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HOW SCIENTOLOGY COERCED A CHILD TO HAVE AN ABORTION: THE LAURA DECRESCENZO FILES

Sleep deprivation is a key component to Sea Org control

Sleep deprivation is a key component to Sea Org control

 
In Scientology’s Rehabilitation Project Force, Sea Org members wear dark boiler suits, eat food that is even more meager than usual, cannot speak to non-RPF personnel, and are assigned to menial labor. Scientology calls it a voluntary experience to help a Sea Org member reflect on his transgressions. No one we have talked to who served on the RPF says it was voluntary. And if at first it was a punishment that lasted a few months, now it can take years to be returned to regular duty. Writes Laura in her declaration…

During my time in the RPF from 2001 to 2004, I left Scientology’s facilities less than 20 times, and did not have unfiltered access to my identification or to any money. I was only allowed to have $20 on me at any given time, my passport was locked up in a Scientology office (this was my only form of identification), and my trips out of Scientology’s facilities always involved at least two escorts.

In her pc files, Laura found a handwritten document she scribbled as her despair had deepened.

When shit like this happens — rather, when I do shit like this — I honestly don’t know what my intentions are and if anything that I’ve ever done is with the right intention or not. I know that I am capable of producing but I don’t know that it’s worth the added bullbait of the other shit that I’ve gotten into.

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Now I’m at the end of the RPF program and I honestly felt done and ready to go but then that’s a huge contrary fact. I do still know my outpoints.

At the end of the lengthy letter, she said she needed some time alone…

Anyway, I think I’ve decided by writing this. I would like a Fitness Board. I’m going for a walk right now. I’ll be at Griffith Park so please do not have people look for me. I just need some space.

As a result of her unscheduled stroll in the park, she did not receive a “fitness board” — a sort of trial to review her fitness for the Sea Org — but was instead assigned to the “RPF’s RPF,” the absolutely lowest post for a Sea Org member, a sort of solitary confinement with degrading menial labor and isolation.

By 2004, Laura seemed to be nearing the end of her RPF punishment, but then she was caught in a strange bureaucratic dead-end that prevented her from moving back into the regular Sea Org population. She seemed stuck, with no way of getting out of the prison detail.

And that’s when she finally swallowed two gulps of bleach, knowing that people with suicidal tendencies were usually allowed to leave the Sea Org.

Before she could leave, however, she had to sign affidavits making it sound like she’d been a thieving, incompetent employee — which were lies, she says.

After finally exiting the Sea Org, she was saddled with a $120,000 “freeloader’s debt” — a bill for all of the Scientology services she’d received over the years. (Legally unenforceable, freeloader’s debt is often used as a way of keeping Sea Org members from leaving, and some former members spend years trying to pay it off.) For the next four years, she remained a member of the church in good standing, and paid about $10,000 of her debt.

And she says that while she remained a member of the church, she didn’t dare think about criticizing Scientology.

“I also believed that if I took any action against the Church of Scientology, its members would smear my name and reputation, as this is what I observed others do,” she writes.

She would get calls about her freeloader’s debt, reminders that the church wasn’t going to let her off the hook.

“The fact that members of the Church of Scientology issued this bill and continued to call me to collect on it made me believe that the Church of Scientology was continuing to keep tabs on me and to make sure that I did not take any actions that were antagonistic of the Church (similar to what occurred during my entire time in the Sea Org),” she writes.

The church helped her get work at Scientologist-owned businesses so she could pay off her freeloader debt. “This was another way for the Church of Scientology to keep tabs on me and make sure that I was not doing anything antagonistic…my employers were required to report me to the Church of Scientology if they observed me doing anything antagonistic” to the church.

And one of the strangest ways that the church kept watch on her: “At least one Scientology representative stood watch at my house while I called other members to collect money from them in order to be able to purchase Scientology materials that I could not afford myself. I believed that I was regularly being tested by the church.”

Then, in June or July 2008, four years after she had left the Sea Org, she discovered that her mother had been looking at the Ex-Scientologist Message Board website. She confronted her parents, who admitted to her that they had decided to leave the church.

Laura began making anonymous posts to ESMB herself, and then in January 2009 she was confronted by two church members who told her they knew she was making the posts. At that point, she decided she was fully out of the church. She then filed her lawsuit in April.

Now, in 2013, Laura needs to prove to Judge Sohigian that the years of conditioning and manipulation prevented her from filing her lawsuit earlier.

She’s filed several declarations by other people to help support her case.

Christie Collbran joined the Sea Org at 16 in 1993, and left it 13 years later. Like Laura, she worked seven days a week for about $50 a week, and she saw people who wanted to leave but couldn’t. She says she is filing her declaration to support Laura’s contention that she didn’t believe she could “challenge or sue” the church because of her conditioning.

“I observed Lorena Gonzalez spend at least 6 months trying to leave after stating that she wanted to do so. I also observed Alejandra Barrazza spend many months performing manual labor after expressing a desire to leave. It appeared that these individuals were just rotting away rather than being allowed to leave, and I understood from everything that I observed that they were being ‘handled’ by the Church of Scientology to stay or were waiting for a sec check,” Collbran writes.

Worried about her own ability to leave, she became pregnant, and then kept it a secret as long as possible so she wouldn’t have to have an abortion.

When she did get to leave, she was forced to sign an affidavit that untruthfully described her in negative ways. “It was clear to me from the way that the affidavit was written that the Church of Scientology wanted to make me look bad and have collateral against me. It made me appear as if I was a scumbag and worthless.”

Collbran was hit with a freeloader debt of $40,000 and she paid about $10,000 of it to remain in good standing with the church.

It took her three years before she began to realize how poorly she’d been treated by the church. She started speaking out four years after leaving the Sea Org. (Today, she is married to former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder and they have a toddler named Jack.)

Shannon Kimoto says she joined the Sea Org in 1983 when she was 21, and left it in 2004 at 42. Twice she tried to leave the Sea Org, and was convinced to come back both times. In her declaration, she explains why she was afraid of filing a lawsuit against the church…

Specifically, during my work at Scientology’s International Base, I read reports, from the Office of Special Affairs at the International Base (OSA INT) that the Church of Scientology and RTC sent individuals to “befriend” enemies of the Church and to report personal information back to the Church about these individuals. The reports indicated that this information was then used to smear the person’s name, to make their life difficult, or to mess up their job. Among the people that I observed being followed or attacked by members of the Church of Scientology and RTC were Jesse Prince, Stacy and Vaughn Young, and Bob Minton. I also observed the Church of Scientology and RTC hire private investigators to follow individuals who attacked the Church.

Also included in the filings is a deposition with former Sea Org employee Claire Headley, who testified that she was twice forced to have abortions, and she said that she personally knew of 50 to 60 women at Scientology’s International Base near Hemet, California who had also had abortions.

Laura’s filings also include a declaration from California State University Fresno psychology professor emeritus Robert V. Levine, who says that he specializes in “the psychology of persuasion and mind control.”

After a caution about the use of the word “brainwashing,” he says…

Scientology exerted a persistent and potent program of psychological and social manipulation that effectively controlled DeCrescenzo’s thinking, behavior, emotions, and decisions. These pressures, though more subtle than what we think of as brainwashing, effectively controlled DeCrescenzo’s sense of reality. As a result, DeCrescenzo became incapable of objectively evaluating anything she was told or threatened with.

He goes over the many facts in her declaration, showing how much her notion of “normalcy” was determined by Scientology, and how hard it would have been for her to rebel against it.

In summary, DeCrescenzo was raised in Scientology, socialized in Scientology and her life was totalistically controlled by Scientology. Her energy and hope for achieving a better alternative was undermined by a multiplicity of physical, social and psychological threats from Scientology. She was made to believe that leaving or criticizing Scientology would have been extremely costly even if she’d been prepared with the skills and knowledge to lead an alternative life, which the entirety of her experience in Scientology had convinced her she was not.

Levine’s declaration is a fascinating one, and we encourage you to read the entire thing — it’s listed with the rest of the documents at the end of the story. But first, we wanted to get some legal perspective from a member of the Bunker’s lawyer squad. Here’s what we got from a crack member of our team…

Laura is responding to a “motion for summary judgment” filed by the church asking the court to grant judgment in its favor. This is a difficult motion to win if there are facts in dispute at the time it is filed. For summary judgment to be granted, a two-part standard must be met: (i) no genuine issue of material fact can be in dispute between the parties, and (ii) the moving party must be entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Laura argues that there are material facts still in dispute such as whether a confidential/fiduciary relationship existed between the church and Laura, and whether the church’s conduct in that relationship caused Laura to delay filing her lawsuit within the statute of limitations. Laura argues there is an affirmative answer to both questions and the church is “equitably estopped” from using the statute of limitations against her.

The key issue is whether she was in a confidential relationship (or fiduciary relationship) with the church as that is defined in these cases. Laura says yes, there was a confidential relationship from the time she was 12. The essential elements of such a relationship are: 1) The vulnerability of one party to the other which 2) results in the empowerment of the stronger party by the weaker which 3) empowerment has been solicited or accepted by the stronger party and 4) prevents the weaker party from effectively protecting itself.

The church argues that she had a crisis of faith in 2004 when she tried to commit suicide by drinking bleach, and the relationship with the church ended when she then left the church.

In order to show that the relationship continued after she left the church, Laura has to demonstrate that it was reasonable for her to believe the church’s threats that if she acted against the church she and her family would be harmed. To demonstrate how her reasoning was affected by the church’s dominance and control of her life, and why that did not end upon leaving, Laura sets out many facts about her life demonstrating the church dominated her every waking moment from age 12.

Remarkably, the church has not produced the documents that Laura signed upon leaving, although it claims the documents don’t contain threats or a waiver of Laura’s rights. Instead the church argues the documents simply limit the church’s liability. This failure to produce is made even more remarkable because it apparently produced a video of her signing them, and it produced 18,000 pages of documents, just not those two.

Clearly there are many facts still in dispute. The issue is whether the court will deem those facts material to the issue of equitable estoppel and thus will deny the church’s motion for summary judgment.

We’re sure it’s going to be an illuminating day in court on October 23.

And now…

 

————- THE DOCUMENTS ————-

 
Laura DeCrescenzo’s declaration, including hundreds of pages of evidence from her “pc files”

Declaration of Christie Collbran

Declaration of Shannon Kimoto

Declaration of Robert V. Levine

Plaintiff’s Memorandum of Points

Excerpts from Laura’s depositions, Claire Headley deposition, etc.

 
——————–

Posted by Tony Ortega on October 11, 2013 at 07:00

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