Family leaves Gloriavale after being made to feel like 'troublemakers' for reporting attempted molestation of their sons

The Children's Commissioner says he has "serious concerns" about the safety of the 400 children living at the Gloriavale Christian community on the West Coast.

Last month Newshub reported claims that Gloriavale leaders repeatedly refused to involve police in allegations of child sex abuse.

Now more former residents have come forward, saying such abuse was considered "no worse than stealing an apple".

The distress on Isabella Harrison's face is obvious as she recounts her time at Gloriavale. Her pink journal documented the various parents meetings with leaders. 

One was in July 2019, when one of the leaders told parents older students had been molesting younger children at the school. 

"And these were his exact words, 'it's no worse than stealing an apple'," she said. "That really boiled my blood, and I thought your morality is so corrupt if you can say that."

She says when she learned of older boys trying to interfere with her sons, she took action. 

"I went and stood in the men's shower room in front of the shower door to protect my sons," she said.

Harrison's husband, Stephen, says when his son told him another boy had tried to touch him, he approached leader Faithful Pilgrim. 

"Faithful made out that we were troublemakers, that we shouldn't be talking about that, that we needed to just be quiet about it," he said.

"You're never taught anything at Gloriavale about reporting anything. You're actually taught if something bad happens to you, you need to keep it to yourself."

That sentiment was echoed by another leaver, former trustee Zion Pilgrim, who told Newshub on March 11 that the leadership's poor management of serious complaints was one of the reasons he and his family left. 

"Probably dearest to my heart was the reluctance to involve police," Pilgrim said.

Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft said he's seen allegations that would "make the hairs on the back of most people's necks stand up"

He asked Oranga Tamariki to investigate, and has a plea to those at Gloriavale: talk to outside authorities.

"If there are individuals who have got allegations to be made, they should make them, and they should know they'll be taken seriously," Judge Becroft said.

Newshub revealed earlier this month that Gloriavale's sexual harassment policy states that Gloriavale's own trust will nominate who investigates such issues. Judge Becroft says that's wrong.

"Of course it has to change. It's entirely inappropriate, it's misguided and it's just plain wrong."

Gloriavale's leaders have not responded to requests for comment, but last year hired lawyers to do an internal review of the community.