NEW YORK — Children in the Branch Davidian cult paddled for trifling sins, told to call their parents “dogs” and that some girls were sexually abused by cult leader Vernon Howell, a newspaper reported.
The children, who left the compound during the siege by federal agents that began Feb. 28, told social workers that Howell, also known as David Koresh, gave girls as young as 11 plastic Stars of David that signified they were ready to have sex with him, The New-York Times reported today.
The Times quoted from the report of a team headed by Dr. Bruce D. Perry, chief of psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.
The team interviewed 19 of the 21 surviving children of the cult, ages 4 to 11.
Karen Eells, regional director of the Texas Child’s Protective Services division, had said previously that the children had shown no signs of physical abuse.
The Associated Press was unable to reach Eells late Monday.
The Times quoted Perry as saying several of the girls released from the compound had circular lesions on their buttocks that probably were caused by paddling.
Perry told the Times that the children were reluctant to divulge the cult’s secrets at first.
“Over the course of two months, the kids became increasingly open about 11-and 12-year-old girls being David’s wives,” he said.
Federal officials, including Attorney General Janet Reno, cited reports of ongoing child abuse as justification for the raid.
Most of the children have been placed with relatives.
A few remain in temporary state care but will be placed soon with family members.