If you’re familiar with Scientology, you might also know a little bit about the Sea Org. But what is the Sea Organization exactly? It describes itself as a "fraternal religious order, comprising the church's most dedicated members." In truth, its members are often recruited from childhood, and must sign a "billion year" contract that pledges their current and future lives towards the church. It's comprised of the most powerful people in the whole of Scientology, and they all fight with each other for dominance. David Miscavige, the Church of Scientology’s leader, has been a member of the Sea Org since he was just a teen.
Since its inception in 1967, there have been a number of true stories from people who left Scientology. But how have people escaped from Scientology itself? The organization with bizarre beliefs is known to be brutal towards those it deems as traitors. Some Sea Org members have told their true stories of their escape, and here are some of the best ones from Reddit and other tell-all pieces.
Ramana Dienes-Browning told the Daily Mail:
"He [a higher-ranking Scientologist] was onto me as soon as I entered the ship at 15, he was part of the team trying to recruit me. It was bordering on pedophilia especially as he asked me to marry before I was 16. We got married in the VIP lounge, his work place. But we barely knew each other. We only saw each other at lunchtimes, it was like a school romance. There’s no help for girls like me, who’d only kissed one boy in my life, to having a husband and expecting to have sex.
Then it came up that he’d been masturbating, I got in so much trouble for not satisfying him, this was only after a year of marriage. It’s impossible to keep secrets, every inch of your lives you have to tell them about. I was publicly shamed and called a 'f*cking b*tch,' really degrading names. I then felt this pressure to do it. I felt totally violated. I’ve had to deal with that as sexual abuse, I wasn’t ready at all emotionally or physically."
After that, she was divorced from that marriage but then was punished for the rest of her time at Sea Org. She was often given the most demeaning jobs, such as cleaning out the sewage in the bilge of their premier cruise ship. After ten longs years of doing what the church asked - and then being punished severely for it - she had enough. She went through the proper channels, and after hours of grueling work, was finally allowed to leave.
Don Jason told the Tampa Bay Times:
"I'm thinking, You know what? Once I pull a stunt like this, I'll never get off this ship on my own terms. So I'm committed. Once I start this, I have to be prepared to take it all the way. I'm going to do whatever I have to to get off that ship, which includes fist-fighting people, yelling my head off, whatever it takes. I'm not going back on that ship. Period.''
After serving years as an FSO officer for the Church of Scientology, Jason escaped once, came back out of guilt, and was heavily penalized for it. Realizing his error, he decided to escape one last time and vowed to never look back. But because he was basically a prisoner, he had to pull a daring stunt to get away. He created a makeshift "wheel" using PVC pipes, screws, and a wooden dowel, and zip-lined down the moorings to his freedom.
Tanja Castle told ABC7's Eyewitness News:
"Just relentlessly, for years and years, I was being told what a bad person [my husband] was, how suppressive and how evil. We were first discouraged, and then not allowed to communicate with each other, or see each other, or be a married couple. Somebody sat down with me and sort of worked me over until I was feeling I had no option other than to sign divorce papers. 'He's a suppressive person, you don't put someone in contact with an SP, you just need to write a letter of disconnection.'"
Although she relented to sign the divorce papers, her husband Stefan (who had left months prior) never gave up. He sent her a secret letter and cell phone, and together they hatched a plan to get her free. One night, she scaled the barbed wire fence (for the second time), which hurt her badly. But Scott was on the other side of the fence waiting. They quickly hopped into the car and never looked back.
Melissa Paris told The Village Voice:
"I always tell my sister that I wish people who are not Scientologists could understand the severe mental, emotional, and psychological abuse that we were subjected to. Yes, the physical abuse was horrific but it didn’t have the same impact on me. When I say that I walk alone, I mean that. I trust no one. I walk into a room and my first instinct is to look for every exit and plan my escape if I need it. I will never sit with my back to a room. I can’t handle people in my personal space and I hate to be touched. These are just some of the things that I believe are left over from my cadet days.
I hate the fact that I have a wall up and can’t let anybody get close to me, even my sister, who has had to fight to be in my life. I am jealous of people who have had intact families their entire lives. I feel for my daughter, who will never have the chance to get to know her grandfather or uncles.
All of those celebrities in the news are not the face of Scientology, we are. The broken ones, the kids who wandered the halls and were never important enough to be looked at, with their hollow bruised dirty faces, sad eyes and tear tracks. Unless you walked in my shoes then you’ll never understand, but I hope I have given a small glimmer of what Scientology really is. I’ll continue to walk alone, never broke, just badly bent."