They said I’d go to hell if I left

They said I’d go to hell if I left. I was suicidal and depressed.
Evening Express, Sep. 3, 2003

A former member of a controversial religious sect claims she suffered years of mental torture at the hands of the group.

Judy, 21, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, says she was subjected to harrowing experiences while a member of Word of Life (International).

Judy claims her mother made her join the group when she was just two years old.

She says she left aged 14 after she became “increasingly confused and disturbed by the group’s practices”, including vomiting and screaming rituals.

Judy’s parents divorced when she was four.

She and her mother moved from Buckie to Aberdeen, where Word of Life had set up.

Judy contacted the Evening Express after an article appeared in the paper in which the group’s pastor, Jim Addison, denied claims members were ever involved in vomiting or screaming ceremonies.

Mr Addison was speaking out as landlord Aran Handa launched a legal action to oust Destiny House Church – formerly Word of Life – from the Meridian Hotel on the city’s Lang Stracht.

Judy says: “The vomiting, and the screaming ceremonies did take place.”

Judy alleges that her 12-year involvement with the group drove her to slash her arms and twice attempt suicide by taking a drugs overdose.

She says her involvement with the group has left her with severe psychological problems.

“I ended up in Cornhill and I’m seeing a psychologist once a week for post traumatic stress disorder.

“For years I was suicidal and depressed, as well as anorexic and bulimic.”

She alleges she endured her worst experiences during prayer meetings held at Mr Addison’s Clifton Road house.

Deliverance, a ceremony which involved vomiting to rid the body of evil, and spiritual warfare, praying while screaming and simulating stabbing the Devil with a sword, she claims took place at the end of every service.

“Usually, there would be one person sitting on a chair with a group of people sitting round praying for him or her,” she alleges.

“The group had to lay hands on the person who was told to cough, or vomit, into a bucket.

“When vomit came up, Jim Addison would shout, “Cough up the demons” or “Come out, you rebellious demons.”

At the age of 14, Judy says she left home to stay with her dad in Buckie.

“I’d grown up with the group but I began questioning so much of what went on.”

But she alleges group leaders tried to force her to rejoin.

“They said I would die spiritually if I left and that I’d go to Hell.

“But I stood my ground and never returned.”

Judy says she and her mother, who is still a member of the group, are no longer in contact.

Judy is battling to rebuild her life and is on a course at Aberdeen University which helps people with mental health issues get back into education.

She intends studying for an HNC in Social Sciences at Aberdeen College in February and is involved in voluntary administration work and helping people with mental health problems at Cornhill. She no longer believes in God.

Her heartbroken dad Alf (not his real name) said: “I don’t want any other child to go through what Judy has.

“It made her very ill, mentally and physically.”

Looking back to when his wife first started taking Judy to the controversial Beacon Fellowship in Buckie – later to become Word of Life – Alf says he immediately noticed a change in his daughter’s behaviour.

“Every time I picked Judy up in the car, she would be singing hymns.

“At four years old, she didn’t know any nursery rhymes, only hymns, and that’s not right.”

He also says his ex-wife became a different person once she joined the group.

“She just changed completely when she got involved. She was totally messed up, a different woman.”

“We had been so much in love, and we were always holding hands walking up and down the street.

“People said we were the perfect couple.”

Alf remembers the day Judy turned up on his doorstep after leaving her mother’s Aberdeen flat.

“I didn’t see much of her so when she turned up in Buckie one Friday night, I was surprised.

“She said she didn’t want to go back to Aberdeen and was terrified about her mother’s reaction.

“Thankfully, she found the strength to leave but the only way she could cope was by blaming herself.

“The church had humiliated and taken away her sense of identity so she was left with no self-esteem.

“For years, she found it impossible to speak about it.”

Alf says Judy is a lot better since she started to come to terms with her experience.

“I have seen a difference in her in the last year. She smiles and laughs a lot more.

“But I don’t want her to get under pressure again in case she cracks.”

Alf said: “I wish there was some way of closing the group because what Judy has been through could well happen to another child.”

Leader of Destiny House Church – formerly known as Word of Life (International) – Jim Addison refused to comment on Judy’s claims when we visited his home near Hatton, Peterhead.

Mr Addison’s wife, Irene, said: “He doesn’t want to speak, because it would just perpetuate the issue.”

Demanding prophecy

Judy has several taped prophecies and audio conferences delivered by Jim Addison between 1991 and 1996.

She also has a book written by him entitled, Your Divine Destiny, published by Sword Publications in 1995.

One of Mr Addison’s tapes includes the message: “Never give in to what people want but give in to what I want and yield to it.

“Obedience is the key of entrance into my kingdom.”

An expert’s view

Psychologist Elizabeth Mytton specialises in the study of religious groups and cults.

She said the fact Judy was alleged to have grown up with a group was the “most damaging kind of involvement”.

“Cults and groups are about abuse and control,” she said.

“Those who are brought up with cults from a young age are most vulnerable.

“Children can be made to feel constant anxiety and fear and the ability to think for themselves and develop their own feelings is often removed.”

Prof Mytton, of the University of East London, said: “After leaving, a person’s sense of self-worth can be pitifully low as cults often teach them they are of no value and the only values they have come from God, or whoever it is to whom they aspire.

“Involvement with a group can be particularly powerful for a woman because they are often taught to be subject to men, or to a patriarchal society.

“Some people, like Judy, respond to their experiences with self-harm, suicide attempts, eating disorders or depression.”

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Evening Express, UK
Sep. 3, 2003
Gayle Ritchie

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday September 5, 2003.
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