Former Brethren allege high rate of abuse in New Zealand

An Exclusive Brethren premises in Feilding.

An Exclusive Brethren premises in Feilding.

Four out of ten former Exclusive Brethrens who responded to a study looking at traumatic experiences growing up in the sect say they were sexually abused as children in New Zealand.

The study, carried out by a former Brethren, found 18 of 44 participants claimed they had been sexually abused as children.

The figure was significantly higher than the worldwide average, which found around 27 per cent claimed they had suffered child sex abuse.

Bruce Hales is the Sydney-based leader of the Exclusive Brethren.

Bruce Hales is the Sydney-based leader of the Exclusive Brethren.

It's the first piece of academic research into allegations of abuse suffered by members of the church.

Researcher Jill Mytton, from the United Kingdom, believes levels of child sexual abuse in the former member population are much higher than in the general population.

"That appears to be particularly high in New Zealand though, and this warrants further investigation."

Former Exclusive Brethren turned academic Jill Mytton.

Former Exclusive Brethren turned academic Jill Mytton.

Mytton said she could not be sure who the abusers were in every case, but those who had spoken to her said that their abusers were members of the Brethren.

Mytton said said she came under attack by the Brethren and her study was suddenly cancelled by her UK-based university after the Brethren made legal threats.

"I was in the process of finding out about that when legal action by the Brethren halted the research. The university who were hosting the research pulled the plug I assume because they feared a lawsuit."

The Brethren commissioned three academics, professors from the University College London and Warwick University, who severely criticised Mytton's research.

Ad Feedback

In a statement, church spokesman Doug Watt said: "Jill Mytton's research has been widely discredited and she has a personal vendetta against the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church.

"The church, like all other decent individuals and organisations, is appalled with sexual assault of any sort. Where we discover such incidents we have and will continue to take  appropriate action."

Fairfax has spoken to three former Exclusive Brethrens members who say they experienced child sexual abuse. None had taken their cases to the police, and each said they had felt powerless to confront their abusers, who they claim were family members or elders within the church.

One woman, who now helps other Brethren who are trying to leave the church, said she was "dreadfully abused" as a child.

"I ran away from home and I tried to kill myself and I still see people coming out who have suffered years and years of abuse. Every other church has safeguarding. I have had young girls in my home who have been dreadfully abused and have been alcoholics in their early 20s."

After high profile sex abuse cases against senior Brethren members in 2009, the church promised to introduce a new code of care for complainants.

Requests this month for a copy of the code of care or any information about how the Brethren treats alleged victims of sexual abuse were refused.

Jill Mytton said her research had found Brethren who left the sect showed higher levels of psychological distress that the general population including depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress symptoms, and interpersonal problems.


A former Exclusive Brethren member has described feeling 'violated' by two sect leaders who were investigating allegations of sexual impropriety by an older Brethren member.

The woman said as a 16-year-old girl she was taken to a room and questioned by two sect leaders, or 'priestlies' as they were known.

She says the treatment by church elders was worse than the experience itself.

"I look back and I go that is an incredible violation. If you're vulnerable, it's an incredibly vulnerable position to be put into."

The woman said she had already begun to question Brethren teachings, for which she was subjected to extreme psychological abuse by church elders.

She says she was told: "you're mental, you're evil, you're possessed." 

"It's spiritual abuse. It's appealing to the highest power that people can believe in. Twisting of scripture to force submission of women."

The woman said she met the Exclusive Brethren world leader Bruce Hales as a teenager, at a time when she was already doubting it's teachings.

She was particularly nervous, as she'd been taught in Brethren folklore that Hales could read minds.

"I was looking at him thinking he's a lying, conniving emperor with no clothes on. He just looked at me with the same greasy smile that he looked at everyone. Clearly he didn't have a clue what was going on in my mind."

She was excommunicated at age 21.

"It was a bit like jumping out of a plane into a big black hole."

Still in her 20s, she's now managed to establish a career and found a partner, and says she has says has been able to fulfil many of her life wishes since leaving the sect.

"It's wonderful to be free of that control and to be able to grow as a person the way that I believe I was meant to be."

But she is torn by never being able to see her family again.

"I'd love to see them free, there are amazing men and women in there -full of talent and potential. One of the most horrible things they're doing is to restrict people from being all that they can be. In all seriousness there are so many amazing men and women.

"They're not enjoying it and yet they can't conceive of another way of life. They don't know how to break down the fear."


* Clive Allen Petrie, 74, of Nelson, was found guilty in 2009 of nine charges of indecent assault, as well as inducing a girl under 12 to perform an indecent act.

* William David McLean, 44, of Levin, was jailed for three years in 2012 for raping a woman over an 11-year period.

* Fairfax is aware of three other recent or pending criminal sex abuse cases against former or current Brethren members.


 - Sunday Star Times

Ad Feedback
special offers

Targeted for voting National

Johannes Tietze's home was targeted by taggers after Saturday's election.

"Blood on your hands" read the words painted on house of National supporter while he celebrated election result.

Gang beneficiary runs $6m property video

Armed police officers stand outside the gang pad in Ellerslie.

Police say a 62-year-old Head Hunters gang member on a benefit controls $6m in property.

Pedestrian hit by car in Auckland

Emergency services are responding to a person hit by a car in east Auckland. (File)

The person was hit by a car near the Kohimarama Yacht Club on Monday evening.

Crown to appeal Pora decision

Teina Pora was awarded the $2.5 million compensation package in June.

Teina Pora "bitterly disappointed" as Crown fights decision to put inflation on his compensation.


'Gay village' vetoes church union

Sara Rimmer, left, and Alexandra Saunders were refused a church wedding in St Peter's Anglican Church in Paekākāriki, on ...

Paekākāriki is known for being liberal. But not when it came to Alex and Sara's wedding.

Who'll be the new 2IC?

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester, right, will announce his replacement for Deputy Mayor Paul Eagle within the next ...

Councillor with less than a year's experience in the mix to be capital's new deputy mayor.

Historic cinema's final curtain

The Paramount Theatre - built in 1917 - in 1923.

Last screening on Monday night at Wellington's 100-year-old Paramount cinema.

Turfed out by Wellington's wind video

Karori artificial turf blown away.

Contractors laid artificial turf in Karori, but understimated the capital's infamous breeze.


Sex worker bylaw faces axe

Police no longer support a bylaw preventing prostitutes working in residential areas. Christchurch City Council staff ...

Residents enraged as council and police back away from banning prostitutes from working outside their homes.

River death 'tragic'

Helen Wood died at Kairaki Beach, in North Canterbury, on Friday night. The beach is popular with fishers and ...

Helen Wood reversed her trailer onto the beach. Somehow, her car then went into the river with her inside.

'Mistaken identity' murder

The body of Marcus Luke Tucker, 36, was found bound and wrapped in carpet near Lake Ellesmere on Anzac Day 2016.

Marcus Luke Tucker's nickname was "Ruckus" - one he unluckily shared with a thief.

National's 'dead cat' masterstroke

National finance spokesman Steven Joyce made a calculated play against Labour with his bogus claim of an $11.7b hole in ...

Analysis: Its $11.7b play against Labour was deeply cynical, but may just win it the election.


Preparing for peak kitten

Waikato SPCA expects to help at least 3000 animals this calendar year, many of them kittens.

Breeding season is getting longer and this year is expected to be the busiest yet.

Search for fisherman

Police and the coastguard looking for a missing fisherman at Papanui Point at Ruapuke.

Emergency services are searching for person who fell into the water at Ruapuke, near Raglan.

Powered parachute crashes

The powered parachute crashed on takeoff.

Man in powered parachute crashed on take-off, hitting a metal bollard.

Man struck by tree dies

The man was out chainsawing trees when one fell and struck him. He died at the scene.

Man chainsawing on a rural Coromandel property has died after a tree fell on him.


New lattes: Novelty or nutritional?

Turmeric and beetroot lattes are becoming popular but won't be replacing anyone's flat white or cappuccino any time soon.

Turmeric and beetroot lattes are trendy and tasty but aren't a miracle health cure.

'Undesirable' gully

Martin Moeller goes through Lucy Gully a few times a week and is disappointed that it has become a dumping ground.

A scenic redwood forest in Egmont National Park is becoming a dumping ground, a neighbour says.

'I want my pig back'

The wild pig that had been wandering around New Plymouth has been caught and will be taken to live on a farm.

A suburban sow gone wild has been caught, but her owner will huff and puff for the return of the piggy, pig, pig.

Taranaki lifesavers scoop awards

250917 News Photo. SIMON O'CONNOR/STUFF
Todd Velvin won the DHL Instructor of the year award at the Surf Life Saving awards.

Todd Velvin, DHL Instructor of the Year, says surf lifesaving is "pretty hard" to give up.


Loud jets irk residents video

Sanson resident Bill Tooley points to where fighter jets have been flying over his home.

Could howling pets and shaking houses become the new norm in Sanson?

Gorge options given

The 13 alternative route options are available for public viewing and comment on the NZTA website.

Thirteen alternative routes to the Manawatū Gorge have been laid out for the public to discuss.

Immigration fraud

Mohammad Khan was under pressure from family when committing immigration fraud, the Palmerston North District Court heard.

His mother was denied entry to New Zealand eight times, so he lied to authorities to get her in.

They want it back

Bethany's restaurant in The Square, Palmerston North.

The Leung Wais lost Bethany's restaurant, named after their daughter, to voluntary liquidation.


Revved up over hobby

Preston Brunell of Stoke Mechanical and Tyres.

Nelson man Preston Brunell has got plenty of mileage from his lifelong love of custom cars.

New marine frontiers

Dr Serean Adams, Cawthron aquaculture group manager at the Cawthron Aquaculture Park.

New species and technologies will increase resilience of aquaculture stock for the future, industry told.

Life-changing loss

Margaret Lacy holds a picture of her late husband Peter Lacy who had ...

Dementia affects tens of thousands of Kiwis, eventually taking everything from them.

Wet spring for region

It's been a wet September in the Nelson/Tasman region, with higher than average rainfall.

Spring starts out on the wrong foot in Nelson but it's not all bad news.


Love is wild

Rebecca Stoner, a florist at Forget Me Not, left, and Jessica Bunting, designer at Betty and Co, work on one of their al ...

It can be pretty wild trying to organise a wedding, especially these days.

Looking to the future

National's Stuart Smith, centre, celebrates with his family, from left, Hugo Smith, Fenella Smith, Julie Smith and Louis ...

As results are revealed, what's next for the winners and losers?

Librarian appeals apology order

Former Rai Valley Area School librarian Faye Leov in 2010 after receiving an apology from the school board for her ...

A former school librarian behind a defamatory letter claiming her former boss was a bully is to appeal a judge's decision to make her apologise.

Care switch 'upsetting'

Pamela Duffy has built up a close relationship with her carers, who will no longer be visiting her at home after the ...

For the past two years, she has built up a relationship with her carers. Next week, she may never see them again.

South Canterbury

Craigmore a designer's 'dream' video

Olympian Jock Paget is being hosted at Craigmore Station for the first fundraising event for a proposed new eventing course.

Olympian throws support behind proposed world class eventing course at Craigmore Station.

Fine weather back

A severe weather warning was in place for heavy winds in Canterbury on Monday morning.

The majority of South Canterbury is expected to have fine weather on Tuesday.

Call for model plane size limits

South Canterbury Model Aero Club vice-president Robbie Hellewell launches his Parkzone Visionair AS3X aircraft into the ...

Safety concerns prompt SC Aero Club to call for more rules around model aeroplanes.

Mechanics recall bygone era

Former workmates, from left, Bernie Foster, Allan Averis and Gordon Hutcheon check out some of the old tractor models ...

Three former Timaru colleagues take a trip down memory lane.


Fire victim's family 'gutted'

A Housing New Zealand house where the body of a man was found after a fire.

Heartbroken family speaks of their devastation in losing their father in a house fire.

False alarms go off due to thunder

A thunder and lightning storm hit Queenstown and Central Otago on Monday morning.

Lightning and thunder storm cuts keep fire brigade volunteers busy in Queenstown.

Family 'wrecked' as search suspended

Police are still appealing for sightings of missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe.

The search for missing man Stephen Lowe has been suspended.

Two MPs for Clutha-Southland

Clutha-Southland New Zealand First candidate Mark Patterson watches his leader Winston Peters, give his coalition speech ...

Clutha-Southland has a new New Zealand First MP, Lawrence farmer Mark Patterson.


Meridian 'flooding my family farm' video

Looking out over the Hollyburn creek which has been flooded by water from the Waiau river.

Every time Meridian Energy releases the Manapouri dam, Thomas O'Brien loses another chunk of farmland.

Family 'wrecked' as search suspended

Police are still appealing for sightings of missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe.

The search for missing man Stephen Lowe has been suspended.

And then there were four

Mark Patterson: secure at 7th.

Southland will have four MPs. How much influence is that?

South's election night

It was all smiles for Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie, pictured here with her husband Mark Billcliff.

Invercargill will have two MPs in Parliament, Labour's Liz Craig and National's Sarah Dowie.

Ad Feedback