It's been just over four years since Constance Ready fled Gloriavale Christian Community's "reign of fear and control" in the dead of the night.
The 26-year-old mother of two now lives in Rotorua after leaving Gloriavale, located on the West Coast of the South Island, where she was born and spent most of her life.
Ready and three other former members spoke at the Lifezone Church in Tauranga recently during an "Unmasking Gloriavale" event attended by about 70 people.
She told the audience that her decision to leave in August 2016 came after her younger sister, Prayer, who had Down syndrome, "passed away under very tragic circumstances" in 2015 at age 14.
"There was no opportunity or time given to grieving or for healing or for processing the loss of a very dear and precious person in my life. And it was during that year that the pressure definitely built and built for me.
"I was pressured through quite a few meetings ... to just move on. They were basically saying my sister has gone, she had passed and maybe it was a blessing in disguise.
"There was a building geyser of emotions I wanted to express in my own way and time, but I wasn't allowed, and that year after her passing really brought it all to a head for me.
"And it was the night of one of these meetings that they were trying to coerce and tell me all their nonsense and I said ... that's enough, I can't do it any longer.
"I thought if I gave in and allowed this to happen what kind of person will I become and what part of myself will I lose ... So it was that night I said, that's it I'm done."
About 600 people currently live at Gloriavale.
Gloriavale was founded by Neville Cooper, aka the late Hopeful Christian, in 1969 at Cust, north of Christchurch, before the community moved to Lake Haupiri in the 1990s.
Ready's father Clem Ready joined in the early 1970s and there were 13 children in the family - five boys and eight girls, including Prayer. Her mother, two brothers and three sisters still lived at Gloriavale.
Ready and other former members claim the community's interpretation of the Bible's teachings laid the foundation for all rules and regulations at Gloriavale, including what residents wore, ate, when they worked and rested and who they had contact with.
The outside world was painted as "hostile, dangerous and immoral and doing the devil's work" and people leaving were told they were doomed to go to hell, she said.
There was "absolute control" over members, especially the women who were expected to perform subordinate roles.
Ready alleged challenging authority had serious repercussions, including seclusion, and various forms of other punishments, including doing extra work and being shunned by the community.
Ready and the other speakers said bullying, public shaming and shunning by fellow members were encouraged as a means of control.
Her decision to leave Gloriavale represented a "giant leap of faith".
She and another member had "dared" to take the late Hopeful Christian's car and it became "her ticket of escape" to freedom.
"It's very funny to looking back and remembering that little story of how I actually escaped in Hopeful's car, but it was definitely a very scary experience at the time.
"I now live in Rotorua with my two beautiful boys and I'm a stay-at-home mum with an online health and wellness business ... And I recently marked and celebrated heavily my anniversary of leaving Gloriavale," she said.
Former member Rosanna Overcomer, who left the community seven years ago, and lives in Fairlie, also spoke at the meeting and said life at Gloriavale was anything but carefree.
"The teachings at Gloriavale are more about suffering and enduring and giving up things to reach perfection. Over the years the community has got stricter and stricter.'
"They despise vanity, competition and any disobedience and this has led to the really strict dress code and a myriad of rules and regulations that need to be followed.
"Marriages these days are usually arranged ... and the couples are very young. It is not unknown for the families to have 10 children as you are not allowed to practise birth control," she said.
Overcomer said cellphones were banned, there was little access to the internet, and men had to have their top button done up and cannot roll up their sleeves, and members hands were not allowed to be in their pockets, even when it was cold.
She claimed members were not allowed to seek outside help from doctors, this included when she suffered postpartum haemorrhages with her two babies.
"There are many sincere people in Gloriavale who believe they are serving God in the best way they can. However, it has been a labelled a cult or a thought-control group and Gloriavale is at the extreme end," she said.
"It is a system run by fear ... Members are fearful to express any minor opinion contrary to beliefs,'' she said.
"Your salvation and the threat of ex-communication and hell is regularly held over your head, as are threats of sickness or death if you leave."
She said at age 18, members had to sign a vow of commitment promising to live at Gloriavale forever and to be fully obedient to the Bible and authority "to the detriment and peril of their souls if they break this vow".
They claimed the vow also legally bound members from having ownership of personal money and assets, and from speaking out to outsiders to preserve the secrecy of Gloriavale.
"The vow is one powerful reason why people remain in Gloriavale even after they realise there is a lot wrong with the place. There is simply too much to lose by leaving."
The event was organised by the Gloriavale Leavers' Support Trust, whose trustees include Liz and Graham Gregory.
Liz Gregory is the trust's general manager and the lead support worker.
She said the trust helped leavers establish themselves in the outside world.
That included helping to find housing, clothing, financial support, legal advice, career and educational advice and more, because many of the leavers came away with nothing, she said.
Gregory claimed more than 165 people had left Gloriavale in the past few years.
Last Wednesday Constance Ready's older brother John Ready filed civil proceedings in the High Court at Greymouth seeking the removal of the trustees that govern Gloriavale for alleged "poor conduct, mismanagement and dereliction of duties" against the followers.
John Ready, who left Gloriavale in 2017 leaving his wife and 10 children behind, has a legal team working on the case supported by the Gloriavale Leavers' Support Trust.
During Wednesday's Leaders' Debate on TV3 National Party leader Judith Collins said there should be an independent inquiry into Gloriavale, but Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said there shouldn't be.
The Bay of Plenty Times tried to speak to one of the Gloriavale's leaders about the former members' claims but was told that the leaders were "not interested" in commenting.