Phoenix’s parents, John Lee Bottom and Arlyn Dunetz, met in 1968. She had previously been married to an I.T. professional and had a job as a secretary in New York. But Dunetz left her life behind and moved to California, where she encountered Bottom while hitchhiking.
The couple soon got married and welcomed their first son, River, in 1970 followed by daughter Rain in 1972. Shortly afterwards, the family joined religious group The Children of God. Bottom and Dunetz then traveled through South America as religious advocates. Phoenix arrived in 1974 and his sister, Liberty, two years later.
During the late 1970’s the religious cult came under fire for abuse of power, misconduct and improperly handling its finances. It also gained a negative reputation for encouraging female members to use sex to procure new members, a practice known as “Flirty Fishing.” But Phoenix insists his unusual upbringing didn’t have a bad impact on him.