A woman who escaped from a cult as a teenager is sharing her story to help encourage other victims to come forward.
Dawn Watson grew up in the notorious and international sex cult The Children of God.
As a child, she dreamed of escaping from the realities and abuses of cult life.
Aged 13 she was able to escape the Children of God – now known as Family International – but her journey to recovery has been a long one, marked with painful memories that have taken far longer to be set free from.
Now 29, Dawn told Barcroft TV:
As you learned to brush your teeth as children, we learned to have sex: ‘This is what you have to do this is how it happens.’ We learnt God is love and the way to express God’s love is through sexuality.
I never knew anything different from that. I think that no one will truly understand unless you have lived it, what abuse is. And abuse I say in all forms. Abused sexually, abused emotionally and abuse spiritually.
My alone time was something I cherished a lot. I think that was my escape. I used to have a dog called Midnight and he was the cutest thing and he had a big doghouse and I would sit down in that doghouse for hours and hours and just look at him.
And 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.
The Children of God began in 1968, started by a man called David Brandt Berg in Huntington California. By 1972, there were 130 communities of full-time members scattered throughout the world – including Brazil where Dawn was raised.
Não existe nada mais incrível do que aprender como viver sem tanto sofrimento e silêncio.. Te convido a vir aprender em um Workshop comigo como Ressignificar a sua Dor, como iniciar a sua jornada rumo o Perdão e AMOR ✨ Pela primeira vez em São Paulo dia 17 de Fevereiro com o lançamento do meu livro também !! Não perca a oportunidade, vagas limitadas ✨✨ estamos quase indo para o terceiro lote , então garante a sua vaga !! Ingressos no meu Bio
David Brandt Berg had a lot of darkness inside him. Before he even began this community he had problems with his own children. He used to abuse at his own children. He was kicked out of the church before starting this community because he wanted to have many wives. He didn’t know how to have one woman.
By the time Dawn was born into the cult, Berg was a shadowy figure who existed to the members through his teachings and status as ‘Father David’.
But the culture of abuse and hyper sexuality was still rife. Dawn recalls as a child being exposed to images of naked women nailed to crucifixes, and ‘Hookers for Jesus’ captioned posters, produced by the Children of God.
Tem presente de Natal para vocês meus amores 💖✨ meu sonho se tornou realidade !! Segunda feira , dia 18 sai os meus áudios de meditação guiadas que são os “ 21 Dias para Ressignificar a sua vida através do Perdão “ E tenho um presente para vocês , quem entrar no link no meu Bio , vai ter dois áudios gratuitos para você aproveitar e iniciar o seu ano novo sem os pesos de sofrimento na sua vida 🙏🏻 E tem mais !!! 😀 quem adquirir os 21 Dias até dia 20 vai participar de um Webinar fechado comigo dia 08 de Janeiro !! Quero vê o seu rostinho lá viu !!! LINK DO MEU PRESENTE 💝 NO BIO
She explained women and children were encouraged to have alone time with their ‘uncles’ and the cult brainwashed its members into believing that being part of sex acts – even if they were at a young age and didn’t understand what they were doing – was all part of God’s expression of love.
I never had any father figure growing up in the community. Not someone that as a man I could relate to and can fee was protective of me. I always looked at men and uncles of the community as danger and I wanted to be as far away as I could from them.
Known as ‘flirty fishing’ young women were sent outside of the community to solicit themselves, raising money for the commune.
Watch Dawn tell her harrowing story:
He convinced the women so much that this was part of a cause and that if you didn’t want to do it, if you didn’t have the faith to do it, it was because you were weak spiritually.
Flirty fishing was from teenagers up. I understood that maybe one day I would have to do it and that, it was something natural and normal and kind of like you should think yourself as a hero.
Questioning the ways of the community was frowned upon - and those that did were punished. Dawn explained that a lot of the kids would get scotch tape put over their mouths and that they had a 'spanking room'.
“When the deepest part of you becomes engaged in what you are doing, when your activities and actions become gratifying and purposeful, when what you do serves both yourself and others, when you do not tire within but seek the sweet satisfaction of your life and your work, you are doing what you were meant to be doing.” ― Gary Zukav ✨
She recalls one where she got spanked so much her whole leg was bruised, and how when she showed her mum after asked, 'Is this love?'
Dawn couldn’t get rid of the unshakeable feeling that the so-called expressions of love in the community were not right, so she decided, aged 13, to leave.
She left behind her mother and brother and spent over three years staying at the homes of various ex members, in Brazil.
Believing she had closed the door on the darkest chapter of her life Dawn was then raped when she was 15.
Morro da Cruz em Florianópolis é um lugar muito especial para mim 🙏🏻💛 tanta coisa aconteceu nesse lugar , tantas memórias , tantas lições , tantas lágrimas e tanto amor ! Paulo, você já virou borboleta, mas você continua vivo nas minhas memórias e no amor que tem dentro de mim🙏🏻 #father #pauloiloveyou #love #faith #dreams #becauseyoubelievedinme
I experienced rape in one of the houses that I was staying at.
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.
She was able to leave and I was able to come home. It was that feeling of ‘okay now we can start again and begin to construct a new life and I am not alone in this.’
Reunited with her family, in the interim years, Dawn studied psychology – a considerable feat given that despite being born in Brazil, she knew no Portuguese when she left Children of God.
However, she still struggled to feel part of the world she’d been shut off from for so long.
In 2014, Dawn sold up most of her possessions to pay for a ticket to Date with Destiny, a self-help event led by entrepreneur and life coach Tony Robbins. There she publicly shared her story for the first time.
At that moment for me it was, ‘I’ve been through so much pain, I’ve so much baggage’ I just need to liberate that within me.
It was a very scary moment of my life but I started to receive e-mails and messages from men and women saying: ’Your story helped me deal with a pain that I was going through.’
Dawn has been able to rebuild not only her own life but others too. In 2016 she started her own non-profit, Dawn Watson’s Institute.
Que dia especial 🙏🏻💛 Tive a honra de palestrar para toda equipe Dilson Stein New Models e convidados hoje ! O meu coração ainda está explodindo de amor por cada Alma linda que esteve presente comigo hoje e agradeço @dilsonstein e @simone_stein_oficial pela oportunidade de levar a mensagem de Perdão e Ressignificando a Dor , Rio Grande do Sul estarei de volta !! Amo esses gaúchos 💫😍
I take people that have gone through extreme amounts of pain and I help them go through the process that I’ve gone through in my life of forgiveness of emptying, of owning what they have.
Helping people start to break the silence within themselves, what they went through. And then they can begin the process of healing.
I think the way that I relate to my past, it really defines how people will relate to me. I felt like the more I am ashamed of my past, didn’t wan to talk about it.
But now I talk about it as ‘this is me and I am not ashamed of it. This is where I came from.
What a harrowing tale.