Danny Masterson’s Case, ‘The OJ Trial of Scientology,’ Leaves Former Members Deeply Emotional

Tara Savelo was born into Scientology and remained active in it into her 20s. She grew up in Clearwater, Fla., one of the main sources of the church, and later moved to Los Angeles, where she was appointed as Lady Gaga’s makeup artist.

She left the church and took her own life. But in the last few weeks, as she read about the rape trial of Danny Masterson, many of the teachings and practices of the church have come back to the surface.

More from Variety

“The word that the victims use – the first time I read it, it was so upsetting,” she said. “There are specific words and descriptors they used that are embedded in my DNA. It turns my stomach.”

For many former Scientologists, the Masterson trial was a matter of intense interest. It combines celebrity, sex and justice, and is set within a society that knows them intimately.

“This is the IO test of Scientology,” said Karen de la Carriere, a former Scientologist who now calls herself a “whistleblower culture.” “It’s huge.”

Masterson’s lawyer, Philip Cohen, has tried to minimize references to the church during the trial. But in his closing argument, he noted that the church was nevertheless mentioned more than 700 times.

Karin Pouw, a spokeswoman for the church, blasted Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller for “shamefully focusing his prosecution on the defendant’s faith.” But Mueller argued in his closing that the church had a powerful influence on the victims’ beliefs and actions.

“Scientology cannot be avoided,” he insisted.

Scientology was implemented in two ways. The first is the church’s attitude towards rape and gender dynamics. The second is the church’s approach to the justice system.

The three accusers – all now ex-Scientologists – described a belief system that discouraged them from classifying their attacks as “rape”. Christina B., who was in a six-year relationship with Masterson, said she went to the church to report him for rape in December 2001. A Scientology ethics officer told her “You can’t have someone you’re in a relationship with rape,” she testified.

She also testified that a chaplain told her “I wasn’t fulfilling my duties” as Masterson’s girlfriend. She said the message she got was: “Basically, if I said no, it wouldn’t happen.”

She and Jane Doe #1 also described a broader teaching in which negative experiences are understood to be the responsibility of the person experiencing them. In the case of rape, that was tantamount to saying they invited the attacks, or “dragged it in,” they testified.

Those reports concerned Tara Savelo.

“That’s just how they talk,” she said.

She said her parents had books like “The Second Dynamic” growing up – a comprehensive text covering church founder L. Ron Hubbard’s teachings on marriage, sex and family.

“He was a very good writer, and he was great at organizing a cult, but underneath that he was a very sexual man,” Savelo said. “The basic books my parents had when I was a kid, they’re overtly sexual. The woman is supposed to be at home looking after the children.”

Her friends’ parents used “The Second Dynamic” as a guide to family life. They are also taught about it at school, where they make clay miniatures that show both parts of the dynamic – family and sex.

“If you want your second dynamic to be successful, you have to be successful in both,” she said of her teaching. “If your family wasn’t doing well, you fell on the sex side.”

Savelo said she was raped when she was 16. The next day, she reported it to Scientology’s ethics officer. She was drinking, and she knew she was “unethical,” the religion’s term for immoral behavior.

But she was still surprised when she was told that she would have to make amends with the person who committed the offence.

“I knew it would be my fault. I went in knowing there would be punishment,” she said. “I didn’t think I would have to make amends with the man.”

As she understood it, she was “promiscuous” – behavior that is low on Scientology’s “tone scale” – like “perspective” and “sorrow.”

“Sexuality is talked about much more often than rape,” Savelo said.

Even worse, she was also unclear to a non-Scientologist, who could misunderstand the faith, which would alienate him from the church and make it more difficult for him to achieve true freedom.

Although she did not want to see him again, she was told to take him to the church to watch an introductory video. That was his amendment.

“I sat in a car and saw him go in while they were dealing with that,” she said.

She didn’t tell her parents until much later.

“It never crossed my mind that there would be another way to handle that – that an adult would say ‘Let’s call the police,'” she said. “It’s been a lot of years and I’ve been drawn out enough that I can look back and go, ‘Oh my God, it’s so messed up’.”

The prosecution in the Masterson case wanted to call an expert, Claire Headley, to address Scientology’s attitude towards the police. Judge Charlaine Olmedo refused that request, reasoning that the accusers themselves could give their understanding of the church’s practices.

Headley is a former Scientologist who sued the church in federal court for human trafficking, and lost. In an interview, Headley said she would have testified that Scientology policies prevent its members from going to the police. (The church denied this.)

“It is Scientology policy that requires you to use Scientology ethics and procedures,” Headley said. “It’s not optional.”

Two accusers testified that they first reported Masterson to the church. Christina B. asked that she was ordered to complete courses, but that Masterson did not have to do anything to do it.

“He said he didn’t have to,” she told the jury.

In his understanding, Masterson was considered an “upstat,” Scientology’s term for the most successful members. Masterson, the star of the hit comedy “That ’70s Show” was “booming and thriving in life,” and was therefore free from punishment. When she realized that, she said she decided to leave the relationship.

Jane Doe #1 testified that she decided to go to the police after she also went to church officials. She did so despite fearing that she would be excommunicated and that her 7-year-old daughter would be forced to leave her Scientology school.

“My parents would never speak to us again,” she said. “We would have nothing and we would have to start over.”

Christina B. also testified about the fear of being declared an “oppressed person”. While speaking on the stand, she had a panic attack and the court adjourned.

“I can’t breathe,” she said.

The three accusers testified that they have been subjected to harassment and retaliation from the church since they came forward to the police. The church also denied this.

In dealing with accusations of sexism in the past, the church noted that many women hold positions of high authority in the church, and that more than half of the Sea Org — the religious order of church.

“There is no discrimination,” the church said.

Savelo, now 38, said she has not been involved with the church for at least a decade or so. But she said she’s tried not to read too much into Masterson’s case because some of the emotions it causes are still too overwhelming.

“The feeling you get living in that world – it’s a constant sense of dread and fear,” she said. “It’s nothing tangible. It doesn’t compute with many rational people. But that fear is visible. I feel it in the pit of my stomach.”

Best Variety

Sign up for the Diversity Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.