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Page last updated at 15:27 GMT, Friday, 24 September 2010 16:27 UK
BBC One My Story picks Norwich woman's sect account
Lindsey Rosa
Lindsey Rosa is to appear in an episode of My Story, titled Overcoming Adversity

A Norwich woman who was brought up in an extreme religious sect and went on to suffer from severe anorexia is to have her story told on BBC One.

Lindsey Rosa's record of her childhood and beyond is one of 15 true-life stories picked out of 7,500 entries by the TV series My Story.

The mother-of-two's account is one of three stories which will be screened on Tuesday, 28 September 2010.

Host George Alagiah will also reveal if her story will be turned into a book.

The My Story competition was launched by BBC One last year to find the most remarkable tales in Britain.

A panel of judges, including authors Kate Mosse, Fergal Keane and Jenny Colgan, has been choosing which story from each of the five episodes will be published. The selected five books will also be offered as free downloads from the BBC website.


Lindsey, 29, decided to enter the competition to inspire parents to act in their children's best interests, as a response to her own childhood which was governed by the strict rules of her parents' separatist religion.

She wasn't allowed to listen to music, watch TV, go to parties, eat with other people, bring friends home or go onto higher education, with her isolation leading her to become anorexic at 15 years old.

"I know that the decisions my parents made for me were out of love, they weren't out of cruelty," said Lindsey, who has a six-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.

"They believed fundamentally that they were doing the right thing for me, which makes me very much aware of the decisions that I make on behalf of my children.

"I think that's why I wanted to take part in this My Story programme.

"I wanted to be able to say, 'Look, every decision you make for your children, just be aware of what you're saying and be aware of what you're doing because it can have devastating impacts, even when you believe it's the right thing'."

Lindsey suffered from anorexia for three years and at her lowest point she weighed just five-and-a-half stone and became desperately ill.


We continued to live as members of the sect, but just the four of us"
Lindsey Rosa

The symptoms of her eating disorder first appeared as she approached her GCSEs. It represented a crossroads as she knew her parents' religion would prevent her from further study while any boyfriends or friends outside the sect were banned.

Although Lindsey attended a state school and lived in a normal suburban street in the south of England, she was aware from a young age that her family life was different - controlled by the belief that the outside world was evil.

"When I was about five or six I took a girl home from school with me and I turned up with her on my doorstep and I could see immediately my mum was very embarrassed at having this worldly person, as they're known, turn up and she was turned away," said Lindsey.

"Even as a five-year-old I felt that embarrassment. You knew there were rules and you didn't break the rules as you knew the consequences."

Lindsey's parents and grandparents were born into the sect, which she doesn't want to name, and the exacting way of life was ingrained.


It was a fact that became all the more apparent when her parents were ex-communicated when she was seven years old.

Her brother, who was 18 at the time, was accused by the priests of having a car radio. However, her parents refused to believe he had broken the rules and repent as they felt the situation was being used to mask something else happening in the sect.

While her parents waited to be invited back to daily meetings, they continued to live by the religion's rules despite being shunned. They weren't even informed when Lindsey's oldest sister had her first baby.

"Instead of integrating back into society like other members who have left tend to do - you buy your television, you buy your radio, you start socialising and mixing and you do your best - we continued to live as members of the sect, but just the four of us," said Lindsey.

However, the years of living a confined existence came to bear when Lindsey's anorexia took hold with her search for treatment bringing her to Norwich in 1998 where she was forced to analyse her relationship with her parents.

"I had brainwashed myself into believing a new set of rules because the other ones weren't getting my parents back into the sect," said Lindsey.

"I began to unravel the past and realised that the lifestyle that my parents had imposed on me was having a devastating effect on my mental health and I knew I had to change the course of my life from that moment.

"I never wanted to leave my parents, I wanted to be part of their belief system but I just couldn't. I called them up to the clinic and said, 'I can't come home' and my mum was absolutely devastated and screamed."

Loving partner

Shortly after leaving the eating disorders clinic in Newmarket Road, Lindsey met her partner who is now the father of her two children.

She credits his love and patience with making her feel less vulnerable in a world which she had grown up believing was controlled by the Devil.

With Lindsey achieving the balance in her life she's always wanted - which includes studying for a science degree with the Open University - the fractured relationship with her parents and two sisters is a consequence of her quest for good physical and mental health.

"After I started making a life for myself in Norwich, my parents informed me that they had been accepted back into the sect and after years of hoping and waiting their dream had come true," said Lindsey.

"I have a brother, who's out in the world with me and I see him regularly and we're very close, but as for my parents and my two sisters, I no longer have anything to do with them and I have to accept that."

Lindsey Rosa spoke to Karen Buchanan on BBC Radio Norfolk - listen again here until Tuesday, 28 September 2010.

My Story: Overcoming Adversity will be shown on BBC One on Tuesday, 28 September, at 10.35pm.

Eating disorders church service
23 Sep 10 |  Religion & Ethics




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