Connie Ready has an image in her mind of the perfect father: someone who would take her places, do fun things with her, hang out, talk, laugh with her. Someone who would give her protection and strength and love.
“Sadly I never had a father. I had a biological father; someone who gave me life. But I never had a dad, never had that protector.
“[Instead] I had someone who was a puppet to the leaders. Whatever they said he would do.”
She’s talking about the leaders of Gloriavale, the West Coast Christian community she unflinchingly refers to as a cult. The place she was born and raised in until she left - “ran away” - one night two years ago.
You may recognise Connie Ready’s surname.
The 24-year-old is one of the elder siblings of 14-year-old Prayer Ready, who had Down syndrome, and who was the focus of a Circuit investigation in 2016, because of the awful circumstances of her death in Gloriavale: choking to death on a piece of meat while in an isolation room on which the door handles had been disabled.
Another Circuit investigation last year revealed the concerns of Connie and her brother David Ready, that the leaders of Gloriavale had manipulated the Coroner into believing the disabled door handles did not contribute to Prayer’s death.
Now, after Stuff fought Gloriavale through the courts, Connie is finally able to speak about further awful circumstances: the beatings she and her siblings - including her disabled sister Prayer - suffered at the hands of their father.
There are 13 children of Clem and Sharon Ready - Prayer was the youngest. Eight of them are still inside Gloriavale, along with their mother Sharon.
Stuff Circuit has spoken to three siblings who are living on the outside. All have described their father’s violence.
David Ready is now 19 years old and has been out of Gloriavale for just over two years. He’s dairy farming in Fairlie and is a man of few words - and what he does want to say is directly to his father: “No-one deserves what you put them through. Like, if you call that parenting, then you should have never gotten married.”
Another sibling told us several years ago he had enough dirt on Clem Ready to put him in jail. But he didn’t go to the police. He had his own reasons.
Connie, though, felt differently.
She’d recently left the community and went back for a visit before she was due to start University. “It didn’t go well at all.”
“Having mum tell me [about] his beatings on her and…. No. It was just enough. I was like no, enough is enough. If you can still be continually beating my mum now, and everything you did on my baby sister… It was time. It was time to go to someone, get help from someone.”
So Connie Ready did go to the police, and last year her father pleaded guilty to two representative charges of assault with a weapon - assaults over 12 years for Connie, nine years for Prayer.
We’ve been fighting through the courts for a year, to be able to report this case. Gloriavale went all the way to the Court of Appeal to try to keep Clem Ready’s name from being published.
Way back when he first appeared in the Greymouth District Court, his lawyer, Marcus Zintl, applied for a discharge without conviction and permanent name suppression.
He told the Greymouth District Court the offending was “in context of discipline. He would use his hands on occasion and other occasions he would use objects. The offending is historical. It was not a man lashing out. He was working 70 hour weeks and under psychological and mental stress, and didn’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with the misbehaviour of his two daughters.”
He also said members of Gloriavale were “uneducated” about the law, and that Clem Ready was not aware the law had changed in 2007 to restrict the use of reasonable force in disciplining children.
“He did not receive any education in relation to that.”
In applying for the discharge without conviction, he said a conviction would disadvantage Ready in seeking employment and be “a blight on his self-confidence”.
But Connie wrote to the court arguing the seriousness of her father’s offending meant neither name suppression nor a discharge without conviction should be available to him, and that he must take full responsibility for his actions.
Ultimately the Court of Appeal agreed with her, and its ruling allows us to publish all the details, including Clem Ready’s name.
Connie’s desire for her father to take responsibility is not just words.
There’s a real rawness to Connie’s anger and grief as she transports herself back to Gloriavale and what her father inflicted on his children.
Her tears flow mostly not for what happened to her, but for the violence dispensed to her sister Prayer. She quietly berates herself, asking, “Why’d I do nothing?”
She knows the answer is because the violence was so normalised, so routine. But it doesn’t help.
“Seeing my baby sister dragged out from the meal table where everybody is, to the room next door, and I can hear her screaming, and I’m just sitting there…
“You can toughen yourself, you can build walls around yourself to protect you from the hurt, but every single one of them break down when you watch someone as defenceless as her, and you can’t do anything about it.”
Asked how many beatings she thinks Prayer would have had at the hands of their father, her face is stony.
“Countless. Just because that’s how we were all raised. That’s what we all went through.”
It’s a fascinating, sad psychology, the ways people find to mentally bear heinous actions.
For Connie, it was to issue a kind of challenge to herself, an endurance test.
“You begin to say within yourself ‘try and break me. Every time you beat me I will not flinch. I will not cry. Try and break me’. And you become proud of the fact that you can take whatever is dished up. You can take it. You can be strong.”
Even though the beatings were relentless. “Getting up like 15 to 16.. 15 to 20 times you’re being hit full force with whatever it is, you know. The rage of an angry man does take a while to calm down.”
But not much to set off.
“He could just be tired and come home from work, he gets annoyed so he’ll throw something at you or kick you if he gets really worked up, he’ll grab anything that’s around and lay into you with it and beat you, you know, his belt, a coat hanger, one of his tools from his work bag. Anything.”
Connie Ready knows first-hand how despicable her father’s actions were, and she would have happily seen him go to prison for his crimes. Instead, he was sentenced in May to 12 months’ supervision.
But in a way, the sentence her father received is irrelevant for Connie, because she doesn’t want the consequences to end with him: to her, the leaders of Gloriavale are also responsible, through a culture of violence they instilled and instructed.
“Men are taught that this is the way to run a family, to be the father of your home. If your wife won’t listen to what you say, you beat her. If your children don’t listen to you, you beat them.
“I don’t want to take away from anything that my father did because you still have a mind and a conscience and you can still say no at any point. But the system that has been created within there by the leaders - they need to be held responsible for that as well. They have allowed, encouraged, taught that this is how things should happen.”
And Connie is sure that in spite of police and official investigations, the violence still happens, to this day.
“I believe still there are children who suffer at the hands of their parents.”
Daily like your family did?