My Life Inside ‘The Family’ Cult
They called him The Shepherd and he fit the stereotype of a sadistic German. His beatings were meant to break us.
“Do you remember me?” she asks, as a hopeful smile spreads on her face, like she’s trying to tease the right answer out of me. We’re not children anymore. We’ve left. Some of us left with our families, some with our friends, and some alone. Now we’re living in this other world where we keep having to explain—why we lived in so many countries, why our accents change when we talk to strangers, why we didn’t go to school, why we can’t sleep. But to one another, to those of us who grew up like me in the Family, we don’t have to explain.
Yet on message boards, on Facebook, and now, outside a coffee shop on South Congress in Austin, this same question—“Do you remember me?”—comes up over and over. It’s usually followed by the volley of questions we’ve tested to figure out who we were then. “What was your name? Who were your parents? Were you in Osaka? Switzerland?”
Part of the problem with growing up in something so secluded as a cult is that our pasts are so unbelievable we need a witness for our own memory. And so we seek out those who remember.