Gloriavale leavers on why they spoke out in new doco series

Gloriavale leavers on why they spoke out in new doco series

| 1 News Reporters |

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A group of Gloriavale leavers have explained why they decided to speak out in a new documentary released by TVNZ this week.

Escaping Utopia is a three-part documentary speaking to leavers of the sect, giving unprecedented access to Gloriavale’s inner workings, the unravelling of its leadership, and the pursuit of justice by the Gloriavale Leavers’ Trust.

It investigates the West Coast community which has for decades faced allegations of abuse, human rights violations, and fraud.

The Employment Court last year ruled that the Overseeing Shepherd at Gloriavale was the employer of six women fighting for workers’ rights, potentially paving the way for financial compensation.

Speaking to Breakfast this morning, Gloriavale leaver Rosanna Overcomer said that while reliving the memories of her time there was hard, it was important to make the experience of those living there known.

“I want people to see that it’s a current reality,” she said.

Overcomer left Gloriavale 11 years ago, fearing the community “wasn’t safe” for her daughter to grow up in – saying residents are subjected to physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual abuse from a young age.

“I left 11 years ago, but it’s still ongoing; there are still 550 people there, and there are still 350 children who are at risk of being abused.”

She said it was “important for the New Zealand public to see what’s going on in our country”.

“The community is an abusive community, and unfortunately, it hides under a religious banner.”

Theophila Pratt left Gloriavale eight years ago and said residents were controlled by the sect’s leaders with fear.

“Fear of going to hell and the fear of being worried that you weren’t going to wake up because you were sinning was real from a very young age,” she told Breakfast. “It was just constant fear.”

She hopes the documentary will help “keep pushing the point that it’s still current, it’s still happening, and the authorities need to do something”.

She wants to see authorities “begin the steps of shutting the place down and protecting the children that are in there and are not safe”.

The first part of Escaping Utopia aired last night, with the next two parts available to watch tonight and tomorrow night.

Watch the interview.