This article originally appeared in the Bendigo Advertiser and can be viewed here.
A CONTROVERSIAL ministry linked with exorcisms and abuse could open its first regional Victorian residential program in Bendigo.
Mercy Ministries was this week accused of mistreating former residents.
Three women reported the organisation used abusive techniques to deal with their issues.
They said the ministry’s methods left them suicidal.
They claimed the organisation, founded in Australia in 2001, used exorcisms and Bible studies to deal with the women’s issues, and locked them in their rooms.
Mercy Ministries director Peter Irvine said the allegations made against the organisation were untrue.
‘‘They said we lock girls in rooms – we don’t have locks on the doors,’’ Mr Irvine told The Advertiser in a visit to Bendigo yesterday.
‘‘We don’t do exorcisms, we don’t do any of those things.
‘‘A couple of the girls (reported in the media) do have psychological issues… they make a lot of things up.’’
Mr Irvine said about 50 guests at a breakfast in Bendigo yesterday outlined their eagerness to establish a program because they saw a need for it in the region.
The six-month residential Mercy Ministries program helped young women deal with life-controlling issues such as eating disorders, self-harm, abuse, depression and anxiety.
‘‘They said some of the issues are pretty large in the area.
‘‘When you look at it, it is the same all around Australia.’’
Mercy Ministries runs residential programs in Sydney and the Sunshine Coast.
It plans to open centres in Townsville, Perth and Melbourne.
‘‘The program is 95 per cent successful,’’ Mr Irvine said.
‘‘There’s five per cent who leave the program half way because they can’t hack the discipline.’’
He said the Christian-based charity offered the women specialised services including general practitioners, dietitian, psychiatrists and psychologists.
The organisation used Bible teachings as part of the spiritual side of the program.
Mr Irvine said Mercy Ministries would spend the rest of the year consulting local bodies to assess the need for, and the possibility of establishing, the program in the region.