People's shock at reading teenage memories of sexual and mental abuse at the Centrepoint commune gives its author strength.
Surviving Centrepoint released this month is the first book of its kind from a former member of the infamous Albany commune that closed in 2000.
The author, who uses the pseudonym Ella James to protect privacy, says the book's release ends a long, traumatic chapter in her life.
"There is a sense of relief and moving forward and being really proud," she says.
"I lived with all these memories and I was told what was happening was right and the outside world wrong. Seeing people's shock confirms for me it was wrong."
In the 1990s the commune's "spiritual leader" Bert Potter was jailed for indecently assaulting five girls aged between 3 and 15 years.
Five male devotees were convicted on charges of indecent and sexual assault and attempted rape, all against minors.
Ella moved into Centrepoint just before she turned 13 with her mum and siblings.
She tells of being robbed of her teenage years by a lack of privacy and pressure by adults, including counsellors, to have sex and take drugs.
LSD and ecstasy were among drugs manufactured on site, she says.
She also describes her court battle against a Centrepoint sexual abuser.
When it became clear a payout would be part of the settlement deal she knew what to spend it on - a vacuum cleaner and heat pump.
"It is fitting that I spend his money on something that cleans up the crap in my house and on something that keeps me and my family warm," she writes.
"There it is - from physical hurt and emotional pain to clean and comfortable."
Leaving Centrepoint with her family after four years inside brought relief and anger.
"I just wanted a bomb dropped on it and for it to go up in flames," she says.
"I was annoyed it was still allowed to operate, given everything that happened.
"Children were still there, even after the police raids, and there was still stuff going on.
"It's so irresponsible."
About 300 children have lived at Centrepoint and Ella worries most about the impact on abused toddlers.
"I just wonder whether they're loose canons or lost," she says.
She hopes telling her story will help others who have suffered abuse, including Centrepoint children.
Her marriage and concentrating on giving her kids a good childhood are among key parts of her healing process.
Ella also found writing therapeutic.
"I started off getting memories on to paper and trying to make them real, rather than patchy horrible moments in time. I didn't ever think I would see it on book shelves.
"When I realised it was going to be a book my objective was to reach out to at least one of the Centrepoint children so they know they are not alone and you can come through it."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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