The author known as Xandir gave permission to have her story published on the webpage Reddit. All rights belong to the original author.
... Continued form part 1
In addition to shaming people on basis of sexual orientation, they taught children that sex was evil and damaging outside of marriage, another blatantly religious notion. We were forced to regularly watch videos involving horror stories of abortions gone wrong, shown gruesome pictures of STDs that had been left unattended for long periods of time, and told that if we had sex before marriage we would likely die or get some horrible ailment. Rather than promoting safer sex methods, we were shown that abstinence was the only option that would not result in death or unwanted pregnancy.
Rigid gender roles were also a big part of the Cross Creek way of life. Many of the rules were extremely gender based. Boys were allowed to crack their backs and knuckles, though girls were not because it was “unladylike”. Boys got meal portions double the size of girls. Boys were allowed to use more curse words than girls were. The list goes on.
I remember when they moved the girls from Center 1 to Pro 1 (these are all names of the dorms we stayed in.) The boys had been living in Pro 1, and when they moved the girls in the dorms were extremely messy. Rather than having the boys come back and clean up this mess, they made the girls clean all day. This was completely, and totally humiliating. What a great way to build confidence and teach girls how to be independent and stand up for themselves.
Before I say this next part, I want to state that it is not my intention to bash all of the staff at Cross Creek. Some of the staff were very supportive (A.D., M.C., etc.) and this is not in any way meant to be directed at you, nor is it a blanket statement. There were staff however, that made me feel very unsafe and uncomfortable. Some of the staff, in my opinion, were downright cruel, hurtful and borderline (if not blatantly) abusive. I can’t tell you how many times I saw staff make comments about myself or others insinuating that we were bad children, unclean, impure, dirty, not innocent, untrustable, the list goes on. The grievance system that was in place was, in my opinion, ineffective on the whole. From being a part of the student government system for some time that handled grievances, I observed that grievance system, like everything else at Cross Creek, put the blame on the student and diverted responsibility away from the adult.
I’d also like to mention how many times I saw staff and administration, tackle and restrain children when it was completely unnecessary. So many times I saw kids simply refuse to go to gym class or get out of bed and as punishment they were violently tackled, restrained in a painful position, and taken to a small isolation room where they were usually watched by two or three staff members. This was also what they did when a child harmed themselves. This method is extremely violent, and I remember at least one incident that happened when I was there where they tackled a girl and restrained her face down against the ground and as a result she got rug burn on her face to the point that she was bleeding and had visible scabs on her face. Another time a girl shared that being tackled and restrained gave her flashbacks of a rape she’d experienced, to which the program director responded that he felt no remorse for it and that it was really her fault for doing what ever she’d done to be restrained. You could argue that this might be appropriate in cases where a kid is being violent towards others, but from what I saw, more often than not, this was absolutely not the case and the child being restrained was not being violent. In addition to tackling and restraint being (in my humble opinion) immoral, it is unsafe, and this has been proven. If you look on the website for the Coalition Against Institutionalized Child Abuse, (Organization under reorganizing) You can see a long list of deaths that have occurred in “behavioral modification” facilities not unlike Cross Creek as a result of tackling and restraint: Holy the Children Memorial; also GAO Report: Concerns Regarding Abuse and Death in Certain Programs for Troubled Youth.
Cross Creek’s methods of “therapy” and recovery were also extremely invasive, humiliating, and in my opinion did much more harm than good. As someone who does intern work at a local rape treatment center and talks with victims of assault on a regular basis, as well as being someone who has survived various forms of violence and abuse, I have seen how damaging it can be to force someone to share about such delicate issues before they are fully prepared and ready. I can not speak for every one, but for me, being forced to disclose information that was not ready to come out was extremely painful and humiliating. The seminars based your success on how “emotional” you were, meaning that if you did not share some horrible part of your life or simply did not have one, or if you were not crying and sniveling while you did it, you were booted out of the seminar and forced to stay in the program another two months. The obsession the program had with “accountability” also led to them blaming people who had experienced abuse for their abusive situations. I vividly remember a facilitator yelling at a girl while kicking her out of a seminar for not participating or being “real” enough. She told her in an extremely vivid and foul language (the f-bomb included) that if she continued the behavior that got her to the program she would be raped again. She had the student write an essay on this.
I will forever be haunted by the day that I was in group and the program director barged in and started saying that it’s as if I have “ABUSE ME” written on my forehead, insinuating that I was just asking to be abused in some way by the way that I carried and presented myself. I carry so much shame from this comment, and because of it constantly have to remind myself not to blame myself for the abuse I have experienced.
The way that Cross Creek taught me to interact with people was to analyze every facial expression, action, and word, and reflect this back to them in a cold, harsh, and usually demeaning way. I feel so much remorse for the way I treated people at Cross Creek, as well as the way I allowed people to treat me. It took me a while after I graduated to discover that this method did not work at all in the real world, and that if I was to have any friends, I would need to drop the robotic, unempathetic, and borderline malicious way of interacting with others that I had learned to use for two and a half years. I’d like to sincerely apologize to those of you who spent time with me at Cross Creek that I treated this way. I feel nothing but sadness when I realize how heartless and programmed I became.
What disturbs me more than anything is that I believed all of the things I was told. When people use the word “brainwashing” to describe what went on at Cross Creek and other WWASP programs, I don’t think it is in any way exaggerating or being over dramatic when you consider all of the media we were FORCED to watch, read, and listen to. The program director used to joke about and downplay the brainwashing claims by saying that some of our brains “could really use some washing.” The “educational/emotional growth” videos we had to watch twice a day, the “motivational” tapes three times a day, the “self-help” books we were forced to read, and more than anything the “motivational seminars” with facilitators up in your face yelling about all the things you did wrong to mess up your life and land yourself in a program all contributed to this. With all of this influence coming at me from every direction at every moment I believed that following the rules, “working my program”, going to the seminars, etc. was genuinely going to improve my self esteem, my relationship with my parents, and the overall outcome of my life. I tried hard to follow the endless list of rules, be “accountable”, and when I got “dirty in my program” (another good example of shaming lingo and language that means you broke rules without giving yourself demerits) I would confess and take the consequences what ever consequences were involved.
I by no means had a perfect program, but I gave it all of my honest effort and did what I could to be a good Cross Creek student. By putting faith in this system however, I also internalized all of the stigma, shame, and religious beliefs forced upon me. I believed that maybe if I just suppressed my sexuality , as well as ignored my obvious attraction to girls, that maybe all of this would go away. My body and subconscious reacted to this. Shortly after arriving at Cross Creek, I stopped getting my period for about 8 months. This was apparently a common thing that happened in the program when girls first arrived, as the body was reacting to some serious stress. I also started wetting the bed shortly after arriving at the program. This had not been an issue for me since the age of 3 or 4. This bed wetting issue continued until I left the program. After I graduated, it stopped completely.
To be continued in part 3....