There are new accusations of child abuse against a Christian sex cult with close ties to a local charity. Court documents obtained in a LOCAL 8 Investigation detail a pattern of sex abuse. Beth Shelburne follows the money trail that leads to former cult members living in the East County.
The Family Care Foundation in Dulzura is a nonprofit missionary group run by former members of a religious cult called the Children of God. This cult, which now goes by the name “The Family” is notorious for preaching open sexuality – a policy that lead to widespread sexual abuse of children in the 1970s and ’80s – according to former members.
Kristi La Mattery grew up in the Children of God cult. Her parents were members.
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“There was schedules of who would sleep with who, and they would post the schedules on the wall,” she said.
Kristi says she and her sisters were repeatedly abused by cult members, including her stepfather Phillip Slown. She says one incident happened when she was 12.
“He came down from the bed and laid down with me to rub my legs, he said, and after he rubbed my legs, he abused me,” she said.
Kristi’s natural father, Jim La Mattery, left the cult in 1975. This is around the time its founder David Berg started prophecizing about sex with children and wife-sharing.
“To share my wife with another person would not have happened, and I had to go,” Jim La Mattery said.
Kristi stayed with her mother, who ended up having nine children with seven different men in the cult. In 1998, Kristi and her sister were interviewed by social workers about the cult’s sexual abuse as part of a custody case in San Diego Juvenile Court.
The investigation concluded that “the Children of God advocated sexual activity with minors,” and that Phillip Slown had abused his stepdaughter. For reasons that are still unclear, criminal charges were never filed against Slown. But Kristi says the leaders of the cult knew about Slown’s abuse.
“I’ve been to them, I’ve told them,” she said. “There was a court case. They were all praying against us…they were together on this.”
After the court case, Slown continued to work with troubled teenagers in San Francisco. He had set up his own charity called From the Heart, working with at-risk teenagers. And, he got financial support from former cult members running the Family Care Foundation in Dulzura.
Financial documents show that between 1997 and 2001, the Family Care Foundation gave more than $100,000 worth of donations to Slown’s From the Heart youth ministry. The Dulzura charity’s own Web site still has newsletters praising Slown’s work.
“I don’t understand why The Family…the Children of God…would put somebody like him in charge of other children, knowing what they know, because they know,” Kristi said.
Slown could not be reached for comment. But the Family Care Foundation did respond via email. Director Larry Corley wrote that he has received “no complaints of any kind” about Phillip Slown’s youth ministry, and that the Family Care Foundation refuses to participate in a “witch-hunt” based on “unsubstantiated allegations.”
But Kristi says she has all the substantiation she needs – she lived it.
“As long as they continue to deny this, then you make the victim feel crazy,” she said. “They’ve made us all feel crazy.”
A spokesperson for the Children of God told us Phillip Slown is no longer a member of the group.