• Twins Flor and Tamar Edwards, both 34, grew up in Children of God sect
  • They escaped with parents at 13 after founder, David Berg, passed away
  • They have opened up to ABC’s Nightline about their lives with the group
  • Claim they were physically abused as children and banned from school
  • They were also ‘told they would die as martyrs at 12 due to apocalypse’
  • Tamar was so terrified and sad she was driven to attempt suicide aged 7
  • Children of God disbanded in 1994; now called The Family International

Sophie Jane Evans For Dailymail.com

As children growing up in a controversial religious sect, they spent every day ‘paralyzed by fear’.

They were physically abused, banned from school and told they would die as martyrs aged 12.

But now, twin sisters Flor and Tamar Edwards, 34, have escaped from The Children of God cult and are both living and working in California – one as a freelance writer, the other as a yoga teacher.

They have opened up to ABC’s Nightline about their lives inside the sect – which blended free love attitudes with preparing for the second coming of Jesus – and their transition to the outside world.

‘I didn’t know what a movie theater was,’ said Flor, who along with her sister has compared their situation to that of the lead female character in the Netflix show, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

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Finally free: Twins Flor (left) and Tamar Edwards (right), 34,  escaped from The Children of God sect at the age of 13. They are now living and working in California - one as a freelance writer, the other as a yoga teacher

Finally free: Twins Flor (left) and Tamar Edwards (right), 34, escaped from The Children of God sect at the age of 13. They are now living and working in California – one as a freelance writer, the other as a yoga teacher

Fearful: As children  growing up in a controversial religious sect, the sisters (pictured during this time) spent every day 'paralyzed by fear'. They were abused, banned from school and warned they would die aged 12

Fearful: As children growing up in a controversial religious sect, the sisters (pictured during this time) spent every day ‘paralyzed by fear’. They were abused, banned from school and warned they would die aged 12

Comparison: 'I didn’t know what a movie theater was,' said Flor, who along with her sister has compared their situation to that of the lead female character (pictured) in the Netflix show, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Comparison: ‘I didn’t know what a movie theater was,’ said Flor, who along with her sister has compared their situation to that of the lead female character (pictured) in the Netflix show, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

In the program, Kimmy Schmidt, 29, struggles to adjust to life in New York City after being rescued from an Indiana cult – and is even shocked when water sprinkles out of a sensor-activated tap.

Flor, who feels she can relate to that particular scene, continued: ‘We saw a drinking fountain for the first time, and we all just kind of like saw it, and we, like, huddled around it like it was some …’

‘… novelty,’ Tamar ended.

The Children of God cult was founded by former pastor, David Brandt Berg, in Huntington Beach, California, in 1968, and has frequently been at the center of physical and sexual abuse claims.

Former members include actress Rose McGowan, actor River Phoenix and his brother Joaquin.

Speaking to Nightline, the twins, who joined the group aged just five with their family while they were living in Los Angeles, said they and their 12 siblings were physically abused as youngsters.

‘[Children] would be getting spanked really young. My little sister was like six months old which, you know, you don’t get spanked at that age,’ said Flor, adding that she was never sexually abused.

They also said they were told they were ‘going to be God’s Martyrs’ aged 12 because members apparently believed the apocalypse would occur in 1992 – something that left them ‘terrified’.

Interview: Flor (left) and Tamar have opened up to Nightline about their lives inside the sect - which blended free love attitudes with preparing for the second coming of Jesus - and their transition to the outside world

Interview: Flor (left) and Tamar have opened up to Nightline about their lives inside the sect – which blended free love attitudes with preparing for the second coming of Jesus – and their transition to the outside world

Physically abuse: The twins (pictured as young girls), who joined the cult with their family aged just five while they were living in Los Angeles, said they and their 12 siblings were physically abused as youngsters

Physically abuse: The twins (pictured as young girls), who joined the cult with their family aged just five while they were living in Los Angeles, said they and their 12 siblings were physically abused as youngsters

Crowded: During their childhood, Flor and Tamar were reportedly shut away from mainstream society and kept in tiny living quarters (above). The twins and their family were stuck in a house with dozens of other families

Crowded: During their childhood, Flor and Tamar were reportedly shut away from mainstream society and kept in tiny living quarters (above). The twins and their family were stuck in a house with dozens of other families

During their childhood, Flor and Tamar were reportedly shut away from mainstream society, banned from going to school (meaning they could not read until aged nine) and kept in tiny living quarters. 

They said they were taught ‘everything was evil’, including education, politics, money and music. Indeed, the sisters only heard chart-topping songs for the first time after escaping from the cult.

‘If I watched all the movies from the ’80s and got a whole collection of music from the ’80s, I just — there’s no context there,’ said Flor, who is among thousands of children born into the sect.

After joining the group in Los Angeles, the Edwards family moved to Thailand on Berg’s orders, before returning to Chicago in 1994 when the leader deemed it safe for his followers to come back.

Upon their return, Flor, Tamar and their family were stuck in a house with dozens of other families.

The twins confirmed widespread claims that the sect – now known as The Family International – was sex-driven at the time, with many adults having sexual relations in front of children in the property. 

Real world: The sisters said they were taught 'everything was evil', including education, politics, money and music. Indeed, the sisters only heard chart-topping songs for the first time after escaping from the cult

Real world: The sisters said they were taught ‘everything was evil’, including education, politics, money and music. Indeed, the sisters only heard chart-topping songs for the first time after escaping from the cult

The Children of God cult was founded by former pastor, David Brandt Berg (pictured), in Huntington Beach, California, in 1968
The twins at a younger age

Sect: The Children of God cult was founded by former pastor, David Brandt Berg (left), in Huntington Beach, California, in 1968, and has frequently been at the center of abuse claims. Right, the twins at a younger age

Followers were taught that love for God was expressed through sex, but ‘within that there was abuse that happened’, said Tamar. This alleged abuse led to some former members committing suicide.

Tamar herself was also driven to attempt to kill herself at the tender age of seven due to her lack of fun in the shared home – and her pure terror at the thought of going through the apocalypse.

‘The apocalypse seemed really scary,’ she said. ‘The whole Earth burning in the lake of fire, they had a whole agenda of what was going to happen like a lot of religions do, so it was terrifying.’

In 1994, Berg’s death led to the sect breaking up. Flor and Tamar said they found their new life in the outside world difficult to adapt to – and still struggle to go out drinking or meet someone new.

They were helped in their efforts by Thai pastor, Reverend Pongsak Limthongviratn. 

And despite the horrors of their childhood, the twins, who regularly post photos of each other on Facebook, said they are not angry at their parents, who ‘went through everything’ with them. 

A sex-driven group: The twins confirmed widespread claims that the sect - now known as The Family International - was sex-driven at the time, with many adults having sexual relations in front of children

A sex-driven group: The twins confirmed widespread claims that the sect – now known as The Family International – was sex-driven at the time, with many adults having sexual relations in front of children

Pastor: They were helped to adapt to the outside world by Thai pastor, Rev. Pongsak Limthongviratn (above)

Pastor: They were helped to adapt to the outside world by Thai pastor, Rev. Pongsak Limthongviratn (above)

Experiences: The sisterre seen on Nightline eating pizza  - something they were banned from doing in the sect

Experiences: The sisterre seen on Nightline eating pizza – something they were banned from doing in the sect

During his time as the leader of the Children of God, Berg was known to his followers as Moses David, Mo, King David, Dad, and Grandpa. He instructed new converts to memorize lengthy Bible verses and undertake Bible classes. They were also expected to live the lives of early Christians.

In 1978, the sect was reorganized by Berg amid abuse claims. The founder dismissed more than 300 of the movement’s leaders and formally banned sexual contact between adults and minors.

The new movement was named The Family Of Love. But during the 1990s, more allegations of child sexual abuse were brought against TFOL, which had acquired the nicknamed The Family.

In 1994, Berg died and many families left the group. Karen Zerby (known as Mama Maria, Queen Maria, Maria David, or Maria Fontaine) took over leadership, allowing members greater freedom.

Ten years later, the movement’s name was changed to The Family International.

Despite the horrors of their childhood, the twins, who regularly post photos of each other online (left, Tamar, right, Flor), said they are not angry at their parents, who 'went through everything' with them
Despite the horrors of their childhood, the twins, who regularly post photos of each other online (left, Tamar, right, Flor), said they are not angry at their parents, who 'went through everything' with them

New life: Despite the horrors of their childhood, the twins, who regularly post photos of each other online (left, Tamar, right, Flor), said they are not angry at their parents, who ‘went through everything’ with them

Founding: Berg founded the sect in Huntington Beach (file picture), before founded communes in other areas

Founding: Berg founded the sect in Huntington Beach (file picture), before founded communes in other areas

 

 

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