How this SA woman rebuilt her life after 10 years in an American cult

Lesley Smailes was only 18 years old when she left her home in Port Elizabeth to embark on a gap year – something that wasn’t all that common back in 1983.

As she left her mother’s parting message was simple – don’t get married, and don’t join a cult. But that’s exactly what she did.

There was a subconscious rebellion that kicked in and I went and did exactly what she told me not to do.

Lesley Smailes, author of Cult Sister

It would be 10 years before Lesley made it back home to South Africa, a completely changed woman and mother of three, after an arranged marriage and 10 years within a secretive religious cult.

Smailes says she had a traumatic childhood after surviving rape and her father's murder at young age.

I was a very traumatised adolescent when I left home. I was also quite rebellious.

Lesley Smailes, author of Cult Sister

I never did go to university, I entered into the school of hard knocks; life itself.

Lesley Smailes, author of Cult Sister

After arriving to visit family friends Boston, New York, she says she was seduced into joining a secretive religious group of "brothers and sisters".

We traveled a lot.. When we were in a city, different members of the group would live together in a house or in the woods.

Lesley Smailes, author of Cult Sister

It was very small group, run by Jim Roberts... He told me a brother had offered to marry me.

Lesley Smailes, author of Cult Sister

I think Thomas had been praying for a wife for many years. When I came along, he saw this as his answer.

Lesley Smailes, author of Cult Sister

The elder approached me. It was an arranged marriage. I wouldn't encourage anybody to enter into something like that.

Lesley Smailes, author of Cult Sister

_Cult Sister _is the story told in her new book about how she lived with an infamous American cult, and found the courage to come back to South Africa.

Take a listen to the moving story:


Recommended

by NEWSROOM AI
Read More
Dignity SA suspects murder case was prompted by those against assisted dying

Dignity SA suspects murder case was prompted by those against assisted dying

The founder of right-to-die organisation, Dignity SA, was arrested for allegedly assisting a friend to take their life in 2013.

You're unlikely to find appliance spares eight years after buying - Hirsch's CEO

You're unlikely to find appliance spares eight years after buying - Hirsch's CEO

For how many years should manufacturers or retailers keep spare parts after you have bought a product? ConsumerTalk investigates.

[LISTEN] Mother of three opens up about perinatal depression

[LISTEN] Mother of three opens up about perinatal depression

Pregnancy and the transition to motherhood can cause stress for many women. This can negatively affect their psychological health.

Concourt ruling on cannabis needs to filter down to cops, says dagga couple

Concourt ruling on cannabis needs to filter down to cops, says dagga couple

Myrtle Clark and Julian Stobbs, dubbed the dagga couple, have been trying for years to have dagga legalised.

60 theft victims to sue FNB for R121m for stolen safety deposit boxes

60 theft victims to sue FNB for R121m for stolen safety deposit boxes

The victims claim FNB didn't implement adequate security measures before the robberies and refused to offer fair compensation.

New storytellers set to take centre stage at Artscape

New storytellers set to take centre stage at Artscape

Four new stage productions are coming to the Artscape Theatre next month as part of the annual 'New Voices' programme.

Popular articles
Hits from the bong (it’s legal!)… then off to work I go?

Hits from the bong (it’s legal!)… then off to work I go?

The consequences of consuming dagga at home and showing up at the office high. Bruce Whitfield interviews a labour lawyer.

Heinrich Volmink could've been a good mayor but Dan Plato gets the livery collar

Heinrich Volmink could've been a good mayor but Dan Plato gets the livery collar

Prof Jonathan Jansen sings Volmink's praises as Dan Plato is elected to lead the City of Cape Town taking over from De Lille.

'We can barely enforce tobacco legislation, how will we to deal with dagga?'

'We can barely enforce tobacco legislation, how will we to deal with dagga?'

International law enforcement expert and former Drug Unit Commander Lobo das Neves says ruling opens a different can of worms.

Key things to consider ahead of your retirement

Key things to consider ahead of your retirement

If you’re a baby boomer on the brink of retirement, here are a few things to consider ahead of time.

17-year-old learner killed teacher for not allowing him to jump the food queue

17-year-old learner killed teacher for not allowing him to jump the food queue

Spokesperson for Education department says the fact that this learner is still in Grade 10 at 17 may indicate there is a problem.