Unspeakable Times

People Who Grew Up In Cults Describe What Their Childhoods Were Like 

Jacob Shelton
Updated October 8, 2018 24.9k views 14 items

The media covers and occasionally sensationalizes cults, but few news outlets know much about the children who grow up in cults. Not every cult member experiences the horror and raids depicted on TV. Of course, there are challenges, and each day can bring a multitude of concerns that other children don't typically face. And people who were once in cults share their experiences more often than one might imagine.

Many of their stories refer to the disorientating nature of their childhood - many survivors reportedly had to deal with violence, nonsensical teachings, and debilitating rules. Each cult seems to have had their own ways of destroying a young person's spirit, but each group also appears to have wanted the same result: a brainwashed follower without autonomy. 

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Photo: Fielding McGehee and Rebecca Moore/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0
Children In Jonestown Didn't Have Many Opportunities To Escape

Children who were born in or brought to Jonestown in Guyana had no real way to escape Jim Jones's death cult. If their parents left the country, the children had to stay on the compound. All they could do was attempt to flee into the jungle.

Tracy Parks was 12 when Jim Jones instructed his followers to drink fruit punch infused with cyanide. Parks and her parents made a run for the airstrip outside the compound; her mother was shot down, but Parks and her father made it to the jungle and hid in the mud for days.

Sexual Abuse Was Allegedly Common In The Children Of God Cult

Verity Carter grew up in the Children of God cult, and she told BBC News it was horrible. She explained that physical punishment was allegedly perceived as normal and claimed adults regularly sexually abused minors.

She said:

It became hell on earth for anyone born into it. It happened a step at a time, and many of the adults did not see how extreme it had got until it was too late.

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Photo: Phillip Medhurst/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0
Children In The Worldwide Church Of God Lived In Fear Of The Apocalypse 

Because she grew up in the Worldwide Church of God, also known as Grace Communion International, Fleur Brown was inundated with apocalyptic Bible verses and a fear of people outside her community. She described how, for much of her early life, she worried about the end of the world:

As a child, I believed I would never have time to finish high school, marry, or have children of my own. We were always just a year or two away from global famine, pestilence, and World War III. The church taught us that when the end times finally came, we - "the special ones" - would be whisked away to a "place of safety" in the Middle East for three and a half years until Jesus Christ finally returned.

Children Of God Reportedly Used Severe Corporal Punishment On Kids

Christina Babin, a survivor of the Children of God, wrote an article for Marie Claire and described the treatment she suffered at the hands of her parents. Not only was she moved from country to country with little warning, but she also became used to the routine of corporal punishment that adults perpetuated. Babin wrote:

Whatever country we lived in, and we moved a lot, the strict routines and degree of [punishment] we experienced were the same. Every night, I fell asleep in the desperate hope of not wetting the bed. Clearly a sign of how disturbed a child is, it was considered by the cult as demon possession and could be beaten out of you.

Physical punishment was the only real constant I knew. There was no limit to how far the adults in charge would go; one boy frowned instead of smiling and was thrashed. I saw children thrown through windows, and even babies were beaten. Such abuse was followed up by hugs - totally disorientating for a small child. We were told the punishment was because the organizers loved us and it was for the good of our soul. We were made to thank them.