I first told my parents about the abuse that happened to me in 1992 when I was 18 years old and was in a relationship with a man. I had left the Jesus Army by this point and moved into a flat in Northampton with the boyfriend. I felt really grown up but it wasn’t to last as I couldn’t cope with the relationship. Mum approached the senior relevant member of the Jesus Army. Together they both approached The alleged person who denied the offending and no further action was taken. The police were not contacted and I assumed I had not been believed and the allegations had been “swept under the carpet”. The senior Elder recalls that he made a written account of the situation and that he offered to pray for me. He has a written account and testified in the court case in 2016. The only feedback I have ever had from the Church was that there had been an elders meeting (1992) and they agreed that they did not think I was lying. I was told that the alleged person said something along the lines of he felt sorry for me and I must be a disturbed individual. In 2016 I had no contact with the Jesus Army other than a meeting with another senior leader about issues surrounding our whole family. After the court case I have had no contact with anyone. I have very much felt that no one cares.
Child Labour / treatment
I in common with other the children were expected to work on the community farm mucking out pigs, cleaning sheds or picking and sorting fruit for the businesses to sell. At the time House of Goodness had shops dotted around. I Even went to work in the shops when linked to Shalom. All this involved working in dangerous conditions with people from a wide range of backgrounds, including prisoners, paedophiles, rapists, drug users and alcoholics. I recall that I was ordered to pick potatoes on Christmas day dressed in completely inappropriate clothes for the weather. Two years ago I hosted a 60th birthday party for my Mother and some of her peers from Jesus Army attended. One of them who lived at Vineyard at the same time as us come up the drive and she was crying and she said she has wanted to apologise to me for so long as she forced me to go potato picking as the consignment had to be harvested. She said I was not dressed for the weather and when we got back to Vineyard it took ages for me to warm up I was shivering badly and my hands were blue as I didn’t even have a pair of gloves on. I worked long and gruelling hours on the farm during the harvest, sorting in the barns was a coveted job and was a relief in a sense as it was an easier job but we had to sort out the good and saleable from the non saleable. We watched the perfect produce boxed up for sale but the non saleable….This was the food we were given to eat.
I had to help my Mother and others in the house with the cleaning and laundry and remember ironing shirt after shirt and hanging hem up to air in the cellar. (bear in mind we moved from Vineyard to Praise Court when I was 12 so I was ironing at a very young age). I was taught how to clean effectively. To really get things clean I had to clean round nooks and crannies with a toothbrush.
Child nurture?? And development
To my memory … Children were born of sin into sin and were sinful in their very nature and being. This had to be thrashed out of them, their wills had to be broken, they were to be submissive. I remember this being said by Noel as he sweated and stamped and shouted across the stage at a whole host of occasions in one of his rages because the parents were not taking heed and following his instructions. Elders of the households were given instructions to ensure the parents were moving in the ways of the teachings. Parents lived in fear of not having the perfect god like children and Elders lived in fear of having “failing households”
My childhood was one spent in fear, fear of being evil or sinful, fear of my thoughts, fear of wrongdoing, fear of getting six of the best. We all remember incidences of being smacked and disciplined by adults, any adult, it was a free-for-all. Fear that you were beset with demons or a jezebel. Fear of having demons cast out of you or watching people having demons cast out. I developed a sly and cunning nature to ensure my sins did not find me out. I was outwardly quiet and submissive; I developed a way to fit in and a deep rooted desire to please, to be accepted, to be liked, to be indispensable as this I thought was the way to survive. I really wanted to be the best godly person I could, It was something I could never attain and I always thought I must be so wicked. Why did I not want to be up at 06:00 on a Sunday morning at the prayer group before the meetings? Why did I have bad thoughts (which I now know to be very normal and not wrong). I just wanted to be worth something to somebody. I can remember when the laughing craze hit and everyone was getting drunk in the lord… I laughed for hours! Just to be a part of it, to fit in, to not stand out, to be godly. I’m still like this today. I can find myself not being true to myself as I need to please others first. I along with all the other children in community was forced in every part of my life and development to do as I was told, to be respectful and submissive, not to have or desire anything that was worldly. We had only second hand clothes from the clothing store at the hall (apart from clothing brought for me by my grandparents). We had no comforts, no toys, (we never had educational toys because at Vineyard it was a rule of no toys). no niceties, no sweets (apart from the sweet parcel from a family friend that used to arrive from Canada – these soapy tasting sweets were savoured even if they tasted like soap). One grandparent once gave me a doll, she was beautiful, she had a blue satin dress and I begged my Dad to let me take her out with us to the fish and chip shop as we were in London visiting my mums parents and were having fish and chips!!! My Dad wasn’t going to let me. My Grandmother told him to let me take the doll out. I will never forget that walk – I was so so proud of her and enjoyed every minute of it knowing full well that when we left I would never see the doll again. I was heartbroken. She was beautiful. Toys given to us by grandparents were thrown away and once discarded from the minibus window on the way home as there would be trouble if the bag came back to Vineyard (the bag was full of soft toys).
As a grown woman now who knows herself I believe that we were not nurtured or loved but a burden, a nuisance, an object of scorn of discipline of frustrated people to take out their anger, frustration and perverse ways upon. A culture of bullying just breeds and creates more bullies and the children become the product of this – Zion please look at your fruit. We were smacked for the slightest little transgression. Putting talcum powder in the sink and mixing it with water to try to make perfume (That’s what someone smacked and shouted at my sister for). We were all smacked or disciplined by other adults in the household and the wider church.
One of my brothers got the most smacking as he was “naughty” He was repeatedly punished and branded as naughty as a child. He couldn’t sit still.
One night before dinner / or at agape He wouldn’t sit still. The leader of the house got so cross with him that he dragged him out of the kitchen to the back door loo as we called it and beat him. He was screaming and screaming…. My parents? Just sat there stupified.
My sister ended up in Hospital in 1984 with meningitis. She nearly died, she had to have 2 lumber punctures to drain the fluid. No one had noticed that she was unwell. They thought she was being whingy and difficult, demonic to draw her parents attention away from what they should be doing.
We had to prepare and eat the unsaleable or mouldy fruit or vegetables, cutting mould off apples so we could cook and eat them. I will never forget the grey potatoes we had to eat at the hall at holiday school – they made my stomach turn but you were not allowed out of the dining room until you had eaten everything.
The hours spent in repentance prayer, confessing sins, darning brothers socks, knitting dishcloths, weeding in the garden, cleaning the bungalow where the brothers slept – it had a certain musty unwashed stench that still turns my stomach to this day.
There is so much to tell, so many incidences, so much I remember, so much I don’t, so many tears, so much heartbreak, so much anger and resentment…. We never had a voice…. but I cant be bitter….I survived and now I am a Mother and I am a stronger woman, I am not afraid, I have a voice, I have support of the group and I am going to tell my story and the truth will be known, my heartbreak is coming out, my peers are with me, we are finding strength and healing in talking to each other and realising we are not alone…. We all survived…… just.
My Injuries and the Impact
You could be forgiven for asking what injuries?? Yes no lasting physical ones
BUT I have suffered mental health issues as a consequence of the sexual abuse and my upbringing in the care of the Jesus Army.
I drifted as a teenager and have struggled to form trusting relationships. I have and continue to find sexual intimacy very difficult and in the past would sabotage my relationships or choose the wrong relationships because I felt little or no worth as a woman. I went through a period of promiscuousness and in the extreme even now can also be cold and unloving. I hate being stroked or touched and I am not overtly cuddly or tactile. I am what I would call a high functioning depressive (situational depression) and I suffer with anxiety. I fight every day to be of worth, to make something of my life that I can be proud of because the alternative is to give up. Last year after the court case I felt suicidal. I didn’t tell anyone. I have all my life felt so alone, lonely, but I can’t trust people.
My family holds onto the threads it has together because blood is thicker than water but we all share the deep scars and some of my family have not been so lucky as I or as mentally strong and have succumbed to addictions and abusive behaviour.
I have recently been involved with Operation Lifeboat when it commenced with the police. This was the first time someone had approached me to ask me what happened to me as a child. I continue to feel extremely let down by a religious organisation that I was in through no fault of my own. I was raised to worship and respect, to be grateful, to forgive and forget.
I have forgiven but I can’t forget as my personal development was halted by the abuse and stunted by the upbringing I had. I have no real base line, I had to learn life skills and monetary skills as an adult. I tried to block it all out but have recently realised this was not the right thing to do as it meant I never have dealt with any of my past issues until recently.
I remain psychologically traumatised by my childhood experiences and the experiences and treatment of other children that I had to witness which have troubled me throughout adulthood especially since having children of my own.
I have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia which I also fight against mentally and with exercise and inner strength. I have learned that I can be at risk of neglecting my own physical and wellbeing needs as I don’t feel I am worth it or I put time and effort into doing a good job at every aspect of my life as I want to please everyone. I start sentences with a sorry as if I am apologising for my existence!!