In a recent hearing at the Employment Court in Christchurch, six former residents of the Gloriavale commune have brought forth claims of mistreatment, humiliation, and grueling labor practices against women within the community. The case has shed light on the alleged exploitation of female residents, with testimonies detailing instances of public humiliation and exhausting work conditions that have brought the controversial community under scrutiny.
Isaac Pilgrim, a former resident who left the commune four years ago, expressed his dismay over the treatment of his wife and daughter during their time at Gloriavale. According to Pilgrim, the lack of accountability within the leadership structure enabled a culture where individuals were subjected to verbal abuse and unreasonable demands without any avenue for recourse. “There was nothing there that made the leaders answerable, so they felt no obligation to be answerable,” Pilgrim stated, underscoring the lack of accountability within the community hierarchy.
Reports from the hearing revealed instances where women were publicly shamed and humiliated for minor errors, creating a coercive environment that compelled residents to work tirelessly without respite. “Humiliation and shaming in front of others is part of the driving force to make people want to help and do all this work and get up early and get it done,” one of the claimants, identified as Valor, asserted during the court proceedings.
The testimony presented a distressing picture of the demanding work conditions, with accounts of individuals being required to work for extended hours with minimal rest. Pilgrim recounted the harrowing experience of his wife, who was allegedly forced to work on designing and producing 32 uniforms within a tight timeframe, leading to severe sleep deprivation. “During those days, she slept about one hour per day on the rolls of material in the sewing room,” Pilgrim revealed, highlighting the grueling demands placed on the residents.
Further revelations painted a picture of strict rules governing daily tasks, including the mandate for breakfast to be prepared by 7.30 am. Failure to meet these expectations resulted in public apologies being demanded from the women and girls responsible, amplifying the culture of fear and control within the community.
Despite attempts to address these concerns internally, Pilgrim noted the dismissive attitude of the leaders, emphasizing their refusal to engage in meaningful dialogue. “He refused to talk to me as a father or my brother as a brother about it. They put their leadership hat on, and that was it,” Pilgrim lamented, highlighting the challenges faced by those attempting to challenge the status quo within the community.
The Gloriavale community has garnered support from its members, who have disputed the claims and emphasized the voluntary nature of their communal lifestyle. However, the court hearing continues to unravel the alleged practices within Gloriavale, raising pertinent questions about the treatment of its residents and the need for accountability within the commune’s leadership structure. With the proceedings ongoing, the case has sparked a broader conversation about the rights of individuals within closed communities and the necessity of safeguarding their well-being and dignity.