I thought I’d never see my cult leader again.
And then a month ago, he showed up on my bedroom television. His name is Victor Barnard, and he was on the local news because two women in Pine County, Minn., near where I grew up as a member of his Fellowship church, had accused him of sexual abuse.
He had allegedly chosen a group of adolescent girls—the daughters of church members—to live alone in the church headquarters, where he sexually abused them with their parents’ permission. The women said he dressed like Jesus and called them “maidens.” He’d been accused before of sleeping with his married female followers, but this was the first time his child sexual abuse was being spotlighted. An investigation was open against him, but nothing had gone forward.
But the news report brought survivors out of the woodwork. Follow-up stories were aired, andVictor Barnard was, last week, officially charged with 59 counts of sexual misconduct. He’s now on the run from authorities—maybe being smuggled between the homes of his remaining followers.
I never had a sliver of hope that he would be brought to justice and made to answer for the horrific things he’s done to those girls, it’s hard to even now, it just seems too good to be true.
My family joined the Fellowship when I was five, in 1985. My mom lost my little brother in childbirth and our preacher at the time told her it was because God was testing her. That hurt my mother, who didn’t want to believe in a God that would do such a thing. We switched churches, and got involved with a small Christian group that we called “Twig” or “the Fellowship.” Twig was an offshoot of The Way Ministries, another Christian sect…
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