A woman who was born into The Family International commune has opened up about her time in the cult.
Sharen Seitz, 33, from Colorado, US, looked back on the hours she spent locked in a closet and forced to memorise Bible passages.
The cult was founded in 1968 by preacher David Brandt Berg where it was first known as Teens of Christ, and later, Children of God.
She claims she wasn’t aware of who her parents were as the cult encouraged her to view all members as family.
Also she lived with a group of communes, known as “colonies”, consisting of runaway hippies looking for spiritual salvation.
Speaking about her ordeal, Sharen recalls visiting old people’s homes and restaurants with other children dressed in identical outfits.
The children would perform feel-good songs in order to gather donations to fund their practices – known as “witnessing”.
She explained: “This particular cult was an abusive take on Christian evangelism.
“It started out as missionary work which reeled a lot of people in.”
The society grew using a technique called “flirty fishing” where females were ordered to recruit men by engaging in sexual activities.
It was first described as a “cult” by the New York attorney general’s office in 1974.
Sharen remembers the cruel treatment she endured for being “disobedient”.
For example, the former model claims to have experienced frequent beatings with one instance where she tripped another girl up.
She said: “When I was about five, I was tying up my shoes and I accidentally tripped someone up.
“I was taken into a laundry room and a man got a very large wooden board and hit me five times on my back and on my butt.
“We would have to have mass baths with multiple kids and I remember not sitting down.
“I turned around and my sister saw that I was black and blue from my mid thighs to my back.
“As a punishment, we would be locked in a closet and forced to memorise the Bible. By the age of nine, I knew most of the Bible.”
Although Sharen says she endured physical abuse in the cult, fortunately she doesn’t recall a time where she was sexually abused.
She added: “There is a chunk of my memories from the age of three to five that are missing.
“My sister says she was aware that I would see naked people having sex. But it’s pretty common to block these things out.”
Sharen’s parents, who were given the names David and Mary Psalms, got involved as they “wanted to spread the word of God”.
They all travelled the world, along with her eight siblings, as part of the cult where they moved from one safe house to the other.
She was born in the cult’s base in Osaka, Japan, before traveling to a ranch in Texas, and then another base in Colorado.
Sadly, Sharen described it as a “nervous way of living”.
Looking back, Sharen said her family fled their Colorado Springs base when her dad became concerned of the physical abuse.
She detailed: “We got into our motor home in the middle of the night and we left the gated area in a quiet fashion.
“It was an escape.”
Her family moved to Arizona and stayed with another group of people who had escaped the cult.
But despite being freed, Sharen’s upbringing came at a cost.
She still faces the mental health impact after attempting suicide four times and developing an eating disorder as a result of the cult.
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But now she’s bravely opened up about her ordeal and acknowledges the struggles will never leave her.
She concluded: “I’ve had to work really hard to create a life for myself where I can even start to heal from all I have experienced.
“I now have a house in Colorado with a stunning view of the mountains where my puppy can roam and with a man that loves me.
“My full-time job is me: I can either grow or decay in my opinion.”
Sharen was born into the same cult as Joaquin Phoenix and Rose McGowan.
Rose was born into the cult’s commune in Florence, Italy, while Joaquin and River were part of the branch in Venezuela.