Choice’s Scientology Story
I was born into Scientology. I’ve organized my story into blocks of time that represent different aspects of my experience. It feels impossible to write my entire story down – so I will limit it to my strongest memories.
1-5 Years Old
My mother found Scientology in her early 20s. She came from an extremely dysfunctional family and the Church promised to make her a better person and fulfilled her desire to help other people. They became her family. Unfortunately for me and my brother (and my future siblings), that meant all of her resources – all of her time and what little money she had – went to the Church instead of to caring for us.
One of my first memories was being picked up by the police as I was walking to the Church nursery by myself in a city that was known as the murder capital of the United States. I must have been about 4 years old. I was waiting for a light to turn green when a man took hold of my arm and flagged down a police car. He couldn’t believe I was by myself and wanted to make sure I was okay. The police drove me to the nursery (following my directions) and made sure I arrived safely.
My mother was a staff member, both day and foundation (day and night) at an Org. During these years we rarely saw her. My brother and I spent most of our time at the Church nursery, falling asleep on cots at night, waiting for my mom to pick us up at 10,11, or 12 at night. My brother used to sneak out of the nursery in the evenings and make his way to the Church to see her, hiding behind cars to avoid being caught by police.
I remember my father calling me when he was four and telling me he would not be able to see me again. He and my mother had split soon after I was born and he was getting re-married and starting a new family. He and his fiancé were afraid of the Church and afraid any support he might give to my mom would go to it instead of to my care. I didn’t see or hear from him again until I was 21 years old.
6-10 Years Old
My mother decided to transfer into working at the Church nursery. I remember doing something wrong – I can’t remember what – and being assigned to my mother’s version of the RPF. To get out of doing mestwork (in my case cleaning), I would sometimes pretend I had homework from school or pretend to fall asleep.
During these years, I was always in charge of watching several children. I remember being solely responsible for several infants at a time. I remember caring for babies who were teething and trying to soothe them by putting ice on their gums. I remember pushing two strollers as my stepfather (who also became staff at the nursery), took groups of 10 or more kids on impossibly long walks. I remember not being supervised very well and “experimenting” with other nursery kids – playing boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife.
One day when I was seven and was walking to the local public school by myself, a man took me by the hand, took me into an alley and molested me. I remember wondering where he was taking me – I was frightened but he was an adult and no one had ever told me what to do in a situation like this. I remember wondering (hopefully) if he was taking me to see his wife who would give me cookies. Not so.
My brother and I were the only two white kids in an all black school. I was beat up a few times because I was different and made fun of because of my thrift store, mismatched clothes. As time went by I made friends and I began to enjoy learning. For a time we attended this local public school, then a private Scientology school, and then we were homeschooled.
I remember my mother doing hours and hours of CCH’s on me. And drills – she was always trying to drill me on something. I took the usual basic courses. Did the usual hours upon hours of TR’s. But mostly I remember the relentless CCH’s and looking out of the window wishing I could play.
Most of all, I remember working my entire childhood. I watched other kids and cleaned. From time to time I would babysit for a public Scientologist. Babysitting for me was a vacation – seeing how other people lived showed me that there was another way. There was no TV in my house, no telephone, and never anything a kid thinks is yummy to eat. I didn’t get to keep the money I made babysitting, but it was still the highlight of my life.
11-15 Years Old
Sea Org recruiters came to our Org. I was not getting along well with my mother. My brother had joined the Sea Org two years earlier and he was considered a hero in our family. The recruiter said she and her husband would personally be my guardians. And I might one day be approved to go uplines and be a messenger for LRH himself. With my mom’s wholehearted encouragement, I packed my little suitcase and headed to New York to be a Commodore’s Messenger. As it turned out my guardian was only a guardian on paper.
A few days in I had my first dose of reality. I was on the EPF with another young girl. We were supposed to get the CO’s son dressed and ready for her to pick him up – I believe they were going to a Broadway show. Her son was not cooperative. We were on the 7th floor and she was on the 1st floor. I heard her screaming at us from the 1st floor. I don’t remember what she said but I remember being shocked at her yelling and cursing. The next day I called my mother crying and told her I wanted to come home. She told me to stay and stick it out. That wasn’t the first time I tried to leave, but it was the most damaging because I felt like I had nowhere to go. I never forgave her for that. Years later we talked about it and she said she was afraid of being embarrassed if I came home. From time to time I would tell my seniors I wanted to route out, but would soon be intimidated into staying by the usual tactics – yelling, screaming, being told I wouldn’t make it in the wog world, etc.
I was on the EPF for quite some time. And somehow I always got myself into trouble. I took up smoking (in a very amateurish way – not inhaling but enjoying the whole experience nonetheless.) I would get caught. I would confide in a friend and the friend would write up a Knowledge Report on me. This was the beginning of my not trusting people. During my entire time in the Seaorg, virtually anytime I confided in anyone, it backfired.
I remember all of us being sec-checked frequently. Anytime something went missing, the EPF’ers were blamed. I remember feeling guilty holding the cans as I was being sec-checked – even though I hadn’t done anything. That feeling remained with me for years (and still does). Feeling guilty for some nameless reason. They must have known something about me that I didn’t know myself. Why else would I be sec-checked in such a harsh manner?
For a short time I attended a private Scientology school. But very soon after arriving to New York I was sent to the local public school. I loved it. I loved everything about school. Except that I had to wear the same clothes every day and had no winter coat. But I had friends and I was at the top of my class and I felt normal. Well as normal as I could considering no parent came with me on parent day. And as normal as I could, considering the fact that immediately after school I went to work at the church until it was time to go to sleep. I literally had 2 pairs of pants. Sometimes I would “borrow” pants from a girl who was smaller than me (borrow is in quotes because she didn’t know) – I couldn’t zip them up so I would wear a large sweatshirt to cover up.
My EPF days consisted of studying, scrubbing the collars on white uniform shirts with toothbrushes, ironing, cleaning, and serving food to the CMO staff during mealtimes. The CMO staff lived on the top floor of the building in relatively comfortable rooms. One night, my roommate and I decided to rearrange our room. We got tired about half way through and fell asleep. That was a big mistake. We awoke to screaming and were ordered to move to the 3rd floor berthing immediately. We were told we were pigs and no longer deserved to live on the 7th floor. That was my first experience sleeping in what was essentially a warehouse on a bunkbed 3 beds high.
For some reason, I just did not gel with the CMO staff in New York. I like to think it was a quiet rebellion of their authority. I’m not sure what the breaking point was, but they finally decided to transfer me to Flag. At Flag, I did the DPF and then was assigned to be the Supercargo’s assistant in the FSO. She was the first truly kind person I met in the Seaorg and she remained that way. The rest of my experience was more of the same. I remember once trying to get leave to go to my stepfather’s grandmother’s funeral . He was visiting and she passed away while he was there. He was screamed at, I was screamed at. I didn’t go to the funeral.
Schooling was almost non-existent during my time at Flag. They had their own “school,” where we “studied” for a couple of hours a day and then went to work. I consider 7th grade to be the last formal schooling I received as a minor. Something snapped when I turned 15. I was done. I wanted out and this time being yelled out wasn’t going to keep me in. I was put on galley duty but I didn’t break. My fitness board went uplines and lots of time went by but I didn’t change my mind. They finally gave up and I went home.
15 Years Old
I came home. I had only visited a handful of times since I left when I was 11. I was only visited twice. Four years had gone by but not much had changed except that I had two younger sisters. We lived in the ghetto — one of the poorest neighborhoods in the nation. My mother and stepfather still gave all of their time and money to the Church. I made the basement my room and set out to fix it up. I had it carpeted and got a telephone. I got a job at a copy center. I got a tv. I felt almost normal.
But my mom and I still did not get along. I was a big disappointment having routed out of the Seaorg. And she was hurt because she felt I didn’t talk to her. I was reading a book which happened to have an evil mother in it and she took it personally. Still, I thought things were okay and went about building my little life. I would look at the commercials on TV for vocational schools and think that maybe I could do something with my life.
Then my brother came home for a visit over Christmas from the Seaorg. I didn’t know it at the time, but my mother and stepfather complained to him about me. They told him I was out-exchange and nattering about the Seaorg. I remember him screaming at me and me screaming back. He took away my TV and he locked me in the basement. I told him if he didn’t let me out I would kill myself. I didn’t mean it but I knew he would unlock the door. He did. He pushed me and shoved me in front of my little sisters and my mother and stepfather. With all of the indignities I had already suffered in my life – I had never been so humiliated. I couldn’t believe they were all just watching him manhandle me and not doing anything to stop it. What had I done to deserve this? I didn’t even know I had done anything wrong. My heart broke at that moment – I knew I was completely alone in the world.
Soon after that incident, I moved to Los Angeles. A friend who I had met at Flag had also routed out and moved to California with her mother and sisters. Her mother let me stay with them for 2 weeks and then my friend found me a place to stay with someone she had met who had her own single apartment. The young woman with the apartment was an alcoholic and there were 3 other people living in the single, but I had a place to stay. I got a job as a waitress at a restaurant owned by a Scientologist, and later as an office assistant at another company owned by a Scientologist. I was part of the young group of Scientologist kids who lived near or around the complex and who had to be self –sufficient – most of their parents being in the Seaorg.
I lived in the single for a while, but soon had to find a new situation as the young woman was moving away. I stayed on a few couches for a couple of weeks and finally found a spot in another waitress’s apartment. She and her boyfriend were in the bedroom and I slept on a little fold out chair in their living room. Finally I got my own apartment with a roommate. I was still 15. I never received any support from my family. Over the next several years I would always wonder what would happen if for some reason I couldn’t pay my rent. I was terrified. I would see signs on motels that advertised weekly rates and thought maybe that would be an option. It never came to this, but the fear was always in the back of my mind.
For the next few years I worked full time and hung out with other young Scientologists on the weekends. I did a course here and there, but for the most part did my own thing. Work was my escape. I was good at it, appreciated, and I didn’t have to face my own life. I made many mistakes during my teenage years, but I’ll keep those to myself.
As time went on I found it increasingly difficult to keep my feelings about Scientology to myself. I felt disingenuous by not expressing my doubts and reservations. All of my friends knew I had issues with Scientology but sort of overlooked it. When I turned 21 I had had enough. I had a new boyfriend who was not a Scientologist and I moved to the other side of town with him and his family. I told my friends how I really felt. I got a job at a non-Scientologist owned company. I cut the ties, but not completely. Somehow I still remained friends with the group of young Scientologists I had been growing up with. But from a distance.
I remember the first time I read an anti-Scientology book – I believe it was “A Piece of Blue Sky.” I kept looking over my shoulder. I felt so incredibly vulnerable. I remember the first picture I saw of LRH that was not flattering. I was shocked. He really was just a man. Overweight, scruffy, flawed… just a man.
The next several years I spent figuring out how to live my life outside of Scientology. I tried to help my two younger sisters. One or the other of them lived with me for a period of five years. Later, one of them became very mentally ill. I am still angry that she did not receive help when she was younger. Not only was her childhood hard and her own Sea Org experience hard, but she was never able to get any help with what might or might not have been an inevitable and serious mental illness. My other sister is not much better off.
I suffered from depression. I had suffered from depression as far back as I could remember. It finally got to a point where I couldn’t ignore it anymore and reached out for help. I couldn’t understand how the world could be so cold. How could your parents not care what happened to you? How could you not have a winter coat at 12 years old? How could they not call you on your birthday? How could the adults in the Seaorg have been so cold and uncaring? I was born a sensitive person and I was hurt easily and deeply.
But I am a survivor and I did what I always did – I worked hard. I worked to support myself and I put myself through college. I received my BA when I was 30 years old. There was no way I was going to go backwards. I was never going to live the way I had as a child.
I now have a husband, two amazing children, a house, and my own business. No one telling me what to do – just the way I like it. Life isn’t perfect – no one’s life is perfect. But the more time goes by, the closer I get to what I wanted when I was a little girl and would go babysit at other people’s houses. And the farther away I get from the twisted world of Scientology.
My whole family is now out of Scientology – even my mother who started it all, and my brother who went into the Seaorg at 11 and got out when he was in his late 30’s. We have a close relationship now and I forgive him for what happened in the past. In some ways, his story is even sadder than mine. But he’ll have to tell you that himself. As for my mother and stepfather they are not so well off. They divorced and barely make ends meet. They are not eligible for Social Security benefits because they didn’t pay into the system all those years of working for the Church. They have no savings, no retirement, no health insurance, and not much of a relationship with their children. These were high-level auditors, OT’s, dedicated staff members for more than 20 years.
Over the years, people have asked me if I ever think the Church will be stopped. I always said that if it happens, it will be because of the children who grew up in Scientology but never had a choice.
Kendra, Astra & Jenna – thank you for your courage.