Scientology 11 Harrowing Stories Of People Who Escaped Scientology  

Lyra Radford
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It is becoming increasingly clear that leaving Scientology is no easy task. People who left Scientology the ”right way” undergo months of interrogation while being locked up, and have to sign gag orders. Those who have decided to perform the great Scientology escape instead - whether it be jumping the gate, slipping their “handlers” in public, or even taking a legal sneak attack approach undergo even more difficulties - often risk their life and wellbeing. The church is known for having ex-members followed by private detectives, they install cameras, they plant spies in their neighborhoods, and harass them every chance they get.

Escaping Scientology isn’t just getting out of the compound, it’s being disconnected from family, it’s overcoming the slander and harassment of church officials that end up on the Internet, and it’s starting your own life with no real foundation. Most members spend their whole lives in Scientology and they don’t know anything else. They leave with no education, no money, no friends, or any idea about how the real world works. It's a harrowing journey many of us will never understand.

Leah Remini is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 11 Harrowing Stories Of People Who Escaped Scientology
Photo: lwpkommunikacio/flickr/CC-BY 2.0

In 2013, actress Leah Remini announced to the world she was leaving the Church of Scientology. Remini was a Scientologist for 30 years, and she wasn’t afraid of the retaliation she knew would come her way when she revealed the controlling nature of the cult.

After innocently asking why David Miscavige's wife, Shelly Miscavige, wasn’t in attendance at Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes wedding, Remini was met with a harsh scolding. She was basically told she wasn’t high enough in the pecking order to ask about the leader’s wife. Not only did this make her more curious about Shelly’s whereabouts, but it also made her start to question many things about the organization. The more she questioned and researched, the more she realized she was living a lie.

Now labeled a “suppressive person,” an enemy of the church, Remini has gone as far as documenting the tales of abuses and escapes of other ex-Scientologists in her new documentary series on A&E.  

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Katie Holmes is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 11 Harrowing Stories Of People Who Escaped Scientology
Photo: s_bukley/Shutterstock

Family is considered a false dynamic in Scientology. Since they are all spiritual beings who experience many lives, they place very little importance on family because they’re only your family in “this life.” As Suri Cruise, daughter of famed Scientologist Tom Cruise and actress Katie Holmes, neared the age children are indoctrinated into Scientology, Holmes planned their escape. Considering how heavily guarded Holmes and Cruise have been, it took some serious maneuvering on Holmes's part to hire a lawyer and file for a divorce without anyone knowing until it was too late. 

Fearing her daughter would be turned against her (as Nicole Kidman's children were after her divorce from Cruise) Holmes filed for full custody of Suri. Fighting for full custody means explaining why she considered Tom unfit to share custody,  and proving her case would mean exposing the churches misdeeds. Cruise later admitted Holmes left their five-year marriage and took their daughter to protect her from Scientology.

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Mike Rinder Was Followed For Months After Leaving

Mike Rinder Was Followed For M... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 11 Harrowing Stories Of People Who Escaped Scientology
Photo: Mike Rinders

Mike Rinder was a high-ranking executive and International Spokesperson of the Church of Scientology for 46 years before breaking away in 2007. Despite his devotion to the church and its leader, David Miscavige, he was still physically beaten by Miscavige and thrown in the guarded onsite prison, known as ‘the hole,’ for two years. He was then told he was being sent away from his family to Australia. This was the last straw. Rinder took his suitcase and snuck off grounds before anyone noticed. His job had been to discredit those who spoke out against the church, but he ended up becoming one of the church’s targets.

Escaping wasn’t as easy a leaving the organization. Rinder felt the full force of the organization’s "fair game" policy, which is the idea that anyone declared an enemy of the church can be tricked, followed, lied to, sued, or destroyed. The church sent members to follow him everywhere he went, and one of them even rammed into the back of his car. They paid the garbage men to root through his trash, posted lies about him on blogs, and set up hidden cameras outside of his private residence. They even planted a person across the street from his home, posing as a new neighbor for six months.

They seemed to have forgotten Rinder was the master, and he "fair gamed" them right back; he called them out, started following them right back with his camera and tape recorder capturing evidence of their harassment. Now Rinder has been working with Leah Remini to expose the cult through her documentary series on A&E.

Amy Scobee Endured Rape, Kidnap, And Hard Labor In The Church

Amy Scobee is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 11 Harrowing Stories Of People Who Escaped Scientology
Photo: Freebase/CC-BY-SA

Amy Scobee, a 27-year member, was responsible for recruiting celebrities to join Scientology and establishing the church's celebrity centers. Scobee was introduced to Scientology by her mother when she was 14 and was basically kidnapped when they sent her off to the Sea Organization without parental consent when she was just 16. While she was still underage, a much-older executive sexually assaulted her. Scobee was made to believe it was her fault and the church covered up the statutory rape.

On four occasions, she was sent to the rehabilitation program, which is basically a reform program for Sea Org members who start to question the insanity going on around them. The moment her doubts showed, she faced security checks and was guarded 24 hours a day, fed only beans and rice, and was declared a "suppressive person,'' an enemy of Scientology.

She decided enough was enough and escaped with her husband in March 2005.