What Is Covered In This Article…
Why I ended up taking my half-sister, Tania Francis of Hempsons LLP, to court for her obsessive coercive and controlling behaviour, over the course of 3 years
What I want others in coercively controlling families to learn from my experiences and how we need to talk about the unhealthiness in our families in order to heal
How my barrister, Stephanie Heijdra, came to objectively see the toxicity I have been facing from my obsessive and unrelenting family member
How this is a reflection of what Lighthouse has been facing on many fronts from many toxic families where the truth will eventually come out completely
Some Background And Why I am Writing This
I write this for all those out there, like me, who have been so subjugated and made to feel so anxious and terrified of going against their family’s will and so controlled that they really feel they have no strength in themselves to be and do anything their family doesn’t approve of. I hope my journey here and my story can inspire you to know that with the right support and with the right people around you, even if those people may get attacked because of it, with enough faith in Christ, determination and willingness to work through those fears, you can put those who have controlled you for so long in their place and to move on to the life that you want.
Jesus said a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household (Matthew 10:36). Jesus said that. We need to talk about what this means for our own households and how those closest to us can be our worst enemies. And surprisingly, it has been one of the hardest things to talk about - not just because it’s painful but it seems because very very very few actually seem to want to face the reality of the depravity and evil that can exist in the very families we have been born into.
I am speaking from personal experience of this in my own birth family. I joined Lighthouse Global after seeking guidance and mentoring to help me put my continually chaotic and dysfunctional life in order and to heal from the unresolved traumas of my parents' divorce. One that even set legal precedents through their severely protracted and acrimonious split during most of my adolescence. Finally I was receiving stable and valuable support and learning about becoming a healthier person, which when I explained it to my mother Dagmar, she commented, "but those are things that your father and I ought to have taught you!". She was right, yet here I was in my mid 20's with a woefully inadequate upbringing and huge gaps in my understanding of myself. I’ve been an associate at Lighthouse Global for 5 years now, where I have received incredible levels of support to learn and grow. But at the same time as all the positive and upbuilding things I have learned, nothing has shocked me more than realising the damage that can be done to people by their own families. Not least my own.
As one of the unauthorised subjects of the BBC’s so-called ‘documentary’, ‘A Very British Cult’, it has been shocking to see how the British public in particular have so easily gobbled up the on-screen crocodile tears of my father, Martin Francis, crying on camera over losing his little girl (I’m nearly 30 years old) to a supposed “cult” as genuine, when the reality is so very different. The truth is that for 15 years I have been terrified of my father as a result of consistent verbal and emotional abuse, of which I have a long record of in evidence. But this isn’t primarily about my father, what I am focusing on in this article is what has happened between me and my half-sister…
Why My Family Is The Real Cult, Not Lighthouse Global: I Can Leave Lighthouse Anytime I Want To, But I Had To Try And Get A Legal Injunction To Get Away From My Controlling Family!
It’s 12:30pm on a Monday afternoon and I’m in an empty consultation room in a courthouse after my hearing. I had just taken my half-sister, Tania Francis (who is herself a lawyer, and equity partner, at Hempsons), to court to seek an injunction (in the UK a ‘non-molestation order’, or in the US, the equivalent would be a ‘restraining order’) for my ongoing protection after 3 years of harassment, pestering and coercively controlling behaviour that has had me in a constant state of anxiety. At my lowest point through those 3 years, I’ve been collapsed on my bathroom floor contemplating suicide. This was because I had made so many attempts to get her to stop and had given her so many opportunities to work on the issues in our relationship, yet she had rejected them all. I’d tried everything but nothing was getting through to her to get the message: I want her to leave me alone, so I can break free from her attempts to coercively control me.
The hearing is over and I’m waiting for the magistrates’ verdict, reading my bible when my barrister, Stephanie Heijdra, calls me. She says to me “we did the best that we could. But I do not understand, you can leave Lighthouse any time you want to and they are not going to come after you or take you to court for leaving. But you need an injunction to get away from your family. Who is the CULT here?” After the media storm around Lighthouse and how the real story of what I and dozens of others at Lighthouse Global have been going through, I felt encouraged that someone with an objective view point had taken the time to understand the reality of what was really going on here. And her assessment is absolutely right, qualified in particular as someone who is aware of ‘A Very British Cult’ and the accusations made in it, who has looked over evidence including Tania’s posts from Reddit and the witness statements from both sides and who has seen and met my sister Tania in person and is a professional in family law cases.
In previous blogs, I have written about the important parts of my journey (link at the end of the article) and what I have experienced. And it has been hard to write about, out of the fear of what admitting these things to myself and to the world might mean. But the more I have hidden away and tried to minimise the impact of my toxic family and friends on my life, I’ve actually caused more damage to myself and to the other people around me, my brothers and sisters in Christ at Lighthouse, who have suffered relentlessly and significant damages from the smear campaign my sister, my parents and some so-called ‘friends’ have lobbied against them in an attempt to possess me.
For those who want some context to the BBC's 'A Very British Cult and the smear campaign against me and Lighthouse Global, here is a short film I narrated for:
The aim of this article is to share about what my experience has been of confronting one of the people I have been the most scared of standing up to in my life - my eldest sister. And I will preface this by saying that, for everything she has done, I forgive her - I want nothing more than for her to come to repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Forgiveness, however, does not always mean reconciliation with the other is immediately, or even at all possible depending on their attitude. Nor does it mean that a person should no longer be held accountable where they have caused harm and damage. But I bear no grudge, anger or hatred towards her.
Tania’s vehement opposition to Lighthouse and her refusal to respect my decisions has produced an obsession with destroying Lighthouse, Paul Waugh, my involvement and my opportunities here in the name of supposedly “rescuing” me when I categorically do not need ‘rescuing’. Because of this, there’s been an ongoing course of conduct from my sister over the last three years. It started off with small passive aggressive comments and grew and grew to the point where she was conferencing with my parents behind my back and making sure between them that they could attack me from all fronts. I’d have one confrontation with one parent followed up with an attack on another front from Tania or the other parent.
This was so unbearable for me as I was recovering from a series of surgeries that I moved out to get some peace (I had 5 surgeries that year and whilst I have healed a lot since getting some distance from these select toxic members of my family, I am still requiring medical care and support to heal). Subsequently over months Tania harassed and stalked me, coming to my property and leaving things outside my door, triggering police welfare checks through my bank by feeding them private information (that couldn’t have come from any other source but them) she had gained through her husband checking my post and creating a wild and false story around it. I tried to ignore her at first and then began to confront her, asking her to leave me alone but she refused.
This whole time, Tania has been a key contributor to Reddit posts against Lighthouse which she refused to stop posting even though I reported her to the police, wrote to her employer to advise her to cease and desist and wrote to her regulator the SRA. She also provided provably and evidentially libellous and false statements in the government Insolvency Service’s corrupt investigation against Lighthouse and without a doubt had a key role in bringing that to fruition. Something that, as a solicitor, she should know what perjury is and the consequences of knowingly providing a false testimony. The predatory trolls attacking Lighthouse online have all tried to claim they have no knowledge of what one another is doing, but then the same few pop up in the same places making the same false accusations - like they did with the Daily Mail and like they did with the BBC docu-myth. It’s bad enough to have comments posted about you and those you care about online from total strangers, but when those comments come from members of your own family, the distress this betrayal causes is so much more acute.
So for the sake of others who have felt, and feel, as I have: suffocated, stifled, anxious, attention craving and insecure, stemming from the trauma of toxic family breakdown and dysfunction, I feel this article is desperately necessary. As much as we would like to believe that families infallibly love and care for us all the time and that they are impeccably healthy and always do their best for us, the reality is that we are all part of a sinful and fallen humanity. At worst, in the name of love and care, many families will engage in some of the most manipulative, dishonest, coercive and controlling tactics to keep you, their son, daughter or sibling, as they want you to be, instead of setting you free to live as you choose. Especially if your life choices go against their opinions and designs for what they want you to be and how they think you should live.
This is not written with any glee but rather a lament for the absolute tragedy it has been, not just for me, but for my sister and for the whole family (although our perspectives on the same situation will differ greatly). As well as all of the people around us who have suffered. The collateral damage done by my sister and my family to Lighthouse Global and the other people in it, in particular, has been huge and then the extended damage that I have done on top of that by not dealing with the problems they were creating sooner has only compounded this more. Whilst my mental health had lead me to suicidal thoughts, two people close to me actually made attempts on their lives because of these attacks, the external pressure put on them by the challenge of being in a media circus that my sister and my parents were instrumental in inciting.
The Price Of Waiting Too Long
The legal advice I have received over the course of the last year has all followed a similar pattern of revealing how my lack of firm and decisive action only made my family’s attempts to coercively control me worse and securing protection from them for myself more complicated. Such as being told by solicitors, barristers, police and legal advisers alike that; “if you had a recording of that conversation or got that in writing then you would have all the more evidence” or “if you had said yes to the police when they offered to arrest your sister, you would have a clearer case” (in the name of being compassionate and lenient, I had asked the police just to warn her). Or most recently my barrister telling me, “if you had applied for a non-molestation order when you were at your most vulnerable and the harassment was at its most acute, it would have been granted immediately”.
What I actually ended up teaching them (and myself) was that my family’s unacceptable behaviour was acceptable and that they could keep doing it because I was too afraid to take a strong enough stand against it. So my family kept violating my boundaries, using the false claims against Lighthouse to get at me, and I kept making excuses for not seeing them for who they actually are and their true motives. And I’ve had to realise in myself that it isn’t just over the last 3 years that I have been in denial of reality but for my whole life. I have 15 years’ worth of evidence in my possession of emotional and verbal abuse from my father, the same person who cried crocodile tears on the BBC documentary (really a docu-myth-ry) ‘A Very British Cult’. However the reality of that wouldn’t have suited the BBC’s false narrative and agenda of attacking Paul Waugh who by contrast is a man who is repentant and takes responsibility, and Lighthouse who as a collective have gone out of their way to help people struggling with families such as mine.
No One Is Going To Fight Your Battles For You
My barrister, Stephanie Heijdra, an objective and legal professional totally unconnected to everything that has happened to me, was very sceptical of me to begin with and I would be lying if I said the feeling wasn’t mutual. We didn’t get off on the right foot at all: she didn’t believe in me at first and I got angry because I had wanted her to fight my battle for me and not ask questions. I had thought, ‘This barrister will sort out my family for me, I don’t have to do anything now’, so I didn’t prepare properly for my first meeting with her or even write down the key points from my case that I needed to communicate. She seriously challenged me on the strength of my case which helped me to understand the importance of being able to communicate from a position of inner strength and objective clarity.
After all, there was a BBC (supposed) documentary that, on the surface, ‘backed up’ what my sister was claiming. But the reason for this is that Tania is part of the group of Predatory Trolls colluding together to maliciously spin the fabricated stories the BBC bought into, not on the basis of genuine evidence and truth, but on the basis that enough people were telling them the same thing. So I can forgive Stephanie for her first impression and why she would have had her reservations and doubts about me. But I made it very clear why I had brought this case and that even if I didn’t receive the assurances of the court that Tania would stop her harassment of me, this was about me standing up to my family who were trying to dictate my choices and deny me my freedoms.
Over the rest of my case, however, gradually my barrister began to see the reality of where I was coming from. She saw and was shocked that every reasonable offer I had made to settle the matter with my sister had been refused by her. My offers to make peace and just leave me alone were ignored, even when I suggested reasonable agreements that would have actually been a deposit of trust and of respect between us as sisters. They were all turned down for no good reason. Stephanie could see, that although there had evidently been stress and upset on both sides, that my stress came from desperately wanting peace and to be released from this persistent narcissistic control.
I had done all I could think to do to make it clear that I wanted my sister’s behaviour to stop and I reported her behaviour to all the relevant authorities in order of steady escalation: to the police, to her employer Hempsons LLP who took it seriously at first and then shirked their responsibility and did nothing, and the SRA her regulator who also failed to step in and advise her (more on the failings of the SRA and breaking of commitments to come). All these institutions failed Tania and let her down through not advising her to alter her course of action, which would have significantly reduced the damage she has caused to me and to my brothers and sisters at Lighthouse.
Why Coercive Behaviour Has To Be Stopped?
Tania has been posting on Reddit under the pseudonym ‘strangerhome’ since I was living at her home temporarily 2.5 years ago, up until just a few months ago. Her aim has been, along with many other predatory trolls, to falsely and maliciously discredit Paul Waugh and Lighthouse Global and, in her particular case, apply consistent pressure on me to leave Lighthouse and come running back into the family fold, despite my very clear and reasonable boundaries I have tried to establish with her.
Something I have learned through my case, which my barrister actually helped me to realise, is that coercively controlling people will do all they can to break down the support structures around their relative in order to maintain dominance and control over them. Whether this is a therapist, a counsellor, a church or a group of friends, or a new partner. Of course there are times when there is a genuine concern and that needs to be dealt with very responsibly. As it says in the Bible, by the fruit you will know the tree.
But for your own family and so-called loved ones to so perniciously sabotage you from getting the necessary support and advice you need, in line with your growth and development and building your relationship with Jesus Christ, is evil. For family to be attacking those supporting and helping you, is to do all they can to inhibit your freedom of association and your choices. They deliberately stifle growth, to keep you small, weak and dependent on them, a more narcissistically domineering family member. Truly healthy families don’t inhibit one another’s growth. M Scott Peck described love as “nurturing another person’s spiritual growth” and outside of the Bible, it is the most accurate definition of love I have come across.
Most people love the idea of their relative standing up for themselves. They are horrified however if it means that the same family member will stand up to THEM. They don’t want you to realise that how they are treating you is terribly wrong and confront them on that directly because that would mean they need to face that behaviour in themselves and admit where they have caused damage. No one wants to think that they are damaging, but we are all sinful. It’s not whether we hurt people or not, it’s who, how and why we do. And then repenting for that and making amends, something my family have consistently refused to do.
Smear campaigns, such as the one aimed at Paul Waugh, Lighthouse Global and myself which select members of my family have been deeply involved with, are a classic tactic carried out by toxic people to discredit you so that no one will believe you when you call out destructive behaviour in them. They’ll also aim to ruin your reputation and that of the people who are supporting you through slander and defamation. Smear campaigns are not about truth, they are about getting enough people to believe the smear to make the campaigner the hero and the target look like the villain. In the case with my family and the smear campaign against Lighthouse, Tania and my family have falsely painted me as the victim that they need to rescue from what they have labelled as a ‘cult’ that has ‘destroyed’ their family. They have character assassinated everyone who has supported me and cared for me, most of all Paul, painting them as abusers to such an elaborate and defamatory degree that either everyone else will doubt Lighthouse or that I will doubt myself to such an intolerable level that I will just jump ship and run back to my toxic family. I can see this is the case with all family members attacking Paul and Lighthouse and how this happens in many situations across the board for many people, not just us at Lighthouse Global. They have made Paul Waugh the scapegoat of their own failures, projecting onto him, with no evidence, everything they are in fact in themselves. The abuse, the controlling, the narcissism, all of it whilst trying to display themselves as paragons of virtue. This is evil, plain and simple. Whereas the truth is Paul has extended himself and helped me consistently more than anyone else in my life above and beyond anything from my family and they could actually learn an incredible amount from him if they were humble enough rather than attacking him.
To resist the pressure of a smear campaign is incredibly difficult and stressful, and it may even drive you to the point of feeling suicidal, so for me I have had to cling to the truth for dear life. There is never any justification for any parent, partner, family member or friend to ever be a part of a smear campaign as Tania is or my parents Martin Francis and Dagmar Spaeth are. I’ve had to learn that however much people profess care and support, they seldom ever genuinely care enough to extend themselves and forgo their own opinions to provide care and do what is right.
The Reasons For Taking The Actions I Have
Any challenge, in any area of our lives, but particularly with family and standing up for yourself takes a lot of courage and a lot of personal responsibility to make sure you are doing the right thing, in the best way and that you are absolutely clear on the main points you want to raise and why.
It is never too soon to stand up for yourself and to stand up for and with God and Christ, which is why I am doing this now. It is better to take a strong stand with yourself and your family, even if it is a shock, even if they call you a bully, even if it upsets and angers them greatly. Take a stand and draw that line, not in sand but in stone. This is your boundary, and then hold that boundary. Imagine yourself as a country, if you were establishing yourself as a country and you allowed your neighbouring countries to keep invading your borders, how long would it be before there’s none of your country left? You need to firmly establish your borders first and protect them aggressively, then you can work on agreements and trade with other neighbouring countries and build good relationships. But if you don’t get those established early on, you soon won’t have a country, because you have allowed yourself and all your citizens to be attacked and invaded and taken over. It is the same with anyone associated with us, including close family who are narcissistic, controlling and toxic. If they think they can take control of your heart, mind and soul to make themselves feel bigger and more powerful, they will. So it’s up to you to put a stop to that.
The fact that I was trying to placate my family, allowing my boundaries and borders to be overrun and invaded as much as I did made everything worse. What I have done with my sister Tania is a process of accountability for the sake of justice, not retaliation for personal vengeance. Every defence needs an offence, and if your family isn’t teaching you that from a young age, you need to learn and learn quickly. The weaker I have been with myself, the weaker I have been with everyone else and the more chaos I have allowed to happen. So, if standing up for myself achieves anything, it reestablishes God’s order - that His will comes first and showed me where I have needed to repent for being a coward. And any toxic or controlling family members or friends or associations of any kind, if they want to go against God’s order and God’s will, then I will not tolerate that disrespect.
Although, on a technicality, securing my injunction wasn’t possible, unofficially my sister Tania has said that she will no longer contact me or post online as she has done as part of this smear campaign. However, given her track record unfortunately I really don’t trust her to do that. I really hope and pray that she proves me wrong. And hopefully she has really got my message now. That Lighthouse is not the problem here - she and my family are and they need to repent to make things right, or leave me well enough alone.
The truth needs to come out and not be censored or stifled and our voices need to be heard. This is why, for me, David vs Goliath is an absolutely essential project to help people who are being gagged by those trying to silence them to have a platform to speak up and to be given the equal opportunity for the raw, uncut, uncensored truth to be heard. Everyone has a Goliath in their life, or maybe several, but for me it has been my sister. Join the Groundswell of people standing up for truth with us, no matter how big or small your battle is.
Read my full story here: Mel Francis – In the Name Of Love: How My Toxic Family Tried To Coercively Control My Life
Find out more about the David Vs Goliath programme at: www.davidvsgoliath.global