Jennifer Zamparelli spoke with Faith Jones, a woman who survived membership of a cult named The Children of God, which became notorious for its alarming sex practices and allegations of abuse and exploitation. She tells her story in her book, Sex Cult Nun.
Faith's account of her experience contains sensitive content, in particular, accounts of sexual abuse.
Founded in 1968 by Faith's grandfather, David Berg, the California-based cult started as a "mission to save the world and to tell people about Jesus". In the beginning, Faith says, the beliefs were "pretty mainstream" but did include leaving possessions behind in order to become a missionary.
Over time, the group spread to over 100 countries and had over 10,000 members. And as the cult developed, so too did its beliefs.
"What really started to disturb people was that my grandfather in, the 70s, began to get these revelations about the 'law of love'," Faith explains.
"That all things are lawful, there are no more 10 commandments, anything you do including sex and polygamous marriages and even interactions with children is all OK as long as it's done in love."
As a child being raised in this community, Faith says that she was separated from society from an early age, growing up in Macao, an island off the coast of China. She and the other children followed a "regimental" routine, looking after animals on the farm, completing chores, and attending home school.
As things progressed, Berg wrote a number of doctrinal letters, referred to as the Mo Letters, which included 'Flirty Fishing' - a recruitment guide which saw female members of the cult go to bars and high-end restaurants in a bid to flirt with men, and often sleep with them, in an effort to "recruit them to Jesus and also to supporting the family with donation".
"I don't remember a time where I didn't know what sex was," Faith explains. "It was in the literature, it was in my comics, it was in my colouring books. It was all around me. My mother did a demonstration on my father when I was just a few years old - as educational, basically. I had my own experiences very young."
"Fortunately, the practices changed when I was about 10 and they banned sexual interactions between adults and children in the group because they began to see the negative impact that this was having on young people who were growing up and becoming teenagers. And also I guess in the scrutiny of the outside word on the ground."
Following one incident of temporary excommunication, the young teenager found herself enrolled in a high school while living with her grandmother in America. Having lived in poverty for much of her life, the author soon realised that education was her path to a better life, and signed up for a correspondence course which she completed once she returned to Macao.
"It was education that pulled me out of the group," says Faith, who eventually left the cult at the age of 23.
Once she decided to leave, Faith found some support from family members outside the cult and eventually returned to education, leading her to become a successful attorney, author and Ted X speaker.
"I'm creating a whole other story. I've created a whole other story. I have good friends. I did a lot of work because I knew I didn't want to be miserable."
To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.