Woman shares life in a religious Australian cult, on Abbie Chatfield’s It’s A Lot podcast

PerthNow, Australia/September 28, 2023

TRIGGER WARNING: A TikTok user has told how her weight was controlled and how she was trained to walk like a model after she was indoctrinated into a religious cult at the age of 18.

The woman, going by the name of Liz, says her world changed when she was targeted walking through a shopping mall.

She told Abbie Chatfield’s podcast It’s A Lot she was convinced to join an art group and the clan “filled her cup” with love as she was going through an eating disorder at the time.

Liz says it took six months before she was brainwashed into the religious group, who she alleges was run by a serial rapist who spent time in jail.

“It’s a long process. No one gets brainwashed right out the gate…it takes months,” Liz said. “It was a strategic cunning process.”

The woman says the cult deployed psychological coercive techniques similar to those “used in terrorist organisations, abusive relationships and high control governments” to win her over.

It all unfolded when she was 18 and just finished year 12. She was approached at a shopping mall by a lady asking her to do a survey about Australian culture.

One question was about religion. When she said she believed in Jesus the woman wanted to meet up.

It then happened again in another mall. This time Liz was invited to a Christian art group by the second person who she agreed to meet up with for a coffee.

“I thought they were wonderful,” Liz said.

“From the outside, these people are so loving and so interested in me and so passionate about their faith.”

Liz agreed to do bible studies with them. “They filled my cup,” she said of the sessions.

She claims the group kept who they represented for months from her and “love bombed” her.

Liz revealed the group like to target capable astute people and target university students on campus.

“They’ll pretend to be at university to target people on campus,” she explained of the recruitment process.

“They target a particular person. They have a specific person in mind, typically tall, good looking, young woman.”

She added: “They target people who are capable and intelligent. That’s because A, they will be able to withstand the abuse much better and also when they represent the cult, that’s credit to the cult.”

They target these people when they are in vulnerable phases of life. It could be anything from being far from home or fresh out of a break up.

Other extreme ways included targeting people mourning deaths.

“They troll the death notices. After a family member has died, they will seek out members of that family and door knock. They know they are going to psychologically vulnerable,” she said.

For Liz, she was recovering from an eating disorder at the time.

“They make you think you are fundamentally flawed so you put your complete trust in that organisation,” she said.

“It’s just like an abuse relationship. You go through this honeymoon period and you think this is wonderful, I feel so loved.”

Revealing how the mood changed she said: “Once you are dependent on them, they will bring in the stick and rebuke you or accuse you of things.”

“Slowly the criticism overtakes the love.”

Explaining why it’s hard to just walk away, she said: “They are authority figures and almost represent God to you. So they can do no wrong. You are full brainwashed.”

Extreme hallmarks of the group was perfectionism for the women.

“We had to make ourselves perfect. I really wanted their approval,” she admitted.

We had to perfect our physical selves. Our head leader would start weight coaching us.

Liz was told to put on weight as she recovered from an eating disorder.

Revealing one extreme method of control, she alleged: “They flew a supermodel from Korea who was in the cult to Canberra to teach us how to teach other girls to model.”

“We would do hours of walking practice and posing practice.”

Other claims by Liz include having to hand over all her pay to the cult.

She said she was also treated like an owned nun.

“When it came to the sexual side of things, I had no idea at the time that there was any sexual tone to this until I got much further in,” she told Chatfield.

“When it came to the sexual element I thought this must be a spiritual level that I don’t understand. That is the way they framed it.”

“I remember my leader at one point saying, he’d chosen me to be one of his nuns, one of his brides, never get married and live your life following him and I’d have no idea it was sexual. Then his letters started to be suggestive.”

Explaining how she never twigged to escape, she said: “They plant phobias in your mind. If you ever Google the group, listen to slander, that’s like committing spiritual suicide. You will destroy your faith.”

“It felt like I was part of this epic bible story.”

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