More lives ruined by cult's bizarre control
The Sunday Times (Australia)
January 24, 2009 06:00pm
THE response to The Sunday Times story last week on New Age cult leader Matthew Meinck has been overwhelming.
Read the original story exposing the bizarre cult
I have been inundated with phone calls and emails from people who have had dealings with the Chittering Valley retreat owner, who has convinced a core group of about 20 followers that they have repressed memories of being raped and raping others.
Eight of Mr Meinck's former devotees, who left his group in the past year or so, gave a fascinating insight last week into the charismatic former monk's bizarre world.
Over several years, Mr Meinck has managed to build an incredible level of influence over ordinary, intelligent people.
They turned to his alternative, meditation-based therapy to deal with depression, anxiety, self-esteem problems and traumatic pasts.
And while there were benefits in the early days, they all say they have been greatly damaged by Mr Meinck's beliefs, which have built up since 2006, that people have personality "splits" in which rapes occur, but are not remembered at the time.
The most heartbreaking phone calls have been from the families of people who are still involved in Mr Meinck's cult.
Five separate families contacted The Sunday Times this week, telling of their frustration and despair at having lost relationships and contact with loved ones.
One man had not seen his daughter for a year and had not spoken to her properly for four years.
He knew about her involvement with Mr Meinck, but not about the allegations of sexual abuse, which a dozen or so of the current followers have "remembered" happening in their families.
"I suppose she thinks I'm some kind of rapist now," he said.
"No wonder she won't speak to me."
Another mother told how she is working to repair the relationships between her husband and two sons, who were all accused - one by one - of abuse by her daughter.
The family was torn apart by the allegations, which emerged in 2007.
"Her brothers didn't think their dad would have done this, but they did not want to disbelieve their sister about something like this," she said.
"My husband was very angry that they didn't just believe him." Then they were accused, too.
Another mother, whose daughter is still involved in the cult, said she believed allegations against two of her former husbands and attended counselling with Mr Meinck for many months until the claims became too bizarre to fathom.
"About 12 months ago, she said that she had raped Matthew's wife on two occasions, violently, but didn't remember it," she said.
"Then she said she'd remembered that she and my ex-husband raped me together and did terrible things to me. I said, `That's just not true. None of this is true'."
She has not seen her daughter since.
"I'm really fearful of where this group is going to go from here," she said.
Perhaps the most tragic tale is that of a farming family in the Wheatbelt, who I will call the Smiths.
Readers from last week will remember "John", a former cult member who considered committing suicide after being convinced by Mr Meinck that he had raped several women at the retreat. In the year prior to being accused, John reported his parents to the police, alleging a series of detailed sexual offences by his father and mother.
The police built a large file on the Smiths: John had followed his two sisters into the cult and all three had "remembered" sordid rapes on the family farm.
Even John's girlfriend believed the Smiths had assaulted her.
The first the Smiths knew about the allegations was when detectives arrived at their door a few weeks before Christmas 2007.
They were taken to the police station and placed before a video camera.
"That interview was so humiliating: I just couldn't believe they could say such a thing," Mrs Smith said.
"We had to get a lawyer. The accusations were just so sick.
"They said the pair of us were involved, but my husband was the focus of most of it.
"We lived with it all Christmas, thinking that we were both going to go to jail."
Mrs Smith said the police quickly realised that the case was full of holes and took it no further, but the shame of being accused by three children remains.
"I can't bring myself to say to friends, these kids actually accused us of doing these things," she said.
"How could they possibly do that?"
For the Smiths, the nightmare continues.
They are still concerned about "John", who has reconciled with the family, but remains troubled by his experiences.
Their two daughters, who each have children who are forbidden to see their grandparents, are still immersed in Mr Meinck's world.
"It would be a couple of years since we've seen (the oldest daughter)," she said.
"Time trickles on. We drive past the house and I send my love inside to her.
"Every day I ask God to help them because it's been pretty hard to come to terms with and you have to ask for help from somewhere.
"You go on living, but part of you dies. Part of me has died, but I just keep hoping. I can see with "John" that the light's still not back in his eyes and the girls, I'm just praying for them.
"It's unbelievable. It's made us physically and mentally drained, but I'm hoping that this year is the year."
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