In that segment of the movie, slavers were shown stealing infant children from their parents. They then put the children in confining cages where they could not stretch out. Or they bound them using shackles to twist their tiny arms and legs into weird, contorted positions. These children were kept this way for their entire childhood; allowed to grow to maturity without ever being unbound. Their bodies became twisted into grotesque human pretzels, with joints bent in wrong directions, and calluses on the wrong sides of feet. When grown, these children were sold by the slavers as freaks to side-shows. I recall thinking that the children seemed totally normal before they were placed in these extreme conditions. That they survived at all is for me a testament to the adaptive power of the human body, mind and spirit.
These images helped form my conceptual model for child abuse. Any set of experiences which bind a child's body, mind or spirit into a warped, contorted posture is abuse. Any activity which causes the child to have to adapt to extreme, unnatural conditions is similarly abusive. This type of prolonged adaptation produces a twisted mental posture which causes the child to be maladaptive in society.
Libertarians may reasonably argue that adults should be allowed to participate in or subject themselves to whatever destructive activity they choose. When it comes to children however, a different standard is universally applied.
Children in our society are, by law, protected from many harmful influences or circumstances to which adults can be subjected or can willingly submit. While adults are allowed to go hungry on our streets or expire from need of medical attention, children are generally protected from such neglect.
The ability to think and the right to speak critically can be lost or knowingly forfeited by an adult and we might say that he is a dedicated, single-minded, devoted or focused follower. But a child, not having had the chance to develop the ability to think for himself, is, in theory, protected from any influence that would take that eventual right away.
In scientology there have been enough verified reports of children being ordered locked in chain lockers on the "flagship" by Hubbard himself or being subjected to the labor camp reform of the RPF, to know that the man hadn't the slightest regard for the welfare of children. Children are housed in squalid conditions, deprived of proper parental supervision, medical care and generally considered excess baggage by the cult's leaders.
The abuse, however, that I would like to address here is what I have personally witnessed: the mental and spiritual abuse perpetrated upon children raised in the cult environment.
My four children were subjected to the practices of which I speak and, God willing, will some day be free of the destructive influence of scientology on their lives.
In scientology, people are routinely deprived of their rights of free speech and thought, held captive, required to submit to degrading conditions or undergo "rehabilitation" in the RPF program. They are subjected to shunning, sleep deprivation and a concentration camp environment to accomplish the cult's brainwashing reform. These practices are not the worst of what goes on hidden behind the public facade of the cult. They are also not limited to the control and manipulation of adults. Many of the most repressive and authoritarian practices are applied equally to defenseless children. These practices are based on Hubbard's stated philosophy that children are just thetans in little bodies and should be required to contribute as soon as possible to the group's survival.
In a child's life the application of this philosophy translates to deprivation of parental nurturing: the right to be "just" children. Instead children are deemed "upstat" or "downstat," have "in-ethics" or "out-ethics," are "on-purpose" or "off-purpose." They are segregated [even more than their scientology parents] from the normal influences of society. Their concept of themselves in relation to society is molded by Hubbard's own twisted world-view. They learn they are very different from "wog" kids. They absorb Hubbard's prejudices against the government, the education system, the mental health community and literally everyone who is not a member of the cult. They learn the cult's concept of responsibility. If they are critical of scientology or anyone in it, it is because they themselves have committed an anti-social act. They are instilled with the idea that the only worthwhile ambition they can have is to become a "professional" scientologist and help save the planet.
In the case of my own daughter, this conditioning translated in her young mind to helping scientology stop people from slaughtering baby seals and other similarly naive images. Of course she wanted to help "save the planet." What child wouldn't? So at age 8 she became a Sea Org member. I was, of course, very proud of her. She worked 7 days a week till 10:30 PM at the Clearwater Headquarters. She was a Cadet until she was 15. It was with the grace of God that she escaped and started building her life back toward, instead of away from society. It took her several years of constant struggle to catch up from the "education" she received while a Cadet in the Sea Org. She is currently receiving counselling to deal with the twisted ideas and unnatural childhood she experienced growing up in the cult. But, nonetheless, she graduated from college this year, CUM LAUDE, and is beginning a new life in the "real world."
Another of my children, who once had a wonderful sense of humor, claims she lost her ability to laugh when she did the communication course as a six year old. The bullbaiting in the training drills tampered with her spontaneity and caused her to arrest her natural urge to react to things. As a result she now tends to be placid, self-conscious, detached and objective. Once that spontaneity was disturbed by the unnatural, hypnotic discipline of TRs, she tended to be un-reacting. I have known many adults in my cult career who displayed this fixed, robotic, un-reacting countenance, but in the case of my child, it produced a severe, dramatic, destructive change in her personality which has not been reversed. Like her sister, she had a difficult time trying to adapt in "wog" schools, to the children and the need to catch up academically. After several years of constant effort, she managed to come up to speed with those she had previously considered her inferiors -- the "wogs."
Another of my children, who rebelled against the notion of scientology indoctrination, constantly felt like the outsider in the family. Because she didn't aspire to the same goals as the cult demanded, she was considered "out-ethics." This stigma, caused by her unwillingness to give up her natural tendency to question and be critical, created in her the self image of being inadequate and flawed. She blamed herself for being "imperfect." Only now, years later, through counselling, is she realizing that faulting herself constantly for lack of perfection is unhealthy and came from the cult's indoctrination designed to control its members and keep them in line.
My youngest child nearly died shortly after birth because of scientology's distrust and unwillingness to get competent medical care for members. She spent the first several years of her life in a Sea Org nursery. I used to wonder why she would cry hysterically each morning when she was deposited in the facility. It was staffed by children, usually 12 to 16 years old, from the Cadet Org. The nannies had no sense of hygiene, and the children often suffered from infections, illnesses, fleas, lice, scabies or crabs. During all of this, I was so focused on my job in the Sea Org -- Chief Quality Control Officer in the brainwashing factory -- that until one day when I was changing my child's diaper and saw little white worms wiggling their way out of her anus, I didn't realize the abuse going on. Shortly after that I left the cult. But the image of those worms exiting my infant daughter still haunts me, just as the image of the twisted, forgotten children in the movie, Mondo Cane, seared into my memory. It will for all time serve as a reminder to me of the neglect and abuse to which I subjected my own flesh and blood in order to "clear the planet."
Fortunately my children have all become strong enough, on their own, to overcome much of the handicap of growing up in the cult. They still bear me a certain amount of unspoken [and well- deserved] animosity for submitting them to this abusive upbringing and for my parental neglect. Our relationships as child and parent may never be fully normal.
In spite of this, I am proud to say, none of my kids have hesitated to warn other children and adults: STAY AWAY FROM SCIENTOLOGY!
I have not mentioned the parental neglect of children I have witnessed in my 15 years in the cult, the conditions in the Cadet Org -- where children of Sea Org parents are warehoused without contact from parents for weeks on end, or the work camp conditions of some of the facilities for children because it is enough for me to admit the abuse to which I exposed MY OWN children.
I don't know if anyone can comprehend the remorse I feel for subjecting my children to this alienating, warped, repressive environment. I pray our story serves as a warning: SCIENTOLOGY IS DANGEROUS TO THE HEALTH AND SANITY OF YOUR CHILDREN!!