Decades ago, before Rose McGowan started her career as an actress, she was part of a polygamous cult known as the “Children of God.” On Cheddar’s Morning Bell Thursday, the film star and #MeToo activist opened up about what it was like to grow up in a religious sect, likening its power structure to that of Hollywood.
“Any time you have a power structure with a few people … at the top that are benefiting, and you aren’t, and you’re all doing things collectively that make it better for them and not yourself — by groupthink — that really is the definition of a cult,” she said.
McGowan’s American parents raised her in the Italian countryside, where they were part of a Children of God commune. The group was secluded from society and very rarely interacted with people outside of the cult, she said. The family eventually ran from the group when McGowan was thirteen, but she still remembers a lot from her time there.
“One of the things that they called everybody that wasn’t in the cult were ‘systemites,’” recalled McGowan. “It’s a chilling word, but I find it to also be quite truthful. I came out of that disagreeing with them profoundly from the very first. I was always taking my lumps for not agreeing because I knew then even at [the age of] two and three if I said I believed in their god I would be betraying my own.”
The Children of God have been mired with allegations of child abuse and sexual abuse. McGowan has compared the cult’s abuse of power to the actions of men like Harvey Weinstein, whom McGowan has accused of being a rapist.
McGowan has been a vocal advocate of the #MeToo movement and has recently released an autobiography titled Brave. The book discusses how she reclaimed her life after the Children of God, but went on to join the “visible cult” of Hollywood.