Drugs, hard discipline and indoctrination weren’t enough to blind cult victim to the Truth.
Ben Shenton was only eighteen months old when his single mother handed him over to cult leader Anne Hamilton-Byrne. For the next fifteen years, Ben grew up in the notorious Australian cult known as The Family and was subjected to extreme torture and abuse.
After his rescue from the cult, Ben was plagued by his past until he came face-to-face with a life-changing truth that saved him.
Ben's mother met Anne at a yoga and meditation group: "She supposedly healed my mother [from a calcified spine] and gave her permission to walk out on her marriage and three sons," he relates.
Ben's mother got into a relationship with another man in England and, when Ben was born, willingly gave him to Anne to be brought up as her son.
Ben was taken to a property in Lake Eildon, Victoria and was brought up, along with dozens of other children stolen through adoption scams, to believe that Anne was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and that they were a master race being bred to survive the apocalypse. They were all given matching outfits, their hair was bleached blonde, and their names were changed.
Ben explains: "We were brought up with home education seven days a week. A very strict and controlled regime started with yoga and meditation at 5:30 in the morning through to an evening meal and lights out at around 7:30 at night.
"Schooling was interspersed with more yoga and meditation, brief periods of time outside and punishments that ranged from fingers being held over candles, to being brutally belted with metre-long wooden rulers and three cornered plastic canes, to being dunked in water until we were nearly drowned, when minor infractions came to light."
But this wasn't the worst part, according to Ben: "[When a child reached a certain age], we would be given LSD as part of an initiation rite of passage. This was a horrific experience that caused wild hallucinations that Anne claimed were past life and death experiences. This drug was administered in large amounts when we were sleep and food deprived."
In spite of all this, Ben knew [based on the beauty and design of the countryside] that a God existed.
A new chapter in Ben's life began when several girls from the cult escaped and alerted the authorities. The police rescued the children from the property and Ben was fostered out to a Christian lady.
"Over time I began to ask her about God," he says. "She told me that He was the creator of this world. She also told me that God was a gentleman and would only come into our lives when invited. I decided to test God out. Before long a quiet voice in my head told me to stop testing God as I knew He was real; the time had come to start to know Him."
As Ben struggled with depression, suicidal thoughts and a longing to fit into society, he started a rocky relationship with God in August 1989 but "anger, sexual immorality and pornography kept driving me away," he explains.
After high school and a trip around Australia, Ben moved in with his girlfriend.
"While she was working a summer job a lady told her about Jesus Christ and invited her to come to her church. During this period of time God had been dealing with me about how far I had grown from Him and all the things that I had done that I was so ashamed of. I was left wondering what I needed to do to get back in contact with Him.
"We both went along to church and for the first time I was challenged to stay and actually serve God.
"I asked Jesus to come into my life and be my Saviour and Lord," he smiles. "God brought me to the foot of the cross and made me aware He'd bought me by what He did on the cross. I have been forgiven and been able to be set free by forgiving those who destroyed my childhood.
"If you've been abused by parents and care givers, faced depression and given into destructive patterns of behaviour, from experience I can assure you there is a path out. If God can put my life back together again He can do the same for you. Nothing is impossible with God when we co-operate with Him in achieving His good, pleasing and perfect will in our lives," Ben exhorts.
Today, Ben is happily married with two children. In 2007, he became a pastor. He then moved to Perth and started an organisation called Rescue the Family, teaching others about the true purpose and importance of family.
Ben's biography Life Behind the Wire will be published later this year. A documentary about The Family that features him was released in 2016.•