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Cult survivor explains how she managed to escape the 'Children of God' aged 15

Cult survivor explains how she managed to escape the 'Children of God' aged 15

One brave cult survivor explains how they escaped the Children of God cult as a teenager.

A brave cult survivor has explained how she escaped the Children of God cult as a teenager.

While we're the first to tear through a Netflix series exposing the inner workings of a cult, the reality is far more terrifying.

As Daniella Mestyanek Young reflects on her time at the compound deep in Mexico, which she escaped at 15 to avoid the expectation that she would 'have sex widely without birth control' after her 16th birthday.

Young was part of the Children of God cult, which started back in 1968 and later rebranded to The Family International, with David Berg at the helm.

The Children of God cult centred around the belief that God was love, love was sex, and regardless of age or relationship, members of the cult would be subject to sexual activities.

Another former survivor, Verity Carter claimed to the BBC that the cult 'actively encouraged sexual activities among minors as young as two or three years old'.

These claims were echoed by Young, who describes her upbringing to Newsweek as a trial by fire, where she was forced to keep in line

She said: "Taught to be the best from birth, and beaten if I stepped out of line, I was confident I could play any role required to survive."

Young escaped the cult at age 15.

And she was soon forced to play another role, to adapt to life outside of the cult, when she escapes joining her sister in Houston, Texas.

"At 15 years old, I stepped down onto U.S. soil from a Greyhound bus, the last in a long series that had brought me from a cult compound deep in Mexico. Everything I owned fit into a small, battered suitcase," Young explains having fled from the life she once knew.

While she was finally free adjusting to her new life, with no formal documentation, proof of identity, or understanding of the world outside the cult, proved difficult.

With some help, though, Young managed to enrol in high school and even graduate: "My sister's boyfriend convinced the state to create a plan to allow me to graduate high school in two years rather than four, meaning I had to take a lot more classes than most seniors. I stumbled through this condensed version of high school and into college, where I graduated with honours, never asking myself what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was working hard enough to just be."

Young went on to serve in the army and started recognising her past for what it was: "I made new friends, both in and out of my unit. I started saying, 'I grew up in a cult', the first step in acknowledging the truth of who I was.

"I was. I allowed people to see the real me, and stopped hiding myself behind the sheen of perfection."

She went on to leave the army and author a book, called Uncultured, which deep dives into toxic group behaviour.

Young is just one of many who have fled the cult, with police saying that inquiries into the group are still ongoing.

The Family International has released letters of apology to former members, saying: "The Family International has had a zero-tolerance policy in place for over thirty years for the protection of minors, and is diametrically opposed to the abuse of minors in any form, whether physical, sexual, educational, or emotional. Courts around the world that conducted exhaustive investigations of over 600 children in the early 1990s concluded that the children were not at risk and were satisfied with the quality of their upbringing and education.

The Family International has expressed its apologies on numerous occasions to any members or former members who feel that they were hurt in any way during their membership (see While we are unfamiliar with the personal lives and experiences of those who were once members and are therefore not in a position to respond to their personal narratives, we express our sincere apologies to anyone who experienced anything negative or hurtful during their childhood or time as members of the Family International, which is likewise extended to Daniella Mestyanek Young. Our sincere hope for anyone who was once part of the Family International is that they can lead fulfilling lives and we wish them well in every way."

Featured Image Credit: @daniellamestyanekyoung/TikTok/Tes/Shutterstock

Topics: News, US News, Life