Warning: this story may be distressing for some readers.
A former Gloriavale resident has broken down in tears as she recalled thinking suicide was the only way out of the West Coast commune.
Rose Standtrue is giving evidence at the Employment Court in Christchurch, which is considering whether people at Gloriavale are employees or volunteers.
Born and raised in the isolated community, Standtrue was 22 years-old when leaving in September 2021.
The court heard that since then her family “have mostly cut me off” and that “it hurts”.
“It hurts even more that my brothers and sisters won’t get to know me and I won’t get to know them,” said Standtrue.
It was claimed that sexual abuse was rife in the workplace, and one leader was "known to touch a lot of girls and nobody liked serving his table".
“He tried to grope them and I was warned of this and so I was scared.
“He was a creep, and he used his authority as a servant to selectively groom some girls … I hated it but I couldn’t talk to my parents,” said Standtrue.
Standtrue said boys and girls are segregated from a young age, and because girls are almost completely covered by the clothes they wore, it became an obsession for the boys to find out what is underneath.
She said as sexual abuse was exposed at Gloriavale, it became triggering for her and she begged for counselling. It was offered once police officers told the leaders she needed help.
“I collapsed and couldn’t work anymore.”
Standtrue said even though it was preached that suicide would send her to hell, she was so depressed at Gloriavale, she thought it was her only way out.
She was put on medication to help with depression, and isolated for three months from the community to get better.
The court also heard that listening to music by Stan Walker was considered “wicked” by Gloriavale leadership, and senior women would cut out stories from the newspaper about former residents, so others wouldn’t read them.
The hearing is continuing.