Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Not a Mermaid" at Island View and Bromley Brook School

This testimony was found on a blog made an author called "Not a Mermaid". All rights goes to the original author:

The purpose of this post is to shed light on what some call “secret prisons for teens" & particularly the Aspen education group. Aspen owns several lockdown residential treatment centers, wilderness programs and therapeutic boarding schools geared towards “troubled teens" it is owned by Bain Capital which is, or was until 1996 co-owned and co-founded by Mitt Romney. Bain Capital and Bain & Co. have contributed $267,300 thus far to Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. I am genuinely only including this fact because I strongly believe that if he is running for president this should be on his record & people should be aware that he had a major part in funding these institutions.

Parents generally send their children and teens away to these institutions if they are dealing with drug abuse, emotional issues such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, violence, sexual abuse and things of that nature. I do genuinely understand that the majority of parents choose this road because they are at their wits end and want the best for their children but the truth is that these places, which are predominantly mormon run and owned, do a very good job at masking the mistreatment and blatant abuse that so many of these children are forced to endure.

For the first time ever I am publicly stating and admitting that I am a survivor of two of these programs.

When i was in middle school i was bullied which led to a near crippling social anxiety & depression, both of which i still deal with to this day. i was refusing to go to school & was constantly having explosive fights with my parents. One night i was woken up by my mother at 4am and led out into the living room. their was a couple sitting there whom i had never seen before in my life. this was my “transport" detail. everyone explained to me that i would be going away to a “boarding school" because no one knew how to deal with me anymore. i was then taken to syracuse utah where i was admitted to Island View, a residential treatment center. At this point in my life I had never even touched drugs or alcohol. I was 14 years old.

It’s really hard for me to recount everything because to be honest, i’ve repressed the majority of my experience at island view as well as the second facility.
I remember arriving and being told that I would be a patient for at least a year, possibly longer. I would be living at Island View until I was completely “healed and ready to re-enter society." Upon arrival all of my belongings were searched. It was explained to me that I would be a member of the “Gold Team unit" The facility was divided up into different groups, defined by a color (gold, silver, copper for the girls & orange, green and purple for the guys) The units were basically long hallways with about eight bedrooms each that would house about four patients per room and could be locked from the outside. There was one large communal bathroom on each unit with showers, sinks and toilets and at the end of the halls there were two large prison style doors that would lock down at night. We were only allowed clothing that was deemed appropriate and very few personal items that were not considered dangerous.

When I arrived my “team" was, as a group, on a CMR punishment (communication restriction, meaning no speaking to each other or anyone else unless spoken to) Nothing was explained to me and no one, including the counselors, informed me about this. It was terrifying not being able to even ask anyone what this place was, or what was going on. Later on during my stay I was placed on CMR for speaking out against the program and was forced to stay in isolation for days on end. There was also no communication allowed between male and female patients or patients on other teams period. We were only to interact with our own team mates and unit staff unless it was school related. The schooling itself was absolutely atrocious and I can safely say that I learned absolutely nothing education-wise while I was at Island View.

Although this was considered a “treatment center" I only received one weekly individual therapy session & one family therapy session. The majority of the “therapy" was done with the entire team and lead by the unit staff who were not licensed therapists. This was not only unproductive, but detrimental to the alleged “healing" process. These people were not qualified to lead any sort of therapeutic activity and frequently preached religious opinions and insulted the patients for speaking their minds. It quickly became clear to me that the entire purpose of this program was to make the patients feel as if we were damaged, defective and unfit for society in our current state. They would break us and make us feel worthless & then proceed to “teach" us appropriate behavior for the real world. I was lumped in with teens who suffered from everything to severe bi-polar disorder, heavy drug abuse & during my entire stay was more than aware of the fact that this was not anywhere that I needed to be. Even worse, those who had drastic issues were not receiving the proper treatment and instead being taught that the “real world" was a nasty and vicious place and that they would not survive unless they “completed the program"

The unfortunate truth is that the majority of those whole completed the program and had reached the ultimate state of brainwashing would be released into the real world and have absolutely no idea how to cope in real life situations. This would frequently lead to relapses in drug abuse, overwhelming emotional breakdowns and sometimes suicide. Some of these teens would end up far worse than when they were admitted.

There were several suicide attempts and even one successful suicide during my stay at Island View. Many of these were due to sexual and physical abuse brought on by staff members. I was fortunate enough to never experience anything but emotional abuse, although i do have very vivid memories of being tackled to the ground, restrained and being told that I was “out of control" because I was crying after a difficult therapy session. Needless to say, I was completely cut off from any contact with friends and besides family therapy I was only allowed one to two phone calls with my mother and father per week. After around 6 months and a few visits from my parents they decided to pull me from the program only to send me off to another Aspen owned facility.

I spent around another 6-8 months at Bromley Brook boarding school which was not much better. Although we were not constantly supervised at this facility we were still not given the freedom to leave the property or socialize as we pleased. I witnessed several suicide attempts during my stay here and even heard whispers of sexual abuse, which were proved to be true.

I still struggle with the aftermath of being a patient at these two facilities. Although I have repressed the majority of my experiences I still suffer from vivid nightmares and flashbacks at the random. I feel as though I missed out on a very important part of my youth and adolescence which I will never be able to make up for. The truth is, I outgrew the majority of my behavioral issues the by the time I was around 16-17. Island View and Bromley Brook did absolutely nothing for me except instill a sense of fear and panic that I’m not sure I will ever be able to shake.

While my experience was certainly not the worst, nor was it filled with tragic abuse stories it was still something very real and very disturbing. If you have experienced any of the Aspen programs I strongly urge you to speak out and tell your story. I know first hand how scary it can be to admit what you went through, but until we begin to tell our stories and bring awareness to these situations absolutely nothing will change.

Bromley Brook School later closed - officially due to the economy. A trial against a former teacher for a relationship with a student ended in 2010 with a conviction against the former teacher.


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