Influencer and podcaster Alyssa Harper has detailed her experience with Hillsong College in Sydney’s northwest, just one week after five women came forward with damning allegations about the institution.
The allegations were made throughout the eight-episode News Corp Australia podcast Faith on Trial, in which ex-Hillsong members claim the church had unnatural control over their dating lives, told female students to “submit” to their husbands and interrogated individuals on their “sexual sins”.
In response, Alyssa Harper has come forward with her own allegations against the college, having joined the institution in January 2019 after moving here from Canada.
She told PEDESTRIAN.TV that all new members were asked to sign a “Code of Conduct” which stated you couldn’t drink, smoke or date within the first six months of joining Hillsong.
She said everyone was encouraged to dob in their peers if they caught them doing something that was against the rules.
“They were really big on perception; for example, the principal gave a message/sermon once and said that she would never be seen sitting across the table at a café with a man [not] her husband because of how it looks,” she said.
“Therefore, you’re constantly in fear of people thinking you are breaking the rules, even if you aren’t. And if you are breaking the rules, it comes with a lot of guilt and shame. It teaches so many people at the church to be really good liars.”
Harper proceeded to share a story in which she and her boyfriend were sitting under a blanket together at a gathering with friends. This moment between them got back to Hillsong College, which accused the pair of having premarital sex.
“I will never forget how the principal looked at me and said: ‘If you’re sitting under a blanket together in public, what are you doing in private?'” she said.
“What I found really interesting about this meeting was that they called me in. The woman.
“They held me more responsible for the situation because, within that culture, women are meant to not tempt the men because men are innately more sexual and have a harder time controlling themselves.”
Harper said she was penalised for six months and banned from accepting any opportunities or going on the school’s stage. She was at Hillsong College to study music under its two-year “Vocal Stream”, and as you could imagine, performing on stage and taking on gigs is an integral part of being a musician.
“We were also told that every time you break the code of conduct, you’re meant to pay a $50 fee but they decided to waive it for us,” she said.
“They told us, though, that if we break it again, we will have to pay.
“$50 every time we want to have sex???? Pretty expensive for a bunch of college students who have no money, who are spending most of their free time volunteering for free for the church.”
Harper said the college never offered any sort of space or opportunity to disagree with its rules, and because so many people had travelled from across the world to be there, they were vulnerable.
“When your finances, your community, your opportunities, your diploma, and your visa are all being used as ways to threaten you to not do something, it’s pretty convincing,” she said.
“It’s so normalised when you’re there, and although most people are really struggling, you’re meant to focus on the positive, and thank God for all the amazing things that are happening in your life.
“It wasn’t until I fully left that I realised… how bad the culture really was. If I could invoice them for the counselling I’ve had to do since being there, I would.”
PEDESTRIAN.TV has reached out to Hillsong College for comment.
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