Mel Francis – In the Name Of Love: How My Toxic Family Tried To Coercively Control My Life

Mel Francis – In the Name Of Love: How My Toxic Family Tried To Coercively Control My Life


This is a public statement I am making of my experience at Lighthouse and I have a great deal more I can share, however for the purposes of publishing it online, a lot has been removed for privacy and disclosure. More will follow soon as the truth is brought out as evidence through the courts. For me and for Lighthouse, this has been a long process of setting the record straight about the lives that have been completely transformed by the support at Lighthouse, lives like mine. 

Tragically, some of the people who were seemingly closest to me, so called friends and family members, have actively tried to sabotage me and everyone at Lighthouse, including the decades of time, money and effort that has been invested into research here long before I came on the scene. 

It has recently been confirmed via conclusive evidence from various sources close to them that both my mother Dagmar Spaeth and my sister Tania Francis who is a partner at the law firm Hempsons have been central to the illegal and unlawful smear campaign against me and those who have sacrificed so much for me at Lighthouse. Make no mistake, I have spent countless hours explaining to both these women why Lighthouse has meant so much to me, to no avail. We are all defined by our actions, not our intentions, and calling something love whilst being anti-loving is not something you can just paint over with platitudes – a fact I wrote to both of them in letters 18 months ago. Instead of support, when the youngest chick (that’s me) wanted to leave the nest and spread her wings, they were having absolutely none of it. Their efforts escalated to police being involved, offering to arrest Tania for harassment and numerous unsolicited visits to my property, and despite being let off (on my request) with a warning, she has not ceased. Every effort I made, even asking her employer to speak to her to get her to cease and desist, she has continued a covert mission to sabotage my personal growth and my work. My mother was sending me gifts in the post and quoting bible verses while stabbing me in the back, writing poisonous lies about me and the wonderful kind souls here at Lighthouse. Lies which she thought I would never find out about. I am so grateful to have learnt this, confirming suspicions I have had for the last 2 years, because while tragic that someone could do this to someone they gave birth to or share blood with, I now know conclusively that the “love” and “care” are words ashamedly abused by toxic families, I know who they actually are and it’s not who they pretend to be on the surface to those who think they know them. Yes, I was deceived by them too. 

I for one, would like to take this opportunity to apologise to Paul Waugh in particular and the people at Lighthouse that in helping me, I brought with me my baggage of toxic individuals who would take it upon themselves to attack Lighthouse simply for helping me grow up. Lighthouse has been gracious in enduring a 2 year long smear campaign, and against all odds have continued to serve and help people like me every day to stand for the truth. Now, this testimonial is the next step in standing up for myself and standing up against those who have chronically infantilised me and who have maliciously tried to destroy Lighthouse. They will never be successful as long as we stand for truth in our Lord Jesus Christ.


Whilst my time at Lighthouse and being a part of this community is incredibly hard to put into words, it has been one of the most challenging and personally fulfilling experiences of my whole life. It is unbelievable to me that I am even at a point of having to write this statement. Over the last 2 years, I have been absolutely shocked by the malicious predatory trolling smear campaign against Lighthouse and the deliberate sabotage of the incredible work done here. I never in my life thought that I would be witness to such blatant character assassination as what is being attempted against Paul Waugh and Lighthouse with a complete disregard of testimonies like mine for whom Lighthouse is not some shady organisation but a lifeline. For Lighthouse to be destroyed completely through these attacks would be like having the dream house you are building be burned to the ground by people who were jealous you have a vision and a home. It would be a disaster, a tragedy and a total malicious sabotage of a lifeline. I do not know where else I would ever find the same level of commitment, care, self-sacrifice and dedication to truth and reality as I have received and desperately need at Lighthouse. We all have needs as human beings, and needing to be around the right healthy people who will help you to grow is the most fundamental and healthy need I can think of. What reason would anyone have to justify destroying something which is bringing about so much good and so much hope? I hope that my testimony is living proof that Lighthouse has helped me immeasurably.

Where I Was Before Joining Lighthouse

At the time I met Kris Deichler, the first person I met from Lighthouse in December 2018, I was; 24 years old, a smoker, a partier, an occasional cocaine user, a gambler, underweight, seeking my value through sex with men, jumping from one relationship to the next, compulsive, addicted, insecure, self-involved, a new age spiritualist, a spendthrift, a sexual assault survivor, a social prostitute (as in someone who would do anything for acceptance from other people), lonely, in chronic pain with a colorectal illness that consultants said may be lifelong, aimless in my career and surrounded by a lot of people who, like my parents, reinforced my dependencies and weaknesses. 

I was trying to pull my life together but I needed help from someone who was also trying to get their life together, as in their advice wasn’t theoretical, they were walking their talk. I knew from Kris, also a child of divorce, that his advice to me was not hot air – he was applying it to his own life. This is so rare, even in therapy, it is rare to have a therapist who is in the process of therapy themselves. And after experiencing both kinds of therapists, I knew the difference. When I started applying his advice to my life, I was getting results almost immediately. From that moment, I wanted to learn more – what was he doing, what was he learning and how could I learn the same thing and apply it to my life?

Opposition from family and friends

Mel Francis 3/4 years old
Mel Francis 3/4 years old

Whilst facing my challenges, trauma and my personal demons has been hard, by far the biggest obstacles I have had to face have been my family and so-called friends. For most of my childhood and adult life, I have been so dependent on what my family and friends think of me and what I do, often at the expense of my well-being. Since a dramatic and messy divorce between my parents over a few years in my teens, I have sought attention and validation to feed a deep insecurity in myself. My needs as a human were always secondary to what my parents wanted and I have been left with huge issues of dependency as a result of never knowing how to truly put myself, my growth and my development first. 

This started at the age of 12 when my parents would have raging arguments during their divorce, until they each moved abroad when I was 15, leaving me to live with relatives. My parents abandoned their responsibility to be stable, mature and positive influences to me in my troubled teens and instead, I would only see them for an average of a week every 6 months. Without effective parenting and leadership, I started going off the rails and went through a lot of challenges and trauma on my own. I started going to therapy when I was 17 because I was so starved for attention and validation that I didn’t know the basics, like what it means to extend and earn trust. 

I reached a point in my life in my mid-20s when I could no longer neglect caring for myself to meet the needs of my family and friends and I could no longer ignore the fact that even though I pretended I was fine on the surface, I felt angry, broken and empty underneath. No one in my life had cared enough for me to help me to understand myself at the core of my own value, what I care about, what matters to me, and to not chop and change based on what others think of me. Until Lighthouse.

My relationships at Lighthouse are unlike any others that I had, and for good reason. After first becoming involved at Lighthouse, for a few months when I would share with friends or family what I was learning about myself and the principles of maturing and becoming healthier as a human being, I was shocked that I wasn’t met with support, instead I was met with judgement or they would prefer to make small talk. I was craving deep, meaningful, intellectually and emotionally stimulating conversations about life and love but I couldn’t have those conversations with my friends or my family. If I tried to, at best they would be sympathising or nodding along with a “that’s nice for you”, or at worst they would start arguing with me. A noticeable rift emerged between me and some family members and what I believed to be friends.

It was then that I learned that, no matter how much a friend or family member told me that they loved me and cared for me, if they could not trust me to make decisions for myself then I didn’t really have a relationship with them. It seemed that instead they liked who I was before I started working on myself, no matter how depressed, unhealthy or broken down or dependent on others I was before I started healing because it suited them. If I didn’t grow up, they didn’t have to grow up. If I didn’t take responsibility, they didn’t need to take responsibility. If I didn’t challenge them, they could carry on getting significance from my being vulnerable and impulsive. The idea that your family and friends love you no matter what and want the best for you is a myth. If they are not regenerating with you, they want the best for you as long as you make them look good and it suits their idea of themselves. 


No matter how much time I spent telling my family all that I was getting from mentoring, how much Lighthouse was helping me recover from illness, how much I was now caring for the child in me who was still so wounded from divorce, how much I was trying to take responsibility for acting out and being toxic to others, no matter what I said to them, it always came down to them objecting to the money I had invested in myself and my healing. It was always as if money or the ability to get a mortgage one day or save for retirement despite not even being in my 30s was more important than healing in any of these painful and debilitating areas. Truly, if money is more important to members of a family than having a healthy daughter or a healthy sister then that gives more cause for Lighthouse to exist than anything.

The more that I started facing problems head-on, not shying away from honest conversations, and facing where family and friends needed to take responsibility as well, the more opposition I received. And this was not based exclusively on what I was learning at Lighthouse but from many other sources, books, therapy, documentaries, studies, interviews with experts in relationships, etc. In fact, the first time I confronted my parents and wrote them letters was when I was in therapy when I was 17, so this wasn’t new for me or them. 

In the book Toxic Parents by Susan Forward PhD (leading psychiatrist in her field), Dr Forward advises that the process of confronting parents courageously for your painful past is an essential and empowering part of healing. Dr Forward writes: “Children who are not encouraged to do, to try, to explore, to master, and to risk failure, often feel helpless and inadequate. Over-controlled by anxious, fearful parents, these children often become anxious and fearful themselves. This makes it difficult for them to mature. Many never outgrow the need for ongoing parental guidance and control. As a result, their parents continue to invade, manipulate, and frequently dominate their lives.” This describes the experience I have had in adulthood at the hands of family members, particularly certain female family members, trying to dominate and control my life and where for many years until recently, I allowed them. Dr Forward also writes that toxic parents will not accept any external reality that challenges their beliefs or the agreed upon rules of “the family system”. In my case, holding my family accountable for their behaviour has been met with nothing but resistance, deception, denial and blame shifting, exactly as Dr Forward describes. 

If it was THIS difficult to have progressive conversations as a family, if my family members were THIS resistant to me growing up and no longer being the baby and finally maturing out of dependency, then it was no wonder that I had been struggling in so many areas of my life. And it was no wonder that I needed to come to somewhere like Lighthouse to start making sense of my life. At the time, people at Lighthouse were the only ones who also understood this. They experienced the same things – people they had known their whole lives who they naturally grew away from or started locking horns with when they started working on themselves and dealing with their fallibilities and iniquities.

Standing up for myself 

I started going through a very painful process of facing some of my biggest challenges and the areas of my psyche, my health and well-being that I was the most in denial of, including my health. When I met Lighthouse, I’d had 2 surgeries for a colorectal disease which I could barely verbalise – I struggled to say why I was sick because I was so embarrassed, so worried about being judged and didn’t want to draw attention to a defect in myself. I was in denial of my own illness and there were many other areas of my life that I had denied, justified and minimised, but I could not twist the fabric of reality – the more I was ignoring my problems, the bigger they got. The people at Lighthouse could see my suffering and they helped me to stand up for myself, to look at all the areas of myself where I was suffering and didn’t want to look, to deal with the problems I had head-on. For instance, after my father hurled verbal abuse at me five days after my sixth surgery in March 2021, it was the people at Lighthouse who picked me up off the floor and got me safely into a hotel, helped me to rebuild my life and finally look at the toxicity that has existed in my family for many years. After years of saying “I’m fine”, I could finally say “you know what, I really need help, I’m suffering”. And the physical healing that has come through this has been absolutely extraordinary. I have gone from having a potentially lifelong disease to being given the all-clear, no longer needing to dress my wounds daily and no longer suffering from chronic pain every day.  

The Predatory Trolling and The Press

It has been an absolute shock to me that family and so-called friends, in the name of love, care and wanting the best for me, have been so entitled, unempathetic, unsupportive, ignorant, impatient and controlling when it comes to me and how I choose to live my life. It has been a greater shock to me that many of them would hate to be proved wrong in their ridiculous and false delusions that Lighthouse is a scam all because I invested money in the care I am receiving. They would rather see me fail in my investment in myself, even taking an active part in trying to ensure that I do fail than support me to succeed. 

The accusations made against Lighthouse online and in the press have broken my heart because everything has been twisted and taken out of context and has been used to manipulate people away from the support they need to heal as I needed. If I had listened to what was written in the press, or online, or what I was getting from all sides of my family about Lighthouse being a scam (with no evidence), I would still be suffering from illness and I would still be battling deep insecurities and depression. And although I have been deeply stressed and affected by this at times, what has kept me at Lighthouse has been the truth. 

The Support I Have Received

Mel Francis & The Lighthouse Community
Left to right: Mel Francis, Ed Zapp, Shaun Cooper, Kris Deichler, Victoria Bytel, Asif Valiji, Jack Comer, Daniel Schmitz, Jatinder Singh, Vivienne Juan

My family told me that when Lighthouse was done extracting money out of me that they would leave me on the side of the road and I would have nothing and no one. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I have received far more than I have put in, time, money and effort. People at Lighthouse have paid for my rent for a 1 bed flat for 6 months when I couldn’t cover it myself because I needed to prioritise my physical healing, they have spent hours on the phone with me giving me advice for every challenge in my life, helping me cover my costs out of their own pockets, sharing with me all they had to give, keeping nothing selfishly for themselves, they have opened their homes to me. It has never been about money because if it was, I believe they would have made far more by now. It has always been about community, caring for one another, learning together and truly healing. The people at Lighthouse are not perfect and have made mistakes for sure, but they have always put people and relationships first which means that the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and well-being of a person and their relationships are paramount. 

Becoming Christian

Lighthouse never pressured me in my finances, my decisions to create some much-needed space away from toxic members of my family, or my faith. Kris Deichler suggested I read the Gospel of Matthew during Covid when I was struggling like many thousands and millions were across the world. Every discussion around God, Jesus Christ and the Bible has been an organic and honest exploration like any other discussion around the big questions. In this exploration, I could accept that whilst I had been hurt a lot in life, I had also caused a lot of hurt. The Bible taught me about forgiveness, taking responsibility and making my wrongs right. Without that, I would be doomed to be a victim, always blaming someone else rather than accepting that if I do not truly reform where I have caused hurt then I will just end up repeating the same abuse I have endured onto others in my own twisted ways. It was the Bible and faith in Jesus Christ as my saviour which showed me how I can be redeemed from the hell of self-abuse I was living and perpetuating.

There is no part of me that feels uncomfortable about becoming a Christian during my tenure at Lighthouse. In fact, I am absolutely delighted that in this secular and godless world that they were open to exploring the reality and truth of the Bible and how it can be backed up with hard evidence and logic. I have personally fallen in love with apologetics off the back of this and now have a love of Biblical archaeology which fills me with deep appreciation and awe of God and a growing certainty in the truth of the Bible. This extends way beyond Lighthouse. 

4 years down the road at Lighthouse, I am now; Christian, an ex-smoker, sober, drug and narcotic-free, an ex-gambler, illness/ fistula free, healing, healthy, abstinent, a reforming sinner, growing in true security, humility and gratitude in God, growing into a mature grown adult, part of a loving community, part of a wonderful local church, clear in my God-given purpose to serve those who are less fortunate and vulnerable than myself. I owe Lighthouse and the community here my life for everything they have supported me through to grow into who I am today. Anyone who would prefer me for who I was before beginning this journey is either ignorant or cruel and I pray for them both.

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