This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in ICSA Today, Vol. 03, No. 01, page 31. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.
Edited by Mary O’Connell
Karen Pressley’s story is an epic journey. She had to escape, literally, with only the clothes on her back from Scientology’s desert facility in California, where she had felt like a virtual prisoner for 9 years. There, cut off from contact with outsiders and with “very little access to news, television, or other media,” Karen worked the mind-deadening hours that Scientology’s Sea Organization demanded. Sequestered in this way, with extremely limited movement, Karen didn’t know that most of the world viewed Scientology as a dangerous group.
“Once I reconnected with the outside real world in 1998, I discovered the massive amount of information that existed on the World Wide Web—totally new to me.” Karen began the heroic effort to rebuild her life. She did so with amazing strength and resiliency, having the courage to look deeply at her experiences while with Scientology. The first thing she did was read.
If you were to look at the books in my office library, you could see the journey that I have been on over the past 14 years. After coming out of Scientology, I possessed next to nothing as I lost everything I had when I escaped. Now, my desk is surrounded by bookcases with rows and stacks of books I've devoured on the subject. That, along with my books on communication and writing that I collected while pursuing my college education. In essence, for 14 years, I have been studying the way people come to terms with their story through writing.
In an article she wrote for ICSA Today, Karen says,
By connecting with the details of my circumstances, particularly the most painful moments with CSI perpetrators, including my former husband, I've managed to defuse the power these memories could have otherwise had on me in the present. Avoidance of the memories could have brought to bear all the powers of thought control that I experienced in CSI.
One of Karen’s favorite quotes is by Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” She wrote two books that detail her experience in Scientology, but both of those books were suppressed from publication. She defied the cult and wrote another, along with many articles. Karen raises her voice as often as possible and tries to reach as wide an audience as possible, in order to reach and protect as many people as possible. She is a frequent guest on radio and television shows, gives lectures, and presents at conferences.
By any standard, Karen Pressley would be considered a remarkable woman. Given her circumstances, she is even more so. From a life of enforced, brutal dullness she has emerged and developed a life brilliant in its expression. She is accomplished, beautiful, compassionate, and extremely prolific.
Karen is married to Greg Pressley, whom she met after leaving Scientology. She teaches communication at Kennesaw State University and is the Managing Director of KAP Communications, Inc. She is the author of several books and many articles.