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'We didn't think we were being oppressed': Victims say Jacksonville church, school functioned like a cult

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office believes the alleged abuse at the Jacksonville Assembly of the Body of Christ went on for more than 30 years.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Public beatings, abuse and humiliation. 

Eight women says this was their reality during the time they spent at a Jacksonville church and school during their youth.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office believes the alleged abuse at the Jacksonville Assembly of the Body of Christ went on for more than 30 years and that there could be more victims.

Three pastors were charged with sexual capital battery, and they could face life in prison, if convicted.

One of the pastors that was arrested includes the church's founder, Paul Dyal. He was put behind bars in Jacksonville last week on charges of capital sexual battery.

Two other men associated with the church, Vernon Williamson and Jerome Teschendorf, were arrested in Oklahoma on the same charges.

Credit: Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Cleveland County Sheriff's Office, Carter County Sheriff's Office
Paul Dyal, Jerome Teschendorf, Vernon Williamson

Victims of the alleged abuse, who are represented by John M. Phillips, talked to First Coast News about their experience with the church.

While they could not go into detail regarding specific abuse, each of them shared what it was like attending JABC during the 70s, 80s and 90s. 

They claimed children were groomed and mistreated, especially, women and girls.

They compared the church to a cult and said that members were forced to attend school and church seven-days-a-week.

One victim said she saw children get beaten in front of the class. She also mentioned how there were 'public humiliation' events at the church for adults and children. 

RELATED: DOJ probe of Catholic church abuse goes quiet 2 years later

One person said they were prohibited from being in contact with anyone outside the church; one of the reasons why is that 'outsiders' were labeled as evil. They described life at the church and school as an episode of "The Handmaid's Tale." 

One of the victim's said she is Jerome Teschendorf's former step-daughter. 

Lisa Stroud said the 68-year-old was controlling and governed with fear.

Stroud said the suspected pastor would tap into her phone lines, so he could know every conversation she was having. 

"We didn't think we were being oppressed because we didn't have any knowledge of what was going on outside," Stroud explained. 

The lawyers who are representing the eight women said they are working with the State's Attorney's office. 

They believe there are more suspects involved. Attorneys are also expecting more victims to come forward. 

RELATED: Jacksonville police raid Northside church during evening services; three pastors arrested on charges of capital sexual battery

RELATED: La policía de Jacksonville allana iglesia durante servicios vespertinos, tres pastores arrestados por cargos de agresión sexual capital

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