Rebekah Vardy, who is best known for being the wife of English footballer Jamie Vardy and also at the centre of the dramatic Wagatha Christie trial last year, has revealed the truth behind her upbringing as a Jehovah’s Witness.
Presenting a new Channel 4 documentary titled Rebekah Vardy: Jehovah’s Witnesses and Me, Vardy says that she was raised within the religious organisation until the age of 15 when she was shunned from the community she grew up in, in Norwich.
The film comes as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are part of a closed and often secretive religion, have become embroiled in allegations of child sexual abuse in recent years.
One of the key elements of the Jehovah’s Witness faith is the belief that the end of the world is coming soon, which is something Vardy says she was taught growing up.
In one harrowing account in the documentary, Vardy describes how she was abused as a child, and claims that when she took it to the elders within the organisation, she was told that going to the police would bring “shame” on her family and she was subsequently shunned.
She described how being shunned – otherwise known as disfellowshipped from the organisation – often means, for many people, that they are cut off by close friends and family members.
“From the age of around 12 years old I was being abused,” Vardy told the camera. “So I told my mum about the abuse I was experiencing. She cried but didn’t believe me, [she] told numerous members of my family and Jehovah’s Witnesses members who called a meeting.”
Vardy said that she was not supported when she revealed what had been happening to her.
“It was put to me [by the elders] that I had misinterpreted the abuse for a form of affection, [even though] I knew well aware what was right and what was wrong.”
“And it was explained that I could potentially bring shame upon my family and I was basically manipulated into thinking it wasn’t the best thing to do to take it any further and take it to the police.
“I remember there being a big argument and being told to get out and to never come back. It’s hard to see how I survived that,” says Vardy.
Elsewhere in the documentary, Vardy reveals that she has not had contact with members of her family since she left the organisation since aged 15. She has also been estranged from her mother for seven years.
“It’s not until you have children that you really become fiercely protective. But yet no one valued me enough to protect me… my kids are everything,” Vardy emotionally tells the camera.
Towards the end of the documentary, Vardy says she understands why members of her family never left the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“When you’re so invested in that, it’s really hard to see the bigger picture when you’re inside those four walls – and I think that’s what makes this organisation so dangerous,” she says.
Channel 4’s Rebekah Vardy: Jehovah’s Witnesses and Me will be aired at 10pm on 16 May.
If you are a child and you need help because something has happened to you, you can call the NSPCC free of charge on 0800 1111. You can also call the NSPCC if you are an adult and you are worried about a child, on 0808 800 5000. The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac) offers support for adults on 0808 801 0331.
If you are experiencing feelings of distress, or are struggling to cope, you can speak to the Samaritans, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email email@example.com, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.