Hundreds of ex-members of a religious institution have revealed that they experienced sexual, physical and emotional abuse as children in the 1980s and 1990s. The Jesus Fellowship Church, also known as “The Jesus Army”, dissolved itself in or around May 2019 in the wake of the allegations.
The Church was launched in or around 1969 in Northamptonshire by Noel Stanton. Its membership grew to over 2000 people, living together in a closed community of communal houses.
Survivors of abuse at the hands of the Church have indicated that adults would watch them undress and bathe. It has been reported that children were publicly disciplined, including beatings with rods, indoctrinated and sexually abused.
A survivor of the institution told the BBC that the Church would force members to perform exorcisms and taught its members to self-loathe and that women were “subordinate” and “temptress[es]”. She stated that she suffered sexual abuse as a child. When she reported it to a senior member of the Church, she was told that it was her fault. It has been reported that the Church would also send members to cities in “military style uniform” to recruit vulnerable individuals including those suffering from drug addiction and homelessness. Members were forbidden from socialising with non-members and newspapers were censored with certain stories cut out.
It is reported that survivors began to speak out against the Church in or around 2013. Thus far, ten former members have been convicted of sexual offences.
The Church remains the subject of criminal investigation. At least 43 active Church members have been identified as having been associated with the abuse. The police have also found evidence that five former senior members of the Church attempted to cover up the abuse.
In an apology on its website, the Church states that it is “grieved and deeply troubled” by the abuse, citing “faults and failures of the Church”.
The Church is in the process of dissolving itself having amassed assets of an estimate value of £50 million. The Jesus Fellowship Community Trust, “a working party…including victims and their representatives” has developed a Redress Scheme to compensate members who suffered abuse at the hands of the Church. It also claims to offer counselling to survivors
Survivors have raised concerns as to the level of compensation being offered by the Church.
Here at Farleys, we have substantial experience of dealing with allegations of sexual abuse within religious institutions and we appreciate that it can be very difficult to talk about what happened. We address all enquiries with sensitivity and in the strictest confidence. Call our specialist abuse line on 0330 134 6430 or email us today.