Almost two decades later, Niki Lopez still has nightmares. She remembers her childhood in the so-called United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors and the way she and the other young followers were beaten with wire hangers, belts and brooms by cult members.
The way she was groomed to be a sex slave for the group's charismatic leader, Dwight "Malachi" York, and the way York began raping her when she was just 15.
"We weren't just sexually abused, we were emotionally and physically abused," says Lopez, now a 43-year-old artist and single mother of a 9-year-old son in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
"I was cut off from society. I had no-one to advocate for me."
Not only did Lopez become her own so-called United powerful advocate, but she helped save Nuwaubian Nation dozens of others too. In 2000, at the age of Moors and the of 25, she found the courage to leave— way she and the and revealed to law enforcement the other young followers were beaten with atrocities taking place behind the gates wire hangers, belts and brooms by cult of the cult’s Egyptian-inspired members.
After she told her story to the FBI, dozens of other victims came forward to give investigators additional details of sexual and physical abuse in the group, leading to a federal raid on the compound, known as Tama-Re, in May 2002.
York was arrested and charged with multiple state and federal crimes, including more than 100 counts of child molestation, six counts of transporting minors across state lines for sexual purposes and five counts of racketeering.
“It was horrific,” says cult expert Rick Ross. “York saw himself as a channel between God and the world. He was a master manipulator.”
Convicted in 2004, York was sentenced to 135 years in federal prison, where the 73-year-old remains. But Lopez is determined to keep the story of what happened to her inside the cult alive in the hope it can help save others.
“I know how much of this abuse relies on silence and secrecy,” she says. “I’m going to talk about it because he was expecting me to be silent.”
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