Debbie Cook was once responsible for promoting Scientology around the world, but now she's changed sides, and other Australian former members are backing up her story.
“He ordered his secretary to slap me, and she slapped me so hard I fell over into the chairs,” Cook recalled during her trial.
“Mr Miscavige ordered his communicator to break my finger if I didn't answer his question,” Cook said.More stories from Today Tonight
Beaten, tortured and degraded beyond belief, Cook was also made to watch the torture, beatings and degradation of others.
“There was an ever-present threat of violence, and mental and emotional abuse, and degradation of the worst sort,” Ray Jeffrey, Cook’s lawyer said.
Just a few years ago Cook was selling Scientology to the world. After 29 years, she had worked her way to a position of trust around the upper end of Scientology's chain of command - working out of their international headquarters in Florida and California.
Finally, in 2007, Cook had to get out and escape the cult. There was no choice she says. She simply could not take any more, after she was imprisoned in ‘The Hole’.
“You couldn't make it past security, the windows were barred,” Cook described while under oath in a courtroom at San Antonio Texas.
‘The Hole’ was two giant trailers put together, infested with ants and sometimes without power. Up to 100 Scientologists were crammed together, fed slop, and kept prisoner for weeks and even months on end, at the whim of their leader Miscavige.
As a 40-something year old woman, with a respected job, Cook was imprisoned in The Hole.
She says she was stood up and screamed at by 100 Scientologists for hours on end, as they dumped buckets of cold water over her head. It was punishment for her crime - wanting to leave.
This was happening less than a year before photos taken of Miscavige and his best friend, Tom Cruise, along with wife Katie Holmes.
In a Scientology video Cook agrees to sign a confidentiality agreement for Scientology.
She then kept quiet for five years. However two months ago, she sent an email to her Scientology friends outlining her dismay at Scientology’s total focus on money.
Scientology pounced, forcing her into court for breaching her agreement to keep quiet. But it backfired spectacularly when, under oath, Cook started revealing just how dysfunctional Scientology and its leader had become.
Peta O’Brien, who spent a decade inside Scientology here and in the United States before escaping says the organisation is a cult.
O’Brien was in the Australian labour camp we showed you two weeks ago, where adults and children including Shane Kelsey were forced into hard labour and deprivation, just like their American brethren.
“It was grotty. You had to make space liveable where you were sent,” O’Brien said.
“It was my project to build the driveway, but I didn't count on having to break my own rocks, because we had to devise our own projects to keep ourselves busy,” O’Brien said.
She wants to see Scientology dismantled and closed.
“Why would anyone need anything from the church of Scientology if they know that they're not actually doing or helping people, they're not doing what they say. In fact they're ripping them off, they're abusing their generosity, their help,” she said.
According to Independent Federal Senator Nick Xenophon “it really begs the question, what are the authorities in Australia doing to protect people against this sort of abuse.”
“The authorities need to investigate this urgently. This is something that requires police investigation,” Senator Xenophon said. He is horrified - not only by Debbie Cook's account of Scientology's abuse, but also because it's happening to Australians here.
“How can these gross violations of human rights happen under our noses, in our suburbs,” he asked.
“When you consider that the Australian Government spends a lot of money promoting human rights around the world at the United Nations, maybe they should spend a bit of that money right here in Australia to make sure the human rights of Shane and others aren't being abused,” Senator Xenophon said.
“What they do to their members is nothing short of outrageous, it's a complete denial of their human rights.”
Cook is due back in court next week to ask for a trial date.Contact details
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