Former Gloriavale member says executives lied about his aunt’s death

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This story deals with the graphic details of the abuse.

Gloriavale leaders claimed God must have blessed the food that killed Prayer Ready in a Christian commune seclusion room and lied about the circumstances surrounding his choking death, a former member said.

By Jean Edwards for RNZ

Anna Courage told an employment tribunal that the death of her 14-year-old aunt in 2015 marked a turning point in the lives of her entire family.

She said a leader claimed during a high school prayer hour that Prayer’s death was part of God’s plan.

READ MORE: Brutal working conditions inside Gloriavale laid bare in court

“It was bad enough that she died, but then leaders lied to everyone about her and the events surrounding her death,” she said.

“Then they said God must have blessed the food that killed her because everything is God’s plan.”

Courage is one of six former Gloriavale women to seek a ruling they were employees, not volunteers, during their time at the West Coast cult – a claim community leaders strongly deny.

She told the court that Gloriavale founder Hopeful Christian was a compelling and charismatic man who had a way of getting people to do what he wanted.

“He might convince you that your shoelaces were tied when you were wearing Velcro,” she said.

“He had practice, and lots of practice, so he convinced five people in government that it was a fully functional, functional, wonderful Christian place, which would have been the icing on the cake for him. “

The Gloriavale community concerts, which involved four hours of free entertainment, food and freebies, constituted corruption, Courage said.

“I used to think the reason the gigs were founded was to bribe everyone Hopeful asked to stay out of its business and give them a reason to keep staying out of its business. business,” she said.

She said Christian claimed a woman from Gloriavale who had a nervous breakdown and was dragged screaming out of a meeting was filled with evil spirits.

“We were told that she was filled with demons and that she had to be sent away to have the demons cast out of her,” she said.

Courage was born in Gloriavale and tried to run away twice when he was seven and 12 years old.

Children in the community were told they had to legally live with their parents until they were 18 or Oranga Tamariki would take them to live with “awful people”, Courage said.

She told the court that she was always hungry, did exhausting work, and once fell asleep on an ironing board and burned her arm.

The exhausted and overworked girls on the Gloriavale teams were “zombies” and the community was a machine designed to control and subjugate, Courage said.

“To leave, you have to get to the point where you don’t care about going to hell anymore,” she said.

She told the court she was suicidal before finally leaving alone at the age of 17 and being sent to live with her grandparents in Australia in 2018.

“When I arrived, I was in shock. Every time I saw a blue dress that reminded me of Gloriavale dresses, I had a panic attack,” she said.

Courage returned to New Zealand three months later and said she still found some days harder than others.

“There are days when I wake up and completely freak out, it’s all been a dream and I’m late for work,” she said.

Outgoing Rosanna Overcomer told the court she would pray to die in her sleep so she wouldn’t have to face life in Gloriavale.

“Every night I would go to bed and pray that God would kill me in my sleep or give me an incurable disease so that I could die quickly and not have to live there anymore,” he said. she declared.

As a child, Overcomer said she was so hungry she ate sour grass from the paddock.

When she was upset about her brother leaving the commune, Overcomer said Hopeful Christian patted her on the shoulder and told her she should rejoice because God had cleansed her church by getting rid of him.

She left the town with her husband and children in 2013.

On Wednesday, the mother-of-six testified that workplace sexual harassment was normal at Gloriavale, where executives would grab girls’ buttocks, unzip their dresses or lash their bra straps in the kitchen.

Community leaders said they do not condone sexual offenses and have taken steps to address it.

Where to get help:

Need to talk? Call for free or text 1737 anytime to speak to a qualified adviser, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who are thinking about suicide or those who are worried about their family or friends.

Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or SMS 4202

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12pm), or email [email protected]

What’s Up: online chat (3pm-10pm) or helpline 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)

Asian Family Services: 0800 862 342 Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. or text 832 Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Languages ​​spoken: Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi and English.

Rural Support Trust helpline: 0800 787 254

Health line: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

OUTLine: 0800 688 5463 (6pm-9pm)

If it is an emergency and you think you or someone else is in danger, call 111.

Sexual violence

New Zealand Police

Assistance to victims 0800 842 846

Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00

Rape prevention education

Empowerment Trust

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): 04 801 6655 – press 0 in the menu

Safe to talk: a confidential 24/7 helpline for survivors, support persons and people with harmful sexual behaviour: 0800044334

Aotearoa Male Survivors

Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) 022 344 0496

family violence

Women’s shelter:(0800 733 843

This is not OK 0800 456 450

Shine: 0508 744 633

Assistance to victims: 0800 842 846

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): 04 801 6655 – press 0 in the menu

The National Network of Family Violence Services NZ has information on agencies specializing in family violence.

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