Rebekah Vardy divides viewer opinion as she details her tough childhood, fractured family relationships and sexual abuse growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness in emotional documentary
Rebekah Vardy has been hailed as ‘brave’ for telling her story of growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness and experiencing sexual abuse while a part of the religion.
The WAG, 41 – who is the wife of Leicester City footballer Jamie and is perhaps best known for the Wagatha Christie trial involving her high-profile libel claim against Coleen Rooney Rooney – fronted Channel 4 documentary Rebekah Vardy: Jehovah Witnesses and Me on Tuesday.
In the programme, Rebekah spoke about her experiences of growing up in the Jehovah’s Witness fellowship, and shared that she tried to take her own life at the of 14 before being shunned by her family.
She alleged in the documentary that the religion failed to support her through sexual abuse as a child, with Rebekah claiming elders insisted she had misinterpreted a romantic gesture.
Taking to Twitter during the one-off episode, viewers praised the media personality for coming forward with experience, while others pondered whether she was the best person to front the show.
Speaking out: Rebekah Vardy, 41, has been hailed as ‘brave’ for telling her story of growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness and experiencing sexual abuse while a part of the religion
Telling her story: The WAG fronted Channel 4 documentary Rebekah Vardy: Jehovah Witnesses and Me on Tuesday
One person wrote: ‘Well done for telling your story, very brave ! the more exposure of this cult the better.’
While someone else shared: ‘Well done Rebekah Vardy highlighting the JW organisation. It’s all true. She grew up part of it so best placed person to discuss it.’
Another person tweeted: ‘RV comes across really well and very educated. It’s a shame she got caught up with that social media nonsense as that is what she will be known for.’
‘Good to see R doing something more useful than that daft court case. Lot of folk who preach the jeeezus thing dont seem to be able to get what its all about, they get stuck,’ wrote another viewer.
While someone else posted: ‘Shame this documentary is after the Wagatha Christie case. Jehovahs Witnesses are a very high control doomsday organisation and it’s likely what she discusses is true. There should be external regulation for organisations so that children in particular are protected.’
Another viewer remarked: ‘So brave to speak out. What a terrible religion they are. It’s heartbreaking to think of those abused who had no one they could trust… even family.’
Quoting Rebekah, someone else wrote: ‘”No one valued me enough to protect me… and only having children makes you realise”… really hitting home.’
‘What a sad programme about Rebekah Vardy,’ wrote another viewer, while someone else insisted: ‘#rebekahvardy no one else to present this.’
Views: Taking to Twitter, viewers praised the media personality for coming forward with experience, while others pondered whether she was the best person to front the show
Questioning Rebekah’s motives for making the documentary, someone else wrote: ‘Is this #RebekahVardy documentary an attempt to make us feel sympathy for her now? Change public perception? An explanation for the way she’s behaved so far? Seems too obvious.’
While another person wrote: ‘There’s something missing from this Rebekah Vardy documentary about Jehovah’s Witnesses. I feel like I should care more because these shows normally hit me hard but this one hasn’t for some reason.’
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.
Rebekah was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness in Norwich, Norfolk, but left at the age of 15, after she was ‘shamed’ for the sexual abuse she experienced and was shunned by the community alongside family members following her parents’ divorce.
Mother-of-five Rebekah said 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.
In the documentary Rebekah returned 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.
Terrible: In the documentary, Rebekah described the moment she told her mother Alison Nicholson she was sexually abused aged 12 – but she didn’t believe her
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
She said: ‘I was brought up in a strict and controlling religious organisation.
‘What happened to me during my childhood still affects me every single day.
‘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.’
When Rebekah was 11, she said her family were shunned by the community after her parents’ divorce.
She said relatives and friends were forbidden from associating with her family, which contributed to her ‘resentment’ of religion and her parents.
‘I think that’s where my real resentment to religion started, was being made to feel so bad, so different,’ she said.
Tough: Rebekah said she has ‘no relationship’ with her mother, after being thrown out of her home aged 16
Rebekah’s mother Alison didn’t attend her daughter’s wedding to footballer Jamie, 36, in 2016.
Asked why she had not attended, Alison said at the time: ‘We’d rather not say why even though it’s obvious people are now going to be wondering why the bride’s mother isn’t at her 34-year-old daughter’s wedding.
‘I can appreciate that people are interested in them as a couple but we want our privacy and don’t want to get involved in any publicity.
‘Things change and while there might be issues, we don’t want to comment on the reason why we didn’t go.’
Mrs Nicholson married first husband Carlos Miranda, 63 – Mrs Vardy’s father – in 1978 in Norwich.
After they divorced they both went on to marry again.
Rebekah also recalled a childhood without Christmas or birthday celebrations, in line with the religion’s beliefs, with bible studies and visits to the Kingdom Hall, the religious centre of worship for Jehovah’s Witnesses.
As a child she said she believed she would die at Armageddon if she was not ‘perfect’ and recalled ‘upsetting’ images shown to her depicting the end of the world, which still cause her nightmares as an adult.
Awful: Rebekah said when she told her mother that she was being abused, her mother cried but did not believe her
Visiting the Kingdom Hall where her congregation gathered, and where her grandfather was an elder, Rebekah said: ‘You would have to do things to keep Jehovah happy, because he was always watching.
‘Who you spoke to, how you spoke, how you dressed, how you held yourself, how you conducted every part of your whole life, and we were told if we didn’t pray enough, bad things would happen to us.’
Rebekah said she knew her family was different from an early age, their faith causing her to be bullied and picked on at school.
At home her parents’ relationship was difficult, with elders regularly called to their home to ‘calm down’ arguments.
In the documentary she also met 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.
Rebekah described the experience of revisiting her past as an ’emotional rollercoaster’.
She said of making the documentary: ‘I had closed Pandora’s box and didn’t want to revisit that.
‘I went into this thinking this was going to be quite easy and actually, wow, it was a real challenge. It was an emotional rollercoaster.
‘I have never been so open and personal about my experiences but also to discover other people who had been through similar experiences, witnessed similar things, if not worse, and to hear their stories, I just think they’re incredibly brave for being prepared to speak out.’
Religion: There are more than eight million Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide and 130,000 in the UK, using their glossy magazine The Watchtower and online videos to promote their message
Asked whether making the documentary had given her closure on what she experienced as a child, Mrs Vardy said: ‘Definitely. I think this chapter has closed.
‘It already really was, but I really wanted to do this when Channel 4 approached me, because I was fascinated by it.
‘Knowing that I had a voice, knowing that my voice could help and hopefully there will be more people who come forward to share their experiences.’
Rebekah Vardy: Jehovah’s Witnesses and Me, is available on All 4.
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