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More than 1,200 sexual assault survivors helped since 2023.
More than 1,200 sexual assault survivors helped since 2023.

Scientology Sexual Abuse

Decades of sexual abuse in the Church of Scientology in the United States and internationally are now well-documented. The Church of Scientology routinely harasses and discredits sexual abuse victims who have come forward with allegations, but plenty of resources and legal options are available to support survivors. Individuals and their loved ones who have experienced sexual abuse related to the Church of Scientology can contact Helping Survivors to connect with attorneys ready to help

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Key Takeaways

  • The Church of Scientology has faced numerous allegations of sexual abuse and trafficking over the last few decades, with reports of child sexual abuse, forced abortions, and severe emotional abuse within the organization.
  • The Church of Scientology has often responded to these allegations with aggressive legal action and surveillance of survivors, rather than taking proactive steps to prevent future abuse. Many survivors are fearful of this potential retaliation and never come forward.
  • Despite the challenges, survivors of Scientology abuse have started to come forward to seek help and healing. Organizations like Helping Survivors are dedicated to advocating for victims and connecting them with resources and other organizations who can help including nonprofits and experienced law firms who can help individuals understand if filing a civil lawsuit against the Church of Scientology makes sense for you.

The Church of Scientology is a secretive and elusive new religious movement well-known for its extensive financial resources and celebrity connections. Over the decades since its founding in the 1950s, Scientology has been the target of numerous sexual abuse allegations.

The Church of Scientology’s secrecy and refusal to take steps to stop sexual abuse within the religious organization has allowed the abuse to continue for years. Still, legal and mental health resources are available to those who have experienced abuse connected to Scientology. Helping Survivors is ready to advocate for survivors and connect them with the necessary legal resources to get them the justice they deserve.

What Is Scientology?

The Church of Scientology is a religious movement founded in 1954 by American writer L. Ron Hubbard. Scientology originates from Hubbard’s 1950 book “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health,” which seeks to offer a spiritual alternative to psychiatry through guided “auditing” sessions. Auditors seek to clear the mind of trauma and other mental disturbances from an individual’s current and past lives.

Core Scientology Beliefs

Scientology is based on the belief that the mind retains negative images and particles called “engrams” from current and past lives. Engrams cloud the abilities of the analytical mind. Scientology aims to eliminate these engrams and achieve a state called “clear.”

While the specifics of Scientology are largely kept secret from the public, other known core beliefs of the Church of Scientology include:

  • Auditing: Scientologists attempt to eliminate engrams by undergoing “auditing,” which are sessions where an individual is asked a series of questions intended to remove engrams. The auditor typically uses an “E-meter” device to measure electrical currents in the person’s body to track their progress in removing engrams.
  • False Reality: The Scientologist belief system teaches that clusters of alien spirits, called “Body Thetans,” inhabit everyone. Body Thetans instill individuals with a false consciousness they must remove through auditing and adherence to Scientology.
  • Immortality: In the Scientologist belief system, humans are immortal “Thetans” that inhabit human bodies throughout many lifetimes.
  • Anti-Psychiatry: Scientologists are vehemently opposed to modern psychiatry, arguing that medication and other traditional approaches to mental health interfere with clearing out negative engrams.
Last Date Modified
June 13, 2024

Sexual Abuse in the Church of Scientology

Allegations and reports of sexual abuse and trafficking associated with the Church of Scientology have been widespread for decades. Survivors have detailed experiences of child sexual abuse, verbal abuse of a sexual nature, and forced abortions while members. The Church of Scientology operates a special organization for its most dedicated adherents known as the Sea Org. Sea Org has been at the center of many of the most egregious incidents of sexual abuse and forced labor.

These allegations have come to light through numerous lawsuits, but the Church of Scientology has frequently responded with aggressive legal action and surveillance of survivors.

Why Does Sexual Abuse Happen in the Church of Scientology?

The power dynamics between officials and members within the Church of Scientology make the organization susceptible to sexual abuse. The organization is highly hierarchical, and members believe in the immortality and infallibility of church leaders. Many Scientologists, including young children, are pressured to sign “billion-year” contracts. These contracts allow the organization to control major aspects of their lives.

Additionally, Church of Scientology teachings prohibit Scientologists from reporting other Scientologists to the authorities. Church officials use this practice to keep reports of sexual abuse secret from law enforcement and the public, allowing the abuse to continue.

Survivor Testimonies and Accounts

Many survivors of sexual abuse in the Church of Scientology have presented detailed and brave testimonies of their abuse.

One survivor, a member of the Church of Scientology as a child, described being subjected to sexually explicit verbal abuse and berating by adults in the organization. The survivor also alleged extended periods of isolation and forced labor. She has since escaped Scientology, working to expose the organization’s wrongdoing and move forward with her life outside the church.

Two other survivors of Scientology abuse, Gawain and Laura Baxter, met while enduring abuse as part of Sea Org. The couple is now married with a family. Since escaping the organization and coming forward with their stories, they have filed a lawsuit against David Miscavige, leader of the Church of Scientology. They hope to bring him to justice for enabling widespread child abuse and forced labor.

How Has the Church of Scientology Responded?

The Church of Scientology has responded to abuse claims over the years with aggressive denials and legal action against survivors. Survivors have faced intimidation after coming forward with allegations of abuse. One woman who came forward with sexual assault allegations against actor Danny Masterson, for example, reported being harassed and stalked by church officials.

Leah Remini, a famous former Scientologist who spoke out against the Church of Scientology in an A&E docuseries, also experienced coordinated attacks and slander by the Church of Scientology. The church created a website compiling videos and blog posts describing Remini as a liar and only after money.

The Church of Scientology has thus far resisted responding to widespread allegations of sexual abuse with any proactive steps to prevent future occurrences.

Support and Resources for Victims of Abuse in Scientology

If you or a loved one has been a victim of Scientology abuse, you have several options for support at your disposal.

Choosing whether to report sexual abuse to law enforcement is a deeply personal decision. There is no “right” path when choosing how to proceed. Even if you are not interested in taking legal action, there are places you can turn to for support.

Several organizations dedicate themselves to supporting survivors. One such organization is the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, or RAINN, which operates a hotline and web chat staffed by trained counselors.

What to Expect During the Legal Process

If you are interested in reporting to law enforcement, you can expect the legal process to take the following steps:

  • Initial Report: You can make an initial report to local law enforcement by either calling the police or visiting your local police station to file a report.
  • Investigation: After you file a police report, detectives will take over reviewing and investigating the case, gathering evidence, and speaking to witnesses and other relevant people.
  • Criminal Charges: After reviewing and investigating your case, local law enforcement will determine whether or not the evidence is sufficient to initiate criminal legal proceedings against the perpetrator.
  • Civil Legal Proceedings: Even if the available evidence is not enough to charge the perpetrator, you may still be able to pursue a civil case against them. Civil legal proceedings can help you get compensation for emotional and psychological distress, lost wages, medical bills, and other expenses resulting from the abuse.

The criminal justice system can provide families with a sense of justice. However, larger institutions like churches have rarely faced criminal prosecution for sexual abuse by their leaders. Criminal prosecution also does little to compensate victims or their families for the harm done.

Civil sexual abuse lawsuits can provide the resources needed to ensure victims receive the help they need and compensation for their losses. In addition, victims may be able to hold the church or religious institution that enabled or concealed the abuse liable.

Victims do not have unlimited time to file a lawsuit. Each state has a deadline for filing suit imposed by a statute of limitations. Understanding the statute of limitations is crucial for survivors considering a religious sexual abuse lawsuit. Recent legal reforms have extended the time for filing lawsuits, allowing more survivors to seek justice even years after the abuse occurred.

Collecting important evidence is vital when pursuing legal action. Documentation, witness testimonies, and corroborating evidence can strengthen a survivor’s case and increase the chances of a successful clergy abuse lawsuit.

While the stigma attached to these cases often keeps victims silent, many believe it is time to step forward. This is our mission at Helping Survivors. Our team of professionals, survivors, and concerned citizens are ready to help victims seek the justice they deserve.

While the Church of Scientology is well known for being very aggressive in responding to criminal charges and civil lawsuits, an experienced and skilled attorney can help you navigate the complicated legal system and guide you through the process from start to finish.

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