then he's this horrible, red, dripping creature. Then there were rats, of all things-–horrible, big, filthy rats running all around!
139. I see a woman, about 20, fairly normal looking, not outstandingly gorgeous or anything, but my first impression was that she was sweet looking. And all of a sudden she morphs into the same red-dripping creature‚ a blood-red dripping monster! I see a teen boy, about 16 years old, who looks like your average high school student, and he morphs into the same horrible red creature too!
For us,- people seeped in the liturgical language of the group,- we understood instantly the symbolism. This language has been used before, but perhaps never in such graphic detail.
It continues: 141. (Jesus speaking:) As I have revealed to you before, the emissaries of Satan can often take on many forms. You see them disguised as the innocent, the inviting‚ the average member of society. I show you what lies beneath, that you might walk circumspectly
142. These repulsive, blood–red creatures you see transformed before your eyes are the Vandari, agents of the netherworld, who infiltrate the world population in the Last Days. (Note: Phonetically this is pronounced Van-DAR-ee, with the accent on the second syllable.) Look at the significance of the Vandari name in your human language. The “van” is derived from the word “vandals,” the “dar” from the word “dark,” the “i” spelling of the last syllable signifies “I,” denoting self or selfishness.143. The Vandari are out to destroy. They are out to suck the very life out of the living. These seek to snuff out both the physical as well as the spiritual lives of those who are not protected by My Spirit.
That prophecy ends and they go on to admonish their members: 16. I know for our Family, it's hard for us to believe that someone would get to this state, distorting, exaggerating, and sometimes even deliberately lying about things. We're taught to be honest. So when folks who have been with us leave and you hear them tell some pretty outrageous stories, you may find it hard to believe that they could possibly be making these things up. But they often do.17. Now, whenever the Enemy lies, he always weaves some truth in He has to weave some truth in. And he weaves it very skillfully and very cleverly‚ so that it really plays on your sense of right and wrong, and makes it sound very bad. You think, “How could they be telling such a huge lie if it weren't true?”
While we their children had been looking for answers and justice, they saw only the concerted and usual attacks of their detractors, or at least that is how they presented it to the Family. We have been cautious in the extreme to avoid being associated with adult ex-member who gave long been critical of the Family. We refuse to be tarred with the same rabid anti-cultist brush. Our issues are not doctrinal in and off themselves. Our issues are issues of human rights and the rights of the child.
Now getting back to the Vandari prophecy,
The leadership tries explaining why we are going after them.
30. The Family seems to be the forerunner in suffering persecution, because we're out front and we're really getting the job done and the Enemy is angry with us”“62. (Dad (Berg) Speaking:) The Evil One is trying to bring together those who have left the Family. He's trying to unite them and use their lies and misconceptions; he's trying to get them to fight together. He knows that alone, each individual lacks the strength and ability to have an effect or to make an inroad into the Family. He knows he also has to bring about some sort of cohesion in the Family's detractors to make the lie look big enough to cause concerns among the authorities. This is not easy to do, and their alliance is weak. But he will be marginally successful, for there are enough with enough bitterness in their hearts to believe in the “righteousness” of their lie, and be drawn by the possibilities of recognition and support.”
This was their answer to us. This was their response to our cries for answers and accountability. This was their response. We were blood dripping lying demons. However they have tried to subsequently explain it away, we got the message loud and clear. They did not care about our pain, they did not care about the abuse we suffered, they did not care about the devastation they wreaked in the lives of their children. Unless we were willing to humbly grovel, it seems our demands for justice are nothing more than the works of demons bent on destroying god’s work.
And then their letter takes on an ominous tone in a section called:
How Do We Pray Against Former Loved Ones Who Are Fighting Us?
Peter Amsterdam, the number 2 leader in the Family, writes this:
39. (Peter:) Amen! As Mama said, the Lord talks a lot about the need for us to pray against these attacks, to pray against those who are seeking to hurt or destroy the Family. But often it's hard to know how to pray against certain people, because sometimes these people are your friends or your children or your parents, and it's really difficult for you to think, “Well, I've got to pray that the Lord will curse them.
41. We asked the Lord how we should pray against those who are fighting against us, and He gave the following instruction:
45. (Jesus Speaking:) I will have mercy, for they are Mine‚ but in some cases mercy would be to take them out of the way before they can hurt others even more. For the further they go in their lies and deceptions, the longer and harder the road of humility back to Me becomes, and the more they will have to repent of and make restitution for--whether here or in the next life. So your prayers for My intervention are mercy to them.
You should commit them to My strong and loving hands to do whatever I know is needed to humble them, to show them the error of their ways, or else to take them out of the way so that I can save them from themselves before they do more damage. Either way, I will have mercy; I will do what I know is best. But you must pray. (End of message from Jesus.)
It was very clear to us. We had been weaned on prayers against out enemies. The language was barely coded. “Take them out of the way” is about as subtle as sayings “sleep with the fishes” or talking about “cement boots,” here were our loved ones being asked to pray that Jesus in his divine mercy “take us out of the way.”
Of course when subsequently confronted on it, Family members have denied that it means what we all know it means.
The message in the Vandari prophecy was so jarring that many family members who had not read it yet, when contacted by their loved ones on the outside, argued that something of that nature could not have come from the family but must be an enemy plot. Many were shocked upon reading it for themselves.
Needless to say the reaction to the Vandari letter was volcanic.
To date this article has been accessed nearly 5000 times with close to 300 comments responding to it. The reactions ranged from outrage, to humorous, to derisive. As often happens, a pejorative label is co-opted with pride. We did web searches on the name Vandari. We discovered that it was an alien race in a futuristic video game, it was also an Italian wine for sale on the Internet. Vandari became our mascot, T-shirts and mugs where made, flash video games were designed, and poems were written. Vandari was spoofed, satired, and drawn. Like it or not, they had given us an identity. When the initial reaction had subsided we found that feelings of helplessness had turned to determination, that in painting us all with a blood red brush they had given us a surprising level of cohesiveness for a group of people to whom structured commonality of thought is anathema.
There was a network documentary last month on the surviving children of the Branch Davidians. And the thing that brought me chills and even a few tears, was the realization that like us there are others who feel abandoned by their parents for a group which for the most part has brought them only pain.
In many ways we feel orphaned by the Family. Instead of protecting our innocent minds and bodies, our parents and caretakers chose to live out their religious and sexual experiment at our expense. And now that they have begun to age and crave that acceptance and formality they have rejected until now, we find that we are being turned out again. Suddenly we are the blood tripping demons trying to destroy what they have built up. But in all of this, I continue to ask, who was it that bloodied us in the first place?
This is not over. The suicides continue, the pain continues, the therapy bills grow, and the educational struggles are ongoing. But as a novice student of history I have learned that ignoring the problems of a group of people who strongly feel that they have been wronged will never make those people go away.
We are educating ourselves. We are becoming doctors, lawyers, bankers, activist, and parents. We are rebuilding our lives and demanding answers and justice. The peace and legitimacy that the family so desperately craves in its dotage will be an illusion so long as they ignore the pain of their victimized children. We are coming for answers, we are coming for justice, and we are coming to put to rest the demons of our past.