Children in cults often suffer, but unlike adults were never really recruited and have no power to change their circumstances. This is sadly reflected in a recent article about the Branch Davidian children.

The child survivors of the Davidian tragedy offered a frequently ambivalent mix of remarks to the Waco Tribune-Herald about life in the cult and their current feelings about that experience.

Many are still haunted by memories of the compound, Koresh’s past control over their families and the tragic outcome of the standoff.

Describing life in the cult one explained, “We felt like prisoners sometimes. … We started feeling kind of trapped.” But reflecting an ambivalence that seems typical for many cult children added, “I think I had a semblance of happiness. It was also a small hell.”

Some of the surviving children are strongly influenced by their parents continued devotion to the memory of David Koresh. Many Davidian families continue to blame the government for the standoff and refuse to recognize the destructive nature and historical role of the “sinful messiah.”

One Daividian child caught in the middle said, “A lot want me to say [Koresh] was who he said he was. I can’t say that. I can’t say he was or wasn’t a fake.”

Others appear less conflicted.

“Mostly, I avoided [Koresh],” another said, who resented the control the leader had over every aspect of life within the cult compound.

Another that escaped before the standoff advised, “I didn’t want to go back into that situation of being dominated totally.”

A psychiatrist, who examined many of the surviving Davidian children explained, “The environment was much more malignant than it was abusive. It was a subtle and persistent twisting of beliefs rather than an assaultive attack on a person.”

Koresh was also a pedophile who sexually abused girls. DNA tests have definitively proven he fathered the children that perished in the final fire. One Koresh mother gave birth at 14. Another teenager testified before congress that the cult leader molested her at age 10.

However, despite all these abuses the simplicity and clarity of cult life could be comforting. There were no loose ends or perplexing choices; everything was decided upon by the leader.

Reflecting this side of Davidian life one childhood survivor stated,”Now I wish I was back there. I wouldn’t have to worry about everything like I do now. Now, there’s just so many problems.”

Others are more disillusioned. One cynically remarked, “I’m never going to go to church again.”

It is a sad fact that most children raised in cults, that eventually leave or escape, won’t receive professional counseling or assistance to sort through their past.

Instead, the overwhelming majority will struggle with frequently debilitating emotional and psychological residual effects, for the rest of their lives.


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