Natalie Webster is an old friend who originally contacted me when her daughter, Shelby, was in training at Flag. She wrote the below as a response to Cindy and I asked her if I could post it as I felt it deserved more attention than it would get if it was a comment responding to someone on an earlier post. I asked her to send me some photos too! She overkilled these shots of happy family!
She also wanted to make the following point, in addition to the comment response which follows:
My daughter was on a training program at Flag, as a staff member of the Twin Cities organization. Because she was 18, I knew that if the cult found out my husband and I were leaving, they might ship her off somewhere to keep her from me.
By this time I had left the Sea Org, and was a parishioner, but I had already decided to leave. I just couldn’t tell anyone till she was safely back with me.
My ex-husband, her dad, had a trip planned with her and her sister in Mexico over Christmas. He took them on a vacation each year to a beach destination. I had no intention of letting her go back to Flag after she came home, but I could not tell her that, knowing she was very much under the influence of the cult’s control.
I knew she was not in a good place while there. She was being made to stay up late and clean bathrooms and other manual labor, for not making sales quotas. Remember, she was supposed to be there as a student. There were multiple red flags and bad indicators. I knew I needed to get her out of there.
Prior to my daughter Shelby coming home to then fly to Mexico, I sent her flight info that looked like she had a return flight, but she didn’t. I didn’t even give her the correct date she was flying out of Tampa. This was because if the cult found out I was leaving and taking her with me, they would not have let her leave for this trip.
My family member knew the whole story and picked Shelby up. They barely let her leave, putting stops in her way each step of her routing form. They also had reports that I was showing signs of being disaffected, so they prepped her for that.
Little did they know I was way passed disaffection as they call it. I was full blown leaving with three generations of my family, including my mother who was mid OT VII. I was OT IV at the time.
My family member picked Shelby up and gave her a cell phone I had sent for her. I told Shelby it was for Christmas. Truth was, it was so the cult didn’t have her number, only I had it. I cancelled her original cell phone.
Shelby thought she was leaving straight from the base to the airport, which is also what the cult thought. I never gave her the correct flight info till she was with my family member. She wasn’t actually leaving till the next day.
I did that because I knew they would try to make her miss her flight. They had already told her a few days prior that she couldn’t go. So, I had my ex-husband call them and pitch a fit. He had already left the cult many years earlier. He and I played good cop bad cop to get them to let her go. He threatened to show up and get her, I told them I could “handle him”.
Shelby fell asleep almost immediately after getting to our family members house. She was fed a good meal and slept for HOURS. She was beyond exhausted from the hours she was keeping. She had huge varicose veins from being on her feet for so many hours. A doctor later told me he had never seen ones that bad in someone so young.
When I picked her up from the airport I only had a short time before she had to leave again for Mexico. I told her what was happening and she was initially upset with me. I could tell she had been drilled on what to do if I spoke negatively about the church.
How I finally got through to her was by explaining that what she was experiencing were human rights abuses. NO one should deny another human sleep, or food. NO one should be punishing a student for not making sales quotas, let alone being punished for anything.
This resonated with her. I also told her the truth about what happened when I was was a pregnant Sea Org member and how I was pressured to have an abortion, which I refused. I shared with her some of what I experienced as a Sea Org member and as a parishioner in terms of mental and financial abuse.
She knew I wouldn’t lie to her. She also knew that her grandmother and I were two of the most active Scientologist in the Twin Cities at the time, so if we were leaving and saying why, it had to be true.
Shelby went to Mexico a little more receptive but still confused. I told her that if she wanted to go back, she would have to come home and get a job to pay for it as I didn’t get her a return flight, nor would I do anything to help her get back to Flag.
While she was in Mexico I didn’t think the cult could reach her, but they found a way. A staff member at the Twin Cities org named Karen Wesling, who I think is now with the Office of Special Affairs for the West US, reached out to Shelby on Facebook. Karen was trying to convince Shelby to move out of my house so she could still be a staff member.
At this point I took action to get the cult to stop contacting her. I was a Sea Org member, so I knew their rules. If I threatened legal action against the cult, Shelby would be disqualified from stepping foot on the Flag Land Base. So I did. This bought Shelby some time to decompress in Mexico.
She slept, she ate well and she spent time with her dad and sister, both who were out.
When she returned home to me from Mexico, she was still confused but starting to think independently of the prepping the cult had done to prepare her for exactly what I was doing.
I took her to doctors to help her physically. She started to accept that what happened to her was not okay, or normal, and that it was outright abuse.
Shelby went to and graduated from college. She is now married with a beautiful baby. A baby who will thankfully never experience Scientology, the Sea Org or any of the abuses. She is also getting her master’s degree and bought her first house this year.
She started therapy last year, which has been helping a lot. It can take time for someone to decompress from Scientology.
I went through a lot with Scientology and the Sea Org in my 35 years. My biggest regret is not figuring out sooner that Scientology was a cult.
Shelby went into the Sea Org at 14. The only reason I let her go is because I knew she wouldn’t make it. I was guaranteed that the second she said this isn’t for me, they would route her off of the Estate Project Force (EPF which is like boot camp for Sea Org members).
I knew my daughter well enough to know she would want out within a few weeks, and sure enough she did. The EPF is not for the faint of heart. At the time I was a “dedicated Scientologist”. Saying no to letting her go into the Sea Org would have meant possibly loosing my family. At that time I was a third generation Scientologist.
Sure enough, she wasn’t allowed to leave when she said she wanted to. That was another whole fiasco. After being screamed at by the person in charge of the EPF about how the Sea Org was “above WOG law” and I my parental rights I was referring to did not apply. (Wogs are what they called non-Scientologists) I told him I would be in LA the next day, which I was.
Took me about two weeks to get her out and I went through hell to do so. Frankly I’m amazed I didn’t get declared a suppressive person then and there, as I really put up a fight, despite their best efforts to intimidate me.
They locked me in a room and screamed at me, which frankly I thought was cute. I had been through way worse by that point and they seemed to forget that they trained me from childhood to have the ability to hold my ground when faced with opposition and intimidation.
Anyone with half a brain knows you do NOT F with a mother and her children. Again, I knew their rules and I used them to get her out.
I had so many reasons to leave so many times throughout my life. This should tell you how hard it is for many to leave. I would have lost my mom and most of my family if I left at that point. I wasn’t even sure then that my husband would have left with me.
It would be four more years before I had the guts to talk to my mom and also my husband at the time about my doubts. My husband had never been on staff or in the Sea Org. Though he was financially put over the coals, his experience was very different from mine having grown up in Scientology and having been in the Sea Org.
By then my mom had been to hell and back with Flag. She had kidney failure and I had given her one of my kidneys. I could tell she was fed up. Thankfully I was right and that put in motion our plan to get Shelby back before we announced we were leaving.
Years ago there was a Time Magazine article called Scientology The Cult of Greed. It had an octopus on the cover. That is what it is like. The cult has these tentacles and they use them to distract you on one side, while picking your pocket with the other.
One of my biggest struggles is in knowing that I didn’t leave when I should have. When they tried to force an abortion on me despite being married and wanting my child, I should have left. When they then tried to take that child from me again when she was 14 and of value to them, I should have left. When I was sexually assaulted and they covered it up, I should have left.
Scientology was all I knew and my family was very close. Plus, they have a way of convincing you that these bad things that keep happening to you, are your own fault.
It’s hard to face that, the not leaving part because of what happened to my kids. Mostly to Shelby, but the other two were affected as well.
But, today I’m not afraid to face that pain and overcome it. I’m not afraid to cry when I talk about it. Shit, I’m crying now, LOL. It’s taken me years to finally realize it’s okay to not be fucking okay! It’s not only okay to be upset about all of this, it’s healthy and an appropriate response to years of trauma.
From childhood they train us to not have what they deem negative emotions. Even after I left, I pushed these emotions away and compartmentalized what happened.
It took me 17 years to tell my own mother about my sexual assault, because I was convinced I did something to deserve it, thank you to senior Sea Org members who were “handling” me at the time. It was one of the first things I told her when I knew she was leaving with me.
In fact, it was my sexual assault that helped get me out of the Sea Org, but that’s a whole different story. I made a deal with the devil aka: Sea Org.
If nothing else, I hope to shed light on why it’s hard for some to leave. When you grow up in Scientology and especially in the Sea Org as a kid, it’s a slow boil. By the time you realize your insides are burning up, you are already stuck in the pot.
Forgiving myself for not leaving when I should have so many times, is something I’d like to achieve for myself.
For the last several years I thought I could just move forward without addressing much of this. I did speak out when I first left about some of what happened. I’m done trying to run from my past.
I’m going to embrace it and see what happens. If that means feeling difficult emotions, well so be it. I’ve got good support on the ground, and all of you here.