‘I know it’s … true that Scientology infiltrates organisations. And that’s another part, another major part of the fear, that people like myself can’t come forward and say anything. I know there’s other people in Scientology who’ve been through this as well and they can’t come forward because of the fear of what’s going to happen to them. They’re going to lose their family.
And that’s the threat that they have, that they make you disconnect from your family. And they will do everything. They have what’s called a “policy of fair game” where they will do anything and everything possible to destroy you if you come forward.’
Both Nikki’s parents got involved with the Church of Scientology when she was a baby. Her parents split up soon after. Nikki grew up in the 1980s with her mother and her mother’s de-facto partner, Nathan, who was also a minister of the Church.
While still very young, Nikki was sexually abused in the home by a man who lived in their house. Nikki told her mother and he was kicked out. But then, Nathan started abusing her. Nikki was then seven years old and the abuse went on for four years.
Nikki didn’t disclose the abuse at first but when she was 11 a friend of hers, whose mother was working in child safety, asked her a few questions. Her friend identified there was a problem and asked if she could tell her mother. Her friend’s mother asked if she could report it to police. All the while, Nikki was asking ‘Why?’
Nikki’s mother, who didn’t believe Nikki at the time, rang a woman called Gloria, from the human rights section of Scientology.
‘Because I was told and drilled to lie to the police, by Gloria, they never knew the truth.’ Nikki was told to say ‘it didn’t happen. It was only once and, if he did touch me, it was only up top’. That’s the version of events Nikki told her medical examiner.
The police, along with people from DOCS, came to Nikki’s home. ‘The only part I remember about the police is them coming to my house. And the woman police … took me alone into my bedroom and asked me if I wanted him to go to jail. And I wanted to say “Yes” but then I asked her how long would he go to jail for, and she said “About 14 years”. And I thought, well I’m 11 now, so I thought that might be a bit too long cause it’s over my lifetime. And because I had eight people outside, waiting for me, I just couldn’t say “Yes” so I said “No”.’
Nikki’s mother was taken into another room in the house. She had also been coached by Gloria about what to say to the police.
After that, the sexual abuse stopped. However, Nikki, her mother and brother used to get beaten up by Nathan. ‘Tried to call the cops a lot … but he kept hanging up the phone on us … My Mum says that if she tried to leave they [Scientology] would intervene and make her go to “Ethics”, which is their justice system in Scientology, and they would say to her that you can’t leave him because it’s bad publicity for us … So we had to stay with him. He had to stay with us.’
The Church assured DOCS that they were sending Nikki to counselling. This is all in Nikki’s DOCS file.
‘I know they [DOCS] tried to help me. But they were stopped, so many times and I know what happened was that Scientology told them that they were giving me counselling. But they weren’t … It’s an outright lie … I do remember doing courses, like the “Personal Integrity” course but that’s not counselling. And they didn’t help me get over it or learn anything.’
‘… they hate psychiatry … They fight it … They think it’s evil.’
‘They were trying to make me understand my part in it. They in fact … labelled me a sexual predator from the age of 11. So everyone who ever met me, steered clear of me because they all knew. And I didn’t even know this. So every time I ever entered into any kind of relationship I was grilled. What we did? Did I hold hands? Do I talk to them? Everything. Until I was 21.’
‘They [DOCS] came to my school. And because I was in fear of Scientology as well, obviously, I realise that now, they told me never to meet with DOCS alone … So when they did try and come to the school, as you can see in their reports, they said “Nikki was upset”. But I know why I was upset. Because I had conflicting information from Scientology and … from DOCS. And I believed that DOCS were going to ruin my life. In fact, they [Scientology] told me they [DOCS] would take me away from my brother and I would never see my family again.’
At 16, Nikki joined what’s called the Sea Organisation, within the Church. It’s a higher level, 24/7 commitment to Scientology and participants live on premises. Nikki did this so she could leave the violence at home. ‘I didn’t know anything else … In the Sea Org they say that you’re going to save the planet. So I thought that’s what I was doing.’ Nikki described Scientology’s methods as using a kind of ‘hypnotherapy’ or ‘mind control’.
However, there were times when Nikki wanted to leave Sea Org. ‘I tried to leave so many times and they just kept bringing me back. They call it “blowing” if you leave without doing the right paperwork … They have people go and collect you and bring you back … They were keeping me hidden … Every year I was there, I would always ask “Why? Why haven’t you helped me with this … with this abuse? Was it abuse? What happened?” …
‘And I had so many questions and they just kept telling me that my problem was not the abuse, or him – it was me. And my problem was that I’d done something to pull it in. I’d done something to deserve it. So then they would make me look into my past lives to find answers to why I deserved to be abused.’
Nikki was eventually kicked out of Sea Org when she was 21. But she stayed part of Scientology for another few years. Then, a few years after that, Nikki went to the police. ‘That’s when I probably officially, mentally left Scientology.’
Nathan was convicted of only one count of sexual assault, even though ‘there was many more mentioned’. He was given a good behaviour bond. Nikki was awarded $37,000 victims compensation. She doesn’t know why Nathan was convicted of only one count or given such a light sentence. The medical report, from the examination of her when she was 11, was consistent with the much more severe abuse that actually happened over a long period of time.
Nikki was later contacted by the press. She was motivated to speak up. ‘I said “Yes, I want to do this. I want this to stop”. It has to stop for me so that I’ve got some kind of closure. It has to stop for everybody else … and the mental and physical abuse needs to end.’
Even so, years later, Nikki ‘didn’t realise how hard it would be just to, even, ring up [the Royal Commission]’. She has received counselling in the past but says that recovering from Scientology is very specific. ‘For a person who’s come out of Scientology, it’s a cult basically. And we need specialist kind of help. Just having the regular kind of counselling doesn’t cut it. It doesn’t because … they need to understand what Scientology is or they can’t help you.’