Declaration of Astra Woodcraft

Posted by on November 12, 2012 in Stories from Inside Scientology | Comments Off on Declaration of Astra Woodcraft

I, Astra Woodcraft, declare as follows:

1. I am over the age of 18 years.

2. The statements herein are of my own personal knowledge and if called upon as a witness, I can testify competently thereto.

3. I was born in 1978 in London, England. At that time, my mother was a member of the Church of Scientology.

4. When I was 5 or 6 years old, my mother took me to the Scientology organization in England called Saint Hill, which is located in East Grinstead, Sussex. There I received approximately 12 hours of “auditing.” The auditing I received consisted of an “auditor” telling me to “look at that wall, thank you, walk to that wall, thank you, touch that wall, thank you, walk away from that wall, thank you,” and similar such commands. I was made to follow these commands on a repetitive basis.

5. When I was growing up in England to the age of seven, my mother would apply the Scientology technology for sicknesses. When I hurt myself, she would make me do a “contact assist” which meant that if I hit my elbow, I had to touch it back to the place where I hit it over and over until it felt better and I wasn’t allowed to stop until it felt better. If I was ill, my mother gave me a “touch assist” where I would lie down and close my eyes and she would touch me with her finger and ask, “feel my finger.” This was also done until I felt better. I never felt better from theses processes but would have to pretend I did because she wouldn’t stop until I said I felt good.

6. Throughout my years in scientology, in all the auditing I received I never felt good at the end. I made up wins to get it over with and generally felt relief that it was over and dread that I would have to have another session. I kept this secret always because it is scientology policy that if a person does not get gain from auditing, it means they are a suppressive person.

7. In 1986, when I was seven years old, my mother’s father died. He left her some money and she used it to go to “Flag” which is the highest-level Scientology delivery organization in the world, located in Clearwater, Florida. While she was there, she was recruited for the Sea Organization which is where people dedicate their entire life, and supposedly the next billion years of their lifetimes, for the purpose of “clearing the planet” which means getting everyone into Scientology and processed to the level of “Clear.” She called and told us she had joined after she had already started working there.

She told us we all needed to join, that we were moving to Flag to live in a beautiful apartment, that we kids would go to a very good private school and this would all be paid for by Scientology. She additionally told us that her and my dad would get bonuses, time off every other weekend and family time every evening.

8. When we arrived in 1986 to the Sea Organization in Clearwater, myself, my brother, my sister and mother all lived in one motel room for several weeks. Then we were moved into the main living quarters for the Sea Organization members who had young children called the QI (Quality INN) and at this point my dad joined us. Again, we lived in one small motel room. All five of us lived in this room for approximately 3 months, when my brother moved out. From this point on, the four remaining family members lived in this room for about a year, wherein I was moved into a dorm with 4 or 5 other girls. In this dorm, I slept on a couch, as there was no bed for me. I lived there for another year, which was the remainder of our time in Clearwater.

9. We were never sent to a private school as promised. We instead went to the local public school. I only recall my mother taking 3 days off out of the two years we were there. She almost never spent the evening family time with us (1 ½ hr), but stayed at work across town. After being in Clearwater for about a year, my father was sent off to help on the renovations of the Sea Org ship, The Freewinds. As I was moved into a dorm, my father was gone and my mother didn’t take time off to spend with us, I almost never saw my parents.

10. At one point of our time in Clearwater, we went back to England to take care of our Visas. My father, my brother and I begged my mom not to take us back to Florida, as we disliked it so much. I spent a lot of my time crying about it. My mother refused and insisted we return.

11. For the two years that we lived in Clearwater, I went to school until 2 p.m. and then worked at the “Cadet Org” where we did such jobs as cleaning, etc. On weekends, we would work as well.

12. In 1988, when I was 9 years old, my mother was transferred to middle management of the Sea Organization, which is located in Los Angeles, California. When we arrived, my father took a leave of absence so that he could obtain our Visas and work to pay off debts. When we arrived in Los Angeles, we were moved into a rundown studio apartment. After living there for about a month, my father paid for and moved us into a proper apartment.

13. For approximately a year, from the age of 9-10, I was in the Cadet Org in Los Angeles. This is where the children of Sea Org members go. During the day, we went to school at a building they had rented where there were two classrooms; one for older kids and one for younger kids. The teacher was not a trained or certified teacher, but a trained Scientology “Supervisor.” We had no class lessons, but instead worked straight out of books and were made to make clay “demonstrations” of what we were studying. If we acted up in class at all, the supervisor simply threw us out of the room. This happened to me on several occasions. One time, when I was 10, there was going to be an inspection of our school. Many of the children were made to stay until about 3 a.m. cleaning up the premises.

14. Every day after school, we were made to work. We were sent to the basement of one of the main offices for the Sea Organization and made to do filing, as there were mounds of it piling up. When work ended at approximately 9-10 p.m., we went to sleep on cots or directly on the floor with pieces of blankets to keep us warm. When my mom got off work, she picked me up. From what I recall, this was between 11pm-12am.

15. After being in the Cadet Org for about 1 year, I refused to go back.

Several things happened that caused me to feel this way. A boy who was there got upset and climbed to the top of a billboard and threatened to jump and kill himself: another boy threw a cockroach at me and kicked me. My mother continuously tried to get me to stay but I refused and moved in with my dad.

I did continue to go to their school, but after a few months, I was told that I either had to work in the Cadet Org or discontinue attending their school.

At this point, my father enrolled me in a private school. It was a Scientology run school at my mother’s insistence.

16. At the Scientology school I attended, which was called “Ability Plus,” there were again two classrooms, one for younger kids and one for older kids.

There was no proper curriculum and no student had ever graduated from high school, even though they claimed that you could. There were no class lessons;

we just worked from books and “checksheets”. Our “teacher” spent several hours reading us the science fiction book from L. Ron Hubbard called “Battlefield Earth.”

17. When I was 14 years old, I started doing a Scientology course at the Celebrity Centre in Hollywood. Soon after, two Sea Org recruiters approached me. They were recruiting for Bridge Publications, which is a Sea Org organization. They told me that if I joined their group, I would get paid minimum wage {which was several hundred a week, a lot of money for a 14 year-old); that I would not have to wear a uniform like most Sea Org members;and that I would go to school and finish my education. They also told me that when I was older and wanted to have children I could. They spent several hours convincing me including telling me that the only thing stopping me from joining was my “reactive mind.” The recruiter’s names were Gavin Potter and Malcolm Chisholm. I ended up agreeing to join. One of the reasons I agreed to join was that my mother and brother had persisted in trying to recruit me and I knew this would make them happy.

18. Soon thereafter, I started on the “Estates Project Force” (EPF), which is like boot camp for the Sea Org. I started in May of 1993 and was on it for approximately two weeks. When I first arrived, I was made to fill out a “life history” form where I had to write down any sexual experiences I had had, all my friends’ names, and dozens of other extremely personal details. I also had to sign a contract for a billion years. I never got a work permit.

My schedule on the EPF went something like this: 6:30 a.m. wake up and get dressed; 7:00 a.m. breakfast; 7:30 a.m. muster (meeting); 7:30-8:00 a.m. run (not walk) around and empty all the ashtrays and trashcans outside three different buildings; 8:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. study Sea Org policies; 1:00 p.m. muster and polish boots; 1:15-1:45 p.m. lunch; 1:45 p.m. muster, drilling and marching; 2:15 p.m.-7:00 p.m. work, which included cleaning pots and pans, cleaning out a clogged toilet, sweeping and mopping floors, etc.; 7:00-7:30 p.m. dinner; 7:30-10:00 p.m. more work; 10:00-10:30 p.m. shower; 10:30 p.m. muster; 11:15 p.m. go to bed. This was a 7-day a week schedule.

19. After I finished the EPF in June of 1993, I started working at Bridge. The day I started working there, they told me I was being transferred to another organization for 2 months. I was told that I had no choice but to do it, as I had no “staff status.” I went to work in the International Justice Chief’s office doing secretarial work. I had to wear a military uniform. After I worked there for approximately three months, I was told that I was being transferred to another organization permanently and that I again had no choice as I still had no staff status. The organization I was transferred to was the International Training Organization. The staff there were on $15 a week pay as they had no money and the food they were given was beans and rice. I tried to refuse to go there but was told again and again I had no choice. Once there, I felt I couldn’t survive on the re-fried beans and rice we had for every meal, so I took other food that wasn’t supposed to be for us because I was starving. This was considered stealing. This lasted approximately 1 year.

20. For the first 6 months that I was in the International Training Org (ITO) I was the Receptionist. I had trouble attending the 6 hours of school that the minors went to on Saturdays because in order to attend I had to find someone to replace me on my post. The school here was, again, substandard with all the approximately 60 kids enrolled in one room with one non-certified teacher. We had no lessons, no curriculum and no way to graduate: you just stopped going when you turned 18 or got a GED.

21. Soon after I joined the Sea Org when I was still 14, I started having a relationship with another Sea Org member named Jason Merrill. Jason was 21.

After two months we were heavily pushed by senior scientology managers to get married, as in the Sea Org you are not allowed to do anything other than kiss before you are married and if you do more, you may be sent to the Rehabilitation Project Force, which means heavy labor for at least a year. In December of 1993, when I had just turned 15, Jason and I went to Las Vegas and got married.

22. Once married, the Sea Org did not have a room in which we could live together so we were instructed to live in our separate dorms until they found room that we could share and this would take several months. Instead of this, we decided to stay down the road at Jason’s parents house, and we did so for about four months, knowing we would get into big trouble if we were found out as it was against policy for sea org members to live outside of church provided facilities.

23. After about 4 months, the Executive Director International and the Commanding Officer of the CMO International, who were at the top of the management of Scientology, came to inspect our organization. They asked me if I knew anyone who was not living in the Sea Org berthing and I was compelled to confess that my husband and I were not. We were immediately ordered back into SO berthing and since there were still no rooms available, we stayed in a storage closet that was 3/4 full of storage for a week. We slept on the floor and there were no windows.

24. After a week in the closet, we were moved into a room of our own, but after 1 week, that room was taken away and we were moved to another building.

We didn’t find out we had been moved after other staff members had removed our belongings. The room we were put into next had a missing windowpane that was never replaced, very old carpet and peeling paint. We shared the bathroom with 2 other couples and had no light bulb, no shower curtain and no hot water the majority of the time. We lived in this room for 6 months.

25. After being the Receptionist at the ITO for 6 months, I was transferred to the post of Master at Arms and then to Director of Inspections and Reports. I was in charge of enforcing ethics and justice for the 100 staff in ITO and the 50-100 students on training. My very first assignment was to handle a 40 year-old man whose wife had been gone for 2 years on training. He had been masturbating which is considered “out-ethics” and I was supposed to make him stop. I was 15 years old.

26. On this post, I also had to handle people who wanted to leave the Sea Organization. I had to convince them to stay and if they refused, I had to make them do hard labor and order them to get “confessionals” which often took up to 6 months or a year to complete before hey were allowed to leave. One couple wanted to leave and they left without permission twice but came back.

Leaving without permission is called “blowing.” I was ordered to put them under heavy watch because there was no one else to watch them. Since there was no one else to watch them, I had to do it. I was then ordered to put a mattress outside their door and tie my arm to the knob while I slept so they couldn’t sneak out. The policy soon became that anyone who wanted to leave must go under “watch” to stop them from “blowing.”

27. I was ordered to do numerous watches while in the Sea Organization.

Anyone who admitted to having thoughts of suicide was immediately put under watch. I was ordered to do these watches by executives at Religious Technology Center, CMO and OSA. My husband at the time spent approximately nine months watching an OT Sea Org member for reasons that were kept secret;during this time she got pregnant and had a miscarriage. She was under watch 24 hours a day with my husband and another man watching her during the day and another staff member watching her at night.

28. I was also in charge of investigating and finding the “Suppressive Person” if a department wasn’t producing enough. I had to make people write up their “overts & withholds” (things they had done that were bad), receive confessionals, do amends, etc. I had to write a “Suppressive Person” declare on a lady who had already left with permission but then was ordered to receive more confessionals and was having trouble getting a ride to come over and receive them. She was then made to disconnect from family and friends who were in the Sea Org and her husband was ordered to split up from her, but he refused.

29. During my time in the Sea Organization I started going to the 6 hour a week school less and less. I couldn’t get anyone to cover my job and got in trouble for leaving it. Also, the school got reduced even further to all of us sitting all day in a room doing Spelling and Math bees. By the time I was 16, I was attending sporadically and at 17 I wasn’t attending at all. I didn’t think it made any difference since I didn’t learn a thing while I was there. I didn’t learn math, history, science, social studies or English. I just did spelling bees, read a book, etc. After I turned 18, some of the kids got to go take their GED, but because I was over 18 I didn’t get to do it since there was “no reason” as I no longer legally had to attend school. It was well known that the legal minimum for school attendance for a minor is 20 hours a week. We were told this, but the law was blatantly ignored.

30. From the age of 14, I had an official schedule starting at 8:00 a.m.and ending at 10:00 p.m., but regularly worked later, sometimes until 2 or 3 a.m. We got 30 minutes for lunch and 45 minutes for dinner and no other breaks. We regularly were ordered to work during part of our meal times. We sometimes got into trouble if we went to the canteen when it wasn’t our mealtime. The schedule was 7 days a week, but we got Sunday morning to do our laundry and clean our rooms. On Saturday’s we did labor work, consisting of renovations, etc. There was a period of 3 weeks or so in 1995 when I was still a minor where there was a huge evolution to print new policies to revise all the Scientology technology. (This is known as the “Golden Age of Tech within the church.) During this time, all staff including minors were ordered to work around the clock literally to produce these new polices and put them into binders. My job was to go and wake up any staff who went to sleep and make them get back to work. I would fall asleep while driving. I got approximately 2 hours of sleep a night during this time, but many times got no sleep for 2 or more days. I was ordered to drive around even though I was falling asleep and incoherent due to no sleep. One time I parked my car and accidentally fell asleep and woke up 3 hours later because a meter attendant was knocking on my window. Once this “evolution” was complete, the staff was rewarded with a trip to the movies.

31. In approximately 1996, when I was 16 or 17, there was a re-organization done and I became in charge of the ethics and security departments for the entirety of middle management known as the Flag Liaison Office. One day, the Chief of Security International, Jeff Porter, came and gave me an order to get some staff to do security at an event. I didn’t do it because I didn’t consider it my job. He then came back and screamed at me, pushed me up against a wall and screamed at me more while holding me against the wall and spitting in my face. I complained about this but nothing was done to handle it.

32. When I was 18, I was transferred to another job in the Data department. This was because someone said I was not qualified for the job I had been doing because I had tried marijuana when I was 13 years old. I worked in the Data department for one year. My senior, Wayne Furness, harassed me on a regular basis. When I first started working under him, he started calling me a lesbian and telling me and another girl that we were lesbians. I got very upset and finally wrote a report to his senior. She told him to stop and nothing more. He stopped calling me a lesbian, but because I had reported him, he continued to call me other names such as “Two-ton Tesse” (I was not in the slightest overweight being 5’6″, 130 lbs), telling me I had “soft-skin”, etc. When he would say these things I got upset and then he would say that I had withholds and to write them up or he would tell me to go to ethics. He got his other juniors to side with him and tell me that I had “soft-skin”, etc. I reported this behavior but nothing was done because our department, which Wayne was in charge of, produced a lot and the policy from L. Ron Hubbard is that if someone’s statistics are “up” then they can’t get in trouble no matter what they do. Someone once “looked into” the situation, but nothing was done.

33. When I worked in the Data department, one of my jobs was to gather the statistics from around the world on a weekly basis and compile them all and graph them on the computer. There were approximately 300 organizations and I had to get each one to report in between 50-200 statistics each week. Every Thursday we had to get this done and had to stay at work until 3am. We also only got 5-10 minutes to eat lunch and dinner if at all. Every week there were, of course, a few organizations that were late reporting or had missing reports and every week staff from an organization called CMO International would write to me on a system similar to instant messaging getting progressively angrier as the day went on and there were missing reports. They would call us if they got really mad. I had to sit and answer their questions about where the reports were from 8am until about 9pm at night. I was told things like “You are fucking counter-intention,” and “You are stopping these reports coming in,” and other such expressions if any reports were late. They would also call me and my senior and scream and swear at us. Screaming and swearing is the regular way that seniors get juniors to do things in the Sea Organization. I was screamed and sworn at on a regular basis while I was in the Sea Organization.

34. There were a series of policies implemented by management while I worked in the Sea Org. When I had been there for a few months, our Commanding Officer made a new rule that no one could leave the building without her permission. Then I was told that I was not allowed to see my dad and have dinner with him without a specific reason and special permission. After about a year they told us that we were not allowed to eat anywhere but in the building nor were we to eat any food other than that provided. We were not allowed to go next door for pizza or anything. After about 3 years, we were told that we could not use our Sunday morning laundry time for anything else either, i.e., seeing our family, parents seeing their kids, or anything.

35. At around this time, another new policy was issued stating that no one could make or receive any personal calls without someone from the ethics and security department being with them. Personal calls were not transferred to us and a list was made each day of all incoming personal calls. This list was sent to the executives and the Religious Technology Center so that they could monitor who was being “influenced.”

36. My calls from my father were rarely routed to me and instead I would receive a note 2 or 3 days later telling me he had called. I had to go and hide in a phone booth to call him. On Christmas Day we were not allowed to go with our family or do anything other than the planned trip unless we got special permission, which was sometimes denied.

37. About 9 months before I left I was told that I could never see my father again unless I was working to get him back into the Sea Organization.

38. We were also made to fill out interrogatories listing out any gifts we received from family members, who we spoke to and anyone we knew who had left the Sea Organization. Anyone we were talking to, family or friends, who had either left Scientology, gave us gifts or money or tried to get us to take time off, were called ‘External Influences” and we were ordered to either handle them or disconnect from them entirely.

39. The staff was also made to practice how they would handle family members who inquired about how they were doing, etc. I was instructed to lie to my father and tell him I was attending school and not working long hours.

40. If a staff member got into trouble they would be assigned “lower conditions.” This meant doing formulas and amends, etc. A new policy came out after I had been there for a year stating that staff who were in lower conditions had to sit in the fire escape stairwell or in the trash room to eat their meals. They also had to do up to 40 hours of amends on their own time, which was during their meal times or after 10:30 at night. I myself had to eat in the stairwell and do hours of amends on my sleep or mealtime. We also were not allowed to watch TV and anyone who had a TV and VCR had it confiscated and only given to them if they had a day off and wanted to watch a movie.

41. For the almost 5 years that I was in the Sea Organization, I never got one day off with my husband other than 2 days when we got married and Christmas Day. I myself only got approximately 10-15 days off in the 5 years that I worked there.

42. Approximately 1½ years before I left, a new rule came out stating that if you got pregnant, you had to either get an abortion, which was heavily pushed, or leave. The rule had previously been that if you got pregnant, you had to get an abortion or be sent to a small and failing lower organization where you had to fend for yourself and your baby. I had to handle any staff that disagreed with this new rule. I myself disagreed with it because I wanted children and was told I would be able to have them when I was first recruited. However, I never said anything for fear of getting into trouble.

I got to the point of being suicidal because I was so unhappy, but I never said anything because I would have gotten into big trouble and been looked down upon.

43. In September of 1997, my grandma in England died. I convinced my seniors that I had to go to her funeral in England. They did not want me to go, but finally relented and let me take an 8-day leave. When I returned I realized that I could not take being split apart from my family any longer. I decided to get pregnant because if I tried to just leave, I would be made to do heavy labor and confessionals for 6 months to a year and be called a “degraded being” by the other staff. I got pregnant in January of 1998 and on February 23rd 1998 I left without permission, got on a plane and went to stay with my aunt and uncle in England. No one knew up until then that I was pregnant and I was really sick and had to get away. My seniors in Scientology threatened me that if I didn’t come back and receive a confessional I would be declared a Suppressive Person and my family would never speak to me again. My mother who is still in the Sea Org called me on a continuous basis telling me to get an abortion and return.

44. I returned on April 1st, 1998. Jeff Porter told me that if I left again, I would be declared immediately. I told the security staff there that I would stay with my father and come in every day for my confessional, explaining that I needed proper nutrition and they couldn’t provide it. They told me that I had to stay in their berthing or I would be put under a non-enturbulation order, which means that if I caused further trouble, that is if I still refused to stay in their berthing, I would be declared suppressive.

I then agreed that I would stay there for four days, which is how long my confessional was supposed to take. The Security Chief wrote me a letters stating that if I was not done with my confessional within four days, I could stay with my father until I finished.

45. Four days later I was not done, but I was told that they had only written the letter to get me to stay in the berthing and that it was not valid. Therefore, I had to continue to stay in Sea Org berthing and eat micro waved meals even though I was suffering from morning sickness. I had to sleep on the floor in a small room while waiting for my confessionals. I was there for 1 month.

46. It took a lot less time for me to leave because they didn’t want any of the other staff to know I was pregnant, so they were trying to get me out quick. A staff member from the Religious Technology Center (The Sea Org’s highest organization) came up to me one day while I was in the process of routing out and asked me what I was doing. I told him that I was pregnant and leaving and he said to me “Oh, too late for an abortion?” I personally knew of three other girls who got pregnant and were convinced to get abortions.

One was my sister-in-law who was 16 weeks pregnant when she was convinced to abort her child although she was strongly against it. My mother told my sister and I that it was good that she got an abortion.

47. Another thing I had to do before being allowed to leave was sign an affidavit stating that I thought Scientology and the Sea Org were great and that I was leaving because I couldn’t confront bad things I had done. I was told I could not leave without signing this document and that if I did leave before signing, I would be declared a suppressive person. I signed it knowing that it was not legal as it was signed under duress. It was the standard policy to make anyone who left the Sea Org sign such an affidavit and if you didn’t agree to what they wrote in it, you were sent in for more confessionals and ethics handlings until you did.

48. For the first few months after I left, I was called to come back in several times to answer questions for investigations. I was threatened if I wouldn’t come in.

49. When I left, I was given a bill totaling $89,000 for auditing and courses that I had done while I was in the Sea Org. I have been called approximately 10 times by various staff members including Bob Diskin and Renee Norton pressuring me to send them money to pay this bill. I have been sent about 20 letters on this subject.

50. When I was about 8 months pregnant, my ex-husband wrote me a letter and told me that he had decided that he did not want to have anything to do with our daughter when she was born. He stated that it was because he had to dedicate all his time to the Sea Organization. When my daughter was 6 months old, I wrote to him and told him that I needed him to figure out a way to pay child support, as I was not able to support our daughter. He didn’t reply for 6 months, but told his parents to stop seeing our daughter. They had been seeing her every other weekend up until that point and then I stopped hearing from them. They, too, are Scientologists. I ended up giving up trying to get child support from my ex-husband.

I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America and the state of Florida that the foregoing is true and correct.

Executed in Clearwater, Florida this 24th day of January 2001.

Astra Woodcraft