An Australian woman says she was taken from her parents and kept on a Scientologist cruise ship for 12 years against her will.
Valeska Paris says she signed the Church’s standard billion-year Sea Organization contract when she was 14 years old. After her father committed suicide and her mother left the religion, Paris was sent on the cruise ship, Freewinds, for what she thought was a two-week tour.
Paris says she was employed against her will as a deckhand, working in the engine room and unable to leave the ship without an escort.
“I was put in this small room by myself with a camera monitoring my movements,” Paris wrote in a blog post last year. “A security guard escorted me anywhere I went, I had to eat in the engine room and was not allowed to eat in the control room because it was air conditioned.”
Paris says she felt hopeless, unable to connect with loved ones, her pleas deaf to the ears of the Scientology personnel who placed her on the ship.
“I hated it and just wanted to get off the ship, I was of course not allowed to call my family at all or talk to anyone.”
Paris said she couldn’t leave the ship because of her youthful naivety and because officials took her passport. The ship only sailed to small islands, so she claims her alternatives were poor.
Paris reportedly left the ship in 2007 when she was sent to a punishment camp in Sydney. The Church describes the camp, what they call Rehabilitation Project Force, as a spa attended voluntarily by members. Paris and other ex-members say RPF was more like a prison than a spa.
Paris reportedly signed a confidentiality agreement with the Church that would prohibit her from speaking out about her time on the cruise ship. No charges against her have yet been filed by the Church, and courts generally rule such contracts unenforceable.
The Church of Scientology conducts high-level education classes aboard cruise ships because L. Ron Hubbard had first recorded phaeton levels aboard a ship.