Order of St Charbel / William Kamm:
'I had no idea how to exist'
Daily Mail Australia
July 25, 2018
'I had no idea how to exist': Mother-of-eight who spent a decade trapped in a doomsday cult led by a rapist called 'Little Pebble' reveals how her 'clan' struggled to adjust to real life after fleeing commune
- Claire Ashman escaped the Order of St Charbel, led by William Kamm in 2006
- Finding out who she was in a world dominated by media was a 'smack in the face'
- She has since remarried and lives in Brisbane after nearly a decade in the cult
Kamm was having sex with up to 10 women at any time
Claire Ashman has revealed the struggle of entering society after courageously fleeing a doomsday cult led by a convicted rapist who called himself 'Little Pebble'.
The 48-year-old escaped the Order of St Charbel, headed by William Kamm, on the New South Wales south coast with her eight children in 2006 after a decade inside.
But it was finding out who she was in a world dominated by media, from which she had been completely removed, that proved the biggest 'smack in the face', Nine News reports.
Belonging to the secretive cult meant taking vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, attending prayers three times a day and living under strict rules, Ms Ashman said.
When she broke free, she had trouble working out who she was outside the reclusive sect, which preached about how those not in the cult needed conversion.
'I didn't know who Claire was. There was Claire as the person and then mum. I still had all of these kids and went on to be a solo mum for eight years,' she said.
a confrontation with Kamm
Eventually her clan, which broke away from the cult following a confrontation with Kamm, learned about pop culture and caught up on the things it missed out on.
'Ultimately, my kids and I caught up together on fashion and movies and music and world events and everything else in between. It was a long journey and I've grown a lot,' Ms Ashman said.
'It was very awkward for us, it was very difficult to make any friendships because we were so different.
Ms Ashman said it was when she challenged Kamm over him ordaining married men as priests and bishops, which she knew went against rules of the Catholic Church, that she managed to break away.
'Because he was paying the mortgage on the house that we were in, he funnelled that money into his court case, thereby getting rid of a problem – that was me, and we got evicted by the local sheriff.'
found guilty and imprisoned over the sexual and indecent assault
A year after Ms Ashman left the cult, Kamm was found guilty and imprisoned over the sexual and indecent assault of a 15-year-old.
'I had no one to hold my hand and hold my heart when I was walking through this journey, I went through it the hard way, the long way, and I've come out the other side. I've had women contact me from all around the world thanking me for being an inspiration and for speaking out.'
Ms Ashman first became a member of the cult in 1997 after her then husband became obsessed with the cult leader's way of life.
'My ex-husband wanted to move to the country and to become self-sufficient, I did not want this but came from a very religious family where I learnt the husband was the head of the house,' she told Daily Mail Australia.
Kamm told his followers he spoke with the Virgin Mary and she had chosen him to repopulate the earth after the apocalypse.
This message appealed to Ms Ashman's now ex-husband so he sold the family home and forced his wife and children to move to the leader's property.
'Ultimately my ex-husband wanted to be living in a where everybody held the same beliefs and we all did the same thing every day.'
into the hands of the paedophile preacher
The forced move into the hands of the paedophile preacher was not Ms Ashman's first dealing with religious cults – her parents brought her up in a very strict religious sect known as The Society of St Pius X.
Ms Ashman met her first husband at home – he had come to stay with the family to help with home schooling Ms Ashman and her siblings.
When Ms Ashman was 18 she married the then 31 year old and moved to Melbourne.
For eight years the couple lived out of reach of the religious sect which had dictated Ms Ashman's childhood. But then they moved to Kamm's cult.
'As soon as I saw that place I hated it – I knew something wasn't right,' she said.
'He had set up his cult on a 40 acre caravan park – he kept the licence so he was allowed to have so many people living there at once.
surrounded by barbed wire
'It was surrounded by barbed wire – my husband and I lived in a house next door with our children. It was surrounded by barbed wire fences as well. We were told it was to protect us from the outside world.'
Kamm disguised himself as a religious man put on god's earth to do work for the Virgin Mary.
But Ms Ashman who was brought up under the religious law noticed Kamm didn't have to abide by the same strict rules as everyone else in the cult.
'There was no sex before marriage, no dancing or drinking to entice men,' she said.
'Yet Kamm was having sex with up to 10 women at any time that I know of – including his wife and girls as young as 16.
Ms Ashman couldn't think of anything worse than Kamm's eyes being set upon one of her eight children.
Ms Ashman at her first wedding. She was just 18 - her husband was 31 and had worked as her teacher, boarding at the family home as they were home schooled
The apocalypse was first supposed to occur with comet Hale-bop in 1997, another big event was the turn of the century – every time the world failed to end Kamm had an excuse.
'He would tell his followers that we had been spared by the mercy of god and that enough people had prayed at the right time to stop the apocalypse from happening.
grooming girls before they turned 16
Ms Ashman left the cult before her eldest daughter turned 16. But she didn't realise Kamm had been grooming girls before they turned 16 until he was charged with having sex with someone underage.
This denial echoed her ex-husband's views on the paedophile leader years before when Ms Ashman had brought up her issues with Kamm's sexual behaviours.
about 3000 cults currently operating in Australia
Ms Ashman believes there to be about 3000 cults currently operating in Australia. Some from isolated properties where people all live together and others in situations where the families live alone and only communicate with other group members, like in her childhood.
Kamm was jailed for nine years in 2005 – and continues to run a website devoted to his ideas and teachings.
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