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Amanda's story

Amanda and her family were members of a Queensland independent Christian church founded by Bruce Wilson, a former Methodist minister. Amanda’s mother had been present from the Church’s beginning. She helped realise its growth from a small room to a series of church buildings and later a large property.

Members were attracted by Wilson’s charisma and air of authority. ‘He could read people’s vulnerability', Amanda said. 'My mother had a serious mental illness and she was preyed upon by Wilson.’

She told the Commissioner, ‘He really was an abuser by proxy. He’d tell my mother I was evil by nature, and that I had demons that needed to be expelled. My mother felt guilty that she’d had me before she was married, so she believed him’.

Amanda said that Wilson regularly performed ‘exorcisms’ on her to ‘rid the demons’. The exorcisms started early and escalated in the 1970s after Amanda turned eight.

‘He’d say that for the demons to leave my body, I had to “manifest them” – allow them to do what they wanted, so they could be removed. Wilson said it was okay if I touched him on his crotch and that I could suck his penis if I wanted to. All the time, he was telling my mother that this was what was needed to get rid of the demons. It went on for years, him trying to get me to engage in sexual behaviour with him.’

Whenever Amanda refused Wilson’s suggestions, she was severely beaten by her mother. The refusals also fuelled Wilson’s claim that Amanda was possessed.

When he preached, Wilson regularly claimed that women in the congregation had tempted him, and were therefore vehicles of Satan who had to be evicted from the group. Amanda remembers many women leaving for this reason.

‘I think Wilson had been thrown out of the Methodist Church, and he’d created a new empire where he could be a victim, not a predator. Everyone felt for him and not the women.’

Amanda was disappointed that a counsellor appointed to help her instead accepted Wilson’s behaviour. The counsellor was a member of the congregation, but had previously been a member of the police force.

‘He should have done something’, Amanda said. ‘But he was under the spell too. He’d pray and say that it was my mother who had the demons, not me, so they played us off against each other. They said if I told anyone else about the abuse, “the kidnappers” – which was the welfare – would take me away and I’d never see my family again.’

When she was 15, Amanda’s father took her to live elsewhere in Queensland. Amanda reported the abuse to Queensland Police when she was 16.

Then and in subsequent years, Amanda said, she was advised that charges could be brought against her mother for assault, but there wasn’t anything with which to charge Wilson.

‘There’s a lot of calculation in these crimes, because they deal with the whole moral and emotional conflict of victims. To seek justice from Wilson, I have to see my mother prosecuted first, and I’m not going to do that.

‘He put himself up as an oracle of God. And he wasn’t accountable to anyone. Independent churches should have to report to someone and meet the same conditions as other people who work with children. No one knows what’s going on inside these places.’

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