21 Oct 2022

Govt agencies failed to protect community from convicted Gloriavale child abuser - former member

4:33 pm on 21 October 2022
Gloriavale Christian Community

Photo: Google Maps

A former member of the Gloriavale Christian Community says she is not holding her breath for any meaningful change to take place there.

Rosanna Overcomer, who has been out of the community for nine years, gave a statement to the Abuse in Care Inquiry on Friday.

She said it was the government's role to protect people from abuse and it failed to do so in the case of the Gloriavale founder, Neville Cooper.

He later became Hopeful Christian and was eventually convicted of child abuse.

''Neville Cooper was identified, convicted, imprisoned, yet the government agencies knowingly watched him set up an isolated encampment where I as a child, together with my sisters, my brothers, my friends, were sentenced to be victims.

''What corruption was in the system that allowed a convicted man, Hopeful Christian, back into the community as the senior leader?''

She said she had recently come across letters written to her by Christian while he was in prison.

''Who let Hopeful send those letters to a ten-year old girl?''

She said it proved that Christian was still very much in charge.

''Those letters were him making sure even the children, who he groomed, stayed loyal.

''Somehow our government let us down.''

Children taught not to respond to police

She said children at Gloriavale had been taught in school not to talk to the police and to run away if police came.

''Not the normal reaction to police a child would be taught.

''I can vividly remember reciting, 'I am not obliged to answer any of your questions'. This was what we were supposed to say should we not be able to run away fast enough.''

The Gloriavale Leavers Trust is calling for a full inquiry into how the government let hundreds of children live with, what they say, was dangerous leadership.

Overcomer said claims the community has changed its rule book were false.

''It was written in 1989 and revised in 2018, with no material change.

''The abuse has not stopped with Hopeful and documents do not change a deeply ingrained culture of abuse and mistreatment of victims.''

She has very clear recollections of victims having to forgive their abuser in public before the whole community.

She said nothing had changed.

''The current leadership are no better. When I got engaged, my now husband said to me, keep away from those creepy old men.''

She cited a letter she received from the now leader, Howard Temple - who was not leader at the time.

''Dearest, sweet, Rosanna. My favourite girlfriend. God bless you sweetheart and I hope you are enjoying yourself tonight and I wish I was there to do what I could do to make it an enjoyable night. You are very precious to me and I would miss you terribly if I were not to see you again.

''Hardly appropriate from a spiritual leader to a 15-year-old girl,'' she said.

Overcomer told the Royal Commission she wanted the government to act.

''There are 400 children under the control of these men, as we speak. The system has to be held accountable.''

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

NZ Police

Victim Support 0800 842 846

Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00

Rape Prevention Education

Empowerment Trust

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): 04 801 6655 - push 0 at the menu

Safe to talk: a 24/7 confidential helpline for survivors, support people and those with harmful sexual behaviour: 0800044334

Male Survivors Aotearoa

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) 022 344 0496

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