A 29-year-old woman who escaped a sex cult when she was only 13, after allegedly being forced to have sex with assorted “uncles,” is sharing her horrific story so other victims will go public.
In 2001, Dawn Watson escaped from The Children of God, now known as Family International, which was founded in Huntington, California by David Brant Berg in 1968. In the four years after its founding, the reported cult reached 130 other communities by 1972, including Brazil, where Watson grew up. Watson alleges that not only was polygamy common in the cult, but also pedophilia, which was treated as a religious rite.
Watson told Barcroft TV, “As you learned to brush your teeth as children, we learned to have sex,” alleging that “uncles” seduced Watson and other children, showed them pornographic images of women being crucified, and shamed them so they felt unable to speak. Watson, who was born into the cult along with her brother, said, “I always looked at men and uncles of the community as a danger, and I wanted to be as far away as I could from them.”
Watson spoke of other horrors. “A lot of the kids would get Scotch tape on their mouth, as in you don’t talk about things that are not of this culture or our belief systems. We had a spanking room that I was always in and out of. I remember one day, we were just kids being kids, and we ended up getting a punishment and I remember I got so many spankings that my whole leg was bruised and I remember going to my mom and saying, ‘Is this love?’”
Watson said the only respite she got was with her dog:
I used to have a dog called Midnight and he was the cutest thing and he had a big dog house, and I would sit down in that dog house for hours and hours and just look at him. He seemed to understand everything that was going on and it was a therapy for me because I could talk to him about anything and I knew he wasn’t going to judge me. He wasn’t going to punish me.
Unaware of the outside world, Watson still managed to find the courage to escape. She said, “I finally got to a point in my life where I needed a way out. I desperately said, ‘You know what? If the outside world is a terrible place, if God is going to judge me and kill me and I am going to hell, I really don’t care.’”
After escaping, Watson resided with various ex-members, but said one man raped her when she was 15. She remembered, “It was one of my darkest moments and it was at that moment I called up my mom and finally understood that she had found the strength to get out of the community.”
Watson now runs her own non-profit, Dawn Watson’s Institute, to help people go through the process of healing after experiencing extreme amounts of pain in their lives. She concluded, “Now I talk about it as ‘This is me and I am not ashamed of it. This is where I came from.’”