Astra Woodcraft Interview

"The Story of Kate"

Part One

Video Interview - January 20, 2001


Transcript 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?

Kate: Hi…

Stacy: …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… I mean, 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… So, 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.

Stacy: Oh.

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…

Stacy: Yeah.

Astra: …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 me.

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 then…

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.

Astra: …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…

Stacy: Right.

Astra: …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 on the…

Stacy: But you got on the plane!

Astra: …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 stuff (laughs).

Stacy: Oh.
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 much…

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 says…" 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 that…" 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, I will."

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 a minute…

Stacy: Okay.

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 control. Uh…

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 you left?

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 check…

Astra: Yeah. The confessional or…

Stacy: …everyday.

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, they will…

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…

Stacy: Right.

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."

Stacy: Right.
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"

Stacy: Incredible.

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 policies on…

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.

Stacy: Mm-hmm.


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