Growing up in the Sea Org -- Astra and Zoe Woodcraft's stories
27 Mar 2001
Astra Woodcraft was seven years old when her parents thrust her into the world of Scientology's "elite" Sea Organization. From the cramped quarters of the motel room her family of five shared when they first arrived at the Flag Land Base in Clearwater, Florida, Astra was moved into a dormitory where, because Scientology would not provide a bed for her, she slept on a couch for a year. This was the beginning of Astra's life in the sub-standard and oppressive living environment that is accepted as routine to those in the Sea Organization.
Astra's affidavit covers her formative childhood and teenage years. In it she describes the poor schooling she received and the hours working at the behest of the Church of Scientology, including having to guard other members who wanted to leave. Shortly after her fifteenth birthday, Astra married a 21-year-old man on the orders of her superiors. She tells of being belittled and yelled at by other Sea Org members, including her own mother, when she refused to get an abortion after becoming pregnant at 19.
In this affidavit and in newspapers articles published in the "San Francisco Chronicle" and the "London Daily Mail," Astra boldly speaks out about all of these horrific experiences and many others inconceivable to those unfamiliar with the practices of Scientology.
Astra's 16-year-old younger sister, Zoe Woodcraft, became involved with Scientology's Sea Organization when she was just two years old. Her mother joined the Sea Org while doing services at the Flag Land Base in Clearwater, Florida, without consulting her husband Lawrence. She then insisted that he also join and that they move the entire family from England to the Scientology headquarters in Clearwater. Thus Zoe, her seven-year-old sister Astra and 15-year-old brother (who also joined the Sea Org at this time) were thrust into the regimented, controlled environment of Scientology's paramilitary Sea Organization.
In Zoe's affidavit we learn what it is really like for children raised in the Sea Org. Zoe was raised by other Sea Org members who were assigned to be nannies. Often these "nannies" were children not much older than she. Zoe was housed far from her parents in sometimes filthy, cockroach-ridden and dilapidated buildings. Her only education was from Scientology "course supervisors" with no educational qualifications other than training in the Scientology method of learning. For years she was housed at the "Cadet Org" on a remote ranch in California, where the children were completely cut off from the outside world. As Zoe put it, "This ranch was hours away from normal civilization. In the year plus that I lived there we never went into town for a field trip; never went to a movie, shopping or anything. We were totally isolated."
As Zoe grew older she was pressed by Sea Org personnel to sign her own billion-year contract and dedicate her entire life to the Sea Org. The inducements were many -- a few dollars more a week in pay, better living quarters, more time off. Zoe, however, was not persuaded, thanks in part to the influence of her father and her sister Astra, who were by that time both out of the Sea Org. As the quality of her life in the Sea Org continued to decline, Zoe finally requested permission to leave so she could join her father and sister, who were living in California.
When Zoe made known her desire to leave, she was subjected to nearly a year of punishment and repeated attempts to persuade or coerce her into staying. She was kicked out of her dorm and forced to sleep on the floor in her mother's bedroom. She was told she was "out ethics" and forced to do "ethics handlings." Her handlers showed Zoe newspaper articles about gruesome crimes and warned her that the outside world was a horrible and dangerous place in which to live. Her motives were continually questioned. Didn't she want to "save the planet through Scientology?" Those who had been her comrades for years shunned her and Sea Org officials placed her on a treadmill of endless assignments that had to be completed before they would allow her to leave.
In early 2000, Zoe's father flew from California to Clearwater, Florida to help his daughter escape. Since that time, Zoe has struggled to overcome her experiences in Scientology and to make up for the years of sub-standard education she was subjected to in the Sea Org. She attends a public high school in California and is quickly catching up with her new friends. She and Astra have both had to learn to live without their mother, grandmother and brother, all Sea Org members who now refuse to communicate with them.
Zoe wrote an essay about her experiences for her English class in the fall of 2000. That English assignment made its way to the Lisa McPherson Trust and so moved the judges of the 2000 LMT Literati Contest that they awarded Zoe Woodcraft a first place prize in the Juvenile Division.
Astra's and Zoe's affidavits are posted concurrently with this message, as well as a repost of Zoe's winning essay, which was originally posted under the "nom de plume" of Darla deToledo.
These affidavits will be available shortly on our website, at http://www.lisatrust.net , where you can also link to the San Francisco Chronicle and London Daily Mail articles about the Woodcrafts. Mark Bunker has just announced a new video interview of Astra Woodcraft, in which she details the pressure that was brought to bear on her to abort her baby when it was discovered that she was pregnant. Meet Astra's beautiful daughter, Kate, who is alive today because of Astra's courageous escape from Scientology's Sea Organization. Further video interviews of Astra and Zoe will be available on our website soon.
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