Children of God survivor wants justice for others

BBC News/September 8, 2020

By Mike Farrell

A survivor of childhood sexual abuse in a religious cult has told the BBC there are thousands of other victims who deserve justice.

Hope Bastine was abused by Derek Lincoln for more than a decade. He was jailed last month.

He is believed to be the second person convicted of offences in Scotland relating to the Children of God sect.

Police Scotland told The Nine it is looking at a number of lines of inquiry relating to the group.

It said this included working with other police forces across the world.

The Children of God was founded in the counter-culture of 1960s America.

Founder David Berg combined a "free love" approach to sex with an apocalyptic interpretation of Christianity, which facilitated the exploitation of children in communes across the world - including here in Scotland.

Berg told members that God was love and love was sex, so there should be no limits, regardless of age or relationship.

'Justifying paedophilia'

Hope, 41, who waived her anonymity in her first TV interview with BBC Scotland's The Nine programme, believes there are thousands of other victims out there.

She said: "It [the cult and its teachings] was justifying paedophilia and it was also an extremely patriarchal society. It was justifying the exploitation of women as a whole.

"Based on my own experience the authorities, mainstream society, the networks, the infrastructure - didn't even know we existed."

She added: "At one point they (the Children of God) reported a membership of 25,000 internationally, with just under 15,000 being children. That's a lot of children being mistreated."

Last month, 74-year-old Lincoln was sentenced to 11-and-a-half years in jail for raping and sexually assaulting Hope and another child.

On passing sentence, Lord Matthews told Lincoln he had "sacrificed" his victims' dreams "for your own perverted desires."

Reflecting on this, Hope said: "Justice really does go a long way. I do feel different. I do feel lighter. I do feel some significant healing.

"For too long victims have suffered in silence and the inappropriate shame that comes with that, impacts every single aspect of your life.

"You don't realise it is inappropriate shame, you really believe that - it's your fault, that you're wrong, that you're broken…that you caused this somehow.

"For years I believed that I made him do it."

She added: "To witness him stand up and say, 'Okay, I did this, I know I did this and I know what I did was wrong,' that meant something. That was big.

"That was the sentence I wanted. And for the first time in my life I actually really got something I wanted. That was a really powerful moment in my life."

Lincoln's offences took places at cult homes he ran in Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire during the late 1980s and early 90s.

Hope first reported what happened to her to police in Watford in 2004. After an extensive enquiry - spanning the UK, France and India - it was decided to pursue the case in Scotland as there was no time-bar on historic abuse cases, while there was a high level of corroboration due to the number of witnesses officers had spoken to.

Lincoln was eventually tracked down to the south of France, before he was extradited to Scotland to face the charges late last year.

"My first memory of being abused by him is at the age of four, and this became public knowledge to everyone in the commune," she said.

"It was consistent and regular. I would say in the worst period of my life in Scotland, it was daily.

When asked what she would have to say to Lincoln about what he did, Hope replied: "The truth will always out. You can't control me anymore.

"You didn't win. I fought so hard to survive. He blew the candle out and somehow I kept the embers burning."

Hope is sharing her story as she believes there are others who deserve justice - but they need to contact authorities in order to do so.

"Come forward. Speak. You don't have to suffer in silence. There are people who 'get it'.

"And there will be more - by the time I'm done, the world will understand this."

'Your voice will be heard'

Det Supt Fil Capaldi, from Police Scotland's National Rape Task Force, reiterated Hope's call for other victims to come forward.

He said: "Passage of time and international borders are no barrier when reporting or investigating sexual abuse. I want to reassure victims that Police Scotland will give them a voice, and that voice will be heard."

He said the force was committed to "bringing perpetrators to justice".

He added: "I would encourage anybody who has been the victim of sexual abuse, either recently or in the past, please come forward and report the matter to us."

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