Jeff Hawkins says he had no idea about David Miscavige’s violence until he was himself attacked for the first time in 2002 – and he had been working at the base for more than 10 years.
“People don’t say ‘Oh did you hear that Miscavige beat up so-and-so?’ – it is just not mentioned,” he said. It was only once he started attending regular meetings with Miscavige – or DM as he is known – that he says he found out the hard way.
“We were at one meeting – there must have been 50 people in the room,” said Hawkins, who at that time was a senior marketing executive inside Scientology. “And DM was reading out a report I had written, and he didn’t like it at all. He was reading it and making fun of it.” DM is what many Scientologists call David Miscavige, Scientology’s current leader.
“Then he started looking at me and then he started saying: ‘Look at how he looks at me, look at how he looks at me’. And everybody else is telling me ‘Stop looking at him like that!’ – and I’m like – ‘What?’ I was just there, you know?
“He got madder and madder and madder and all of a sudden he just jumped – he literally jumped up on the conference room table, launched himself at me, started hitting me on the head, knocked me on the ground … grabbed my shirt and just ripped buttons off… and then he knocked me on the ground and then he walked away.
“And the people around me were just – I guess they were petrified, but they were whispering to me to get up and to straighten myself up and to not make him [Miscavige] wrong.”
Another former member, who did not want to be named, confirmed the details of the attack. “I remember afterwards, somebody collected up the buttons and change that fell out of his pockets and gave it all back to him. He was really shaken.”
John Peeler, a former security officer at the base, said he had seen two other attacks by Miscavige on Hawkins.
Peeler recalled that whenever Miscavige singled somebody out for this kind of abuse, the base’s security officers would take that person down for interrogation to find out what their “crimes” were, said Peeler. “The same happened after DM beat up Jeff.”
Looking back at that first beating, Hawkins said he realised now that he had been guilty of what George Orwell, in his dystopian novel 1984, called “face-crime” – wearing an improper expression on one's face. This was one of Miscavige’s obsessions, he said.
Another of Miscavige’s assaults took place when Hawkins was touring one of the buildings at the base with fellow executives, he said. As Miscavige was leaving one room he suddenly rabbit-punched Hawkins in the stomach.
“He just punched me in the gut to the point where I couldn’t talk. I was just croaking because he hit me so hard in the stomach … and he said to the other people, ‘I can smell black PR a mile away,’ and walked off.”
One Scientology dictionary defines black PR, or black propaganda, as "a covert attack on the reputation of a person, company or nation using slander and lies in order to weaken or destroy."
Miscavige is 13 years younger than Hawkins. He prides himself on keeping in shape: he even had a gym installed at the base. “I was 56 when Miscavige beat me up for the first time,” said Hawkins.
Over the years, he added, he witnessed between 10 and 15 of Miscavige’s assaults on at least four other executives. He would slap them punch them, wrestle them to the ground, he said.
And other senior executives, following Miscavige’s lead, started assaulting their subordinates, said Hawkins – a point confirmed by John Peeler.
Hawkins remembered one executive with particular distaste: “[He] used to routinely come by my desk take my head and shove it into my keyboard, just as his way of saying hello.”
As soon as Miscavige called a conference, said Hawkins, staffers would have to run to the venue. Once there, they might wait 20 to 30 minutes for Miscavige and his entourage to arrive.
“He would usually launch straight into an attack on someone. Everyone is hoping it’s not them. It’s usually whoever has submitted something to him – a script, a programme, a marketing proposal, an event proposal, whatever.
“He would rip the proposal to shreds, and the person along with it,” said Hawkins. “I never saw him do other than this. “Anything submitted to him was ‘sh_t’. He would invalidate the person and tear them to shreds in front of the group.”
Miscavige would run these meetings for up to six hours, well past midnight, said Hawkins. “And during the meeting, he would dictate exactly what had to be done ‘and have on my desk when I get up’.”
For one period of several months, said Hawkins, he had to work all-nighters only to have his latest proposal “ripped to shreds” at the meeting the following night. But this was the norm for senior executives.
“No one could do anything right. DM had to do everything himself. This was the constant mantra he would repeat and repeat at these meetings … He would always say he was ‘surrounded by SPs.’”
SPs, or suppressive persons, are enemies of Scientology.
And on top of that, he added, there was the violence. “I saw him beat people to the floor, shove them out of their chair to the floor, slam them up against a wall and so forth.”
In July 2008, Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw dismissed Hawkins' claims as “classic apostate behavior” in a written response to an article in The Portland Mercury.
“He grossly mischaracterizes the church, its purposes, and activities in an effort to harm its reputation,” she added. And she took personal offence at the allegations against Miscavige. “I know him personally, and I can tell you in no uncertain terms that the disgusting claims made by Mr. Hawkins could not be further from the truth.”
But Hawkins is far from being the first person to make such allegations. In many cases, these stories were first aired on a private Internet message board called XSO for former members of Scientology’s Sea Organization: its most dedicated followers. It was only later that they leaked out on to Internet news groups and message boards accessible to anyone.
Most of those who posted such accounts remain wary about revealing their identity. Some say they fear harassment from Scientology, while others worry that loved ones still inside the movement might suffer reprisals. Increasing numbers however are going on the record, and their stories appear to match.
Hawkins recalled Miscavige’s question after another assault. “He said ‘Do you know why I beat you up?’ And I said ‘No Sir’, and he said, ‘To remind you who’s boss.’”
For a detailed account of his time in Scientology, see Jeff Hawkins' blog: “Counterfeit Dreams”.
Next: A History of Violence