"The Story of Kate"
Interview - January 20, 2001
of Part One
Voice-Over: Lawrence Woodcraft raised two daughters inside
Scientology. Now, Lawrence, Zoe and Astra have left the group
and Astra has a daughter of her own. Recently, they visited
the Lisa McPherson Trust to share their stories. Astra spoke
to Stacy Brooks about Scientology's impact on their family
and the dramatic steps she took to escape from Scientology.
Stacy Brooks: This is Kate Woodcraft. Kate, you want to say
hi to the camera?
Say hi to everybody. Astra, why don't you tell
us the story of Kate.
Astra: I had been in the Sea Org for about four years at
this point and I was 19. And I hadn't been happy the whole
time. But I had never really admitted it. And then, my dad's
mother died. And I was able to get a week off to go to her
funeral in England. So, I spent some time with my family.
I hadn't seen my family in England for ten years. I spent
some time with my dad. I hadn't gotten to spend a lot of time
with him for the whole time I was in the Sea Org and it just
dawned on me that I could not -- I couldn't take it anymore.
I wanted to be able to see my family. I knew I'd never, ever
be able to go back to England and see my family again. And
I knew I would hardly be able to see my dad because I had
already been told I wasn't allowed to see him other than this
trip. But I had never said, you know, I want to leave. I had
never said I'm not happy because if you want to leave, it
takes, like, a year -- six months to year. You have to do
hard labor. You have to wear, like, gross clothes and you're
put under watch. Someone's watching you the whole time and
you're called, they call you a degraded being.
Stacy: What does that mean?
Astra: That means you're, like, criminal. Like a bad person,
like, a scumbag. And the staff refer to you that way. The
commanding officer, Ron Norton, would regularly go up to the
staff who wanted to leave and say, "Are you still a degraded
being?" And they'd have to say yes if they still wanted
to leave. So every single staff member is going to sneer at
you, look down on you. It's, like, it's just a horrible feeling.
And then you're trapped for six months because
people would say, why can't you just walk away? But, I have
my mom. I have my brother and I have my sister and the grandma
in the Sea Org. If I just walked away, they'd never, ever
speak to me again. And I couldn't take that at that point,
you know? So, it was partly that I couldn't stand the idea
of, like, six months to a year of hard labor. But it was more
that I knew they would just change my mind back. Because that's
what regularly happened. That's what one of my jobs was to
change peoples minds back who wanted to leave.
Stacy: Right. How did you do that?
Astra: Well, you know, it's just, like, duress. Like, you're
out-ethics. Which, like, means you do, like, bad things. You've
done bad things. You've done criminal things. What are you
hiding, you know. And you're forced to admit, you know, thoughts
you've had, bad thoughts you've had, things you've done. You
get to the point where, you know, you just, you would rather
just stay there than just, you know, have people looking at
you like that, calling you things like that. Harassment on
a daily basis, being under watch, you know. It's like, it's
like the different between--if you were in a minimal security
prison where you have some freedom and then you're going to
be sent to the high security prison, you know? And you just
say, okay, I'll stay but I'll just go back to the minimal
security prison. Because at least, you know, you know, I'm
treated like somewhat of a person as opposed to
that's what it's like. And it was my job to do that at one
point and I knew they'd be out to break me because I wanted
to leave so bad. And my resolve was really strong but so were
a lot of peoples' and I knew they'd break me. You know, this
over and over and over and I just, I thought I'm going to
have to do something where then I just have to go. There's
no choice and the rule was, okay, first you were allowed to
have kids. Then, when I went in the, into the Sea Organization,
you got sent away to lower org. About a year before I decided
to leave, they made a new rule. And that rule was if you get
pregnant, you get an abortion. If you won't get an abortion,
you're out. And you're out and they give you a big bill.
Stacy: So, you lose your job altogether
Astra: You lose your job altogether.
Stacy: If you have the baby?
Astra: Yeah. Yeah. And, you're still considered a degraded
being and all of that but they just kick you out. First, they
very strongly try and coerce you to get an abortion and I
know several people who did, which I can go over in a bit.
But, so I thought, and I wanted children too and I had been
married since the age of 15. And I hated being married. My
husband and I didn't get along at all. We could not talk about
it 'cause I couldn't -- the main reason was I didn't want
to be there and I could never tell him. And it was just ridiculous,
you know, being married at 15. I had known him for three months.
I didn't know him, you know? So, I didn't want to be married.
But I had the impression that I would never want to be married
again because this is what marriage is like. But I did want
children. So, I thought, I'll have a baby. They'll let me
go. I'll have a baby, you know, without having to get married
again 'cause I never want to get married again, which is not
true now. That's how I felt then. And I thought that way,
I'll get pregnant. If I refuse to have an abortion, if they
can't break me on that, which I knew they couldn't once I
was pregnant then they won't be able to do anything other
than let me go. And I won't have my husband come with me 'cause
I don't want to be married to him and I didn't really think
he wanted to be married to me anyway. And at that point I
wanted to leave so badly but I felt like I was a bad person.
So, I felt that I shouldn't make him come out too. Because
that would be even worse. Up to, after I left, I still thought
it's my fault, I'm a bad person, I've done things wrong. I
can't, you know, confront my crimes but I have to leave 'cause
I can't stand it. 'Cause that's the whole, like, thing in
Scientology is if anything goes wrong, if you get sick, if
you break something, it's your fault. You know, you've done
something wrong. It's never, it's never, like someone else's
fault. So that's what I thought. So, this was in October of
'97 and in about (laughs) in about, December, end of December,
early January, I got pregnant. And, then, but I didn't tell
anybody. And I was very sick. I had really bad morning sickness.
I couldn't eat. I was throwing up about 20 times a day. But
throwing up nothing because I wasn't eating. Just, you know,
going through the motions. But I would just, I'd be working
and I'd run downstairs to the bathroom and do it really quietly
so no one would hear me. And no one knew. And I still was,
I was so terrified to leave. But I decided because I was so
sick and I was so tired that I was just going to take off.
I was going to get on a plane and go stay with my family in
England for a little while I, like, got better. And then I
would come back. I
I planned on following their policies
on leaving. Because if I just took off and didn't come back,
they would declare me a Suppressive Person, which means that
my mom, my sister, my grandma, my whole family would never
speak to me again and I didn't want that to happen. At that
point, I was planning on still being a Scientologist--being
a good Scientologist and all of that
Stacy: You just didn't want to be
Astra: Just wanted to leave
Stacy: Yeah. Yeah. In the Sea Organization.
Astra: Yeah, I just couldn't take it anymore. So, my plan
was to go England for a little while then come back and do
their process of leaving and then leave. So that's what I
did in, uh, the end of February. One day, I, I got a day off
'cause no one knew what was going on. I had been awarded,
you know, one of the best staff member awards and, you know,
they thought I was great. You know, they thought I was a really
good staff member. Everything was wonderful. And, one day
I took the day off and I went and saw my dad. And they had
told me I can't go see him but I went and saw him anyway.
And then the next morning, I had, I had already packed all
my clothes in my car and I just went to the airport. And I
went and checked my baggage and as I was walking through the
security thing, where you, where they check your check-on
baggage, my brother walks up. My brother is in the Sea Org.
And he goes, "Hi Astra," and he was with a security
guard from, from where I worked.
Stacy: You're kidding.
Astra: (laughs) No kidding. This was
Stacy: What did you do?
Astra: Okay. It freaked me out but I had half expected it
because I used to have to do that.
Astra: I used to be sent to the airport to get people who
were taking off. But I was very surprised that they knew exactly
what terminal I was going to be in
and everything. And, so he says, "Hi Astra,"
and I said, "Hi Matthew," and I walked straight
into the bathroom. And I figured I will just sit in the bathroom
until my flight is boarding and I'll walk straight from the
bathroom to get on my flight. So, I did. I sat in the bathroom.
He sent a little girl in to, to tell me to come out. And I
said, thank you and I stayed in there. Then, after everyone
had left the bathroom, he came into the bathroom and I wouldn't
open the stall. And he climbed over and started talking to
Stacy: You're kidding.
Astra: And he, I, so finally I said, "Okay, I'll come
out." 'Cause anything
Stacy: What was he saying to you?
Astra: He was saying, "I have mom on the phone. Mom
wants to talk to you." I was terrified of anyone talking
me out of going. I knew they would be able to. My, I was,
I was sick. I hadn't eaten for, like, weeks. I hadn't been
able to keep anything down. I was exhausted. I was, like,
on the verge of a mental breakdown if I hadn't already had
one. (non-interview dialogue)
Astra: I knew, you know, they would just have to say a couple
words and I was feeling guilty. I was wanting to leave but
I was feeling so guilty that what I was doing was so bad.
I had written notes to people saying, you know, crying, saying,
"this is all my fault. I'm a horrible person and I've
done wrong. But I have to go."
Stacy: You had left notes for people?
Astra: Yeah, for my dad and for my husband. I didn't want
to talk to anybody. I had, like, this much (indicating) resolve
left to get on that plane. So, I said, "Okay. I'll come
out." So, I just stayed in there for, like, another ten
minutes. And then my plane was boarding 'cause I knew it (stammers)
I figured, you know, 20 or 30 minutes before it took off,
it would be boarding. So, I walked straight from the bathroom.
And, I, oh, I had written a note to my brother and this was
the first time anyone knew I was pregnant. And I had said,
"I'm pregnant. I'm going to see my cousin. I'll come
back." And I gave him that note and I kept walking. And
Stacy: You gave him that note in the bathroom?
Astra: Well, I came out of the bathroom at that point and
I gave him the note.
Stacy: So, you didn't even want to talk to him?
Astra: No. (laughs) I did not want to talk to him. So, and
I started walking. And then this security guard, whose name
is Mike Valiente, (sp?) started saying to me, you know, "We
can work it out." You know, the, the typical lines. "We
can work it out." "Let's have
let's just stand
and talk." "Let's calm down," blah, blah, blah.
I just ignored him. I said, "Read the note I just gave
my brother." And I kept walking. I was waiting in line
to board and my brother was standing there with me. And I
was crying. I started crying. People were looking at me. And
I said, "I'm just going to cool down, to, to, you know,
to get, to get better and I will come back. I won't get declared
a Suppressive Person. I'll come back." And my brother
says to me, "You're not being a Sea Org Member."
Obviously, not the brightest thing to say to me at that point.
And I said, "Well, I'm not going to be anymore."
And he's, like, "You need to speak to mom. She's on the
phone. She feels really bad." Well, I know how my mom
is and she is not going to be saying, "Oh, Astra. It's
going to be okay." She's going to be saying, you know,
you need to go back," you know, 'cause she's very, a
very fanatical Sea Org Member. So, I was just trying to ignore
him and I got my boarding pass and then I was waiting in line
to board. I had my passport and my ticket in my hand. Luckily,
I was holding on tightly because my brother got desperate
and tried to yank them
Stacy: Oh, gosh.
out of my hand and make a run for it so that
I couldn't leave. I was holding on tightly and he, you know,
it was like a little back and forth and he let go.
Stacy: What were the other people doing?
Astra: I (sounds like) smashed
but, I don't know. I
mean, I was crying. I was mess so I knew people were looking
at me but I didn't really know. And it was, I mean, I should
have, I would have called security other than the fact that
one, he's my brother. And two, you know, I felt like I'd get
declared a Suppressive Person if I did that. 'Cause if you
report anyone to the authorities
so I was trying to keep it cool. But, I'm, like,
oh my God, he's trying to take my ticket and my passport.
So, I said, "I can't believe you did that!" And
I just got on the plane. Then a stewardess comes up to me
with a note from my brother saying, "When you land, call
your mother," you know. 'Cause he had been saying to
me, "She's on the phone. I have her on the phone. You
have to speak to her. You have to speak to her." So,
I'm just crying. I'm a total mess. I got on, you know, I'm
Stacy: But you got on the plane!
plane. And it took off. I'm, like, oh, my God.
Stacy: (laughs) Incredible!
Astra: So, my plan, when I landed, I had maybe 25 or 30 dollars.
I was going to change it to English money and catch a bus
to my aunt's house. I didn't even know, (laughs) I knew their
address. That was about it. I thought, I didn't, I had no
plan. I had, uh, you know, 30 dollars in my pocket after the
ticket 'cause I spent all my money on the ticket. And, but
what I didn't know, what I found out after is, obviously at
that point they knew where I was going. I was going to England.
My mom was trying to get, was arranging with where I worked,
with the security department, to get people from the Organization
in England's security to meet me at the airport, which I knew
it was, that was going to happen. 'Cause that was what happens:
If you can't stop them getting on the plane, you have someone--'cause
they have organizations everywhere-- meet them at the airport
and send them back or, you know, whatever they're going to
do at that point. So, I figured that was going to happen.
That was what I was expecting. But what had actually happened
was my dad had said, "If you have people at the airport,
she is going to flip out. I'll have my sister meet her."
Then, then you know, 'cause he was trying to do what was best
for me. So, I expected them to be airport. So, I got off the
plane. I changed my clothes and I put my hair up. And I threw
away my umbrella 'cause I thought they'd say I should have
an umbrella with because it was pouring during that time.
And, you know, so I thought I looked totally different so
no one would recognize me. 'Cause the people in England didn't
know me. They'd only recognize, you know, they would give
a description of what I was wearing. So, then after all this,
I finally walk out and there's my aunt and uncle. And I was
so happy! Because they have nothing to do with Scientology.
They don't like it at all. And I was so happy but they had
been waiting for, like, an hour 'cause I was doing all this
Astra: Getting myself all disguised so, I was just so happy.
I was, like, oh my God. 'Cause I was tired. I was sick and
they were just going to and then I could just go to their
house. They were going to take me. So, then we went to their
house and then I called my dad. And then I called my mom.
And my mom instantly started off crying saying, "You
know, you, you need to come back. You need to stay in the
Sea Org." The main thing she did was she used my sister.
Zoe didn't even want to be there but I didn't know that. And
she was saying, "Zoe's plan is to come to LA and be in
the Sea Org with you. And, you know, what, what am I going
to tell her? What am I going to tell her? What should I tell
her?" And she was saying, "You should get an abortion.
I know how it is to have a child when you're young. It's too
Stacy: Your mother was telling you this?
Astra: My mother was the main person who was, like, "You
have to get an abortion." Because, I then ended up speaking
to, like, the authorities in the Sea Org. But I said to them,
'cause one mentioned abortion. And he said, "L. Ron Hubbard
" I said, "L. Ron Hubbard says abortion
isn't okay." And he said, "L. Ron Hubbard says it
is okay because he says, the spirit doesn't enter the body
until right before birth. So if you have an abortion before
" And I knew that. That was, like, the line
going round. If you have an abortion before, you know, when,
you know, when the baby is only a few months old or a few
weeks, it doesn't affect anyone. It, it's just like killing
an animal because, uh, the spirit's not there so it doesn't
matter. Anyway, someone said that to me again and I said,
"Look, if anyone says to me the word 'abortion,' I will
not come back. I don't want to hear it." And I was just
really mad. I said, "I don't want to hear it. No one
better speak to me about it or I'll just hang up. I'll refuse
to speak to and I will not cooperate." I said, "Otherwise,
Stacy: Who were these people talking to you?
Astra: There was, uh, oh God what's his name? It's, (laughs)
I forgot his name. He was, he was a very high up executive.
But there was, he, his job was also the Chaplain because that
was one of the, the posts underneath him that was unfilled.
So, he was doing it from the Chaplain point of view. Chaplain
- you need to get an abortion. His name will come to me in
Astra: But, then I spoke to a woman named Kirstie Wilhair
(sp?) who was, like, my senior senior. And I spoke to a girl
who was a friend of mine and my husband's friend and I spoke
to a man named Jeff Porter who's the chief of security international.
Stacy: I know Jeff.
Astra: Yeah, so do I. (laughs) I have other things to say
but, yeah, he was just like, "You come back or you get
declared." Kirstie was nice and saying, "Just come
back. Let's sort it out." The other man whose name will
come to me, was the one who mentioned abortion. I said, "Don't
ever mention it again." But my mother continuously mentioned
it regularly. "You should get an abortion. What am I
going to tell Zoe? You should get an abortion? How are you
going to raise the baby? You should get an abortion. You should
get an abortion. You should get an abortion," just repeatedly
Stacy: How old was Zoe at that point?
Astra: Thirteen, probably. Twelve or thirteen. That was what
got to me the most was the sister thing. 'Cause I didn't know
she didn't want to be there and I thought I had just ruined
her entire life's plan and messed everything up for her.
Stacy: 'Cause you two couldn't talk about this either?
Astra: No. In fact, my mom never even told Zoe about it.
Zoe found out about it because she saw a report that my (stammers)
that my husband had written on my dad--saying it was all my
dad's fault. I'll go into that later, too. But that's how
Zoe found out. No one ever told her. So, that was what almost
got to me. But I just kept saying to her, "Mom, I can't
live my life
" You know, "I've lived my life
based off of what you want and I'm finally doing what I want.
I can't now change it because of what you're saying Zoe wants."
I said, "I feel very, very bad. I don't know what to
say to her. But all I know is the most important thing is,
you know, I have to do what I want to do. And this is what
I want to do." And she just never got it. She never got
it to this day that, you know, I'm doing what I want to do.
I said, "I'll go back on April 1st. I'll be back on April
1st." And what I, I actually came back two weeks earlier.
I flew back and I stayed with my dad for a couple weeks. I
went and saw a doctor. I started getting everything under
Stacy: But were you able to start getting sleep and eating?
Astra: Yeah. 'Cause at my aunt's house, you know, she, she
got me some prenatal vitamins, some folic acid, which is important
to take. All these things. I was able to start eating. 'Cause
part of the reason was I was very sick. And the other part
of the reason was the food there is hard enough to eat when
you're feeling well. When I was feeling nauseous, I could
not stomach, you know, the foods they serve. Now, I was eating
actual regular food and I could stomach it. And my morning
sickness went from being sick ten times a day or more to once
every couple days, you know, which is a bit more normal. Yeah,
and I got a lot of rest and I, I, you know, I helped at their
work for a couple hours a day. And I talked with my aunt.
And my aunt's, like, a wonderful lady. And, you know, she
was really helping. And I was saying, "My mom's saying
I should get an abortion. What do you think I should do?"
And she said, "You should do whatever you want to do,"
you know. My dad had said to me, "I'll do -- you do whatever
you want to do and I will support you," you know? He
said, "If you want to keep the baby
" and he
got in big trouble for this, just for saying, "If you
want to keep the baby. I will support you. You can come live
with me. You can work for me. I will help you." And,
he got in really big trouble. My mom screamed at him, "You're
a Suppressive Person! I'm going to get you declared!"
All kinds of stuff. So, anyway, so I ended up going back.
I ended up going back, two weeks before I said I would. They
didn't know I was in LA 'cause they'd come and get me. I stayed
with my dad. I went and saw a doctor. I got everything even
more under control and then I went back on April 1st. And
that was really hard to do.
Stacy: Yeah. I bet it was.
Astra: It was really, really, really hard to do. I was terrified
Stacy: But were you stronger feeling than you had been when
Astra: Yeah. But I was still terrified and I was dreading
the next month or however long it was going to take. I was
really, really dreading it. But I, I, uh, it was that or never
see my family again. So, I did it. I went back. But I said,
"I'm going to stay with my dad. And every day I will
come in and I will get a confessional. I'll do everything
you want but I'm going to stay with my dad. Because I need
proper food. I need a nice bed. I need all this stuff and
you can't provide that for me."
Stacy: Because you're -- you were having to get a security
Astra: Yeah. The confessional or
Astra: Yeah. Yeah. So
Stacy: And what's the purpose of that when somebody's leaving?
Why is that happening?
Astra: Because, well, one of the reasons is L. Ron Hubbard
says in a policy, "The only reason that people want to
leave is because they have overts and withholds. They have
things they have done that are wrong that they are withholding."
And if you get them to admit these things and handle them,
Stacy: They'll stop wanting to leave.
Astra: Yeah, they'll stop wanting to leave. But at that point,
I was pregnant. I was going to leave anyway but so (stammers)
at that point it was more for a security purpose. They wanted
to find out -- most of the questions they asked me were security
related. You know, "Do you have any documents? Have you
stolen anything? "Have you
" "Do you plan
on going to a newspaper?" "Do you plan on,"
you know, "speaking derogatorily about Scientology?"
You know, those were, those are the main questions. So, and
then it was, like, "Have you done anything wrong on the
2-D?" Which means, have you done anything, like, sexually
bad? Like had bad thoughts, you know, had sex with someone
else? Nothing of which I had done but they, of course, they're
going to ask that. 'Cause that's another thing they consider
is a lot of the bad things you do are related to, like, sexual
things. So, I said, "I'm going to stay with my dad and
I'm going to do. I'll come in everyday and do whatever you
want me to do. But I'm going to stay with my dad." And
they said, "You can't. You have to
" and I
knew they'd say this. "You have to stay in your unit."
They said, "You can stay in your old room but you have
to stay there." And I said, "Well, what am I going
to eat?" You know, and they're, like, "Oh, we'll
work it out or whatever." So, I was arguing with the
security that I wanted to stay with my dad and he finally
said, uh, he was threatening me. And then he finally said,
"Okay. This process is going to take three or four days.
So, if in three or four days you're not done, you can go back
and stay with your dad." So, I said, "Okay. Write
that down." So, they had the security chief, Richard
Metzler, write down "If you're not done," you know,
"You're going to be done with your process by this date.
And if you're not, you can go back and stay with your dad
while you finish it." So, four days later, I don't even
think they had started my confession. They may or may not
have. That's another big thing is you have to have a confession
before you leave. They have no one to do it. That's why people
are there for six months to a year. But I knew they were going
to rush me out a bit. They didn't want the staff seeing me
getting more and more pregnant - give
Astra: 'Cause it would give people ideas to get pregnant,
you know, that that's what's being done.
Stacy: And you weren't looking pregnant yet?
Astra: I didn't look pregnant at all until after I left.
You couldn't tell at all. No one knew. And I, and then everyone
who, the few people who did know were told in no uncertain
terms can they tell anybody else. So, four days later, I said,
"Okay. I'm going back to stay at my dad's house because
I'm not done yet." And they said, "If you do that,
you will be put under a non-enturbulation order, which means
if you do one more thing that's, you know, that upsets somebody
for instance, saying "I'm going back to my dad's house"
or anything. "If you don't cooperate one hundred percent,
you will then be declared a Suppressive Person." So,
they might as well have said, "If you go back to your
dad's house, you will be declared a Suppressive Person."
Astra: And I said, "Well, I have this note. The security
chief wrote it." You know, I got it written down. 'Cause
that's their big thing - get everything in writing. "I
have it written down that I can go back." And he said,
"Well, you know, we just wrote that so that you'd stay.
And you have no choice but to stay. And if you go back, this
is what's going to happen"
Astra: So, I just thought, "Fine. I'll just stick it
out and just get this over with" 'cause I really had
no choice at that point. So then I started going in for my
confessionals and I told you what the questions were already.
It was, like, you know, "What have you done?" And
at that point, I still thought that the E-meter works and
if I didn't tell all I was in big trouble and they'd know.
So, I, of course, you know, told every thought I ever had,
told all this stuff, you know. Probably made up stuff to make
it sound good 'cause if you don't make it (stammers) if you
don't make it really sound like you've done something then
they're not going to believe you. And, everyday then, in the
evening at about six, I'd say, "I'm leaving" and
I'd go back to the room. And then, I'd have to eat, like,
a micro waved meal. Like, you know, Stouffer's microwave macaroni
and cheese or something, which isn't what I wanted to eat
at all. I was having a hard time stomaching that. Then, during
the day, I was really tired. I was tired all the time. And
during the day, I would have to come back in the morning and
they were supposed to set me up a bed that I could nap in
while I was waiting 'cause I would have to wait hours for
my confessional. But they never set it up. I had to sleep
on the floor in, like, a little tiny office on the floor with
a blanket everyday while waiting. And then, they were saying,
"What are you doing sleeping all the time? You should
be doing your, your ethics handling, which means, like, reading
Stacy: Scientology policies.
Astra: Ethics. Scientology policies on ethics and, you know,
all kinds of stuff to, you know, to handle me. So I would
be a better person.
Stacy: Well, to make you decide that you should stay.
Astra: Yeah, and have an abortion. Or, if that didn't work,
uh, you know, to stop me from doing anything against Scientology
in the future.
to Astra Woodcraft