MIKE RINDER POSTED a response on his blog to scientology’s attack on Paul Haggis and me following Aftermath, Episode 5 that aired on 9/17/17. The attack on me featured my former husband, Peter Schless, and several other Kool-Aid drinkers who remain trapped behind the Int base fences. Their coordinated, scripted strategy was to not-is me, to reduce me to a nothingness nobody that never accomplished anything of value. As Mike said, this is a typical pattern, not addressing any content, just trying to devastate the contributor.
Within hours of the episode and the subsequent appearance of the POW video, I started receiving an outpouring of concern and care from personal friends, from acquaintances, and from many people whom I’ve never met but with whom I am friends online. Many people private messaged me, posted supportive and encouraging words on different private groups, others offered to talk, and some asked me what they could do to help me. I am literally humbled by the love and support that flowed my way from so many incredibly caring, empathetic and compassionate people. What a priceless community the exes and the scientology watchers have become. I am grateful and proud to be among this community. This support means everything, especially now.
Aftermath will continue to cause after-shocks after the Episode 5 quake on 9/17/17. My book, Escaping Scientology: An Insider’s True Story, was released a few days ago on Kindle, and coming out in paperback 9/25/17 on amazon.com. Scientology is not going to like this book at all. Evidently they’ve already read it because some of the comments made in the smear video reflect some of my book content. Extra content is also posted on the book website, www.escapingscientology.com.
Instead of responding with any mutual vitriol or by sharing Peter’s darkest secrets (which I didn’t share in my book either) in retaliation to his statements about me, I decided to share more truths. Below is an excerpted letter Peter wrote me on July 7, 1999 (I left Aug. 1, 1998). This is also published in Escaping Scientology, Chapter 39, pgs. 343-344. Peter’s own words reflect his thoughts and feelings of the time:
Well, I felt I needed to write to you for a number of reasons. This hasn’t been an easy time for me and I’m sure it’s been even harder for you. I want to say that I’m sorry for the way things turned out. It wasn’t supposed to go like this, but it has and that’s the reality of the situation.
I am told you have found a new life with your family and for that I’m glad as I know they’ll take care of you. I know that I could have picked up the telephone at any point over the past year and called you but you must understand that the pain in doing that was something I could not confront. I think you knew it was going to turn out this way when you decided to leave and that made it all the more hard for you…We’re the ones who spent 20 years of our life together, so I want to handle our own laundry. It’s been almost one year since you left… Do you want the boxes of pictures? I have a hard time going through them, but I will send whatever you want…
I think that your family probably wants you to take 50% of the income of the song from here on out. You are totally within your rights to do that. You were there when the song was written and worked to get the publishing company set up.…
I do wish you well and I know that you are going to be very successful in whatever you’ve planned out for your life. Financially, you are in a position to make whatever you need to live the lifestyle you choose since you are so competent in the job arena…I guess the good news is we don’t have kids to handle. So, please let’s end cycle on this as friends.
As I said before, if you see fit to go another direction with this, there’s nothing I can do or say. I’m only hoping that twenty years of our life together means something to you and that you will make a good decision which both you and I can live with…
His letter stands in stark contrast to his 2017 attack video and after his time in the Hole where his humanity had been pulverized and personal integrity had long ago dissipated. The pain wrought by his video was less about me, and more about the man he had become who would perform as a sock puppet to his controller. While he was lying, he knew the various executive posts I’ve held, and he knew Miscavige personally named me “most productive staff member on the Int base” twice before 1998. But I’m not the only one who felt the pain of Peter’s video. Old friends and co-workers of his were shocked not only by his statements about me, but by how he has withered as a human being stripped of dignity. They too felt the pain of seeing what scientology does to people.
My book Escaping Scientology offers our disturbing life story and more, because it typifies what happens to many. I had talked to Peter numerous times to leave the Sea Org with me so we could recover our lives, but he would always refuse. In my book, I wrote:
“I recognized in Peter a mix of cowardice with unwillingness to inform himself of facts, after he commented that we were loyal officers who were not going to be like Terri and Fernando (Gamboa), whereas I thought, who cares what church leaders thought about us? This was our life we are talking about. But Int base execs and staff so harshly criticized the Gamboa’s for their treasonous act of blowing that anyone who might have thought about following in their tracks would not even consider trying now. No one wanted to risk a failed escape because the consequences of punishment would be beyond imagination.
One major difference between Peter and me was his unquestioning willingness to accept the shore story that anyone who blew had committed unthinkable crimes, which kept him in a state of blind allegiance to leadership. When he would tell me he didn’t want to leave the Sea Org because we were trusted officers, I couldn’t get him to question the organization to which we had dedicated ourselves. The organization served up plenty of Kool-Aid and the ones who indulged remained the dedicated Sea Org officers. We had only been at the base about a year, and I already felt like I was losing Peter in this way, where his dedication to the Sea Org was exceeding his common sense and connection to reality. Consequently, I fought an ongoing internal battle of wanting to get out and put my life back together, but wanting to do it with a husband who I saw was mentally slipping away. I committed myself to changing Peter’s mind, but meanwhile wasn’t happy about supporting command intention that I didn’t believe in.”
I’m ever thankful for Leah, Mike, and A&E for standing up to this insidious organization, and for giving us opportunities to speak our truth in hopes that it wakes people up, makes a difference, and ends the abuse.