Rebekah Vardy was stonewalled as she attempted to confront ‘elders’ at the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ £150m UK headquarters about her childhood sexual abuse.
The 41-year-old claimed her own mother didn’t believe she was sexually abused aged 12 and alleges it was covered up by senior male leaders within the religious group.
In a new documentary the mother-of-five went directly to the religion’s sprawling Essex headquarters. But upon her arrival no one answered the intercom and then she was put on hold when she called.
Speaking in Channel 4‘s ‘Rebekah Vardy: Jehovah’s Witnesses and Me’, she said: ‘I think they’ve intentionally put me hold knowing I’m outside with the hope that I’ll just go away.’
After a long wait, Mrs Vardy is swiftly told that no one is available to talk to her about her experiences in the church as a child.
Rebekah Vardy was stonewalled as she attempted to confront ‘elders’ at the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ £150m UK headquarters about her childhood sexual abuse
Rebekah with her father. Mrs Vardy says she and her family were shunned by the community following her parents’ divorce
She reveals she feels ‘quite a bit of guilt’ for speaking out against the religion. She believes the feeling of guilt comes from her strict religious childhood, where she was taught not to question the church.
‘I didn’t make this out of revenge I was looking for answer as to what happened in my childhood. Unfortunately those answers haven’t been forthcoming.’
Mrs Vardy, married to Premier League star Jamie Vardy, also interviews other former Jehovah’s Witnesses.
A mother told a sad story of her son becoming a Witness aged 19 after meeting an American woman online.
Julia said her son Lewis returned to the UK after seven years in the US and was under pressure to earn money for his wife and get her a visa.
Soon the stress of working two jobs to make ends meet caused him to start self-harming, and Julia had to report him as a missing person several times.
She claimed that he took up smoking to deal with his anxiety and, when he could not give up within the timeframe specified by the church he was ‘disfellowshipped’ and shunned by the community.
She calims they gave him a ‘couple of weeks to give up smoking or they were kicking him out’ and that they were ‘more worried he was smoking’ than about his self-harm.
Soon after he hanged himself, and wrote in his diary: ‘If I stay alive, I’ll carry on letting Jehovah down.’
The church would not comment on the case but denied in a statement that their beliefs or the ‘so-called shunning’ could contribute to suicide.
Julia said her son Lewis returned to the UK after seven years in the US and was under pressure to earn money for his wife and get her a visa
Tough: Speaking to Good Morning Britain she added that she has ‘no relationship’ with her mother, after being thrown out of her home aged 16
Ex-Jehovah’s Witness Ali Millar, who left the religion in 2009, said: ‘They have such a clever disconnect between who they are publicly and who they are privately.
She told Mrs Vardy about her divorce while in the religion.
She said elders came to her house and then made her confess to adultery in front of husband in detail and then left shortly after.
Soon after at congregation, elders retold details she had confessed in confidence to the whole congregation without ‘naming names’, but so that she could be identified.
She said she was shunned and her own mother told her she couldn’t see her any more.
Speaking about her experiences of growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness, Mrs Vardy shares that she tried to take her own life at the of 14 before being shunned by her family.
Mrs Vardy, pictured with her husband Jamie, has described her unhappy teenage years as a Jehovah’s Witness in Norwich
Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian denomination with about 8.5million followers worldwide, who believes the destruction of the world is imminent.
They impose a strict moral code on members, including that homosexuality is a sin, and punishes those who deviate from their beliefs by ‘disfellowshipping’ them, ostracising them from the community.
Mrs Vardy says her life and that of her extended family was governed by ‘elders’ who sat in judgment with the right to cast people out of their closed community.
She alleges in a Channel 4 documentary that the religion failed to support her through sexual abuse as a child.
Mrs Vardy said: ‘I told my mum about the abuse that I was experiencing. She cried, but didn’t believe me.
‘From the age of around 12 years old I was being abused and instead of being supported I was blamed, manipulated into believing it wasn’t the best thing to take it to the police.’
Having her say: Mrs Vardy has told a Channel 4 documentary that the religion failed to support her through sexual abuse as a child
Speaking to Good Morning Britain she added that she has ‘no relationship’ with her mother, after being thrown out of home aged 16.
She said: ‘The breakdown in our relationship was the abuse and not being believed.’
Mrs Vardy added that she did ‘crazy’ things as a teenager but that looking back it was no surprise given what happened to her.
In the documentary Mrs Vardy returns to Norwich, where several members of her family still live as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and with whom she has had little contact since leaving the community.
She says: ‘I was brought up in a strict and controlling religious organisation.
‘What happened to me during my childhood still affects me every single day.
Growing up: Rebekah has had a fractured relationship with her mum, who split from the star’s father Carlos Miranda when she was just 11
‘I told numerous members of my family, Jehovah’s Witness community, and they called a meeting, I think I was about 15, it was suggested that I had misinterpreted the abuse for a form of affection.
‘I knew that I hadn’t, I was well aware of what was right and what was wrong, and it was explained that I could bring shame on my family, and I was basically manipulated into believing it wasn’t the best thing to do to take it any further and take it to the police.
‘It’s hard to see how I survived that.’
In a statement to TV’s Good Morning Britain, Jehovah’s Witnesses said: ‘Elders are directed to immediately report an allegation of child sexual abuse to authorities, even if there is only one complainant.’
The group added that the ‘courts have rejected the allegation that disfellowshipping and so-called shunning results in social isolation and discrimination and it is simply misleading and discriminatory to imply that our religion is controlling’.
They also said they ‘lacked the information to comment on individual cases’.