23 May 2024

Gloriavale inquest: Man often bullied, shamed and isolated before death, sister says

4:30 pm on 23 May 2024
Sincere Standtrue, pictured grinning while picking blackberries. The image is one of three his family have placed in the courtroom on the first day of the inquest into his death.

Several factors will be considered by the Coroner's Court over the course of the inquest, including the cause and circumstances of Sincere Standtrue's death, as well as his mindset. Photo: Joanne Naish/The Press

Gloriavale man Sincere Standtrue was often isolated, shamed, bullied and beaten at the West Coast Christian community, his sister says.

Rose Standtrue has given evidence at the Greymouth inquest into the 20-year-old's death in Christchurch Hospital's intensive care unit, 10 days after he was found unresponsive in Gloriavale's paint shop in 2018.

She told the Coroners' court she was 18 months younger than Sincere, making him the closest in age out of the family of 11.

Rose Standtrue said multiple Gloriavale members and senior leaders picked on her brother.

"As soon as [I was told Sincere was found unresponsive], I immediately thought that someone had done this to him as he was subject to bullying throughout his life," she said.

Rose said she remembered her brother being beaten at the age of 6, when he got into an argument with their father during a breakfast with other families in the hostel's kitchenette.

"One of the adult men got Sincere, dragged him out of the room and belted him. He had black and blue bruising," Rose said.

Beatings happened "quite a few times" when Sincere was in primary school, because Gloriavale's culture at the time was to welcome another adult disciplining their child, she said.

Parents often used belts and hairbrushes to smack children at that time and her brother was frequently mocked and bullied at school for being different, Rose told the court.

Sincere was picked on because "he walked funny - hunched over with his hands in his pockets - because he was short for his age, and because he was deaf. He got mocked for his hearing aids too," Rose said.

"While Sincere was in high school, he said that the boys would hurt him in the toilets. He didn't say what they did. I know that sometimes they would shut him in - hold the door shut so that he couldn't get out of the cubicle.

"In the classroom, they would walk past him and flick him on the ear."

Sincere Standtrue is pictured wearing hi-vis clothing, posing with a sculpture of a moa in one of the images on display in the Greymouth courtroom where the inquest into his death is taking place.

Sincere Standtrue was the oldest of 11 siblings in his family. Photo: Joanne Naish/The Press

Her brother felt embarrassed by his hearing aids, because only "old people" had hearing aids, and he would get wound up by the bullying, Rose said.

Once he grew so angry, he bit someone and was "put out of school", which meant he had to do his school work alone from home, for up to two months.

This happened three times over four years, she said.

Sincere struggled to build a connection with people and did not have many friends in the community, being found doing complex puzzles by himself instead, his sister said.

Rose left Gloriavale in 2021 and now wondered if her brother was autistic.

The bullying or "discipline" continued into his adulthood, she said.

"I do remember that he came back home from work and said his boss had beaten him with an Alkathene pipe," Rose said.

Sincere was also the oldest unmarried man in Gloriavale for the two years prior to his death, she said.

"[The leaders] just wouldn't treat him as an adult."

Unlike the rest of the boys his age, her brother was not allowed to get a licence at 16 and only had his learner's licence by the time he died at 20.

White paint shop sheds pictured at Gloriavale Christian Community on the West Coast.

The Gloriavale paint shop was were Sincere Standtrue worked for five years, from age 15. Photo: Supplied by Coroner's Court/Sergeant Litherland

The restriction meant he had to cycle for about half-an-hour at 3am to do his dairy milking duties a few times a week, instead of taking a 10-minute drive, Standtrue said.

He also had minimal responsibilities in the community's biannual concert the year he died, his bosses mocked him to his face and he was repeatedly turned down when he asked to sign the community's Declaration of Commitment, she said.

"All of Sincere's peers had their restricted or full licences and were married. He had none of what was normal," she said.

The court earlier heard Sincere was likely a victim of harmful sexual behaviour at Gloriavale, with his father admitting in a police interview that he was aware of an instance involving his son.

Rose said she was very close to her brother and she missed him a lot.

"Sincere was a gentle person. He was nice to everyone," she said.

The inquest continues.

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