Family Ties

Ex-members of a cult that once advocated sex between adults and children want the group's leaders exposed and punished

Many current second-generation members, especially the younger ones, never experienced abuse and cannot understand the allegations, Lattin says.

"People experienced it to different degrees, depending on where they were, who they were around, what level they were at in the organization," Lattin says from his home in San Francisco. He says that, today, "this is the most decentralized movement…they have all different kinds of names, and people don't know they're connected with the Family. They go to great lengths to conceal the connections between the Family Care Foundation and the missionary organizations, and there are…sincere, well-meaning missionaries who are part of the Family that are out there in the world trying to do some good work…There are also some real [bad people] out there working for the Family…and these people don't even know each other. It's not like the same thing's happening everywhere."

Ex-members also accuse Dallas artist Hugo Westphal, 55, of sexually abusing girls in the 1980s. They say Westphal illustrated many Mo letters in the 1970s.

David Berg's sexual obsessions became Family 
doctrine.
www.xfamily.org
David Berg's sexual obsessions became Family doctrine.
Berg's daughter, Faith Berg Fischer, was a longtime 
Family leader.
www.xfamily.org
Berg's daughter, Faith Berg Fischer, was a longtime Family leader.

According to www.xfamily.org, Westphal was excommunicated in the early 1980s, only to be allowed back in as a leader of the Family's Heavenly City School in Japan.

In a 1980 Mo letter posted on the site, Berg wrote, "You could hardly believe that a man like that who could draw such gorgeous pictures & be such a marvelous inspired artist could let himself go like that with such a horrible temper & beat up every woman we ever gave him or ever tried to live with him, & threw his children across the room & all kinds of horrible things! -- We just couldn't take it any longer, that's all!"

Westphal currently illustrates children's books for the Family's Swiss-based publishing company, Aurora. The books are distributed by the Family's Activated ministry group. Davenport, an Activated board member, said she was unable to contact Westphal for an interview.


Talking to current Family members about this stuff is like banging your head against the wall, only slightly less productive.

As far as they're concerned, ex-members are involved in a conspiracy to destroy them. The Family did not answer questions about why the conspiracy exists, but, given the Family's attitude about the System, any critics are tools of the devil.

If they do acknowledge abuse occurred, Family members invariably dismiss it as something that happened "a long time ago."

The Family's official spokesperson, Claire Borowik, did not address most of the Press's questions, which she asked for in writing. In her e-mail response, Borowik stated, "Our members have lived under a microscope for the past 20 years, with every aspect of our lives being placed in the public forum via the media, academics and the courts…I don't know if you have or will have children in the future that don't agree with their upbringing, but I don't believe that it would be necessary to explain it to me or the public. Why would you expect members of a minority religion to be less deserving of their right to privacy?"

The Family has always considered itself the victim of religious persecution. In 1993, when authorities in France, Argentina and Australia received videotapes of very young girls dancing naked and heard ex-members' testimony of abuse, they launched a series of horribly executed raids.

The governments alerted the media and barged into Family homes, ripping children from their beds and making their parents do the perp walk in their skivvies. They threw adults in jail for months while they examined more than 600 of their kids. Doctors found no signs of sexual abuse. Moreover, none of the children said they were molested. The raids did not yield a single conviction.

Borowik was a victim of the Argentinean raid.

"I have personally suffered, along with my son, due to the false allegations of a few ex-members in Argentina," she wrote. "I was in prison for four months on a pre-trial basis, and my son and nearly 200 children stuck in a warehouse with few facilities. Our members were vindicated by a judge who compared these draconian measures to the Spanish Inquisition…But what about the trauma those children suffered, due to the allegations of people who were proved to have perjured themselves by the court?"

She continues: "You can either choose to swallow the line that [current members] are 'brainwashed' and just towing [sic] a party line, or you can realize that the extreme tales of our apostates just don't add up and there's a big other side of the picture they're neglecting to tell you. Can you be so certain our detractors are being 'transparent' and honest with you? Not if the findings of the courts are any indication."

Perhaps the most visible case in Family history is the 1995 British custody battle, known as the Lord Justice Ward case.

At nearly four years, it was the longest custody case in British history. A woman who was not in the Family was suing for custody of her granddaughter, who was being raised in the Family. The judge assigned to the case, Lord Justice Alan Ward, reviewed thousands of pages of Family documents and personally interviewed ex-members who said they had been abused. In his ruling, he said Family members routinely lied to the court and withheld documents from their own attorneys.

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