A new defector from the Sea Org, out less than a month, sheds light on how things fare inside the cult of Scientology. The following was taken from the “Underground Bunker,” by Tony Ortega on 3/26/14.
Jillian Schlesinger: How I got into Scientology, and how I got out
This is happening in Los Angeles, on Fountain Avenue, in an old hospital building painted blue and topped with huge, lit-up letters that read SCIENTOLOGY.
And this is only weeks ago. In 2014. In the center of one of the largest cities in a country that likes to think of itself as one of the freest on earth.
A woman of 30. Already a veteran of years of working 19-hour days for eight dollars a week. With no access to a telephone. Sleeping in a room with 11 other women on a floor of the old hospital with only a single bathroom. She’s never owned a car. She’s never rented her own apartment. She’s never owned a cell phone. She’s never had a credit card.
Except for helping out her family as a child, she’s only ever had one employer: She’s worked for Scientology since she first joined staff at 15.
She cannot watch television. She cannot read the news. She lives in the movie capital of the world but the only time she gets to watch a film is when Tom Cruise has a new one out and she and all of her coworkers are taken in buses to see it so Tom will get good movie sales.
But she’s had enough.
She’s had some job assignments that weren’t the best. There was that endless scanning of documents in a bare cement basement of a building on Hollywood Boulevard, for example. That was drudgery. But this latest assignment was the worst. In order to save money so more of it could be sent “uplines” to Scientology leader David Miscavige, the “Sea Org” had created a construction crew so it wouldn’t have to pay outside contractors.
The woman has never worked construction before. But now, she finds herself stripping fiberglass insulation without protective clothing at one job site. At another, she’s helping repair a ceiling, backbreaking work, at a former hotel on Hollywood Boulevard that has served as dingy ‘berthing’ for Sea Org workers for years.
And that’s where Jillian Schlesinger begins to plan her escape. After a week, she’s filled the duffel bag with her clothes. She sneaks into the building’s ‘galley’ — where there’s a phone — and calls her father. She asks him to drive over and see her, and she gives him the duffel. In a week, she tells him, meet me at the same place, at the same time.
And over the next seven days, each time she goes to work, she carries a few more personal items from her room at the old hospital and hides them at her construction site at the old inn.
She sees her father again and gives him her personal items. But she admits to him, she’s not ready to leave yet.
In fact, she hasn’t even made up her mind if she’s really going to do it. He tells her he understands. She has to make up her own mind, he tells her. He can’t force her to make a decision.
So a few more days go by.
And then, on a Wednesday, as she’s heading home with a roommate, she learns that it’s her last day working at the inn. Tomorrow, her work unit will switch to a construction project somewhere at the old hospital complex, where she lives. She knows instantly that there’s going to be a unique opportunity to make a run for it in the morning. And if she doesn’t take it, she might not have another opportunity for who knows how long.
The next morning, she heads for the bus stop. She knows that no one at the old hospital realizes yet that her job location has changed. They won’t miss her, thinking that she’s still working at the old Inn. But when she arrives there, she knows no one there is expecting her.
So she walks right past it. She walks to the metro stop, which is nearby. She goes down and buys a ticket — she’s been saving up some money, even on her meager earnings — and takes the subway to Union Station. Then she buys a ticket for an Amtrak train to Orange County. No one stops her. When she arrives at the station in Santa Ana, she asks to borrow a telephone from the employees there. She doesn’t have one of her own. She calls her father, and he doesn’t answer.
She doesn’t panic. She knows he works nearby. So she takes a cab. When he sees her, he’s taken by surprise. And he beams. She’s made her own decision. She has left Scientology’s Sea Org. And now both of them, they know, will have to leave the church itself. They’ve had only a few weeks since then to get used to the idea.
Stories of abuse in the Sea Org are not new, there are dozens of them on the net and many in this blog. Nothing changes in Scientology when you get down to it. Sea Org members and Scientology staffers have told their dire stories over periods of time that span decades. This is one of the reasons that the cult grew rich: it enslaved its members.