Former Gloriavale mum forced to return to work one week after giving birth

Stuff, New Zealand/September 21, 2022

By Marine Lourens and Sam Sherwood

A week after giving birth a former Gloriavale member was forced back into work, and given a radio on which she would be called if her baby needed to be fed.

This was the testimony of Crystal Loyal in the Employment Court on Wednesday about her life in the isolated West Coast Christian community.

The Employment Court case is centred around six women arguing they should have been recognised as employees, not volunteers for the domestic work they did for years at the religious sect. Loyal is one of the plaintiffs.

Loyal said from about 5 years of age she began helping in the kitchen, setting tables for dinner in the main dining room.

When girls were about 7 or 8 years old they got up at 6am to make toast for breakfast and a health drink – “like a cider, honey drink”.

After school, she would be sent to the kitchen. Loyal did this one in four days matching her mother’s duty roster.

Between the ages of 10-12, she started doing more early mornings which included bathroom cleaning. From 12, the girls would also start looking after other womens’ children while they had cooking duties.

At 14, Loyal left school.

“When you leave school that was when the hard stuff, the heavy duties started for me.”

She got up about 3am in the morning once a week, and between 5-6am other mornings.

“From an early age you just know that’s what’s going to happen, there is never any option. You were just: ‘I’m in that rotation’. That’s it.”

When she got married there was no change to her duties, except she became a team leader. When she was pregnant she worked up until the baby’s birth and was then given a week off.

The baby was then placed in the childcare centre, and she carried on with her work. She was given a radio which she would be called on if they needed her to feed her baby.

“I remember thinking he was a bad baby because he had to be in a routine at one-week-old and he kind of wasn’t. So I had to be at the centre and I thought I was bad, and I was really stressed.

“To get looked down on if you had to go more than a certain amount of times to feed or settle your baby. And he wasn’t bad. He was just a newborn baby.”

She recalled telling her midwife she thought there was something wrong with her baby.

“Because I was a first-time mum I believed it must have been my fault, and it wasn’t, actually.”

Counsel for the defendants put it to Loyal that contrary to her testimony, her first child was actually sent to the childcare centre for the first time when he was five weeks old. Loyal denied this, saying she remembered he was sent to the centre just a week after birth.

Young women were “put under pressure” to get married, Loyal said.

“It was very strong pressure – if the girl wouldn’t do it, she’d be humiliated by the leaders.”

Loyal said she did not want the leaders to choose a husband for her, as she wanted to marry Isaac, who is now her husband.

The couple began a relationship, which progressed to a sexual relationship. She said this forced the leaders to let them get married.

When the leaders found out, she was put in front of a “Shepherds and Servants meeting”. The meeting, which lasted about half an hour, was a “humiliating experience”.

“They used words like “whore” and “slut” to describe me. They kept telling me it was my fault and I “didn’t have downcast eyes”. And, “he was only going for me because I was easy”.

The couple were then forced to sign the commitment, so they could get married, which they did in 2014. However, they were not given a wedding like other young people were.

“Back then, I thought it was just what I deserved, I suppose. But now, I hate that. I hate that we didn’t celebrate being married,” Loyal told the court.

She said she saw other girls her age “in tears” having been told to marry someone they did not want to.

When she was older, Loyal said she was “always supervised” because she had been “sneaking around” with Isaac. Because of this, she did not have the same problems as some other girls when it came to some of the men being inappropriate.

However, she recalled when she was between 8 and 10 years old serving leader Howard Temple’s table.

“When you served his table in the morning, he’d put his arm around your waist, kiss your neck, and touch your bum. A lot of the older men thought this was their right with the young girls,” she said.

Loyal said she had never heard of tax while she was living in Gloriavale. She recalled that after she was married, a woman brought her documents at the breakfast table to sign. She started reading the documents, but the woman scolded her saying she shouldn’t read it and just sign. She now assumes the documents might have had something to do with tax.

She had also never heard of Working for Families tax credits and didn’t know where these payments went while she was still living in the community.

Leaving Gloriavale

Loyal and her husband left Gloriavale in April 2017.

Loyal said her husband was continually getting into trouble, usually for having a phone, and she was worried he would get kicked out without her.

While she initially did not want to leave, she was ready to go when they finally decided to do so. She said she was “mentally and physically exhausted”.

“I didn’t care if I just laid down and died, that is how I felt. I was just like, ‘I can’t do this any more’.”

She said because they were told parents were the guardians of their children’s souls, they were made to feel like their children were in danger of going to hell because of their decision to leave Gloriavale.

Loyal said she loved getting to spend time with her children and not having to work so hard outside the community. It was “very different to what we had always been told”.

About six weeks after leaving they started to “feel free” and set up a bonfire and burnt their Gloriavale clothing.

She recalled when Isaac had his first annual leave.

“It was a luxury we’d never experienced before that is just normal and expected to other people in the outside world. It blew my mind you could have a holiday and be paid still.”

Loyal said the leaders “make it very difficult” for people to leave Gloriavale, cutting leavers off from the family they leave behind.

Counsel for the defendants pointed out that Loyal has in fact been back to Gloriavale to visit her parents who still live there. “Because I’ve pushed very hard to be in contact with them,” she responded.

“I won’t let them not be allowed to have contact with me, I won’t have that.”

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