Valeska Paris Claims she was Imprisoned on Scientology Cruise Ship ‘Freewinds’ for 12 Years
A Swiss-born Australian resident claims that she was imprisoned aboard a Scientology cruise ship for 12 years.
According to ABC (Australia) Lateline, Valeska Paris, who was born into a Scientology family, joined the church’s Sea Organization when she was 14, signing a billion-year contract. Her mother had denounced Scientology after her husband committed suicide over being fleeced out of his million-dollar fortune by the church. Valeska says this is why cult leader David Miscavige impressed her aboard the cruise ship Freewinds, to prevent her mother from taking her away from Scientology.
“I was basically hauled in and told that my mum had attacked the church and that I needed to disconnect from her because she was suppressive,” she told ABC. “[Miscavige] decided the ship, and I found out two hours before my plane left, I was woken up in the morning and I was sent to the ship for ‘two weeks’,” she said.
But those two weeks turned into two months, then two years, with the cold realization that cult leaders were serious about her “billion-year contract.”
“I did not want to be there, I made it clear I did not want to be there and that was considered bad ethics, meaning it was considered not right,” she told ABC.
Valeska says she wasn’t allowed off the ship without an escort for six years. She claims she was forced into hard labor in the engine room of the cruise ship, which mostly sailed around the Caribbean docking at small islands. The ship is a base aboard which Scientology’s highest counseling course, called Operating Thetan Level VIII, is conducted.
“It’s hot, it’s extremely loud, it’s smelly, it’s not nice,” she told ABC. “I was sent down there at first for 48 hours straight on almost no sleep and I had to work by myself.”
“I was not allowed to work with anyone else,” she added. “I don’t know if I went unconscious or if I fell asleep but I was cleaning some part of an engine it was extremely loud and I was just out for like four hours and this guy came and shook me four hours later and he said I was unconscious.”
Valeska claims that she was forced to prepare for Tom Cruise’s (one of several celebrity Scientologists) 42nd birthday party, which was held aboard the Freewinds. But because she was suffering from a cold sore at the time, she was forbidden to attend the celebration and hidden away below deck.
Why didn’t she just escape?
“They take your passport when you go on the ship and you’re in the middle of an island,” she explained to ABC. “So it’s a bit hard [to escape] and by that time I was 18, I’d been in Scientology my whole life, it’s not like I knew how to escape.”
The Church of Scientology says that Valeska is lying.
“She certainly wasn’t ‘forced’ to be there. She was also never forced to perform labour in the engine room,” a statement from the church to ABC read. “The Freewinds is a wonderful place, as even Valeska said on numerous occasions. Her allegation that she could only leave the ship with an escort is totally false.”
But Valeska’s claims have been corroborated by Ramana Dienes-Browning, a former senior executive aboard the Freewinds. Dienes-Brown was in charge of policing the crew’s behavior and says that Valeska was indeed a prisoner aboard the ship, as she was too.
“She made it very clear she did not want to be there,” she told ABC. “She had been sent to the ship so as not to be in contact with one of her parents and that’s not what she wanted, she was very, very distressed.”
“I would definitely consider it imprisonment because there was no choice in the matter.”
Dienes-Browning, who left Scientology, called the church’s denial “a lie.”
“Their response is a cover-up,” she told ABC.
Valeska Paris was finally able to leave the Freewinds after 12 years when she was sent to the Rehabilitation Project Force in Sydney, Australia, which many ex-Scientologists call a punishment camp. She left the cult and got married; now she says that church leader Miscavige ought to be put on trial.
“It’s not right for someone to be running the church and basically take advantage of a church and hiding behind religion to live like a king and abuse people around him,” she told ABC. “That man doesn’t like anyone, he’s a psychopath,”
The Church of Scientology has threatened ABC Lateline with legal action, claiming a breach of a confidentiality agreement between the cult and Valeska Paris.
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