Rebekah Vardy has said she hopes by speaking about her experiences growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness that she will be able to show other people that there is a “light at the end of the tunnel”.
In a Channel 4 documentary, the 41-year-old media personality alleges she was sexually abused by an individual in the community between the ages of 11 to 15, which she claimed was covered up by “elders”, senior male religious leaders.
The wife of footballer Jamie Vardy told Good Morning Britain (GMB) on Tuesday that she was “scared of the consequences” of speaking about sexual abuse due to “the fear of bringing shame onto the family”.
Vardy said: “I think I realised that I’ve probably only just scratched the surface, I think my story isn’t unique and there’s going to be plenty of others, as have already come out, that will continue to come out.
“I found this part of my life a bit of an obstacle but I wanted to use this obstacle to create an opportunity to help other people that have been in similar situations and just hopefully show that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian denomination with about 8.5 million followers worldwide and which 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.
Vardy also says during the documentary that when she was growing up in Norwich, Norfolk, she was shunned by the community, alongside family members following her parents’ divorce.
She claims she told her mother, her family and the Jehovah’s Witness community about the abuse and a meeting was called when she was a teenager.
Vardy told GMB that talking to her mother about the abuse was the “most harrowing experience” and led to her becoming a “bit of a crazy rebellious teenager” and a “breakdown” in their relationship.
When asked about the long-term psychological effects, the mother-of-five also said: “I’ve created part of myself that is really strong now. I have a lot of barriers. I’m quite unemotional. I’m not a very emotional person.
“I think a lot of that has to do with what I went through in my past … It was an obstacle in my life and I want to use my experiences to help other people.”
Vardy also recalled feeling “isolated and lonely” as well as being “bullied quite badly as a child, because we were made to feel different”.
She said: “We had to stand out from everyone else, and have really strong (faith) but I lost so much time in my childhood, because of this religion and it wasn’t pleasant.”
Vardy added: “My advice to myself would have been keep fighting, the truth will come out in the end and never ever, ever give up.”
During the documentary, Vardy meets former members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, including a victim of child abuse and the mother of a man who died by suicide after being expelled by the organisation.
She also claims she believed she would die at Armageddon if she was not “perfect” and recalls “upsetting” images shown to her depicting the end of the world, which still cause her nightmares as an adult.
In a statement to GMB, 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” and rejected that “being expelled from the religion contributed to suicide”.
They also said they “lacked the information to comment on individual cases”.
Rebekah Vardy: Jehovah’s Witnesses And Me, is on Channel 4 at 10pm on Tuesday.
Published: by Radio NewsHub