Laura Decrescenzo described how she was recruited into the Sea Org at just 12 years old – and how when she fell pregnant aged 17 she was pressured to have an abortion.
Laura DeCrescenzo was actually born into Scientology: she did her first Scientology course at the age of six or seven, and as a nine-year-old she was working in one of the movement’s centres in
. New Mexico
From age nine to 12 she was working up to 40 hours a week – and “getting paid peanuts”. Then, aged just 12, she signed the Sea Org, the organisation’s elite cadre, for its most dedicated members.
She had already signed the required billion-year contract, committing her to serve the movement not just in this life but in millions of future lives.
Earlier, Marc Headley had told how what his recruiters had promised him if he joined the Sea Org had borne little or no relation to what he had subsequently experienced. For DeCrescenzo, it was a similar story.
“The person who came to Alberqueque, to recruit me, basically promised all of these things that seemed great to my parents, so somehow they convinced them to let me go, which meant I moved to
.” Los Angeles
Her recruiter made the following promises:
n She would be able to continue her schooling;
n She would get her Scientology training offered;
n Scientology would cover her medical and dental expenses;
n In consideration of her youth, she would be able to fly home to
up to once a month to visit her parents; New Mexico
n And – crucially, in the light of what subsequently happened – she was told that she would be able to have children when she was older and move back to Alberqueque.
“All of these promises were made and it was made to seem like something that was going to be a wonderful experience,” said DeCrescenzo.
“Unfortunately, most of those all turned out to be completely and utterly false… pretty much everything they had promised me was a lie. I didn’t continue my schooling hardly at all. I would go once a week, maybe, with no trained teacher.”
And the first time she tried to fly home for a weekend she was told she had to wait until she had passed a “security check”, with just hours before her flight was due to leave.
“…and I was like “Well my mom has bought me a non-refundable ticket. How am I supposed to do this? I’m supposed to leave in a couple of hours.”
Her superiors made it clear that if she failed to comply she would be subjected to Scientology’s disciplinary system, a justice action, when she returned.
And when she tried to go anyway, Scientology’s security staff physically intercepted her at the airport, making her miss her plane. She ended up having to take a flight 24 hours later.
“Here I am, 12 years old – I left LAX at about 11:00 pm… with an hour layover in
,” DeCrescenzo recalled. Las Vegas, Nevada
“As a mother now myself I cringe at the thought because here I am 12 years old in
airport in the middle of the night arriving at Alberqueque at 3:00 am. Las Vegas
“Anyway, pretty much every time I wanted time off, it became a similar thing it was a nightmare every single time.”
Losing her child
Just a few years later, by the age of 16, she was married.
“In the Sea Org that’s very common,” she explained, “because you really can’t do anything physically with the person that you’re dating or whatever until you’re married…”
And as well as getting married, she wanted kids, she added. “I’d said that when I joined the Sea Org. I was planning on having children.”
As noted elsewhere on this website, the Sea Org policy on children hardened over the years to the point where, in 1986 members were no longer permitted to have children.
While on paper this meant that offenders would be routed out of the Sea Org, by the 1990s pregnant staffers were coming under immense pressure to abort their child.
DeCrescenzo’s account of her experience of this policy was one of the most emotional parts of the press conference.
She was choosing to talk about something extremely personal, she said, “…I’m bringing this to light because it shows how extreme they are when it comes to keeping their people and controlling them – and that is in regards to having children.”
In February 1996, at the age of 17, she became pregnant. She made it clear that she fully intended to have the child.
But as soon as she told her superiors, the pressure started.
“…I was told by the commanding officer of my organization that… at this point, the baby wasn’t a baby, it was just tissue…”
Her CO went on to tell her how she had herself fallen pregnant just months earlier and had had an abortion, “because it was the ‘greatest good’– quote-unquote.
“She started pushing how important my job was, how it would be so detrimental to the organization if I were to leave, how neither me nor my husband had any money, nor would we, when we left, if we had children…
After days of such pressure, she gave in.
A week or so before her appearance at the press conference, she said, she had been called in for a deposition with Scientology’s lawyers (she is one of those suing the movement).
One lawyer kept trying to get her to say that she had agreed to have an abortion.
“I never agreed to have an abortion,” she told the gathered reporters.
“Did I concede? Yes, I did. Does it kill me every day? Yes, it does.”
It was her desire to have children that eventually caused her “ethics” problems inside the Sea Org.
This point of conflict escalated to the point where, by 2001, she had been assigned to the movement’s punishment programme, the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF).
She described the RPF as a programme where she was subjected to hard labour and totally cut off from the outside world.
“I was separated from my spouse; I was separated from everyone that was important to me; I wasn’t allowed to speak to my family.
“You’re not allowed to have more than 20 dollars on you at any given time. You’re not allowed to go anywhere without another person.
“You’re watched 24/7. There’s always someone, you know, out in the hallway awake, outside your rooms and I was there for almost three years in the RPF.”
She knew that if she said she wanted to leave, she risked being put on what was called the RPF’s RPF, an even tougher programme. So she resorted to a desperate measure.
“… I actually took a gulp of bleach, because I knew that if I was considered a suicide risk that they would get rid of me immediately. And they did.
“I was not suicidal, but that was the extreme I went to get myself out of there immediately.”
But although she had escaped the movement physically, it took years for her to extricate herself psychologically.
Once out, she was presented with a Freeloader bill, Scientology’s invoice for the training they said she had received for free while inside the Sea Org.
Marc Headley, in his speech, had mentioned the one he received, for 100,000 dollars; hers was for 120,000 dollars.
“So after spending 13 years of working 100 hour weeks I owed them money – and I actually paid them 10,000 dollars after I left…
“It took me about four years to realize that what happened there is not right and somebody needs to do something about it.
“And that’s why I’m here today – to start opening up people’s eyes to what occurs in the Sea Organization because it’s not right and something does need to change.”