Death of Kaja Ballo

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Death of Kaja Ballo
Kaja Ballo.jpg
Kaja Ballo
Date March 28, 2008
Location Nice, France

Kaja Bordevich Ballo (1988 – March 28, 2008) was a university student in the French town of Nice; her father was Olav Gunnar Ballo, a member of the Norwegian Parliament. On March 28, 2008 Kaja Ballo took the personality test run by the Church of Scientology, and subsequently committed suicide. Family and friends stated that Ballo was happy prior to taking the test, and that her mood dramatically shifted after receiving the results. She committed suicide hours after getting the results of the test back; Ballo jumped from the fourth floor of her dorm room. In addition to a note, her family found the Scientology personality test among her belongings. French police investigated connections between Scientology and Ballo's death, and interviewed two leaders of the organization in France. Prosecutors stated in December 2008 that they were unable to establish a causative link between the Scientology test and Ballo's death.

A Scientology representative in France asserted that the Scientology personality test was not created by the Church of Scientology, and that it was not related to Ballo's death. The Church of Scientology's information chief in Norway, Matthias Fosse stated that the test was not dangerous and that the organization did not bear any responsibility for Ballo's death. Ballo's father retained a lawyer to investigate his daughter's death, and the family considered filing a lawsuit against Scientology. 500 people attended Ballo's funeral on April 11, 2008 at Grefsen Church in Oslo, Norway.

The incident received significant media coverage in Norway, and Verdens Gang and Dagbladet devoted multiple cover stories to investigating the controversy. The media faced criticism for its extensive coverage of Ballo's death.[1] Norway parliament member Inga Marte Thorkildsen commented that she thought indications were that Scientology had a role in Ballo's suicide. Psychologist Rudy Myrvang told Aftenposten that the Scientology personality test was designed to break down an individual; he characterized the test as a form of recruitment tool for the organization. Scientology critic Andreas Heldal-Lund stated parents of those involved in Scientology contacted him with similar concerns. The Norwegian Psychological Association warned individuals against taking such types of personality tests.

Ballo's father wrote a book about his daughter's death, and refrained from interviews with the press until the book was published in 2009. Titled Kaja: 1988–2008, the book became a bestseller in Norway. It reached second place on the bestseller list of the Bestseller Association in Norway for general literature, in May 2009. The author stated he wrote the book as an expository method to both process his grief, inform his family about the controversy, and educate the public about suicide.

Family[edit]

Kaja Bordevich Ballo was the daughter of Olav Gunnar Ballo, a member of the Norwegian Parliament. He wrote a book about her, titled, Kaja 1988–2008.

Kaja Bordevich Ballo was the daughter of Olav Gunnar Ballo, a member of the Norwegian Parliament.[2] Her stepmother was Heidi Sørensen, a former member of the Norwegian Parliament, and State Secretary in the Ministry of the Environment.[3]

Scientology personality test[edit]

Kaja Ballo took a personality test given by the Church of Scientology in Nice, France on March 28, 2008.[2][4] The test is known either as the Scientology personality test, or as Oxford Capacity Analysis.[5] The testing location was situated close to her residential area in student housing, in a nearby storefront shopping facility.[6] It was located only a few meters from her dormitory.[7] According to representatives for Scientology, Ballo spent a total of one hour at the facility.[8] She received a negative result from the test.[2] It indicated that some of her responses were situated on what is referred to in Scientology as "an unacceptable level".[9] The test consists of 200 questions.[4][10] Ballo missed 100 points on the test, and this was seen as "unstable".[11] The Scientology test stated she had a "very limited" IQ.[12]

Ballo's friends and family members said that her mood "changed" after receiving the results.[2] Family said she had not indicated any problems prior to taking the test.[13] Ballo's uncle Heljar Ballo stated on a program on Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation that the results of the Scientology personality test were "devastating" to her.[6] He served as a spokesperson for the family during an intense period of their grief.[14] He described her as "happy and bubbly", prior to taking the Scientology test.[15] Heljar Ballo stated, "We can only relate the facts, that she was doing well in France, was happy and had many good friends, and that she took this test."[6]

Death[edit]

Ballo committed suicide, hours after hearing the results of the personality test conducted by Scientology.[2] She jumped from the fourth floor of her dorm room in Nice, France, two hours after getting the results of the test.[16] She left behind a note, along with the results of the Scientology personality test.[6] The results of the personality test were found among her belongings by her family.[17] In April 2008, Aftenposten noted that the French police were investigating connections between Scientology and Ballo's death.[6] The investigation was being headed by a judge in France.[18] In April 2008 the French police interviewed two leaders of Scientology in France.[19][20] Prosecutor Eric de Montgolfier opened an investigation into the incident in France, in April 2008.[21] A French investigating prosecutor told Dagbladet, "We are almost convinced that it is a suicide. But the question is whether something encouraged her to this."[22] Prosecutors stated in December 2008 that they could not determine a direct link between the Scientology personality test and Ballo's death.[23]

Agnes Bron, a Scientology representative in France, denied that the test was related to Ballo's death, and asserted that the Scientology personality test was not created by the Church of Scientology.[24] Scientologists pay royalties to the Hubbard Foundation for use of the test.[25] She said that Ballo never actually received the results of her personality test.[26] A female spokesperson for Scientology asserted to Verdens Gang that the results of the personality test are seen as neither positive nor negative, but rather allow the individual to gain insight into their own personality.[27] A representative of Scientology in Norway described the concerns leveled against the organization as "deeply unfair".[2] The Scientology official noted Ballo had a psychological history as a teenager, and said she had an eating disorder.[2] The Church of Scientology's Information Chief in Norway, Matthias Fosse, asserted that the Scientology personality test was not "dangerous", and stated that "millions" of individuals had partaken in the examination.[6] He asserted that approximately 10,000 residents of Norway had taken the test.[28] "I have never, never, never heard of someone who has killed on the basis of the OCA test," said Fosse.[29] Fosse said that Ballo had entered the Scientology premises in Nice of her own volition.[6] Fosse maintained that the negative views of the organization were based on ignorance and intolerance.[30] "I feel deeply for the Ballo family, but it is a rude insinuation that the Church of Scientology has any responsibility for this incident," said Fosse.[31]

Ballo's father was critical of the statements made by Fosse about his daughter's history.[6] He commented to Verdens Gang that the Church of Scientology was negatively impacting the reputation of his daughter and not respecting the privacy of her health history.[6] He did not wish to comment regarding the nature of the investigation in France.[32] Ballo's uncle Heljar Ballo explained that Kaja Ballo's family decided to come forward with information to the media about her suicide, due to a motivation to publicize information relating to the circumstances of her death.[6] Heljar Ballo told Aftenposten that the family "had confidence" in the investigation by local law enforcement in France.[6] He thought there was a connection between her death and Scientology.[33] Kaja Ballo's father retained an attorney to investigate his daughter's death.[6] In April 2008, Ballo's family was considering taking legal action against Scientology.[34] Kaja Ballo was interred on April 11, 2008 at Grefsen Church in Oslo, and approximately 500 people were present at the funeral ceremony.[6]

Commentary[edit]

Norway parliament member Inga Marte Thorkildsen (2008)

In reporting on Ballo's death, United Press International noted, "Critics say the break-you-down-build-you-up recruitment tool of Scientologists is controversial."[2] The issue received a significant amount of coverage in Norway news publications;[35][36] and media attention focused criticism on the Church of Scientology.[37][38] Both Verdens Gang and Dagbladet devoted several cover stories investigating the matter.[39] News media received criticism regarding the amount of coverage given to the incident.[1][40] A representative of the National Association for Suicide Survivors in Norway regarded it as excessive.[41] News editor of Dagbladet, Peter Raaum, defended the amount of news coverage given to the incident: "We write about this because the survivor has made criticism of the Scientology test that Kaja took just before she took her life. The family wanted a debate about this. What makes this so important is this test. What kind of test is this? Is it so reprehensible, and significant to what happened? If it is, I mean it's something that's extremely important to focus on."[42] Ballo's family agreed to discuss the incident with the media.[43] In an interview Ballo's father said he did not have issues with the case being front-page news in newspapers.[44]

Norway parliament member Inga Marte Thorkildsen weighed in on the situation, and stated to the Oslo, Norway newspaper Dagbladet, "All indications are that the Scientologist sect has played a direct role in Kaja's choice to take her own life."[6] Ballo's friend and study partner Henry Møinichen told Dagbladet, "I think Kaja would be alive today if she had not gone to the Scientologists."[45] Psychologist Rudy Myrvang told Aftenposten that testing procedures such as the personality test conducted by Scientology could have negative consequences; he said the goal was focused on "breaking you down, and then they'll offer to build you up again".[6] Myrvang characterized the Scientology personality test as a recruitment tactic for the organization.[6][46] Dagbladet consulted an expert on the subject of assessment tests, Ole I. Iversen, who characterized the Scientology personality test as "unethical and junk".[47]

Scientology critic, Andreas Heldal-Lund, stated that the Church of Scientology views candidates for the test as "raw meat from the street".[6] "You're told you're worth nothing," he said.[6] Heldal-Lund stated that, "thousands of desperate parents contact me because they have children who have had major mental problems, or taken their own life after similar circumstances to Kaja Ballo".[48] Scientology-associated celebrity, Hank Von Helvete, commented to the press that he thought psychiatry, not Scientology, was the cause of Ballo's suicide.[49] TV 2 reported that psychologists advised that subsequent to the personality test, there should be proper follow-up attention with the subject.[50] In an analysis of personality tests available online on social networking sites, Norwegian Psychological Association department advisor Andreas Høstmælingen cited Kaja Ballo as "an example of how wrong things can go".[51] The Norwegian Psychological Association warned individuals against taking such types of personality tests.[51]

Kaja: 1988–2008[edit]

Ballo's father subsequently wrote a book about his daughter's suicide.[52] He decided not to give interviews to the press about his ordeal until the book was published.[53] He wanted to be able to tell the story and impact of his daughter's death, on his own terms.[54] Titled, Kaja: 1988–2008, the book explores the sequence of events that led to his daughter's death, from her time studying French in Nice.[55] Her early history of psychiatric treatment is discussed in the book.[56] He recounts the difficulties in getting information about his daughter's death from government authorities.[57] According to the author, there was a slow response in receiving help from the Foreign Ministry of Norway.[58] In an interview with Politiken, he explained the motivation for writing the book: "After the funeral I felt I had to do something relating to grief. This was my way to process the grief. The second issue was that I needed to transcribe the account to later tell my little daughter Oda."[59] He also said, "I wanted to contribute to greater openness about suicide."[59] He acknowledged, "Losing a child means that life is turned upside down. I believe that grief becomes heavier if you do not share it with anyone."[60] The book was written with input from other family members.[61]

Kaja: 1988–2008 became a bestseller in Norway.[62] The book reached second place on the bestseller list of the Bestseller Association in Norway for general literature, in May 2009.[62] Kaja: 1988–2008 sparked renewed controversy over perceptions of Scientology activities in Norway.[63] In a review of the book, Dagbladet noted that because the author was writing both as a private individual and as a physician, "he is trained to look at the familiar and intimate with professionalism and distance."[64] Upon the book's publication, representative Matthias Fosse of the Church of Scientology stated, "Church of Scientology had absolutely nothing to do with this young woman's decision to take her own life. We are sorry for the loss the family has suffered, but this young woman was never a member of the Church of Scientology and never participated in any of the church activities."[65]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]