UK cult victim reveals the emotional and physical abuse she suffered

EXCLUSIVE Life in grips of Britain’s sinister cults: Victim reveals how she was ordered to wear clothes from Dorothy Perkins, hit with a cane 30 times for ‘giving her leader arthritis’ and isolated from friends and family

  • Psychotherapist Gillie Jenkinson recruited into ‘The Community’ in the 1970s
  • Today described toxic atmosphere of physical, mental and sexual abuse 
  • Spoke out as campaigners demanded a change in the law to help cult victims
  • Family Survival Trust says number of UK cults has rocketed to around 2,000 

A former cult member has described the physical and emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of its tyrannical leader, including being beaten 30 times with a bamboo cane in one sitting and forced to wear clothes from Dorothy Perkins because it was his ‘favourite brand’. 

Dr Gillie Jenkinson, 69, was recruited into ‘The Community’ in the 1970s via her local church in the West Midlands. Then in her late teens and a devout Christian, she was persuaded to move in with the cult leader and his group of female followers.        

‘At the time joining these kind of groups was the thing to do – but over time it evolved into a full-blown cult featuring coercive control, bullying, gaslighting and financial exploitation,’ she told MailOnline.

‘We were closed off from the outside world. I lost all my friends, and although I had some contact with my family they felt irrelevant because they weren’t on the same path as me.’ 


Gillie Jenkinson was recruited into ‘The Community’ in the 1970s via her local church in the West Midlands. She is pictured in recent years (left) and in the 70s (right) 

Dr Jenkinson left the group when it disbanded and went on to train as a counsellor and psychotherapist so she could help other former cult members, as well as victims of emotional or sexual abuse. 

She spoke out today as campaigners demanded a change in the law to better protect the victims of the soaring number of sinister cults in Britain. 

Gillian said she and other members of The Community were victims of coercive control at the hands of the group’s male leader, who micromanaged every aspect of their daily lives.  

Describing one example of this, she said: ‘The leader had arthritis and claimed he only felt pain in his hand if there was ”sin in the house”. 

‘We were gathered together in this room. I was so freaked out and beaten down that I confessed to the ”sin”, despite not being guilty of one. I just spat out ”resentment”. 

‘Afterwards I was physically beaten 30 times with a bamboo cane.   

‘But the physical violence didn’t put me off because I was told God wanted to break me. It’s a form of trauma bonding in which the belief system was tied in with the behaviour and the practices of the cult.’

The leader also dictated which food members ate and the types of clothes they wore – going as far as to insist they shop at Dorothy Perkins because it was favourite brand. 

‘I bought this beautiful suit from a different shop and was told I had to take it back,’ Dr Jenkinson said. 

‘There was also a financial aspect to his coercive control. Like other members I ended up giving everything I had to the group. 

‘It’s not easy to leave if you don’t have money and you feel like you’ve been cut off from your family.’

The Community eventually disbanded after some of the women began to challenge the leader’s authority and claimed he had sexually abused them. 

Dr Jenkinson now lives with her husband, who she met in the group two years before it ended. 

She runs Hope Valley Counselling in Derbyshire, which provides specialised services for former cult members and training for psychologists, and is now writing a book about how cult leaders use coercive control. 

In a new report, The Family Survival Trust estimates the number of cults has soared from around 500 to as many as 2,000 since the 1990s.

It is urging the Government to amend a section of the 2015 Serious Crime Act which makes it ‘illegal to engage in patterns of coercively controlling behaviour in an intimate or family relationship’ so that it also applies to those lured into the clutches of cults.

The Family Survival Trust is urging the Government to better protect victims of cults in the UK

Former Tory Home Office Minister Tom Sackville, chairman of the Trust which supports cult victims, said: ‘I strongly object to charlatans exploiting innocent people and there being no laws to protect them.

‘Coercive control is now considered a crime if it occurs in a domestic violence context.

‘The idea that exploitation, brainwashing and abuse is only a crime if the person you live with does it to you, but not a crime if your neighbour does it is odd, implying that mental manipulation cannot be a crime outside a relationship.

‘Government Ministers now need to do something about long-standing cultic abuse. It has been getting steadily worse over four decades.’

The Trust’s report – Coercive Control In Cultic Groups In The UK – features testimonies from 105 victims of 36 different cults.

Almost one in five (17 per cent) was raped and nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) worked for low pay or for nothing.

Many described becoming separated from their families and friends and being fleeced out of their savings.

Dr Alex Stein, a former cult victim and now a trustee of the charity, said: ‘The psychological dynamics in a cult are the same as those of a coercively controlling domestic relationship.

‘In both cases the victim is isolated, put down and abused in numerous ways, including the control of their close relationships.

‘This often goes with sexual abuse of one kind or another.

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