From as early as three years old, Juliana, Celeste and Kristina were treated as sexual beings by their 'guardians' in the infamous religious cult known as the Children of God. They were made to watch and mimic orgies, received love letters and sexual advances from men old enough to be their grandfather, and were forced into abusive relationships. They were denied access to formal schooling, had to wander the streets begging for money, and were mercilessly beaten for 'crimes' as unpredictable as reading an encyclopaedia.
Finally, unable to live with the guilt of what had happened to her children, their mother escaped with Kristina, cutting herself off from her remaining children in a bid to save at least one child. Desperate to save her sisters, Kristina eventually returned to the place of her torture to free Celeste. Years later, Juliana found the courage to escape, knowing that the child she was carrying would be subjected to the same fate if she did not.
Now the three sisters have finally come together to reveal in full and horrific detail their existence within the Children of God cult. Their stories reveal a community spread throughout the world and its legacy of anorexia, depression, drug abuse, suicide and even murder. Lives are ripped apart and painstakingly mended with a shared strength that finally enabled the sisters to free themselves from the shadows of their past.
Juliana Buhring had been mired in a dark hole of depression after the death of a man she loved, and when an acquaintance suggested they honor his memory by biking across Canada, she thought, “Canada? Why not the world?” And why not alone.
She had never seriously ridden a bicycle before. She had no athletic experience or corporate sponsorship, but with just eight months of preparation, Juliana Buhring departed from Naples, Italy, in July 2012 aiming to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. She set out believing she might not ever return, but that she had nothing to lose. Over 152 days, Juliana’s ride spanned four continents and 18,060 miles. She traversed small-town and big-mountain America, Australian desert expanses, South Asian rainforests and villages, and Turkish plains. She suffered innumerable breakdowns, severe food poisoning, hostile pursuers, and the international longing for a good Italian espresso. When she crossed the finish line into Naples before the end of the year, she officially became the fastest woman to cycle the world (beating prior men’s records, to boot).
Accomplishing what she never thought she could, buoyed by the outpouring of support from friends and strangers, Juliana rediscovered herself. In the process she proved that there are no extraordinary people—there are only people who decide to do extraordinary things.
Follow the true stories of Juliana, Celeste and Kristina in “Not Without My Sister” as they struggled to flee from a community which denied them formal schooling, mercilessly beat them for unpredictable crimes and even forced them to watch and mimic orgies. When the girls’ mother manages to escape with Kristina, she is determined to return to the place of torture to free her remaining sisters – but will they all make it out together?
In “Born Into the Children of God”, Natacha Tormey is exposed to similar terrors, torn away from her parents to be beaten daily and forced to sing and dance for entertainment in prisons and malls. When Natacha managed to escape at the age of 18, she found herself struggling to come to terms with the world she had left behind, yet unable to fit into the life she had run to. Shocking, moving, but ultimately inspiring, this is Natacha’s full story; both a personal tale of trauma and recovery, and an exposé of the secret world of abuse hidden behind commune walls.