eBook, 320 pages
Natacha Tormey was born into the infamous religious cult known as The Children of God. Abused, exploited, and brainwashed by ‘The Family’, Natacha’s childhood was stolen.
Born to French hippy parents attracted to the religious movement by the unusual mix of evangelical Christianity, free love and rejection of the mainstream, from an early age Natacha was brainwashed to believe she had a special destiny – that she was part of an elite children’s army bestowed with superpowers that would one day save the world from the Anti-Christ.
Torn away from their parents, Natacha and her siblings were beaten on a daily basis and forced to sing and dance for entertainment in prisons and malls. Natacha never expected to live to adulthood.
At the age of 18 Natacha escaped, but quickly found herself hurtling through a world she had no understanding of. Alone, and grappling to come to terms with an unbelievable sense of betrayal, she was stuck in a kind of limbo – confused and unable to feel part of either way of life.
Natacha is one of the lucky ones; not all of her family survived the battle to shed the shame and pain of their past. To date over 40 ex-Children of God members of Natacha’s generation have committed suicide.
All Natacha ever wanted was to feel normal, but escaping the cult was only the beginning. Shocking, moving, but ultimately inspiring, this is Natacha’s full story; it is both a personal tale of trauma and recovery, and an exposé of the secret world of abuse hidden behind commune walls.
Born into the Children of God by Natacha Tormey is a highly recommended account of growing up in a cult and, even more importantly, surviving her childhood.
While her parents were young hippies when they joined the cult in France, Natacha Tormey misfortune was that she had no choice or say. She was born into the Children of God cult, also known as The Family. During her childhood, she lived in a variety of communes across South East Asia, East Africa and Europe. All of the situations she found herself in and the abuse she experienced were inflicted upon her in the name of the cult. Her childhood was stolen from her. The beliefs espoused by The Family and their leader known as King David or Grandpa are nonsensical and downright horrific.
The women in the cult were told they had to go out and practice "‘flirty fishing’ (or FF’ing), where female followers were told to go to bars and pick men up for sex with the intent of either converting them to the cause or bringing in a financial donation. FF’ers were told they were ‘God’s whores’. Posters with instructions on how to be a ‘good flirty little fishy’ were distributed." If that isn't misogynistic enough, Tormey continues later, "Grandpa also decreed that more Jesus babies should be born, and this is why he invented flirty fishing – so that God could bless us all with lots of babies. She said that within our family there were at least 300 other Jesus babies who had come to us through FF’ing."
We learn that "Grandpa David tells us there is no such thing as rape if we follow the true laws of nature. A woman of the Bible should submit willingly to a man and satisfy him. God created sex and he created a man’s need for sex. He created woman to serve a man’s need. Heaven’s Girl [a comic book showing a gang rape scene] is using this God-given opportunity to share the love of Jesus with these soldiers. She is going to love them so much that she will turn them back to the path of Jesus. She shares her love with a big smile and a song in her heart like all good girls should. Isn’t that a beautiful thing?"
So in an environment where women are slaves and sexual objects to be used, naturally it follows suit that not only were the children hit or beaten daily, with fists, fly-swats, poles and planks, they were also sexually abused. If this abuse was ever mentioned it would all fall back on the child who would be blamed for lying about the adults in question. It is sickening that many of the adults seemed to actually enjoy beating the children, let alone abusing them.
She escapes from the cult, but like many survivors of childhood abuse, that is the first of many small steps that must be taken toward recovery. She may have left the cult, but she finds herself trying to survive in a world that she knows little about and has no experience navigating.
Tormey's story is presented in a chronological manner, taking us through her childhood into adulthood. This is one of those books that is hard to read. You will find yourself getting angry that this abuse was allowed to take place and her parents, who should have been protecting her, were seemingly incapable of doing so. Ultimately it is worthwhile to know that The Family still exists and they are still abusing children. It certainly took bravery and fortitude for her to stand up and say publicly what happened to her and others at the hands of adults.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of HarperCollins for review purposes.