LOS ANGELES (CA)
Daily Mail [London, United Kingdom]
July 3, 2023
By Neirin Gray Desai
- A woman is suing the Church of Scientology, its leader, and one of its recruiters
- She alleged in a lawsuit that after the recruiter raped her she had to marry him
A woman born into the Church of Scientology and drafted into its inner circle at 14 was raped by a notorious recruiter at 16 and forced to marry him when she spoke out, according to a newly unsealed lawsuit.
The woman, anonymized as Jane Doe, alleges she was groomed and sexually abused by high-ranking recruiter Gavin Potter during a series of car rides while enrolled in a ‘billion-year contract’ with the Sea Organization – a ‘clergy’ that runs the church’s operations.
The attacks are said to have taken place in California, where the age of consent is 18, with the accuser two years younger than that when the attacks began.
On reporting them, Jane Doe says she was offered the chance to embark on five years at a labor camp or to marry Potter, and says she chose the latter.
A lawsuit filed in the LA County Superior Court argues the church prevented its members from reporting crimes committed by other members to police. Pictured is Miscavige
Jane Doe’s claims have come to light in a lawsuit she has brought against Potter and the church in the LA County Superior Court in December, but which was unsealed last week.
It argues the church prevented its members from reporting crimes committed by other members to police and knowingly used Potter to recruit young and vulnerable women into the abusive Sea Organization.
Jane Doe says church members consider it a ‘high crime’ to report another’s law-breaking to police, although Scientology officials insist they comply with all local laws, and encourage members to report crimes.
The lawsuit recounts how after reporting the abuse to the church, which does not allow extramarital relationships between Sea Org members, it demanded that she and Potter either marry else she would be subjected to five years of ‘isolation, food deprivation and long hours of hard manual labor’.
After marrying Potter at 16 the woman, referred to in the suit as Jane Doe, became pregnant with his child at 19, before finally escaping the church in 1997 at 23 and divorcing him.
In a separate case brought against the church in 2019, the same woman said she was raped by Scientologist and actor Danny Masterson in 2003. The That 70s Show star was convicted of that rape and another in May, but cleared of a third allegation made by a former girlfriend.
Potter is one of the defendants in the case and accused of childhood sexual abuse and molestation. Also named are three individual church entities, as well as its leader David Miscavige.
William Forman, an attorney for the Church of Scientology, told DailyMail.com in a statement the allegations in the lawsuit were false.
‘This baseless lawsuit is preposterous and will go nowhere,’ he wrote. ‘The entire lawsuit is a con job and an attempted shakedown.’
An attorney for Doe, Graham E. Berry, alleged in the complaint that the church ‘created opportunities for such sexual abuse to occur’ and ‘specifically recruited attractive minor females into an organization that required cohabitation’.
THE SEA ORG
The Sea Organization (Sea Org) considers itself to be the ‘clergy’ of the Church of Scientology.
It was established in 1967 by L Ron Hubbard to assist with ‘advanced research operations’ and to ‘supervise Church organizations around the world’.
Being a member of the Sea Org is voluntary, meaning it must recruit ordinary Scientologists to join its ranks.
Scientologists that join Sea Org must sign a ‘billion-year pledge’, which involves ‘pledging eternal service to Scientology and its religious goals’.
Once onboard, they live communally and have their meals, uniforms and healthcare provided by the Church.
They must also give up their parents. If a Sea Org recruit is under 18, they will be assigned a guardian.
All members are closely tracked by a ‘Port Captain’, who oversees their lives.
He also claimed that scientologists are prohibited from contacting police or other authorities to report crimes committed by members and taught that the only remedy in such circumstances is Scientology itself, and the teachings of its founder L. Ron Hubbard.
The lawsuit also says the church coordinated for Doe to marry Potter in Las Vegas in Nevada when she was 16 so as to skirt California law that might have derailed the marriage – what it says is a common practice within the church.
Potter is said in the lawsuit to have had a reputation for being particularly effective at recruiting young girls to join the Sea Organization.
‘It was known by all Defendants and Sea Org that Gavin Potter recruited these impressionable female minors through fear and flirtation,’ read the complaint.
Potter was allegedly so successful that his young female recruits were commonly referred to as ‘Bridge Babes’, a term coined by Miscavige himself.
Doe alleges that the sexual abuse began in 1991 when she turned 16 and was sent to Los Angeles by the church to work as a receptionist for the L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition, a museum dedicated to the church’s founder.
Potter, she alleged, approached her one day and asked for a lift home in her car.
After agreeing on one occasion she claims he made a habit of taking rides home in her car. She alleged that once as she sat in the driver’s seat he lent over from the passenger’s seat to fondle her breasts and kiss her on the lips.
The lawsuit also recounts another occasion on which Potter put his hands up her skirt and penetrated her with his hands, terrifying her to the point that she could not move.
She said after that incident she noticed he had a wet spot on his pants but did not know at the time that he had ejaculated and had never had any sexual contact with anyone prior to those car rides.
According to the lawsuit, Doe was born in 1974 to parents who were involved in the Religious Technology Center, a division of the church and one of the defendants in her suit.
When she was 14, while attending a Scientology training exercise in Clearwater, a city in Florida that serves as a hub for the church, she was asked to join the Sea Organization and accepted the offer.
Members of the Sea Organization are recruited from within the church and often minors at the time. In order to enroll they are forced to sign ‘billion-year’ pledges of indefinite servitude.
Sea Org members that are below the age of 18 need to be adopted by somebody in the church. All members are assigned a ‘Port Captain’ who oversees them and manages their living arrangements, referred to as ‘berthing’.
In 1991 when Doe turned 16 her position in the Sea Org was ‘activated’, according to the lawsuit, and she was sent off to work in LA. There, was a receptionist and would work into the night cleaning Scientology facilities for little pay.
It was then that the lawsuit alleges Potter began sexually assaulting her. It states that the day after the incident in which he ejaculated in the car, Doe reported the incident to her colleagues.
Since extramarital relationships between Sea Org members are forbidden, once the church became aware it required that she and Potter either marry or serve five years with the Rehabilitation Project Force.
The Rehabilitation Project Force, or RPF, was created in 1974 by Hubbard for Sea Org members that violated its policies and required punishment.
Sea Org members assigned to RPF are sent to Sea Org work camps, where, according to the lawsuit, they are subjected to ‘isolation, food deprivation, long hours of hard manual labor, and other cruel and unusual punishments’.
A member can be allegedly sentenced to RPF for anywhere from one to ten years.
‘That same day, Jane Doe’s “Port Captain” arranged for Jane Doe, Gavin Potter, and Jane Doe’s mother to travel to Las Vegas, Nevada to complete the marriage,’ reads the lawsuit.
‘Jane Doe’s mother witnessed the marriage. The Port Captain explained that the wedding could not take place in California as that would require both parties to see a counselor or psychologist to determine the mental capacity of the minor to marry, and a judge to sign off after review of the psychologist’s report,’ it read.
The complaint also alleges that girls are routinely transported to and from Las Vegas for marriages to avoid any such requirements.
After the marriage Doe was then allegedly booked into the Manor Hotel with Potter by her Port Captain where she says she was coerced into ‘ritualistic and painful’ sex.
The following day Doe went back to living with her parents but would intermittently have intercourse with Potter in the subsequent years.
Then at 19 she became pregnant, which was forbidden among Sea Org members.
In 1986, upon the death of Hubbard and when David Miscavige took over, a Sea Org Order was issued declaring Sea Org members from having children at all.
Potter asked Doe to get an abortion, and she refused.
In 1997 when she was 23, she was able to escape the Church and successfully divorced Potter. A court ruled that Potter would provide her with child support, but she claims the church forced her to sign materials promising to never recover them.
Her attorney has said that since the divorce she has never claimed any child support money.