Cult leader's women 'sobering up'

Police say Goel Ratzon's 'wives' opening up to investigators, meet families; testimonies support suspicions of enslavement, sexual offences

YNet News, Israel/January 21, 2010

This coming Sunday, polygamous cult leader Goel Ratzon will appear in the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, for deliberations regarding police requests to extend his detention again. Ratzon was arrested last week on suspicion of enslaving dozens of his "wives" and of sexual offenses.

Meanwhile, police continue to investigate the case, revealing further details about what took place during the last two decades in the "harem" which Ratzon created in the Tikva neighborhood of Tel Aviv.

Police say that during the investigation, some of the women began to open up and even "sober up" from the brainwashing they had undergone in the cult. According to police sources, some of them even wish to remove the tattoos that mark them out as members of the cult.

During the week, police and social workers have tried to get them to speak about their time in Ratzon's household.

Some of the testimonies collected, the police say, support the suspicions regarding the conditions of enslavement and sexual offences. However, sources involved in the investigation noted that the process is not be easy for the women, that it is not easy for them to open up and criticize Ratzon's acts.

Some of the women have met their families, and social workers say the meetings were very moving. These same women, who apparently understand that they will not be seeing Ratzon again, also opened up with their families, in some cases many years after ties were severed. In some of these meetings, which took place under police observation, the women thanked the police who had "saved their lives."

But many of the women remain loyal to Ratzon. "If it was enslavement, our children would have been hungry," one woman said this week to Ynet. "There is plenty of food in the house, and the women work because they want to advance. We also go on trips and even abroad, and it is not slavery at all."

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