It has been nearly thirteen years since my admission to a private, for-profit mental institution.
My parents placed me on the adolescent girls ward of Timberlawn Psychiatric Hospital at the tender age of fifteen. I had been suffering from severe depression, anxiety disorder and suicidal tendencies for many years even at that young age. But that was not why they put me there.
I was a nuisance to them, as were many of the other girls on the unit to their own parents. I was in two short-term psych wards before my admission to Timberlawn, to 'hold me over', as they told me. While I was in Brookhaven, my doctor came and spoke to me at rounds, and told me where I was headed. I asked him, "Why are my parents sending me there? Don't you have a treatment program of your own?"
You see, I had discussed this program with the other teenaged patients of this ward, and had been told it was a good program, taking about six months to complete. It had taken me some time to adjust to the thought of being exiled from my home and family for such a long time.
But my doctor was about to blow that idea out of the water. "Because," he informed me, "that's the only place that can keep you for a year to a year and a half."
I thought he was joking. You have no idea how wrong I was.
I was incarcerated there for two years, two months and three days. It was a death sentence, as far as I was concerned. And unlike the other girls, I had done nothing wrong. They had all been involved in various forms of juvinile delinquency, premature sexual activity, drugs, running away... you name it, they'd done it. In fact, none of them was really mentally ill. It wasn't a hospital at all. It was a prison.
I had never done any of these things. I'd never even had sex. The worst of my sins seemed to amount to not doing my homework or helping with the housework, and taking an overdose of Tetracycline at the age of twelve. But that had only been a wild attempt to get my parents to wake up and smell the coffee. I'll go back in time to shortly before that happened.
I was a scapegoat in my school. I was the one and only scapegoat. I was hated and despised
by all, and I couldn't figure out for the life of me why. It started in the first grade when my family moved to Dallas, Texas, and just continued to worsen as time wore on. Old kids left, new kids came in. The old kids remaining indoctrinated the new ones, informing them that I was untouchable, and that to associate with me was to become me. So I was adrift, alone, in a sea of enemies I had not earned.
As if that was not bad enough, my parents were also very abusive toward me as a child. I am perhaps unusual in this respect, but there was no sexual abuse in my past, and very little physical. The abuse in my family was psychological, verbal, emotional, situational... But I can assure you, it was severe. I remember wild rages, streams of profanity, accusations, threats, (idle, thank God), faces red with hysteria, voices shrieking at the top of their capacity until they sounded not so much human as like hawks diving at their prey. My only salvation was that they ignored me most of the time. But when it came to my problems at school, this was a disaster.
I don't know how many times I told them that I was having problems that went far beyond the norm, problems I had tried to solve but found totally out of my control. I was unable to influence the behavior of my peers no matter what I did. I was a social leper. I was viewed with disgust and abhorrence.
This treatment was unbearably painful to me, which was the only reason I bothered confiding about it in Mom and Dad. They prompty ignored me.
They made up every excuse in the book. I asked for a transfer to another local school. They
never even looked into the possibility. I continued on my collision course with insanity.
My father started forcing me to see psychiatrists at the age of nine. But you've got to understand my father. He didn't give a damn about my feelings. He wasn't trying to help me with the depressions or the panic attacks. His only concern was knocking me into line. He was obsessed with education; thought it was the cure-all to the universe, because it had rescued him from his childhood in poverty.
He couldn't stand having a child that never did her homework, and waited until the last minute to do class projects and papers. "That little ----. Goddammit, I'm not gonna put up with that kind of behavior. She'd better well shape up..."
He saw psychiatrists as a sort of police of the mind. It was kind of like sending me to the
principal's office. And I knew it. I tried to refuse, and he got belligerant in true fashion. So I went.
Three years later, they looked into putting me in a private dummy school for kids with learning
disabilities. The resident psychiatrist misdiagnosed me with "mild depression". I didn't know what I had, but I knew damn well it wasn't "mild". My mother asked why that diagnosis; the good doctor said that it was because "severe depression usually involves a suicide attempt."
I thought that was the key. If I tried to kill myself, and failed, my parents would have no choice but to admit that I was severely depressed, and get me some real help. Wrong again. ´
I woke them at one in the morning, after they came home from being out to eat, leaving me to
babysit my younger brother and sister, and mispronounced the name of the antibiotic I had taken fifty-two of. "That's stupid! Why would you do a thing like that?" As if I had conjured the whole thing out of thin air. "Stupid."
The next evening, they left me alone with the kids again, as if nothing had happened. What I
thought they couldn't possibly do, they did. It would turn out to be a pattern with them. It never even occurred to them that they had driven me to it.
And, as I've said, three years later I found myself locked up against my will. I've spent many a sleepless night wondering why, oh, why did I sign those papers willingly? Why didn't I fight back? And the only answer I can come up with was that I thought it would have been useless. I believed that, since I was a minor, the lack of my signature on those documents would make no difference whatsoever. And I had already been put away for seven weeks. Seven weeks to chip at my stubbornness, and wear away my resolve.
The next two years were so horrible I can't really descibe them. All I can do is make a long story short. The unit was filthy, tiny, and roach-infested. The carpet was dingy, fifteen years old, and smashed down, and you could tell that it used to be purple with green and yellow and orange stripes. The wall was plastered with orange burlap.
It was an environment of terrorism. Punishment was the norm. Relief from it was a rare exception. The doctors spent perhaps a total of five hours a week on the unit, each, on a good week.
You never saw them. You only saw the angry, vicious, vindictive yet totally untrained "mental health workers" who were assigned as jailkeepers of sorts. Upon entering the hospital, the patient is deprived of everything human; here are only a few examples.
The first thing they told me when I entered the unit was that I was not permitted to leave the "Big Lounge". But that was really only half of the room. There was an imaginary line drawn down the middle, dividing a 20' by 30' space into two parts, the "Big" being the portion closer to the nurses' station, and the "Small" being the farthest away. It seemed ludicrous, shocking, unnatural. But I had no choice but to obey. I had a bad feeling about what would happen to me if I didn't.
The next thing they did was to put me on "Suicide Precaution" (SP), and lock everything I owned in my closet. I had to be accompanied by staff everywhere I went. They even made me leave the door open a crack as I went to the bathroom, or took a shower, or changed my clothes. In all honesty, it is the most degrading thing I had ever experienced, especially since it was totally unneccessary and uncalled for. I felt violated, as if I were being raped.
The hospital was merely a continuation of the abuse that I had experienced at the hands of my
parents, and in that way these "mental health workers" were rubbing salt in my wounds. I was in a constant state of pain and terror. If I made the slightest mistake, even if it was totally innocent and well meaning, I was punished. Every moment of our time was regimented. It didn't just stop at being forbidden to cross a line. I was forbidden to look at the television, even though it was in full view, or to ask someone to change the station on the stereo, even if it was bothering me, or to sleep, lie down, close my eyes, read, write, eat, drink anything but water, except at meals, and then you could only eat the disgusting, greasy food that came into the unit on a metal cart. I was given so little time to do my necessary things; showering, shaving, putting on makeup, doing my homework, eating, cleaning up my room; that I had to
hurry like the world was ending to get them done. Then I had to go out and sit on "privilege".
That was part of the abuse. They wouldn't even let you call it a punishment. I had to sit there for hours and hours with no diversion, dying of boredom and anxiety, unable to think of anything but the fact that I was being watched every second, and that any moment now, I would make a trivial mistake, and receive cruel and unusual punishment in return.
The hospital controlled the girls so well because of their free and lavish use of restraints.
Five-point leather restraints. I spent a grand total of two days in restraints, and by the time it was over, I was dying to get out of them, because they tied me down so tightly, I couldn't sleep. This, even though I had never shown one single violent tendency in the entire time I had been there.
Why was I put in restraints, you ask? For getting up off my chair and walking peacably back to
my room and lying on the bed.
I knew in advance of doing that that they would restrain me for it. I had been hoping they would put me in my room where I could be alone, unwatched, unharrassed, in peace and darkness so that I could finally rest. But I didn't know what I was getting myself into.
It was that knowledge, that we could be put in restraints for unlimited periods of time simply for open, deliberate defiance of the rules, that made us follow them so religiously. The rulebook looked more like a telephone book, and the rules were ridiculously strict. But we followed them. The staff pitted us against one another. We turned each other in for going one minute over a ten minute snack break, an offense for which the punishment was twenty-four hours on chair. Chair is precisely that. You sit on it, back to the table. You don't move. Don't talk. Don't look at anyone. Don't divert yourself in any way. Keep one foot on the floor at all times. And you could sit there for hours.
At the worst things got for me, I was spending as much as twelve hours a day on chair. I was
deprived of all activities, even on-unit, which meant that I sat with my face in the corner (like a dunce) while they watched movies and played table games. They told me their reason for doing this to me was because I was "stuck in my treatment". I didn't understand what that meant, and they wouldn't explain it to me. I was supposed to figure it out on my own. They were angry, condemning and critical all the time. They harped on me for "isolating", as they called it. I had tried for months to comply with their demands. I sat around the small round table trying to "shoot the bull" with the juvinile delinquents, but I could never get myself to do it. The very thought of joking around in this horrible dungeon, and fraternizing with people who would subject me to twenty-four hours on chair for leaving a fork out of arms' reach was repugnant to me. Instinct always won.
They put me back on SP. They took away my reading break and my two ten minute snack
breaks. Then they started withholding my mail and the gifts my mother had been sending me. I never saw any of them. They made up some lie about sending them to the dry cleaners, and left it at that. When I asked, no one knew anything about any dry cleaners.
Then they started forcing me to take psychotropic drugs. I was terrified. I had heard of long-term negative effects of said drugs. Loss of motor control, trembling, flashbacks, zombism. I started to have a nervous breakdown. I had never had one before entering the hospital, so I had no idea what was happening to me.
My whole body went rigid. I had terrible difficulty eating, sleeping, moving, walking, talking,
writing. My body was alive with pain. When I sat in a chair, I felt as if I were going to fall out of it. My eyes started rolling back into my head. I couldn't keep them on a page well enough to read it, but I was still expected to go to school as if nothing were wrong. I tried to make it go away. It was like having rigor mortis. But I couldn't will it away.
I don't remember half of the drugs they gave me. He'd put me on one, and when it didn't have
the desired results, he'd switch me to another, and another, and another, and so on, as if I were some sort of guinea pig. I only remember the three that were most important to me. The first was Mellarill (pardon me if I have misspelled it.)
I took it with my nine o'clock meds. The next morning I awoke nauseated and lightheaded.
When I got out of bed, everything went black, and I thought I was going to faint. I complained to the head nurse. She got my doctor. When he came, she ordered me to stand up and took my blood pressure. The muttered something about it being dangerously low. "I can't understand it," said Dr. Grover Lawliss. "I gave her a very small dose."
The next drug was Navane. That was what drove me over the edge.
I had seen other people who had been put on Navane. I have one word for them. Zombies.
I lost it. I was wild with fear. There was no way I could not take the drug. Those who resisted ended up in restraints for six months or with a year and a half added to their "treatment". I had to take it.
I lost sixteen pounds in two weeks. That's the only physically concrete thing that happened that proves that what I was going through was legitimate. And to anyone who may be thinking I was anorexic; I was not. I had always been a compulsive overeater. When my nervous breakdown started, I was 5' 2" and 128lbs. I now weigh fifteen pounds more than that. This was very unlike me.
Things started getting better when he took me off the Navane and put me on Valium.
That was my salvation. I thought, "Whew!" What a stroke of luck. I knew valium. Valium was
harmless. Valium was the koolaid of drugs. Not only that, but it would help me to get some rest at night, and feel less anxious during the day. I knew this was it. I had to make damn sure he kept me on that one.
I knew his style. As long as I was thriving on valium, I knew he wouldn't put me on anything else.
But that didn't change the fact that I went through a very serious medical phenomenon which
went ignored. I was never given a medical exam. I was never given any help, aside from the valium. I wasn't even permitted to go back to my room and rest, which was what prompted the restraints thing. The worse things got for me, the more they punished me, and the more they told me to just knock it off. As if I were just doing it deliberately to manipulate staff.
The same thing all over again.
I was totally brainwashed. I bought into their story. I really believed that they were helping me, and that I deserved all that I got. It wasn't until six months after I had left that I started realizing how badly I had been abused, and feeling angry about it. Then I had nowhere to turn. The kids I ran into who had been there either didn't agree with me or didn't care. They seemed to want to run from the subject. Or they looked back fondly on the experience. I couldn't understand it. Was I crazy?
I'm not really sure, even today. I wish I could find other people who have been through what I
have been through. People who will bond with me to put these places out of business. I want to lobby for the rights of children not to be put in places like that unless they have been convicted of a real, honest to goodness crime. This is medeivalism. This is like the days when you could get someone locked up just because they owed you money or, God forbid, because you didn't like them and had the money and clout to make it stick. Anyone moved by my story can E-mail me at JCL...@airmail.net.
The orinal statement from Usenet.
January 2018 it was announced that Timberlawn will close down after pressure from the state caused by concern of the safety of the patients - Source: DMN Investigates: Troubled Timberlawn psychiatric hospital is closing before the state can shut it down (The Dallas News)
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Monday, December 5, 2011
I have spent eleven years of my life institutionalized. From age of twelve to twenty-three I spent only six months in my own bed.
I had a rough childhood. I was adopted at a young age. In addition to this, in the home of my adoptive family, while between the ages of six to eight years old my sister molested me. I started using drugs at a young age to cope and became addicted. At ten years old my sister set me up with males to perform sexual acts on in exchange for money or drugs. My life was headed in a poor direction. I began hanging around gang members and running away. Eventually, the State became involved, and threatened to remove me from my adoptive family if I didn’t receive help.
The first program I went to was an outdoor program called E-NINI-HASSEE. I was so unhappy I began cutting myself. It got to the point to where I did so constantly, so I was sent to the Hospital. My parents were not told about the situation until I was admitted. Because of the lack of communication, my parents withdrew me from their program and took me home, where I remained for six months. That was the only six months I spent in my own bed until the age of twenty-three.
During those six months I continued my previous behavior and continued to get worse. I began spray painting bridges and dating older men. I did so because I felt as though my family didn’t have enough time for me. At the age of fourteen I began dating a twenty-eight year old gang member. He ended up dying violently by being shot and died in my arms. Him dying was a trigger for me, as he had been a source of emotional support for me. I began cutting myself more often. My parents noticed this and put me in the hospital.
From there my father transported me to a different program in Utah called Cross Creek for three months. In those three months, I spent a majority of my time in isolation. I was restrained painfully countless times for outbursts, and sometimes for less severe infractions. Isolation is where I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas.
While there, without prior knowledge on my part, two people came to me at two o’clock in the morning to escort me as a transfer to their sister facility High Impact in Mexico. Their program there was shocking. Everything was fenced in. They had dog cages to keep the residents in whom misbehaved.
The program was based around walking laps on a dirt track, and a wide array of rules and regulations. It was meant to institute a rapid amount of change. The critera to leave their program was simple; or so I thought. We were required to listen to 60 Alcohol Anonymous tapes and correctly answer questions on the corresponding ‘worksheets.’ Then, we had to complete two-thousand laps around the dirt track. Laps were tracked like points. If you misbehaved, you would be punished by having additional laps to do. The children were treated differently based on whether or not they were sent to their program from home, or another facility. The children who had transferred from other facilities were punished more severely.
Transfer children needed just one rule infraction to have an additional eighty laps. The other children could acquire up to five rule infractions before they were imposed additional laps. The reasoning in this was that transfer children were considered more obstinate.
The majority of my time in their Mexico facility was spent in the cages, laying on my stomach with my arms spread as though I were on a cross. I was not allowed to move from that position. I was kept in that manner for hours, and sometimes the whole day. Had I moved, I would of been subjected to physical restraint. The staff would jam their knees into my back, neck or arms, and would grind my chin into the dirt.
The staff there treated the children there brutally. We were forced into exhausting amounts of exercise. One night I asked for my sleeping bag because it was taken away from me on a very cold night. The over night shift called the manager of the facility. He grabbed me, threw me down, put my head in the toilet, flushed, then pushed me in the shower. He said I had to sleep in wet clothes without a sleeping bag.
On my sixteenth birthday he raped me for the first time. When he was done he said ‘Happy Sweet Sixteen’ and had a staff member escort me off. I was then shoved into a shower with my clothes on. I was raped a total of five times by him. Every morning I woke up there I wondered if I would still be alive long enough to go to sleep that night. I feared it would never end. I was in that program four months. The average stay legnth was two months. However, I was forced to do their high impact program twice.
After my stay I was met at the airport by my father and we flew to another program in Oregon called Crater Lake School, run through a different organization. I was nervous about the change. I was unfamilar with the rules, and because of the previous harsh punishment I experienced in the other programs, I was afraid of making a mistake. I didn’t want to be treated brutally. Once I got acclimated to the facility, I learned it treated its children in a way that was more humane. I didn’t fear being abused and tortured there, and because of that I began to rebel. I became defiant, ran away several times, and began cutting myself again.
One of their counselors became concerned, and asked if I would willingly go to the hospital. I agreed. While in the hospital, my behavior was considered hyper. Because of this, I was tied down to a bed with restraints. Once, I was restrained for sixteen hours, without being able to go to the bathroom. After leaving there, I went back to the referring facility. I became so upset about my trauma, that I began cutting myself again within twenty-four hours.
Because I began cutting myself again, I was sent back to the hospital for two weeks. From there, I was transferred to a different program in Texas called Meridel Achievement Center. I half-heartedly faked my way up the ranks until I was on their highest level. However, I eventually was put back down to their lowest level. It triggered me into cutting myself again. Their staff responded by putting me into isolation and tying me down to the bed in effort of keeping me from harming myself.
My father removed me from that program and we flew together to Tennessee, to bring me to a different facility called Peninsula Village. The beginning of my stay there was similar to a hospital setting. That was considered their programs first stage. However, my behavior led them to strap me down to a rolling bed. They put a mesh body suit on me and injected me with thorozine. I was so out of it I was drooling on myself. In this state, they rolled me out into the main room with the other children. It was humiliating.
Eventually I settled down a bit. After successfully making it past the first stage I went into what was considered an outdoor stage. I slept in a cabin. However, the staff was poorly trained. There were several incidents were I was restrained. Once, I was restrained on chicken wire. I was cut badly by the incident and did not receive medical attention. In another incident I hit my head and suffered a concussion. I didn’t receive medical care for that as well. I was simply taken aside to be watched by staff to make sure I didn’t pass out. For my last two months there I was put into isolation. I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone, or join groups. I was merely supposed to sit on my bed and mind my own business. While I was there, I overheard the doctor speak with my father over the phone. The doctor said to my father ‘if he didn’t want his daughter back they could figure something out.’ After that conversation I was quickly pulled from that program.
When I left I was transferred to another facility in Utah called Pine Ridge Academy. It was a decent facility. But I was still rebellious. I went back and forth to different parts of their program. I went from house to house and was in and out of the hospital for cutting myself, and being physically aggressive with staff during restraint. I remained there until I was eighteen.
After turning eighteen, I was no longer allowed to stay in the group of programs I had been residing in, because they were for children. My parents sent me to a program in Florida that took adults. I enjoyed my stay there. We were treated well. However, I continued to cut myself during my stay and bulimia became a big issue. These issues were more than their program were able to manage, so I was sent to a different program in New York called SLS Health.
I stayed in the program in New York for four and a quarter years. I was heavily medicated there. During my stay I had my phone calls restricted, as well as my ability to send and receive mail. We also were not allowed to leave. The Office of Mental Health did an inspection of the facility and discovered several of our rights were being violated. They were fined and eventually shut down.
Because of the medication I was on while I was there, I had to go to a detox facility after I left. After the detox facility I was sent to a different program. They did extensive group therapy sessions everyday, and based their program around Alcohol and Chemical Dependency Treatment.
After graduating their program I went to a halfway house called Healing Properties. It was a good program that treated the residents well. Despite this, my cutting and eating disorders continued to be a problem, and I became hospitalized. Despite their program being fair, I found a way to mess up, and I did. I was discharged from their program for failing to take my prescribed medications.
Because I was discharged from their program, I was placed in a different halfway house called Harmony House. I did well there for a decent amount of time. Well enough to gain more privileges and a later curfew. However, other residents were also unstable. It became a threatening situation for me due to one particular resident, so my parents placed me in a different halfway house called The Swinton House. I did well there and my family had me return home with them. By the time I returned home I was twenty-three years old. I stayed with them briefly, before being put into a group home by my family. Two months later that particular group home was shut down for financial reasons.
I began looking for a place of my own to rent after that. I went through section 8 to subsidize my housing based off my income. I shared an apartment with a roommate for a year and a half. I eventually moved out because the living situation became too stressful, as my roommate was emotionally unstable. I wound up putting myself in the hospital because the stress triggered traumatic event memories from my stay at the program in Mexico, where I was abused physically and sexually.
I now live in a home with a beautiful garden that I share with a friend of mine. It makes things a little easier being in a calmer setting. Right now, I am still managing issues I have from post-traumatic stress disorder. I have nightmares and flashbacks on a daily basis. It is a struggle. Despite this, I am trying to work through my past and am attempting to discover meaning in life.
My Eleven Years in Residential Treatment Centers, the original statement on the Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Given the death of her mother and illness as result of this tragedy the author was forced to participate in a wilderness program and sent to a boarding school soon after. The boarding school which according to their marketing claims to be able to deal with problems concerning teenagers. However they gave up and referred the author to the Peninsula Village Treatment center. It has not been determined to whom the referral fee normally given to medical staff or education consultant was paid to
A couple of days later, I was told I was being sent to a more “intense therapeutic environment”. Once again, at around three in the morning, two “transporters” picked me up from the program, took me to Buffalo airport in New York, and once again was off on a flight now to Knoxville, Tennessee. I arrived at Peninsula Village on September 3, 2004 which is a level 4 lockdown facility in Louisville, Tennessee. Peninsula Village was the gate keeper to the abuse I would endure for the following six months. My very first day, I was overcome with fear and the highest level of anxiety I have ever felt. I was strip searched, and following the search was instructed to take a shower, however staff would be monitoring me. They would be able to be in plain view of me at all times. Privacy at Peninsula Village did not exist even in the least bit. I refused to shower if they were going to watch, so two staff came over to me, as I was collapsed on the bathroom floor, shaking uncontrollably and absolutely hysterical. They grabbed my upper arms, and dragged me across the bathroom floor, out across the carpet of the unit, and dropped me on the cold blue floor of the “time out room”. I was told to sit there, with my back against the wall, and not to move until permitted to do so. They then left me in there, for a substantial amount of time. Little did I know that the “time out room” would be come ever so familiar? Later on that day, I stood up; I had been sitting there for a long time, in which I was ordered to sit back down. I refused, and said I just needed to stand up for a minute. At that moment, two staff came from behind, grabbed my upper arms once again, and started kicking the back of my knees, in which I inevitably fell to the floor, face down, an alarm went off, in which staff from the entire property came running in. They were pinning me to the floor, and upon others arrival, there would be seven or eight staff members on top of me, holding me facedown to the floor. There was a staff on my arms, on my back, on my legs, and on my ankles, as well as one holding my head to the floor. During this first restraint (out of many more to come in my stay) I vomited, while being pinned to the floor. I tried to lift my face from it, in which a staff would hold my head down, right into my own bile’s. I felt like I was suffocating and honestly did not know if I was going to make it through that restraint alive. I was in ultimate fear for my life. I was only around 120 pounds, which for my height of five foot and nine inches, is underweight. I struggled trying to breathe with all of these people sitting on me, as well as trying to breathe with my face being held to the floor, and in my bile’s. After this 30 minute restraint, I was carried into the “time out room” in which I was stripped of my clothing, and was changed into blood stained hospital gowns.
The first two months I was at Peninsula Village, I was restrained a total of forty two times and twenty two of those restraints, were mechanical and chemical restraints. That was only the first to months, which many more to come. Some days, I would be restrained several times in one day. An example of my longest restraint is from October 14, 2004. Physical restraint was initiated at 7:13 AM; I was transferred to the restraint bed in which a body net was used, at 7:40 AM. At 10:50 AM, I was released from the restraint bed, only to be physically restrained again, at 11:02 AM, moved back to the restraint bed, and was not released until 9:25 PM. During that time, I was given 0.5 MG of Klonopin and 5 MG of Zyprexa.
As a result of restraints, I had bruises all over my body. At one point, they had to order X-Rays of my wrist and jaw, from one of my restraints. I had also filed a grievance against one of my counselors, in which Child Protective Services had to come in and investigate. The results of the investigation; however were supposedly, that the abuse was unsubstantial.
A simple breakdown, of what life was like at Peninsula Village, beyond all of the restraints was sickening as well. We sat on our beds, most of our waking hours, were prohibited from looking and/or speaking to any of our peers. The only time we were allowed to speak at all, was if granted permission by staff, or in therapy groups. I was denied access to a phone at all times, unless I had the privilege of family therapy. Our mail was monitored, both incoming and outgoing. In communication with my father, I was prohibited from speaking about what was going on daily. We were forced to attend a chemical addiction group, even if we had no substance abuse issues. I have never had a substance abuse issue, yet they convinced me I was addicted to downers and being restrained. Confrontational therapy is what they practiced. We were also forced to study the Native American Medicine Wheel spiritual opinion. Bathroom times were on their terms. If we had to go when it was not bathroom break, we had to wait, and if it was a real emergency they would allow it but then you would get consequence for it later on in consequence group. Who ever thought of being consequence for having to use the bathroom? We were not allowed to talk except in group therapy or if we raised our hand and were actually called on. You had to sit on your bed with your back up against the wall. If you got off your bed, or just hung your legs out (from sitting Indian style) to stretch them, you would be restrained. There were level systems which always made me feel bad about myself. When you were restrained they would strip you of your clothing and make you wear hospital gowns until you contracted to move up to wearing scrubs then contracting to wear your clothes. The director of my unit at the time was not licensed he was actually denied by the board of health so he was misrepresenting himself. He told me once, "If you think you are smart enough to get kicked out of here and escape it here you are wrong" I would not see my dad for weeks sometimes over a month. My family therapy sessions would get taken away from me in which I could not talk to my dad much less see him if when I was talking to my dad and I tried to tell him how bad it was there they would end the family therapy session right there. They also told him I was incompetent and did not know what I was talking about when he heard me tell him about my bruises. I was covered in bruises from the head down. My mail was monitored by staff both outgoing and incoming. When we went to the bathroom, we were timed. We had to tell them how long we needed in the bathroom. One minute to pee, two minutes for a bowel movement, and an extra 30 seconds if we had our period. A level 2 would check our stall before we could flush, and if we were not out of the bathroom on time, we were consequence. Our showers were monitored, in which a level 2 would run shower time. We had 7 minute shower time, in which you had to shower, brush your teeth, comb your hair, put on your deodorant, and get dressed. If there was hair left in your brush or toothpaste in your sink, or a hair in your shower stall, you would be consequence. The level 2 would watch us undress, and would keep a close eye on us, which made me feel highly uncomfortable, as some of them would stare at me as I was undressing to shower.
In order to talk to staff, you had to raise your hand, and if 3 hands went up in the air, we had to do a 5 minute halt, in which we all had to stand (completely still) and stare at the clock on the wall, and staff would walk around and check to make sure our eyes were focused on the clock; if we were not, or if one of us fidgeted, or moved, we had to start the time all over.
We ate our meals on our beds, we did our schoolwork on our beds, and we would have quiet time for about 4 or 5 hours a day. We were not allowed to look at our peers, make any form of contact with them. Peers would confront others for any little thing you did wrong, everything from leaving a hair in your shower, to being "entitled".
We never went outside, except to walk out the door (escorted) and down the stairs to nursing. We were not allowed to look out the windows, not allowed to look at male staff if they came on the unit. The staff would pick on me, because when I got nervous, I would have an "incongruent smirk" on my face. A nurse that I speak to now from Peninsula Village claims that they knew from the very beginning that I did not belong there, yet they kept me there. I was a private pay patient.
Our counselors had no formal training, nothing more than a GED or high school diploma. Some of them were only a few years older than me. They were the ones there with us all the time, running our groups, and everything that was done on the unit.
It was constantly beaten into my head what a worthless excuse of life I am and that I am just an entitled little bitch.
They performed psychological testing on me, and determined that I was "malingering", yet they kept raising my dosage of Antipsychotic Medication, to a dose that most have never heard of.
The testimony continues on the homepage listed as source below. The author was transferred to another facility, where they discharged her to freedom after succesful treatment.
- The original story on the home page of Troubled Teens Survivor Network
- Datasheet about "The Village", which the facility was renamed to after it was sold to new owners.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
This testimony was given by Eklipsa on the YouForum message board. All rights belongs to the author.
I was reluctant to post my story about Cross Creek Manor due to the pain it would rehash but I have come to realize that although it may cause some pain to me it will help prevent the pain of others.
First let me give you some background on myself. I come from a single parent home and was raised in my grandmother and grandfather's home. My father was an alcoholic and abusive to my mom so she moved back in with my granny when I was only about 6 months old and my brother was about two and a half. We all lived together until I was about ten or eleven.
This is when my mom met my now stepfather. At first they just dated but after awhile they made plans to move in together. Of course my mother asked me to go with her but I would not hear of it. I had lived in the same town for almost all my life and I was shy and not so ready to pick everything up and start all over with a new school, friends etc.
I guess you can say this was about the time I started acting out. I smoked my first cigarette at the age of about 12, marijuana at the age of 12 or 13. I also started drinking beer around this age. I picked the wrong people to hangout with, stayed out late, and my grades started dropping. At the age of 14 I was raped and after that I started snorting cocaine.
Well to make a long story short my behavior became progressively worse until my mom had me admitted to a psychiatric hospital for adolescents. After leaving there I attended a drug recovery outpatient program, NA, AA, and went to see both a psychiatrist and psychologist regularly.
I stayed clean for about 6 months and my behavior was back to it's good self. Then I relapsed and started drinking and smoking weed again- although I have not to this day touched cocaine again. I started running away again for days at a time and basically not caring what my mom had to say. I didn't even care about myself. This continued -it would be on and off if can understand what I mean-some weeks I was good others were bad- until late August of 1998.
I had came home from work after being out for a few days. I was exhausted and depressed. I had a history of depression and had recently been diagnosed with ADD. All I wanted to do was sleep. In fact I slept for almost two days straight. I was awakened by a knock at the door. To my surprise there were 2 cops outside. My mom let them in and they told me to get dressed because they needed to talk to me. They asked me why I wanted to kill myself. Apparently my mom was at her rope's end and told them that I was threatening to kill myself because it was the only way she was going to be able to get me help. I told them that I wasn't planning on killing myself but they didn't believe me. They handcuffed me and took me to the hospital.
From there I was sent to another adolescent psychiatric hospital. I was there for about three days when the psychiatrist said that there was no reason for me to be there anymore (I think my mental health coverage had run out) My mom came to pick me up- I knew something was up because my step dad was with her. At that time I really didn't like him and my mom knew that so she usually didn't bring him places to come get me unless I was in trouble. She walked me out to the car and the whole time she was holding my hand and hugging me and telling me how much she love me.
We got to where her car was parked in the parking lot and 2 ladies (might I add the 2 butchiest and scary ladies I have seen in my life) grabbed me and threw me in their car. My mom was crying and so was I. I had no idea what was going on. They drove off and I kept asking them where they were taking me and at first they wouldn't answer. Then finally when we got to the airport they told me that they were taking me to some cool private school where I would have lots of fun and make new friends. I don't know why I believed them. I guess it was because at the point I was at I really didn't think moving away would be so bad. In my head I pictured a school that had a dorm and phones and a t.v. and normal things like that. In know way did I know what was coming to me. We got on the plane. I was horrified because it was my first time flying. We landed and drove the long distance to La Verkin from Las Vegas.
That was the day my life changed for the worse. I arrived at about 4:00 am in the morning. I walked in the big white doors of the manor. Immediately they were slammed shut behind me and I was asked if I knew where I was. I said no and was told "You are at a long term drug rehabilitation facility." I freaked out and asked her if I could call my mother. To that I got the reply "No you cannot. You are here because your mother doesn't want anything to do with you." I thought It was all a bad dream I actually pinched myself to try and wake up-but to no avail- it was all HORRIBLY REAL!!!! I was stripped searched, my clothes were taken away and I was given some second hand dirty T-shirt and sweat pants to sleep in. I was forced to sleep on a mattress on the floor for days. I was woken up at around 7am and was surrounded by robot looking girls running around to get ready on time. And that was just the beginning.
If I could remember everyday and every bad thing that happened I would tell you but I don’t.
Some of the things I do remember are as follows:
- Every doorway I crossed I was made to ask May I cross
- I was watched going to the bathroom, taking showers, sleeping-everything I did I was under constant surveillance
- I was told daily that I was a f**kup, a slut, a homewrecker, that my mom didn't want me and that I would never change.
- When I admitted in therapy that I was raped I was made to feel that it was my fault because of my behavior.
- In what they called Physical Education I was forced to run around the yard many times. I wasn't not allowed to stop-even though my lungs were shot from smoking and I had borderline asthma- or I would receive a cat (which is a punishment where you have to sit and listen to tapes for hours on end until you got enough questions right to equal the amount of points of the cat. Each tape was half an hour long with a possibility of receiving 15 points- while cats started at if I remember correctly 50 points (I could be mistaken on that exact number).
- I was forced to be on silence for a period of about three weeks.
- "School" was not taught by teachers. I was given a textbook for each subject and answered the questions for each chapter and then given a test on each chapter.
- When I was put in the program I was 1 class away from getting a Regents diploma. I begged to be able to take a regents course so I could get the diploma I had worked so hard for 4 years but they didn't allow me to and I had to take a regular diploma.
- I got sick one night with a fever and I was throwing up. I was made to sleep with 3 heavy blankets. They said I needed to "sweat the fever out". I was crying because it was too hot under the blankets and I tried to take them off but I was threatened with a Cat for manipulation and not obeying staff orders. The next morning I was still forced to clean the bathroom (my every morning chore)
- I was given sleeping pills that made me feel horrible
- I was outside and this girl was trying to teach me how to do a cartwheel and I fell and hurt my shoulder. I was told it was my fault. I complained about the pain and they wouldn't take me to the doctor for about 4 days. It turned out that I had ripped a muscle in my shoulder and needed a sling.
- I was not allowed to write my mom for months and it took about 6 months to talk to her on speakerphone wit the therapist right there butting in.
- I had gotten a planters wart on the bottom of my foot from the dirty floors there and after complaining for about a month they took me to the doctor. He did laser surgery/removal of it and told me not to walk on it for a week. When I got back they would not allow me to stay in the sick room for more than a day. They said I was manipulating even when I walked on it and it started gushing blood.
- For about the whole time I was there I had an impacted wisdom tooth. Everyday it hurt. Sometimes it was so bad that I couldn't chew. They refused to bring me to have it removed and when I couldn't eat because of it they accused me of having an eating disorder and I got in trouble.
- There was an outbreak of scabies at Cross Creek Manor. When I told a girl who had it to stay away from me I was told that I was being "non-working" and I got in trouble. I just didn't want scabies!!!!
- When I decided to contact my biological father because I thought it might help me in my recovery I was told that I was trying to use him as a "back-door for my problems" When my mom told them it was alright for him to contact me through letters-he started sending me somethings that I was allowed to have (shampoo hairbrushes stationary flowers-stuff like that) they told him that he was spoiling me and that he couldn't contact me anymore.
- I was forced to wear only socks or thin slippers in the snow and rain.
- Every morning I was forced to show a staff member my underwear and bra to prove I was only wearing 1 of each. Somehow they considered that run plans. Personally I think they got off on it.
- When my therapist had said to me that my mom said that I was never allowed back in her house (which I know now my mom never said) I cursed about my mom and was made to right home a nasty letter cursing out my mom and not explaining why.
There are so many other things that happened. They are too numerous to list. I just hope that parents will think twice about sending their children to Cross Creek Manor, WWASP programs or any other place where they treat teens like crap. I know my mom would not have sent me there if she knew what it was like.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
To whom it may concern:
From 4/26/2002-4/1/2003 I attending Cross Creek Manor.
The main form of abuse I received was neglect. I went to Cross Creek Manor having just come out with the sexual abuse I endured with my father--only to be told I was lying. My mother sent me self-help books on it, but a lot of times they were held from me. I know I wasn't the only person who this happened to.
My health problems came quickly, and that's where it was hard. I had an infected gallbladder, infected kidneys and a staph infection in my vaginal tract which led to difficult problems. I endured harassment from the PA at CCM--him making horrible comments about my vagina that I'd rather not repeat again. When the doctor decided to finally take care of my staph infection (previously I had been told that I was manipulating and exaggerating) my mother drove out to be with me. I'd need time to heal.
I got to the office and prepared myself on the table. My mother asked if there would be any anesthesia. They were to be removing the damaged hymen (from my rape) among other things that I don't remember. There was NO anesthesia. I was given 1/4 of a Valium.
So, here I was, not sedated, having my vaginal tract scraped out. I was in so much pain that I don't remember everything that happened or how long it took. My mother had to tell me most of what happened, and here is what she said:
- I nearly blacked out from the pain
- They removed 4 anal cotton swabs of pus
- They performed a D&C, still under no sedation
There were other things that happened that I remember and don't remember. I remember working in the kitchen was a privilege. I remember trying really hard not to scream in the bathroom with my UTI or infections because there was to be no talking in the bathroom. I remember feeling like I needed to go to a hospital and being told that I was manipulating my way out. I remember praying a rosary every day to help me get out. There was nothing I wanted more than to leave, to feel better, to not be forced to avoid taking care of myself.
While this is just one story, it flipped my life around. I may not be able to have children. I have vulvar vestibulitis (just extreme pain with nearly every vaginal activity) that may or may not go away. And I have blacked out, forgotten periods of time that proves it was some messed up trauma. I know it wasn't the worst center, but no 13 year old should have to deal with that.
Thank you, and I hope this assists in putting these horrible centers out of business.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Due to the length please click here to read the entire contents.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
This very catching movie won prizes when it was first introduced.
A little criticism came regarding the choice of lead role which should have been casted.
However the script left no doubt by the viewers of how degrading modern mental treatment in various rehab facilities can be.
The movie should be a part of the standard curriculum at every high school as too many teenagers don't take their parents seriously before they end up at similar places.
Parents should be watching it too so they realize how difficult it is to find a in-patient treatment which don't leave some emotional scars as sideeffect of the treatment itsef.
A little criticism came regarding the choice of lead role which should have been casted.
However the script left no doubt by the viewers of how degrading modern mental treatment in various rehab facilities can be.
The movie should be a part of the standard curriculum at every high school as too many teenagers don't take their parents seriously before they end up at similar places.
Parents should be watching it too so they realize how difficult it is to find a in-patient treatment which don't leave some emotional scars as sideeffect of the treatment itsef.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
After the first time I attempted suicide, in 1998, I ended up in a long-term “treatment” facility called Peninsula Village, which is located outside of Knoxville, Tennessee. Yes, I was a troubled teenager -- like most, I suppose -- but the only difference between some others and me was that I had untreated depression and anxiety disorders. These factors made it very hard for my family to deal with me at times, and my parents eventually fell under the spell of Peninsula Village’s staff and their lies. However, my parents did not inform me about the extent to which I would be staying at the Village -- at least 11 months until I turned 18 and could sign myself out. My parents also did not inform me about the extent to which the staff will go in order to “discipline” the children, but in fairness, the Village staff lied to my parents and omitted key facts. The issues this caused me during my stay eventually led to my escape -- the second, fully successful one in 13 years at the time -- but the memories of that place haunt me to this day.
The staff at Peninsula Village view discipline as treatment, but not “time-out” discipline, I’m talking about “slamming.” Slamming is a word we used to describe what was done to us (the children) if we “acted-up.” It involved the staff pressing a siren button that hung around their necks. Then, at least 6 burly staff members would come flying into the room through every entrance, and basically, they would tackle the child, slam his (I only witnessed the males) face into the ground, and dig their elbows and knees into his back and limbs, making it hard for him to breathe. This would last a relatively long time, and would always lead to the removal of the child’s clothing in exchange for bloodstained hospital gowns. The child would also get a one-way ticket to the “quiet room” -- a slightly padded, tiny, cold room with a cement floor covered by linoleum -- for an indefinite amount of time. On occasion, the child would also receive a hefty IM (intra-muscular) dose of a sedative, like Thorazine, that would leave him drooling for hours. Even more disturbing, there were many occurrences of bloodshed during these slammings. The emotional and physical pain I heard in the cries, screams, groans, and sobs during the slammings, coupled with the sight of blood pooling around a child’s head, and 8 adults kneeling on him, is truly haunting. Most of the slammings occur in the STU (Special Treatment Unit), but the staff will not hesitate to slam someone outside in the gravel, mud, manure, or whatever else one might be standing in.
STU is where they put all the new admits, and a stay there can last anywhere from 2 months to more than a year. While in STU, the staff forced me to strip naked, bend over and expose my anus, and expose and lift my scrotum. They also put me on an anti-depressant medication called Paxil, but immediately at a very high dose that left me buzzing and tingling. I had them decrease the dose soon after. In addition, they forced me to sit, Indian-style, on a small, cubicle-like bed all day under fluorescent lights -- lights that they never fully turned off. One day, a staff member caught me slouching very slightly, and made me stand and watch the clock for ten minutes, then forced me to sit back down on the hard, wooden bed box, but without the mattress for the remainder of the day. That’s not the half of it because the entire time one is in STU, one has to remain silent and non-communicative with other peers; however, the staff will sit and chat all night long while we try to sleep under the dimmed lights, then, they wake us up at 6 A.M. by yelling, and slapping the cubicle tops. I didn’t dare speak though, aside from the occasional group “therapy” session where the staff tells everyone how much he sucks, and that he’s a worthless piece of crap. The Village’s lead psych. doctor was very good at this. They also force everyone to “admit” he has a drug and alcohol problem, join AA/NA, and become spiritual, even if he doesn’t have a problem or have spiritual beliefs. Aside from groups, bathroom breaks were the only other time we could get up from our beds. We only got 3 minutes to defecate, 1 minute to urinate, and 4 minutes to shower. If we went over our allotted time by even 1 second, we would loose minutes from our next shower time. I never lost shower time, but I frequently had to let soap dry in my hair or on my body, and it would sometimes become itchy. The other bad thing about STU was we were allowed no time with our parents, on the phone or in person. I spent 2 ½ months in STU, living as a monk, and the only communication I had with my parents was my outgoing letters that were read, and censored, by staff. I could not write anything slanderous about the goings-on there, or my letter would not be mailed. The staff does not show STU to parents on their tour of the facilities because I doubt any parent would allow their child to stay at the Village if they witnessed what went on in there.
All of the slammings I witnessed were during my stay in STU. The first time I developed a fear of the alarm buttons was after I saw one guy’s scabbed face early in my stay. The entire right side of his face was covered in scabs, and he was wearing the hospital gowns. I managed to ask him about it before the start of a group session one day, and he said it was from the staff slamming him, and then dragging his face across the carpet. The next time I saw a slamming, the boy ended up getting a large dose of Thorazine in the butt because, if I remember correctly, he was in the quiet room afterward, and couldn’t stop sobbing. I remember during his slamming he was in a lot of distress from all the force being applied to his small body. He was having difficulty breathing, and he was in a lot of pain, and he was voicing these complaints to the best of his ability, but the staff wouldn’t let up. I think they enjoy restraining children just to feel powerful or something. They could have easily restrained him with half as many staff members, and quickly put him in the quiet room, but no, they decided to prolong the enjoyment. Eventually, once he was good and high, they let him come out to join us in group therapy. I don’t see any reason, other than to scare the rest of us, for them letting him join us because he was droopy-faced and drooling on himself. Another slamming I witnessed was even worse. The boy was smaller, and the slamming was more forceful, so much in fact, that he might have had his nose broken. All he did to be slammed was shrug his shoulder when a staff member grabbed his arm to lead him back to his bed box after he wouldn’t go by command. I saw him lying in a large pool of his own blood, where they held his face for quite some time, and then they swapped his clothes for the gowns, and stuck him in the quiet room as well. I heard a number of other slammings happen on the other boys’ side of STU, although I didn’t witness them. I did see the aftermath of at least one of those though. One boy was crying, and sitting in a padded room with a straight jacket on. This boy couldn’t have been older than 12 or 13.
Once I “graduated” to the outdoor cabin program, I was able to speak again, but there were a completely new set of rules, and I was forced to do even worse things. I was also constantly condescended, laughed at by staff, and made to feel stupid and worthless. The staff all acted as if they were gods or something. As far as strange rules go, one was that I was never allowed to look at another female. One guy in my group did, and we were forced, as a group, to do a “pyramid 15.” That’s where we had to do 15 pushups, 14 pushups, 13 pushups, etc. After that same guy was caught looking at girls three times, our group had to eat our meals in our cabin for a week. That meant hiking a half-mile to pick up the food, hiking a half-mile back to eat it on a wooden cabin floor, hiking a half-mile to bring the food tub back, and then hiking a half-mile back to our side of the grounds to continue with our daily activities. Two miles of hiking for each meal, and every meal ended up being cold for a week. Then, one time, a staff member (notice I don’t call them counselors -- I don’t think they were qualified) forced us to clear a path that was overgrown with poison ivy, but he forced us to do it with our bare hands! We complained, but he said not to be babies and that if we washed our hands, we’d be fine. It took us over an hour to clear the path, and we all ended up with poison ivy. That wasn’t even the worse day I can remember though. I think the worse day I had, physically, was on a day the temperature reached the upper 90’s, and the humidity was probably in the same range. We were working in the garden, breaking up dirt clumps, and had very little water available to us, relative to the conditions. There were at least eight of us, only 5 gallons of water on site, and we were working there all day. I got so hot and red, and had so much sweat dripping from my face, that I started to have blurred vision and lose my balance. I was very near heat stroke. We worked in that garden 3 or 4 times per week during the summer. If we weren’t working in the garden, we were building a brick barbeque pit -- hardly things that were conducive to the therapy for which we were there. We only had school two days per week, and even that was a half-ass, teach-yourself kind of thing. After working, we would run around the cabin trails. They would force us to train for occasional 5k races. This training was mandatory. After working outside most of the day, I had to run in the Tennessee heat and humidity for over an hour, 3 times per week. In the beginning, it was too much for me, and I was so tired that I wouldn’t swallow to conserve energy. I was barely jogging to avoid being reprimanded, I was dizzy and had blurred sight, and I was drooling, but I could not stop. We were reprimanded for any number of things, even leaving hairs in the shower. For every hair left in the showers, we would have to do a pyramid 15 as a group. We usually had to do pushups after shower time, so I’d get clean, do some pushups, and then go to bed sweaty. We never cleaned our sleeping bags either. Once per month we would find a spot of sun peaking through the trees in the woods, and try to drape the bags over foliage to catch the sun in an attempt to “sterilize” the bags. Sometimes kids would wet their beds -- probably due to stress -- but they didn’t dare say anything to staff for fear of the consequences. They would just sleep in it. This is how much psychological stress and fear the staff impose on the children during their stay. The worst consequence I ever had while at the Village was when I had to carry a 40lb. Limestone rock in a milk crate, wherever we went as a group, for a week, while still carrying all of my other responsibilities (water gott, backpack, notebook, etc…it changed daily). During that same week, on July 4, 1998, I had to do 2,600 pushups, and 12 one-minute-leg-lifts. This punishment was a plea bargain I made, for the original punishment would have required 3 months of the rock and crate, and about 15,000 pushups. How ridiculous is that? It makes no sense. The staff also has no sense of safety, for one time we were made to dig out a large stump with shovels and an axe. The stump could easily have weighed as much as a small car, it was just as big, and we were forced to climb around it in a 4-foot deep trench to cut at the roots. If the stump had shifted on anyone, he would have been crushed to death. Not only do they have no sense of safety, they have no sense, period. They forced all of us to attend outside AA/NA meetings, and they tried hard to make us spiritual. I never believed I had a problem with drugs or alcohol, but they said I did. I have also never been spiritual, but they forced some Indian Spiritual Wheel belief system upon all of us. That was the whole basis of our level system. Just for the record, I still have no problem with drugs or alcohol 10 years later, and I stopped going to AA/NA after I left the Village.
It would have been nice to voice all my concerns to my parents, but the staff “preps” all the parents by warning them that their children are excellent manipulators, and that they will say anything to leave the Village. During therapy sessions with my parents, the therapist would try to avoid letting me say anything about the Village. If I was able to say something about the conditions, she would quickly respond by making it seem like I was just a whiner and manipulator, and that that is part of my problem, and she would change the subject. Then, for the next week, during group sessions at the cabin, I’d have to talk about how much of a whiner I am. It’s like they brainwash everyone. They brainwash the children into thinking they have issues they do not really have, they brainwash themselves into thinking they are real therapists, and they brainwash the parents into thinking they are doing the right thing by sending their child there. I think this allows them to keep kids there indefinitely in order to gain more and more money. At $500 or more per night, I think they are motivated.
I played their spiritual-level-system game for about 5 months in the outdoor program until I eventually had my high level stripped from me due to someone else’s mistake. Our group was put on shut down, which is essentially the same as STU life, complete with silence, but in a non-air-conditioned cabin, and we cannot sit on our beds, so we sit back-to-back on the hardwood floor all day. We also have to do the two miles of hiking for every meal while holding onto a small length of rope, and trying not to trip over each other’s feet. A shut down can last for months, and I had already worked so hard to gain my privileges. I was not going to be able to sit on a hardwood floor in silence for another 4 months until I turned 18. This event woke me up, and broke me of my brainwashing. I decided to escape the hell of Peninsula Village.
I decided to make my break for it during morning twilight, right after the group used the tubes (PVC tubes buried in the ground near the cabin that are used as urinals). I let my group get ahead of me a few paces, then I ran into the woods behind me, and never looked back. I had to run through the girl’s side of camp, so I was cautious, and fearful that a female staff member would come outside looking for me any moment. Eventually, I made it to the edge of the property, and with the sound of SUV’s roaring in the background, I jumped across the property line, and into more brush, just as a vehicle went by. The staff didn’t see me, but I lost my glasses in the brush, and I couldn’t find them after a few minutes of searching. Therefore, I continued my hike with limited sight, and tried to keep the only road into the peninsula within view as I kept myself hidden in the woods. I followed the winding road for hours, became dehydrated from the exertion, and soaking wet from the morning dew. Eventually, I found a shed near a house where I was able to hide, re-hydrated from a nearby spigot, rest, and change my clothes. Another few hours later, I made it to the end of the road just as one of the nurses drove by, but a couple minutes after that, someone stopped to pick me up since I had my thumb up. The staff missed me by minutes. I hitched many rides over the next 3 days to get to a friend’s house a few states away. One man gave me $20 for food, and drove me 20 miles out of his way. Another man tried to get a room with me so I could take a bubble bath, drink a beer, have a warm bed to sleep in, and sit back so he could “play with it a while.” Needless to say, I stayed in the woods on the side of an off ramp that night. I barely got any sleep, and I nearly got hypothermia, but it was better than the alternative. Remember, during this entire trip, I’m hiking and hitching without my glasses, so it was very hard to tell if a cop was coming down the road or not -- I just had to chance it. The morning after my cold night, I managed to “thumb” a Virginia State Trooper as he drove by, but he never came back, and I got a ride with an eighteen-wheeler about ten minutes later. I spent about 66 hours on the road to get away from Peninsula Village. Once I got to my friend’s house I managed to get a job in food service, but soon quit in order to move out of state again to live with a different friend -- away from bad influences -- and finish high school.
Even though I attained a relatively high-level while at the Village, I don’t think I actually achieved any kind of gains in my emotional recovery, nor was I put on the right medication or dosage. My parents were conned into spending the $50,000 college trust fund, set up by my grandfather, to have me verbally abused, indirectly physically abused, brainwashed, emotionally tortured, and to have me witness, beyond reasonable cause, the direct physical abuse of other children. In the end, my “treatment” was all a farce. I was stripped of all my privileges for something I had no control over and no part in, and I was able to put everything I “learned” behind me and see the truth. I think the events surrounding my escape prove that I was merely brainwashed the entire time, and once I was shocked awake, nothing, or very little, had changed in me. To this day, I am haunted by my memories of the sights and sounds in the STU, and I remain forever begrudged by the tasks, rules, and punishments for which I was forced to comply. I even find myself quickly looking at the ground when my eyes meet a female’s from time to time, because of how taboo the Village made it. Just to affirm how much Peninsula Village affected me, it took me 10 years before I so much as googled it, and once I did, I found numerous “survivor” stories that truly struck a nerve in me, and I began to sob. The stories of others took me right back to the time I was in the Village, and I realized it wasn’t just a dream I had -- it all really happened, it’s happened to others, and it’s happening to others right now. I hope someone else can identify with my story as well, and know that they are not alone in this sort of thing. I am amazed that these “treatment” places exist, and that people allow them to continue to exist for so long without consequence. I hope, through the shared stories of other survivors, and the diligence and courage of advocates like Ms. Stattel, that places like Peninsula Village will soon face their due consequences.
- The original story on the home page of Troubled Teens Survivor Network
- Datasheet about "The Village", which the facility was renamed to after it was sold to new owners.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
After this incident, I was immediately ostracized and forced to "regain trust" from my group members. I was lucky, however. If I had been under 18, I'm sure I would have been dropped back down to level one, but due to my age, I was allowed to remain on a probationary status at a level five.
After a couple of weeks of groveling and enduring numerous group sessions during which I was the object of ridicule and criticism, I eventually convinced Garth and the rest of the high phase girls that I was "ready to work."
And so, I was cemented into the system at that point - I was completely brainwashed into thinking that the program had saved my life and that I would be dead if my parents had never sent me there (the same robotic mantra of all brainwashed WWASP kids). I became a cruel and ruthless high phase girl - just like the ones who had hurt me when I was new at CCM, and I extolled the virtues of the program that had caused irrevocable damage to my soul. The rest of my incarceration at Cross Creek was fairly smooth, and I graduated in late May, 1999 - two months before my 19th birthday.
After I graduated, I returned to Houston to live with my parents for a couple of months before being admitted to the University of Texas - Arlington in the Fall of 1999. By the time I was living in Arlington, away from parental or program supervision, it had only been about three months since I had left Cross Creek.
I entered college a completely conflicted, damaged, neurotic, depressed and anxious person - with the next few years ahead of me to experience levels of depravity that I never came close to prior to my incarceration at CCM. I don't feel comfortable getting into all those details now, but suffice it to say, that the program DIDN'T WORK - and in fact, it DID harm me more than it helped.
To this day, my parents still do not really believe me when I try to tell them about what went on at CCM. They still proclaim that the program "saved my life," and told me that I am "ungrateful" whenever I have attempted to let them know the real story. This hurts me more than anything else. Nothing that happened at Cross Creek, or during a seminar, can compare to the hurt that I feel from my parents' unwillingness to believe that I'm telling the truth. The fact that they take the program's side over mine - their own daughter - is something that I will probably feel and carry with me for the rest of my life.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Like I said earlier, I was never one of the girls that were routinely taken down, but it still took me several months to really advance in the program.
Let me explain - although the program cronies would say like to say otherwise, unless you are crying in group and painting a very melodramatic picture of your "issues," you will not advance to the upper levels, and you will not go home (which is where we ALL wanted to be). I, however, had difficulty with this, because I had a hard time expressing emotion back then - especially when put on the spot in group.
Thus, my inability to "be real," (translation: cry) held me back on the low levels for a good seven months or so. As I stated earlier, I had been a good student in school, unlike most of the other girls at CCM, and was always very bright. My intelligence, apparently, was something to be ashamed of. I was routinely punished and chastised in group for being "better than," and being "in my head" all the time. I was specifically reprimanded in group for using "big words" that the other girls didn't understand. This was all brought on because I was trying to help some of the other girls with their school work, which was, apparently, a bad thing. After being "confronted" about my "intelligence issue," (yes, they actually called it that) I remember trying to dumb myself down in order to not incur the group's criticism.
As anyone who has been incarcerated in a WWASP program knows, their "school" system is, at best, laughable. As I said earlier, I was a very good student, and I was enrolled in a very challenging high school curriculum. At Cross Creek (or "Browning Academy" as WWASP likes to refer to the fictional "school" associated with their programs), I was given a remedial level text book for each respective class, and instructed to complete the chapter excersizes and a chapter test. This was the extent of our "education," and it was a mockery of my intellectual ability. I learned absolutely nothing my senior year in high school - if you could even call it that.
Eventually, I got over the hump and advanced to level three. But let me first let you know that I wasn't allowed to speak to my parents on the phone until I had been there for four months, the first time I saw my parents was after seven months, and the first time I saw my two brothers was after nine or ten months. And of course, I was not allowed to communicate with anyone from the outside world besides my parents - not friends, family or anyone besides my parents & brothers.
After I began to advance in the program, I became one of its most vocal supporters. I was notorious for giving "hardcore" feedback to new girls, and "not taking any crap," from anyone not subscribing to the program's mantras. Honestly, I became a blood-thirsty pitt bull - anxiously awaiting the opportunity to tear another girl down, the way that I had been torn down before. I'm sure that I probably caused a lot of girls pain, and this is something that I feel intensely remorseful for to this day.
After I had been at CCM for 10 months or so, I was on level five and able to take an off-grounds pass with my family. My parents, brothers and I went to Las Vegas and another small town in Utah (I can't remember the name) - and had a lot of fun. I missed my family so much by that point that I thought I might break in two. The pass really broke down a lot of the months of brainwashing, and I eventually reached a point where I felt like I would literally go insane if I had to remain in the program.
Basically, I cracked - one night at St. George (the high phase facility of CCM), I spent three hours pacing around my room trying to figure out how I was possibly going to complete the program without losing my mind. You see, by then, I was 18, and I was able to walk out of the program if wanted to - however, my parents had made it very clear to me that they would not let me come home if I left Cross Creek without completing the program.
My "exit plan" was pretty similar to other kids that were in WWASP programs - if I decided to leave after I turned 18, I would get $10 in my pocket and a bus ticket to Denver (not Houston, my native city), and my parents would not accept me back in their house. So, back to that night when I lost it - I eventually decided, after a couple of hours of pacing, that I had to leave the program, despite the fact that I would probably be homeless.
So, I went to the head staff at St. George, Bernie, and told her that I wanted to leave. She attempted to change my mind for an hour or so, but I wouldn't be swayed. Then my parents were called. We had an incredibly gut-wrenching phone conversation during which my mother told me "goodbye" for real - at that moment she believed that she was talking to me for the last time. After my parents couldn't get me to change my mind, my 17 year-old brother, Cory, was put on the phone. I remember him sobbing over the receiver and pleading with me not to leave the program, because he "didn't want me to die." I cried my eyes out during all of this, but still, my parents and I held firm in our positions.
Finally, after a few hours of this, I spoke to my case manager, and she told me that I could still change my mind about leaving. I was petrified by the thought of being abandoned in a foreign city (not to mention the fact that I had no way of contacting any of my other family members, since it was forbidden to record any phone numbers), so I acquiesced, and remained at Cross Creek.
Friday, July 15, 2011
I'm not going to misrepresent the truth here and tell you that I was a perfect teenager. I was involved in a lot of the typical "troubled teen" behavior - i.e., drinking and drugs, smoking, lying to my parents and hanging out with "the wrong crowd."
This is the kind of nebulous statement that most of us at CCM (and other WWASP programs as well, I'm sure) would give to someone "on the outs" (outside the locked gates, that is) when asked about our past. However, I think that if you're going to take the time to read my story, you need to know the truth about what was really happening with me during those two or three tumultuous years.
Unlike most of my peers at Cross Creek, I was not a high school drop out, I wasn't failing classes left and right, and I never skipped school. I had always made good grades, and was taking a pretty challenging course load all throughout high school that included mostly AP level classes. I was one of the Editors of the school's newspaper and Literary Magazine and was an active member of the debate team.
My dream was to be a writer - a journalist, specifically - and I was on track to attend an out of state, well-respected University like Syracuse or NYU. I was constantly being told how bright I was, that I was capable of anything, and my parents were always very proud of my accomplishments.
During my high school years I did begin using drugs. It escalated slowly from smoking pot at 14, to dropping acid and doing ecstasy at 16, and finally trying (I use the word "trying," because I only used it once) crystal meth at 17. I probably smoked pot more than anything else, it was obviously the most available drug there was, and it was pretty common and accepted among teenagers from all different ends of the social spectrum. As for the acid and ecstasy, it was never something that I did on a regular basis - I couldn't have used acid any more than ten times, and ecstasy no more than five. I'm not specifying this to excuse my drug use, but I need people who read this to understand that I was not a hopeless junkie - I never missed school or work because of drugs, I never went to school high, I never skipped school to do drugs, and my grades never slipped because of my drug use. Most importantly, I never lost sight of my where and who I wanted to be in life.
I was having a lot of problems at home, however. It's no secret that I grew up in a difficult family; my father had some issues with alcohol and anger, and my mother could be pretty unapproachable when it came to real-life "teenager" stuff. My parents fought a lot, so consequently, I didn't want to be home a lot. I also was certain that I could never ever talk to them reasonably about my drug use. I was somewhat rebellious then - I listened to (gasp!) anti-establishment punk rock, wore fishnets and knee-high black boots, became a vegetarian and read Karl Marx.
I laugh about that now, because really, I was just going through phase with all that, but to my conservative parents, the clothes and the music were highly disturbing. Everything came to head when my mother found a baggie with ecstasy residue in the pocket of my jeans one day. She took the bag to a lab, and she and my father confronted me with the help of my therapist during one of my weekly sessions.
So then they knew, and my life - which I had to struggle to keep together sometimes as it was - completely fell apart. Of course, my parents lost it, and our household went from being tolerable to absolutely unbearable. The screaming, yelling and crying never ended - my mother let me know that I was a huge disappointment and even told me that she hated me for what I had done to the family. Needless to say, I couldn't handle it, so I decided to move out a few months into my senior year. My plan was to move into an apartment with some guy that I knew from a couple of parties I'd been to and finish high school by correspondence. Obviously, this was a ridiculously stupid plan, but all I could think about back then was getting out of my parents' house. Unfortunately for me, there was a girl that lived on our street that had just graduated from Cross Creek. My parents talked to her parents, and the rest is history.
Shortly after my moving announcement (I can't remember exactly how long), I was woken up in the middle of the night by two men and one woman that I had never seen before in my life. I was told to get out of bed and get dressed right away. Some clothes had been laid out for me on the sink, and the strange woman followed me into the bathroom and watched me while I changed. I was extremely disoriented - I'm not even sure if I realized I was awake at that point - so I didn't fight my "kidnappers." I was instructed to follow them and get into a strange car in our driveway. I got in the car without "incident," and I heard the doors lock me in.
A few miles away from my house I began to get very scared and I started asking my kidnappers, frantically, where they were taking me. No one would tell me. I guess I was beginning to raise my voice (I was feeling a bit hysterical by that time), and that's when I was informed without a shred of sympathy that if I gave them "any trouble" I would be put in handcuffs or otherwise physically restrained. I couldn't fathom what I was hearing - never in my life had I EVER had any type of experience that remotely resembled what was happening to me then. Then they proceeded to tell me that I was going to a nice school for girls like me, someplace where I could "take some time off," and work through my problems. The woman kidnapper even went so far as to tell me it would be like taking a vacation. This calmed me down a bit, and I even started to be okay with the idea. I knew that that I needed some help with the way things were going in my life, and I was open accepting that help. I believed that I was going to some type of 90 day rehab, I would go back home, be back on track, and my parents would love me again. I NEVER could have imagined how grievously wrong I was.
After driving from Houston to El Paso, then flying to Las Vegas, we made the two hour car trip to LaVerkin, Utah. When we pulled up to the Manor, I didn't think it looked so bad - I was a really big, nice looking house with white columns in the front. My kidnappers escorted me through the doors where I was greeted by 100 or so pairs of eyes all staring at me as if I was some sort of carnival freak show.
It was around 7:30 in the evening, and all the girls were gathered out in the central foyer area for the nightly "Manor meeting." Needless to say, I was a little wary of all those girls in sweat pants and slippers who looked like a bunch of robots - but I was there to stay. I was taken into a room with a couple of high-phase girls who did my intake. I remember pleading with them and insisting that I didn't belong in this place, and they just looked at eachother and started laughing, then one of the girls told me, patronizingly, "Yeah, none of us belong here either." Shortly afterwards I was strip searched and "nix-ed" (de-loused) by a very scary looking, and very large woman - I was unbelievably mortified.
For the next two weeks or so, I kept insisting that I wasn't supposed to be there. I was petrified by the other girls - when they spoke, it sounded to me like someone was playing a tape recorder, and they had absolutely no sympathy for the shock that I was feeling. My first day in "Group" with Ron (he was the director of Cross Creek at the time), he asked me why I was there. All the girls were sitting around in a circle staring at me like I was a murderer or something, so I said "because my parents sent me here," COMPLETELY without a hint of attitude (I wasn't yet accustomed to the program double-speak). This of course, sent Ron into a tirade - he yelled and screamed at me that I was a drug addict and ruining my family's lives, etc., etc. After a lengthy barrage of aggressive, mean-spirited "feedback" from the other girls in the group, I sat down, shaken and unable to process what had just happened.
After I had spent about two weeks in Orientation (OR) Group with Ron, I had the pleasure of joining my "home" group, the infamous (at Cross Creek, anyway) B Group. B Group was notorious for being the "hardest" group at CCM, with its most intimidating therapist at the helm, Garth. Garth was a very large man physically, which he used to his advantage to create a very aggressive and imposing persona. Even before Cross Creek, I was easily intimidated by men, but being under Garth's "tutelage" merely reinforced that fear and worsened it, instead of combating it. Here is where things began to get really messy. In my 18 months at Cross Creek, there were so many harmful and traumatizing incidences that occurred - it would be impossible for me to recount every one. With that in mind, I will try instead to paint a general picture that will illustrate the kind of experience that I had.
Unlike many of the girls at CCM, I was never "restrained," but I witnessed this incredibly disturbing spectacle too many times to count. To be honest, I was too paralyzed with fear to ever consider doing anything that I thought might cause me to be "taken down" by staff. I remember watching girls being taken down that were simply arguing with a staff - not physically endangering themselves or others - and they would be dragged, literally, kicking and screaming downstairs and into ISO (the 12 ft., locked "isolation" rooms). I also remember seeing a girl sitting in ISO who had cut herself and smeared blood all over her face and arms. There were other girls who I saw with broken noses and injured arms/shoulders that were put into make-shift "slings" that consisted only of an Ace bandage. I knew several girls who had sustained physical injuries as a result of being taken down - i.e., broken noses, dislocated shoulders, torn ligaments, etc. There were plenty of girls who I saw sitting in ISO for days, weeks, and even months at a time. Fortunately, I was not one of them.
The trauma that I did sustain was purely mental/emotional. From my first day at CCM, I was told (and screamed at) that I was a worthless person, a disappointment to my family, a hopeless drug addict, a bitch and a slut, a waste of space, a horrible human being and whatever other disparaging remarks the staff and other girls could muster. When I first arrived at CCM, I wasn't sure that I even was addicted to drugs - I knew that I had some problems in my life that I wanted to work out, but I wasn't convinced that I was a junkie - however, I, like many other girls, was coerced into proclaiming/believing that I was hopelessly addicted to drugs. It was made very obvious to me that if I did not affirm the program's assessment of me, that I would never advance past level one, so I played along (at first), and eventually began to internalize and believe everything that they said.
The infamous T.A.S.K.S. seminars & group "processes" were especially hurtful to me. One of my "issues" that I had to deal with at Cross Creek was childhood sexual abuse. It happened when I was 11 years old, and I had never really dealt with the trauma at that point. During one of the Focus "processes," (which I have been sworn to secrecy never to tell about) I was physically held down by four other Cross Creek girls (high phase girls who were seminar staff) while a fifth girl screamed into my face that "HE'S ON TOP OF YOU AGAIN!!! AREN'T YOU GOING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT?? ARE YOU JUST GOING TO LET HIM DO IT TO YOU AGAIN?? WHAT KIND OF SLUT ARE YOU??" I was crying and screaming so hard that I could barely see - I kicked and thrashed as hard as I could, but the four other girls just kept pinning me down to the floor, and I was unable to get out from under them. There was another "process" that Garth facilitated, during which we had to write our own tombstones (the idea was for us to experience that we had died due to our "behavior"). After we had all written them, Garth and a few high phase girls from our group went around the room and screamed into our faces anything hurtful that they could manage to make us feel like worthless and horrible human beings.
When it was my turn, Garth approached me calmly and told me, coldly & without emotion, that my grandfather (my mother's father, whom I loved very much) was dead. My grandfather had emphysema and was repeatedly in and out of the Emergency Room, so this was hardly a stretch. Garth and the other girls shouted inches away from my face that my grandfather died knowing that I was a worthless bitch, a drug addict, and that I had ruined my family. They told me that he died knowing what a horrible person I was. By this point I was sobbing uncontrollably and finding it difficult to remain standing, so one of the high phase girls was holding me up for the continued barrage of abuse.
After they finished with me, Garth and the other girls moved on to their next victim - and the scene continued on, as it had with me. The next day, Garth called me into his office and told me that he was "mistaken" about my grandfather, and that he hadn't really died. I sobbed from relief that he was still living, but to this day, I still do not believe that Garth made an innocent "mistake." I believe that he purposefully used my grandfather's illness to traumatize and hurt me during a process.
Well, it worked. Congratulations.