Patrice Dougan is the Herald's education reporter.

Ex-Gloriavale member was victim of 'wrong relationship'

Photo / screenshot
Photo / screenshot

A young woman who left the secretive Gloriavale Christian Community says she was the victim of a "wrong relationship" with an adult married man when she was just a child.

Such relationships were not unheard of during her 19 years living in the isolated West Coast church community, she said, with church leaders turning a blind eye to the sexual nature of inappropriate adult-child relationships.

Julia, 22, who left Gloriavale three years ago, said adults in the community had relationships with minors.

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"They don't like to be looked at it as a sexual relationship, but no matter what relationship you have with someone younger than you, or anybody, it can turn wrong over time," she said on Campbell Live tonight.

"Me, myself, I had a wrong relationship with a married guy. I was very young, and I did not want to tell anyone about that at the time when it started because I felt I would get looked down upon, I would get all the blame, it would all come back on me. So I just kept quiet about it and carried on."

Host John Campbell said the abuse started when she was just 12 years old.

Julia said she felt "totally alone" during that time.

"Half the time my parents were taking the leaders' side," she said.

"I was just a little kid going into a leaders meeting with 10 guys sitting around in a circle. I'd be the only girl there.

"I was petrified. You're just shocked, you don't know what to do."During those meetings the church leaders would "yell" at her, she said, calling her "evil" and a "sinner", and telling her she would go to hell.

"The only way to repent of this and show us that you have changed is to fall down, ask for forgiveness, admit where you've been wrong," she said.

While she was a victim of an inappropriate relationship during her time at Gloriavale, she said she did not know if such relationships were still happening in the small closeted religious community as she has had no contact with anyone on the inside since she left three years ago.

Her family had disowned her, she said, and completely cut her from their lives.

"I sent a few emails to my dad a few times, but I just got not very nice replies back, so I just gave up on that," she said.

"One email we sent we asked him for some photos of when I was a little kid, and he just sent back, 'oh we destroyed all them, we don't hold anything of hers anymore'."

Her father drove her to the bus-stop when she left, and even though he was crying, he told her: "This is it, I don't want to have anything else to do with you. You leave the community you're leaving me and your family, and we no longer count you as part of our family."

The remote Christian commune has seen a number of people leave recently, with reports 65 people have left in the past eight years, including 22 in the past two months.

Two other former members, Elijah Overcomer and Mordecai Courage, also spoke to Campbell Live. They were asked a series of questions related to the definition of a cult, to which they responded "yes" to each one in relation to Gloriavale.

- NZME.

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