Gloriavale members grow up being told they owe their life to the West Coast commune, the Employment Court has been told.
Virginia Courage is one of six former female members arguing that they should’ve been treated as employees, rather than volunteers at Gloriavale.
She started giving evidence last week and is continuing on Monday.
Courage said children grow up with a real sense of obligation, and are told the late founding leader Hopeful Christian had given them life.
“You’re told from real little that if Hopeful hadn’t set up the community … then you wouldn’t have been born.
“You get told that sacrificing yourself, working hard, putting down your flesh is what you have to do,” said Courage.
The court heard that bullying and mocking people was part of the commune’s culture.
“Hopeful was a bully and he bullied everybody.
“He mocked me for how I looked when I was pregnant, how I walked when I was heavily pregnant.”
Virginia Courage said most people had become desensitised to bullying, and probably didn’t even realise they were doing it.
She said women had been conditioned to work at all costs, and she was made to work through pregnancies, bladder infections and severe sciatic nerve damage.
Long work hours and job changes were used as punishment for women who "couldn’t be controlled" or were "struggling to learn".
Courage said one woman thought “Howard’s trying to kill me” because she was having to work so hard.
The hearing continues.