Content warnings: mentions of child abuse
I'm a cult survivor. I joined the Jesus Army in 1996 when homeless. I lived in the "all things in common" communes until 2006. There are more stories and information on the Jesus Army Survivors blog.
- See also: The Senior Apostolic Leader of the Cult
There was a man in the cult who it later turned out was a paedophile who abused some of the children brought up in the cult. We watched his personality crumble until he became a kind of shambling tramp. And then he was arrested for the abuse, which kind of explained the change.
I knew him from my early days in the cult. When I first arrived, homeless and broken, I was set to work in the chicken huts collecting eggs from the thousands of free range chickens at the farm. All the "guests" were put to labour on the farm or the cult businesses. I went on to work for nearly ten years at a Builder's Merchant owned by the cult. I learned a great deal in that time and made many friends, both colleagues and customers of a rural builder's merchant.
Collecting eggs from the chicken sheds was the second worst job on the farm. Not quite the very worst, the very worst job was collecting "floor eggs" (and dead chickens - pecked to death by their comrades as humans are also wont to do on the internet). But the chicken sheds stank and the eggs were frequently covered in blood or shit or both. What made up for it was the woman who ran the egg cleaning and packing shed. She was a saint, beaming only compassion, and had been in the cult for many years even when I arrived. Working in the cleaning and packing shed was balm to any soul.
On the third day or so I found a saviour. Not in the form of Jesus Christ, I sort of knew where to find him if I wanted and hadn't yet decided if I wanted although I couldn't actually see any other viable option, but in the form of one of the orchard workers. One of the few paid employees on the farm he was slightly strange but also slightly angelic. Just being in his presence caused me constant cognitive dissonance. He rescued me out of the darkness of the chicken huts and into the light of the orchards.
And I spent a summer partly sleeping in fields and partly picking fruit. Sometimes among the blackcurrant rows was a short, slightly portly and smartly dressed gentleman from Preston. Visitors from cult houses all across the country would come and provide volunteer labour at the farm.
I don't recall much about him until years later he moved back down Northampton way. A changing man. Preston was a weird scene anyway and he was a weird person. You didn't survive long in the cult without establishing a fairly firm "avoid the weirdos" policy. Lots of harmless nutters, some lovable some not so, and some you just didn't want to talk to. The dangerous nutters you hoped moved on quickly, they usually did.
Anyway. This particular horror did awful things. Some of which he confessed to, eventually, and some of which he denied and was found not guilty. He's now in prison and I shudder at the memory of him. There are others who will do more than shudder, alas.
He wasn't the only person from the cult that I knew who went on to abuse people and go to prison for it. There was only one other that I know of. I knew a murderer, but he was a really nice guy.
Codicil: I knew two people who went on to abuse children in the cult and go to prison for it. I knew a leader who sexually assaulted a young woman and went to prison and then returned to live in the cult. My best friend for years was the son of a paedophile (not in the cult) and another best friend for a few years was sexually assaulted by a leader in the cult. He only went "public" with that, and the ex-leader is now in prison I believe, a few years ago. I know a woman who was sexually assaulted at the farm, was blamed for it and made to move to another household. I only found out a few years ago, many years after the incident. I shared a room with a member who raped someone from a local village. He went to prison and came out again. A friend who returned to the cult from years earlier, now traumatised from working as a mercenary in Afghanistan, eventually revealed that the start of his trauma was being abused as a young man in the cult. Plus lots of strange and disturbing stories I heard. All still jumbled and jangling in my mind.