Born into a cult: Woman who escaped twisted religious group 'The Assembly' reveals horrifying abuse by members who believed children were evil and had to be beaten with iron rods

Daily Mail, UK/July 27, 2014

By Emily Crane and Freya Noble

Shocking claims of abuse within a secret NSW-based religious group have come to light after former members revealed the years of torment they endured at the hands their 'cult leader'.

Self-styled guru Pastor Scott Williams allegedly used his warped brand of evangelical Pentecostalism to run a secret homosexual sex ring while misusing huge amounts of member donations for his own personal use.

In harrowing and chilling detail, a young woman has recounted the experience of being born into and growing up in a twisted religious cult, as part of an in depth investigation by ABC's Four Corners.

Emily Wassmann's involvement in the Christian Assemblies International (CAI) was predetermined before her birth, as her parents were both members of the 'church', and she described her childhood as a series of terrifying, confusing and lonely circumstances.

'The teaching was that a child was born evil and that that had to be beaten out of them with a rod of iron,' she told the program.

Denied a life outside the church, at 14 Ms Wassaman told her parents she wanted to leave the group. She stayed living in their house but said they did not speak to her.

Shortly after, at just 15, she was sent away to Canada to live with another church member. Here the young woman battled with her mental health and came close to attempting suicide on a number of occasions.

Unlike some, Ms Wassmann and her parents escaped the Assembly, but said other young people who were born into the cult and left all experienced similar hardship. 'Every. Single. One.'

Also revealed on the program was the slave-like status women in the church were afforded, and the verbal and physical abuse they suffered at the hands of the men in the CAI.

Every aspect of their lives were monitored, from what they wore to how they raised their children. But the most shocking account was from a man named Gunther Frantz whose former wife was beaten by other men.

In front of a group of men, stripped down to her underwear Mr Frantz's former wife was beaten with a wooden stick while her husband wasn't present - apparently for her lack of obedience.

She was pregnant at the time, but her husband was unaware of this.

When asked how he felt when he discovered his wife had been physically assaulted in his absence, Mr Frantz simply said: 'Makes you sick to your guts, doesn't it?'

Also aired in the shocking report, dozens of former members said bizarre sexual rituals were carried out in secret by Mr Williams, who had been given authorisation by God to sidestep biblical commands against homosexuality and train his male member to be sexually obedient.

The abuse detailed by the men and women, who until now have remained silent out of fear and shame, ranged from spiritual, financial, verbal and physical abuse to sexual abuse of adult male members.

'I haven't come across anything like it,' Four Corners reporter Caro Meldrum-Hanna told Daily Mail Australia ahead of the episode going to air on Monday night.

'Former members describe it as a cult.'

Meldrum-Hanna, who came across the story back in 2010, spoke to dozens of former members in Australia and across the world and she said all of their claims made against Mr Williams were similar.

'Initially it appeared almost unbelievable because it was so extreme. But it happened,' she said.

'In the first six months you are treated like royalty but after that the screws turn. In order for Scott Williams to trust you, you had to give more of yourself, particularly for men.'

Former members say they were recruited to the church as teenagers and young adults and they were brainwashed into believing Mr Williams was 'The Anointed One'.

'These people are so normal. Many weren't religious but they say they were preyed upon. So you can get an idea of how they were controlled,' Meldrum-Hanna said.

Mr Williams left Australia 38 years ago to convert hundreds of young people to his religious group throughout Europe.

The headquarters of CAI are now in Coffs Harbour in northern NSW.

Meldrum-Hanna said the revelations weren't just based on the testimony of former members, but documents and financial records from CAI.

'There was enormous pressure placed on members to donate to this organisation. We're talking 10 percent of their gross income plus many more offerings throughout the year,' she said.

The various former members interviewed by Four Corners left Mr Williams' group over a number of years but said there was a 'mass exodus' in 2006.

'The ones who allege they were abused by Scott Williams... were concerned about others, like their own sons, so they came together to blow the whistle internally within the church,' Meldrum-Hanna said.

Police carried out a four-year investigation of the CAI group and the results of that investigation will be revealed by Four Corners when it airs on Monday night.

The program approached Mr Williams and senior people in the church about the claims, but all requests for interviews were denied.

Mr Williams, now 70, lives with his wife Ree in a beachfront apartment in Coffs Harbour. It is one of the many properties he purchased with church donations.

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