One ex-Gloriavale member said she could always be afraid of doing anything at the thought of being struck.
Ex-member Trudy Christian collapsed as she testified before the Christchurch Labor Court today.
Six former Gloriavale women ask for a statement that they were employees, not volunteers, during their time in the community.
Spankings were common in the Christian community during Trudy Christian’s childhood and caused her significant psychological damage, she said.
“We ran away from the team leader who was looking for us with a large wooden spoon. Since this was the usual tool for hitting, we thought she was coming to hit us and so we ran,” Christian sobbed.
“Another time I was accused of lying and beaten with the big wooden spoon until I confessed to something I hadn’t done.”
Beatings were carried out by community leaders and parents, she added.
“By the time I was about 10 years old, they put in a system in school where if you misbehaved, the teacher would send you to your parents with a piece of paper saying they had to punish you.”
“And then they signed the slip to say they did.”
Even in kindergarten, kids were beaten with a bat that resembled a ping-pong paddle, Christian recalled.
At age 11 or 12, Christian had little free time.
“Once we finished the jobs, we could theoretically have some free time, but for me there was usually no free time, because I was waiting for me at home.”
These jobs include folding, sorting and doing the laundry, changing diapers and helping care for younger siblings, she said.
“The household I was responsible for… was generally considered girls’ work. I was the only girl in my family for ten years, I had five younger brothers and there was always a lot of dirty clothes and a baby or toddler to help with.”
Trudy Christian said working on the Teams, a four-day rotation of women’s cooking, cleaning, washing and sewing, was the most difficult years of her life in terms of work.
She started two mornings a week at 3 a.m. and the rest at 5 a.m.
There was never an end time to work and if she finished early she would simply get more work, Christian said.
“In the community we were told what to do for work and we did it, but we didn’t have an end time and the work just kept coming.”
“If we had had too much time, maybe we would have thought too much. This was never said, but in hindsight I think the attitude of the leadership was like that.”
Sometimes young single girls missed a meal because they were too busy preparing, serving and clearing the dishes, Christian said.
The community’s teachings also affected who got to eat, she added.
“There was also a tradition, or culture, taught to us by the head kitchen lady that when we ran out of food we always had to make sure the men had enough and so we, the women and girls, sometimes missed dinner. “
Trudy Christian said the women had no choice but to do as they were told.
Gloriavale’s leaders strongly deny the claims, claiming the women were never community workers.