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Asia/Pacific - Australia
Church of Scientology denies abuse cover-up
Sydney, Australia - The Church of Scientology is vigorously denying accusations a senior figure in the organisation tried to cover up the sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl in Sydney.
It says the allegations, aired on ABC1's Lateline program, are false and highly defamatory.
A former Scientology member, Carmen Rainer, told Lateline she was coached by a senior figure in the church to lie to police about the abuse at the hands of her then stepfather, Robert Kerr.
Her mother, Phoebe, was a member and went to the organisation for advice when she learned her daughter was being sexually abused.
Police are now investigating claims Jan Eastgate, who was in charge of a church-founded organisation at the time, told both mother and daughter to lie to police and community services about the abuse.
Ms Eastgate has described the allegations as "egregiously false".
The Church of Scientology has responded to the claims, saying it was only through the intervention of the church that Mr Kerr ultimately turned himself into police.
"Not only did church staff help facilitate Carmen and her mother to report the matter to the proper authorities at the time it happened in 1985, it was only through the intervention of the church that the man responsible ultimately turned himself in to the police and was prosecuted," a church statement said.
"It is especially outrageous that they would make this false claim when the church had to send the man responsible to the police twice before the police finally prosecuted him."
Both Ms Eastgate and the Church of Scientology say Mr Kerr went to the police in 1999 at the church's insistence.
But Phoebe Rainer says Mr Kerr was told by senior scientologists he had to go to the police only after she threatened the church with legal action 13 years after the original allegations were made.
Carmen Rainer says Ms Eastgate told her to tell police she did not want her stepfather to go to jail, and to tell community services he had not touched her genitals.
"'Just say 'no', she kept repeating that. 'You remember that you can't tell them'," Ms Rainer said.
"Don't say yes because otherwise you will be taken away from your parents and you'll never see your family again because [Department of Community Services] will take me and my brother away from my mum and that I needed to just say no."
Ms Rainer also says the church told her the abuse was her own fault.
"They told me it was my fault because I'd been bad in a past life - I'd probably done something bad in a past life so I pulled it in," she said.
"I believed them. As a child I believed them. I was 11. That's what I knew. I grew up believing what they believed."
But the organisation says Carmen's mother spoke extensively to a social worker at the time and elected not to pursue the matter. It says that decision was not at the church's urging.
"It is also a matter of police records that in 1999, at the church's insistence, the perpetrator again made a complete confession to the police. However, at the time, Carmen's mother again chose not to pursue charges," the church said.
"Then, in 2001, Carmen chose to make a formal complaint to the police, resulting in criminal action and the matter concluded in 2002.
"The allegations that Ms Jan Eastgate interfered in any way with the reporting of the matter to the proper authorities are highly defamatory."
At the time, Ms Eastgate was head of the Citizen's Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) in Australia - an organisation founded by the church that campaigns against psychiatry.
She is now the international head of the CCHR, which is based in Los Angeles.
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