'Leah Remini: Scientology': Former members say parishioners ignored sexual abuse

On Tuesday’s Season 2 opener of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, Leah Remini and her cohort, Mike Rinder, a former high-ranking member of the church, followed the format that earned them an Emmy nod for Season 1, interviewing former Scientologists on serious allegations of harassment to physical abuse experienced while they were members of the church.

The pair spoke to two ex-members in Tuesday night’s episode who say Scientologists knew they were molested but little was done.

One woman said a teacher inappropriately touched her at the organization’s Apollo Training Academy, which she described as “basically a school.” What began as “innocuous” turned into “grinding and rubbing and really tight hugs that I felt very uncomfortable in, kisses on the neck,” she said.

“I remember the main time was the scariest,” she continued. “He was panting, breathing, touching. I remember fingers under my shirt, and he got up and he locked the doors. And I was terrified, and I felt like I knew what he wanted, but I didn’t want that, and I froze.”

When she informed another teacher of the abuse, she claimed she was criticized for denouncing a fellow Scientologist.

“I don’t know what I did wrong,” she said, “but I had to make amends. And from there it was very to clear me that this is not something that I can talk about, and it was somehow my fault that that had happened.”

The second former member interviewed said she was molested by her father as a child. Though she said she did not reveal the abuse at the time, she said it was documented in her father’s confessional folder and the church was made aware of his alleged actions. Upon deciding she wanted to leave the organization, she claimed a church member said he would pay for a flight and give her money if she would sign an affidavit stating that she forgave her father and would not sue the church over the alleged abuse.

The woman said she was “disgusted,” but signed an affidavit because the member said she couldn’t leave unless she did.

“I really felt backed into a corner, (like) I didn’t have any other choice,” she shared. “And I didn’t have any other means to leave, and that’s why I actually ended up signing it.”

The church says that after becoming aware of the abuse, her father was kicked out.

In an email from spokeswoman Karin Pouw to USA TODAY, the church refuted the allegations of criminal conduct in the episode, saying that it is “more than stringent at following the law” and has “zero tolerance for ethical lapses.” Pouw continued, adding that the church had had no knowledge of the first case of molestation, and that the Apollo Training Academy has since closed.

“Concerning children in the Sea Org and the schools they attended, these closed in 2004 as the Church’s policy on children in the Sea Org had changed and there was no need for such schools any longer,” she said in an email.

See the church’s full response here.

Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on A&E.

More: Leah Remini on Scientology series: ‘These people’s stories are important to be told’

More: Church responds to claims from Leah Remini, ‘Scientology and the Aftermath’

 

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