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:

CapeTalk welcomes all comments that are constructive, contribute to discussions in a meaningful manner and take stories forward.

However, we will NOT condone the following:

  • Racism (including offensive comments based on ethnicity and nationality)
  • Sexism
  • Homophobia
  • Religious intolerance
  • Cyber bullying
  • Hate speech
  • Derogatory language
  • Comments inciting violence.

We ask that your comments remain relevant to the articles they appear on and do not include general banter or conversation as this dilutes the effectiveness of the comments section.

We strive to make the CapeTalk community a safe and welcoming space for all.

CapeTalk reserves the right to: 1) remove any comments that do not follow the above guidelines; and, 2) ban users who repeatedly infringe the rules.

Should you find any comments upsetting or offensive you can also flag them and we will assess it against our guidelines.

CapeTalk is constantly reviewing its comments policy in order to create an environment conducive to constructive conversations.

Read More
LISTEN: Whitney Houston fans belt it out for shot at tickets to tribute show

LISTEN: Whitney Houston fans belt it out for shot at tickets to tribute show

Listeners and Whitney Houston fans called in for chance to win tickets to the highly-praised Whitney Houston Tribute Show.

Disabled hand cyclist 'Zig Zag Zach' to race in Knysna Cycle Tour for good cause

Disabled hand cyclist 'Zig Zag Zach' to race in Knysna Cycle Tour for good cause

10-year old Zach Legward isn't your average cyclist; he's the youngest hand cyclist in SA and he also lives with a disability.

Western Cape NGOs meet to tackle child murders

Western Cape NGOs meet to tackle child murders

Representatives from about 60 NGOs have attended the childcare forum at the St Georges Cathedral on Friday morning.

Health and wellness: All you need to know about ears, nose and throat

Health and wellness: All you need to know about ears, nose and throat

CapeTalk's Pippa Hudson speaks to Dr Gary Kroukamp, ENT specialist about a couple of ENT conditions that we need to be aware of.

WATCH LIVE: Zuma faces grilling over state capture, SA's recession

WATCH LIVE: Zuma faces grilling over state capture, SA's recession

President Jacob Zuma will respond to his detractors when he answers questions about state capture and more in Parliament today.

5 facts about the new SA number plates being implemented this year

5 facts about the new SA number plates being implemented this year

No official date has been set for the roll out of SA's new number plate legislation, but here's what you need to know so long.

Popular articles
Holomisa: ANC mistaken, it did not win secret ballot ruling

Holomisa: ANC mistaken, it did not win secret ballot ruling

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa says that Baleka Mbete's arrogance and blind loyalty to the ANC and Zuma has put them in this mess.

Concourt makes it impossible for Mbete not to adopt secret ballot - analyst

Concourt makes it impossible for Mbete not to adopt secret ballot - analyst

Professor Somadoda Fikeni says Speaker will have to provide a superior argument not to approve the voting through secret ballot.

5 facts about the new SA number plates being implemented this year

5 facts about the new SA number plates being implemented this year

No official date has been set for the roll out of SA's new number plate legislation, but here's what you need to know so long.

In case you hadn't noticed, Cape Town feels freezing cold (and here's why)

In case you hadn't noticed, Cape Town feels freezing cold (and here's why)

Capetonians are pulling out hot water bottles and mittens as a cold front is predicted to make landfall on Thursday morning.

CAPS is killing teachers passion - caller

CAPS is killing teachers passion - caller

CapeTalk caller says Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) is not good for South Africa's education system.