By Adam Carlson
June 26, 2018 03:58 PM

Growing up inside the Children of God, a religious cult whose roots trace back to the late ’60s counterculture in California, Christina Babin knew from the gnawing in her stomach that something wasn’t right — what she called “the absence of feeling what was normal.”

Essentially raised in the group after her mother joined when Babin was 1 year old, she found the Children of God’s public face of open-hearted, “meaningful” Christianity at odds with what it was actually like as a member.

“Daily life was very strict, very structured,” Babin said in an interview Tuesday morning on Megyn Kelly Today, recounting her years in the cult. “So you woke up, you prayed, you did indoctrination and then you went out on the street and begged for money and food.”

More darkly, the group embraced sexual abuse like child sex and incest, Babin said.

“We have a sexy God and a sexy religion with a very sexy leader with an extremely sexy young following!” founder David Berg wrote to followers in 1973. “So if you don’t like sex, you better get out while you can.”

“We were trafficked across the world, from country to country, from commune to commune,” Babin said Tuesday of the minors in the cult. “We were moved constantly. They held our passports and I never knew where my parents were. Most of the time they didn’t know where I was.”

After Berg said that children should engage in sexual practices, “An adult couple came and got me in the night and showed me how to have sex,” Babin told Kelly.

By that point, Babin said she was well-versed in the group’s teachings that “that women were supposed to be prostitutes and not say no to sex and it was part of our life.”

“The thing that is very interesting is that at 11 I had already been taught that women were sexual objects, that we were supposed to be God’s whores,” she said. “So it was not that shocking to me that they took me aside and said, ‘Here, we are going to teach you how to have sex because this is part of your training.’ What surprised me was that I didn’t like it and I thought there was something wrong with me, that something was wrong with my heart, my soul, because I didn’t enjoy the thing that David Berg said that I should.”

Babin said her mother was unaware of the sexual abuse she endured, as were most of the parents in the group, because the children were raised as a collective.

She has empathy for the adults who participated in the group and were sucked into its teachings, but she had only harsh words for the leadership.

“Most of these people were brainwashed, they were controlled,” she said. “If they rebelled, they could possibly lose their children and never see them again.”

She explained: “You control somebody’s sexuality, you control the most intimate part of their soul and then after that you can ask them to do all kinds of things.”

Christina Babin on Megyn Kelly Today
Today

At 21, and after she met her future husband, Babin decided to leave the Children of God for good, she said. Now she’s a mother of four and a full-time artist who has gone through “a lot” of therapy, she told Kelly.

“I am fantastic,” she said. “Art has been a great therapy for me, engaging in it. Being a mother has been amazing. It has reversed so much.”

In a lengthy statement to PEOPLE, the group formerly known as the Children of God, now called The Family International, noted that since 2010 it has existed “only as an online network of 1,900 members, with no formal structure beyond its websites.”

The group said it “has apologized for any hurt, real or perceived, that any member or former member may have experienced” and acknowledged that “minors were exposed to sexually inappropriate behavior between 1978 and 1986,” before what it calls a “zero-tolerance policy regarding the abusive treatment of children” was instituted. (Berg, the founder, died in 1994.)

However, the group denied allegations of “institutionalized abuse told by those who seek to promote their personal agendas or causes, or for financial gain.”

The group further described “much of the published media surrounding Christina Babin’s account” as ” highly implausible and … like sensationalized fiction.”

Last, TFI called into question the timing of Babin coming forward, years later, and suggested she was merely trying to solicit funding for a book about her time as a member.

When asked to respond on Megyn Kelly Today, Babin said, “They say exactly what I thought they would.”

She continued, “There’s enough proof out there that I’m not going to waste my time. Go online and look it up.”

Babin’s accounts of child sex abuse and other practices in the group are not unusual — indeed, similar stories have appeared in news reports dating back decades.

Another former member told PEOPLE in a 2005 article, “When I was 7, I was molested by a woman. I saw orgies and wife swapping.”

A third former member said then that, as a minor in the group, “I was told to go with one old man to ‘share.’ “

“I went to an adult to help me,” the ex-member said. “She told me to go, that it was all for God.”

Rose McGowan
Nathan Congleton/TODAY

Actress Rose McGowan, like Babin, spent some of her childhood as a member of the group, previously opening up to PEOPLE in 2011 about her time as a child member before fleeing at age 9.

She said she was not molested “because my dad was strong enough to realize that this hippie love had gone south.”

“There’s a trail of some very damaged children that were in this group,” McGowan said then. “As strong as I like to think I’ve always been, I’m sure I could have been broken. I know I got out by the skin of my teeth.”

As PEOPLE reported in 2005, efforts to prosecute the group’s past activities “have been essentially fruitless.” (In its statement to PEOPLE, TFI said “courts around the world” had found no wrongdoing in the early ’90s.)

Speaking out on Tuesday, Babin said her understanding was that criminal investigations had been hampered by the fact that the group frequently operated overseas and any abuse was beyond the statute of limitations.

An outside expert explained it to PEOPLE this way in 2005: “The abuse took place years ago in places where the U.S. has no jurisdiction. And the victims were abused by people whose names they often didn’t know.”

Advertisement