A survivor of the notorious Children of God cult has shared some of the horrific abuse children living within communes were subject to, including rotating sexual partners.
Founded in 1968 by David Berg, the cult’s followers devoted themselves to ideologies of promiscuous sex. There have been numerous allegations of sexual and physical abuse made by survivors over the years.
In one piece of testimony, Berg’s granddaughter claimed that the cult “emphasised” sex, and suggested that women were expected to prostitute themselves for Jesus Christ.
Juliana Buhring was born into one of the cult’s communes in Greece in 1981. Speaking on the BBC’s Outlook podcast, she shared the story of her time in a Children of God commune.
“He [David Berg] twisted Bible scripture to basically make it okay to do whatever you wanted,” she began.
“So, he used the idea that God is love, and he called it the ‘law of love’, and that included their own sexual proclivities.
“It wasn’t just sexual, it was also beatings, it was the physical torture that they inflicted on the children.
“After a beating they would then hug you and say, ‘I love you’ and play with you, and that was also a form of love. So it was a very confusing idea of what love meant.”
One of the defining aspects of life inside a Children of God cult was the fact that, often, there was no line drawn between love and sex, and Juliana agreed that her community was no different.
She remembered: “For them it was all part of the same demonstration of, if you love somebody you also love them physically, you love them emotionally. You give your body to somebody because that’s love."
This philosophy, Juliana recalled, extended all the way down to educating young children about their bodies.
She explained: “We were told that God made our bodies and that it was natural to have sexual feelings towards others, and it was just one form of showing love.
“The adults came from that hippy era of free love and free sex, right? And so we grew up in a very sexualised environment where we just saw it in front of us all the time. I mean, the adults walked around naked, everyone walked around naked.
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“And as the kids became older they were then included in what they called the ‘sharing schedule’, which was a sexual schedule; every day you had a different partner, you didn’t get to choose, they chose for you.
“Each commune had a leader, and they would decide everything. From who you had to have sex with, and family time was very regulated, they didn’t encourage private families or relationships, so you were supposed to be married to the group as a whole.”
This meant that, when Juliana was only three years old, her parents were forced to separate and her mother left the commune. The pair only reunited years later.
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