Friday, May 20, 2011
I was sent to CEDU school when I was 14 years old. The trauma that I experienced there sent me into a state of complete isolation from which I have only just begun to emerge from recently, being jarred out of my denial when my Dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor February of 2007.
I have spent the past 15 years believing that I was defective, that I was a sexual pervert, that my parents thought this and were too afraid of being judged to address it openly, and that no matter what I did I was never going to be able to have a healthy sexual relationship. I was celibate for 6 years and cloistered myself in the Christian church for 10 years to try to prove to my parents that I was not this horrific thing that they thought I was, but could not speak to me about.
Then, last year, when I was under so much stress that I allowed myself to speak with my parents about these thoughts, they were shocked. It turned out they had no idea about the 5 hour long screaming sessions we were put through at CEDU, or the all night 'propheets' we were subjected to. They had no idea that they were teaching me that self hatred, humiliation and shame were the way to 'salvation' and they never would have allowed me to be there if they had.
As soon as we got there, though, our communication with our parents, family and friends was completely shut off. They monitored our phone calls and read our outgoing mail, and because they benefited the community financially, all police and local business turned their heads and closed their ears to any stories they may have heard from the teens who were sent there, dismissed by the community as drug addicts and losers.
And so society had branded us, and so we branded ourselves, and punished ourselves for the crimes we had committed, in my case, being interested in sex at 14, in others' cases, having eating disorders, not playing along with our families usually dysfunctional habits. My father was a good man, but he had no talent for intimacy and not much more for understanding others, but he loved me. They preyed on him because he did not know himself well enough to see through their distorted and exaggerated ideas, and it cost me my entire life with my father.
My parents sent me there because they feared for my safety, and they told my parents that they were creating a stress free environment for us, pampering us, nurturing us in ways that they, with their stress filled city lives, could never provide. They told my parents that they had failed me, that they were bad parents, and that I needed real help now to repair the damage they had done.
My parents were not perfect, but they loved me, and they are to this day some of the best people I know. And so I learned the lessons CEDU taught me, learned that no one cared about me, learned that hatred of myself was the only way I would ever avoid being destructive, isolated myself and kept myself from people while inside trying to find a way to prove my worth. I got a BA in Business from Pepperdine, but still could not see myself as accomplished. Spent 6 years celibate and 4 years married but still could not see myself as virtuous. Worked as hard as I could to solve every one around me's problems, but still could not see myself as having worth, let alone consider that my own problems might need solving.
I see a therapist twice a week now to try and undue some of the damage they did to me. She makes me feel good because she reacts with shock and care when I tell her the things that happened to me there, like being read my own epitaph or labeling myself slut in front of all my peers, or pounding pillows that I was instructed to picture my parents' faces on, and my own. She doesn't react the way I react internally to my own memories, the way I react is how they trained me to react, pitiless, merciless, and ever placing blame on myself.
I don't know how to give adequate testimony in text form as to the kinds of destruction they enacted upon my young and vulnerable mind. I am a smart person, gifted, high IQ, and so I was smart enough to shut out as much of what they did to me as I was able to, but being smart doesn't protect you from this kind of brainwashing because they play on your emotions and they destroy your sense of self. No thought, no idea, no impulse was acceptable in this environment without somehow referencing the cultish, empty philosophies they pretended to espouse there. We were told to be honest while they lied to our parents. We were told to have integrity while they called us losers and junkies who would never succeed. We were told to have compassion while they provoked us into sobbing, hysterical messes 3 times a week. We were told to persevere while they drained our parents' bank accounts.
They said they were making us strong when really they were making us crazy, and no one has been held accountable, no one has even taken a counting of the damage that has been done. They told us all this was our parents' fault, they even scoffed at our parents at how flippantly they gave up their children, saying things like, 'If they really loved you, they never would have sent you to a place like this, would they?'
As far as real physical evidence of their abuse, I ran away once while I was there and was raped. My rape was neither addressed nor viewed as any different than any other sexual deviance that I had enacted. It went right up there on the list of evidence that I was a 'slut'. I pretty much just kept my head down in that place, as best as I could, but no matter how hard I tried, they still got in my head and convinced me of my worthlessness. This is why I feel more raped by this school than I do by the man who actually raped me when I ran away from there and hitchhiked all they way from San Bernadino to the Hollywood Hills at 15 just to avoid going into the next propheet, or being on my 'full-time' punishment where I was not allowed to sing, smile, laugh or be touched by another person. They revoked the 'priviledge' of touch. This alone causes psychological illness, and to do this to teens is truly cruel and unusual punishment.
As for being defined as a school? I fell behind in all my studies being there. There was no adequate education: staff member's spouses and whoever they could get to stick around in their crazy program was all we got to teach us, largely because they made the staff go through raps and propheets just like the teens, so we all got put through the self hatred machine and went along with the program or we got the boot (fired if you were staff, full time if you were a student)
And the deepest tragedy is that this self hatred kept me in fear of speaking my true mind to anyone, especially not my parents, and so I have gone all this time with little real guidance or sense of my own life. I feel robbed and raped by these people, and although they owe me the very life of my father, who died too soon for me to explain in full to him why I had been so distant for so long, all I want is that nothing like this ever be allowed to be done to any other family.
CEDU war a large organization and very much founded the term "Therapeutic Boarding School". The first CEDU school was opened around 1968 and all the school closed in 2005 due to some lawsuits.
Datasheet about the boarding schools from the Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora
The original statement on Youthrights
Monday, May 16, 2011
Typically, when I am asked about my experiences at Tranquility Bay, people want me to start at the beginning. I am expected to detail the exploits of my adolescence and testify to the outrageous nature of my behavior at the time; drug use should be acknowledged, sexual promiscuity should be confessed and violent acts should be catalogued. An adequate amount of guilt needs to be bestowed upon me for people to understand why I was forced to live in a place like The Caribbean Center for Change. This seems to be the case with pretty much everyone who speaks out about TB. The testimony needs to be presented in narrative form and the story needs to be one that begins in the depths of desperation. How else could we explain a place like Tranquility Bay? This, of course, is only human nature. The small picture is much easier to swallow than the big picture. Nobody wants to examine the larger issue: the fact that we live in a culture which profits from misery. It is easier to stomach the plight of the individual.
I viewed the slideshow on this website earlier today and I was shocked by what I saw. Initially, I failed to even recognize what I was seeing. After several moments, I was able to take in the skinny bodies, defeated postures and miserable expressions that made up a good chunk of my childhood. It had been a long time since I had seen those images and it was hard on the nerves, to say the least. “Why haven’t these photos led to somebody’s arrest?” That was the dominant thought running through my mind. The dominant emotion, however, was one of overwhelming sadness. It isn’t easy to forget how I once lived, but seeing it again in full color was a shock to the senses. The realization that at this moment there are still children living like that was also cause for strong feelings of anger.
There is no exaggeration in saying that what goes on at Tranquility Bay is a categorical violation of basic human rights. The mere fact that children are corralled in such living conditions negates any argument as to their guilt. Whether I was out of control or not before being shipped to Jamaica is irrelevant. There is no excuse for treating a human being that way, let alone a child.
That being said, I have no desire to explain why I was sent to Tranquility Bay. I am also not interested in rehashing sensational accounts of instances of sexual and physical abuse just because the public wants juicy details of specific events before it is willing to become outraged. The photographs on this website alone should suffice. In the past, when I have spoken with reporters and other interested parties, all they wanted to know was whether or not someone touched me, or if a big black man beat me bloody. I tried desperately to explain the dehumanizing living conditions – which were anchored in an overwhelming fear – and how every waking moment, saturated in anxiety and suspense, was far more painful than a few swift blows to the gut. I wish I had those photographs with me at the time. They tell the entire story.
But I didn’t. So the following is a story I wrote about TB when I was still a teenager. It tried to illustrate an average day at Tranquility Bay. In some ways, such as the restrained tone, lack of dialogue and hopeless attitude, the story was a success. In many other ways, such as the fumbling language, the lack of atmospheric description and the absence of character development, the story was a failure. I am not far enough removed my childhood to adequately write about it. Perhaps I never will be. But this is the only attempt in prose that I have produced and it will have to suffice.
Lessons in Obtaining Happiness and Inner Peace: A Typical Day in My Tropical Paradise. (An Audiotape) - (not accessible)
By habit, I was already awake before the screaming began. As soon as the wake up call started, I reminded myself that I had become a machine, and I wasn't really there. The silent commotion began immediately. Without a word, two hundred young boys spilled into the narrow hallway and outside into the courtyard to line up for headcount. We were followed by the roars of several large men in blue uniforms, urging us to make haste.
There was no talking; we were not allowed to speak during the daily schedule. We lined up by unit and the guards began to count us. The totals were shouted into the radios to the guard who was working sickbed, and he tallied the count. The guard working with my unit motioned for us to head to the shower area. The shower area consisted of an eighteen stall wooden shower with a single pipe running down the middle, spilling water out of eighteen separate holes. The water was cold. The guard let us know time was running, and he turned on the pipe. We had three minutes to shower. I washed my body quickly and mechanically.
When I was through, I stepped out of the shower and fell back in line. We headed towards the clothesline. We broke line to hang up our towels. Before I returned to line, I used the pipe by the ditch to brush my teeth and rinse the mud from my feet.
We went back to the dorm to do our room jobs. I was in charge of the floor in room 208, and I was good at it. I had mopped and swept every morning for the past eleven months. It was a small room, a few square feet, and I was done rather quickly. I had a few spare minutes before we had to leave, so I picked up my tattered copy of The Grapes of Wrath and read what I could. Most of my reading was done this way - only in bursts. I finished one page before we were called back into line.
We went to the classroom to listen to the morning audiotape. It was about the secrets of living a productive life. It was the same one we listened to the day before. I took notes as I always did; there would be a quiz tonight to make sure we paid attention. The tape lasted thirty minutes.
We lined up for breakfast and headed down to the cafeteria. The meals were laid out on the table and we filed past in an orderly fashion, grabbing our plates. Breakfast was boiled cabbage and fish. The food itself didn't depress me any longer. I was used to it. I just wished that there had been more. There was never enough and I was always hungry.
The guard put in the breakfast audiotape and we ate in silence, listening to the tape. I was not able to take notes in the cafeteria; taking a pen out of the classroom was dangerous. If caught with one, there would be trouble. So I did my best to memorize a few key points from the tape over the fifteen-minute meal. “Positive thinking is the first step towards self actualization.”
When time ran out, we stood as a line and stacked our plates by the kitchen door. After breakfast we headed back up to the dorm to have a unit meeting with our case manager. There would be a few moments, maybe as much as a minute, when we could have a hushed conversation of sentence fragments before the case manager came into the room.
When the unit filled up the room, we took our seats against the wall. The guard sat outside the door, writing up his shift change report. The young man next to me asked - through motions and whispers - if I had heard Litho being restrained the night before. I nodded to let him know that I had heard the restraint. Another guy joined in the conversation of grunts and gestures saying that he had heard Litho's nose had been broken and he had been taken to the doctor in Kingston that morning. I hadn't heard anything of the sort.
The conversation ended abruptly when the guard stood up to come into the room. He wanted to know who was talking. We were silent, waiting for him to leave. His eyes scanned the room, moving from face to face, searching for a hint of guilt. All of us suddenly became very interested with things on the floor, or the back of our hands - avoiding all eye contact.
The guard stood in the center of the room until the case manager came in, carrying a plastic chair. She sat down, and for half an hour we were allowed to ask questions about our family and express medical concerns. We were not allowed to inquire about release dates. I told the case manager about my ringworm and the liver spots. A few more people complained about scabies and sprained muscles. She wrote everything down in her blue notebook and promised that it would all be taken care of. I knew she was lying.
When the meeting was over, we headed to room 204 for a bathroom run. This was the time to go if I needed to. I wouldn't get another opportunity – without jumping through hoops – until that evening. We stood in line outside the door and took turns in the restroom. The guard gave each of us eight squares of toilet paper before we entered the restroom. We had two minutes.
As soon as everyone was done using the restroom, we went back to the classroom for a period of school. There weren't enough teachers for every unit in the facility, so we were expected to teach ourselves out of the textbook - a rather hopeless task when dealing with subjects such as algebra or chemistry.
If I was careful, I could sneak a chapter from The Grapes of Wrath, but if I were caught I would be placed in Staff Watch and on my face for a few days. Staff Watch was the disciplinary unit of the facility. The average stay was around one to two weeks. Inmates in Staff Watch spent the day lying on their faces, not allowed to move. If someone were to move or speak repeatedly without permission, even to look up, he would be restrained. His arms would be twisted behind his back, and his ankles ground into the linoleum floor. This was not a restraint by definition, but more of a cowardly beating which left no marks or bruises.
I hid my Steinbeck novel in between the pages of my algebra textbook and read what I could while the guard strolled around the classroom. I was careful not to become so absorbed by the book that I lost track of the guard's position, yet I was also able to escape my reality as I read, if only for a few fleeting minutes. I found my redemption in a word on a page in a book about repression.
We stayed in the classroom for two hours before heading outside for P.E. This was one of the highpoints of the day. We could go outside the twenty-foot walls and play soccer in a large dirt field littered with rocks and garbage. There were four guards placed around the field observing us. They palmed their radios and looked on disinterested. We had to chase several goats off of the field before playing, which wasn’t nearly as bothersome as having to run the cows off. Luckily, they were grazing somewhere else.
We played a particularly violent sort of soccer on that field. All the anger, frustration, and hatred stained energy inside of us found its way out of our bodies and onto the soccer field. We bit, kicked, pushed, tripped, spit, and punched our way across the field. We fought our way through soccer games as if we were fighting for our lives. We were playing another unit and emotions were high. I was the goalie and I was good. I attacked the ball like a rabid pit-bull and if my head was kicked in the process, it was well worth it. Having a goal scored on me felt much worse than a swift kick in the teeth.
Our unit was a much better soccer team, so the game went slowly for me. The ball stayed on the other side of the field most of the match. I talked a friend who was playing forward into trading positions for a few minutes. When I jumped into the middle of everything, I became an animal. I never learned how to properly kick a soccer ball but I was an expert on running people over.
A hot shot guy from the other unit who used to play soccer in high school broke free with the ball and started down the field. Someone from our defense met him mid-field and ran his foot into the big shot’s knee. He immediately fell to the ground and grabbed at his leg. The defensive back passed me the ball and I ungracefully began to make my way up the field.
I didn't see anyone run up behind me; I only felt a hand grab a fistful of my hair as I was thrown to the ground. I fell forward onto the dirt and rocks below me. I slid on my face a few feet, and the stones on the ground sliced up my face. A brown cloud of dirt rose into the air and I was blinded as I picked myself up off the ground. I was trying to wipe my eyes out when I was hit again - this time from the side. I hit the ground and my elbow jammed into my ribs, knocking out what little breath I had left. I was bringing myself up to a kneeling position when the guards called for a line. I had to shake off the pain and make it to the line before I got into trouble for making the unit late. I wiped the blood from my lip, stood up, and limped across the field into the line.
It was lunchtime. We went to the cafeteria and grabbed our plates. The guard put the lunch audiotape on and we sat down to eat. Lunch was a bun and cheese. We had some powdered milk as well. The bun and cheese was my favorite meal. I slowly nibbled on my bun, savoring every last bit of flavor. The lunch audiotape was about the keys to effective problem solving. I had heard it before, so I disregarded it.
When lunch was over, we went to the dorms to get our clothes for laundry and headed to the clothesline. We each grabbed a bucket and filled it up with water from the pipe by the ditch. The guard poured a handful of soap into each one of our buckets and we swished the water around to make the soapsuds thick. I didn't have a brush to wash my clothes, so I scrubbed the opposite sides of the clothing together. When I was through, I rinsed my clothes and hung them up on the clothesline.
The sewage pipe that ran out of the facility was broken and sewage leaked out of the pump and under the clothesline. If a strong wind came, my clothes would fall into the sewage. It was a risky situation.
When we were finished with our laundry, we headed back up to the classroom for another period of school. I was able to pull off a few more pages from the Grapes of Wrath, but the guard was eyeing me suspiciously so I put the novel away and stared at my algebra book. Making sense of the language of mathematics without some kind of instruction was a futile endeavor.
Screams broke out from Staff Watch. Someone was being restrained. Other than one of the new guys, none of us looked up from our desks. This was a normal thing.
I stared at the pages in my textbook and listened to the screams. He was begging for them to stop. I could hear them laughing. I wanted to cry but I knew there would be trouble if I did. I reminded myself that I was a machine and that I was not really there. I cleared my face of any emotion and waited for dinner.
Dinner was pork and pork was dangerous. The day after a pork meal always left me feeling as if I had swallowed a cup full of nails and glass. There was never any meat in the pork, only fat and bone, and I could see hairs on the thick brown hide sticking out. I ate all of it and if I could have had more, I would have. I didn't care about tomorrow's pain; I was hungry now.
I listened to the dinner audiotape - A Guide for Building Healthy and Productive Relationships - and memorized a few key points for the quiz. “It is always fashionable to wear a smile on one's face.” I could already feel the pork in my stomach begin to cause problems.
After dinner came music time. For half an hour we were allowed to sing, one person at a time. I sang as much as I could. It was one of the few times I could allow myself that type of freedom. I left that dirty room and all of the loneliness when I was singing. I was home when I was singing. The guys in my unit liked it when I sang. My voice would fill the room with songs of freedom and redemption, songs about home, and songs about love, songs that could make us forget where we were - and just for that moment we were safe. We were home.
Half an hour later, I found myself back in my tropical paradise, standing in line. It was evening. We had one more audiotape and the quiz left. We went back to the classroom and listened to the audiotape: Lessons in Obtaining Serenity through Effective Problem Solving. The evening tape was always the longest and hardest to listen to. It went on forever, pounding its lessons into my head. I was tired and just wanted to go to sleep.
When the tape was over, we wrote what we learned from each tape and turned the paper into the guard, who would give it to the case manager tomorrow morning. She would review my regurgitation of obsolete ideas and mark down in her book: "Student is making significant progress."
We lined up back in the courtyard for evening headcount. The guards counted us and yelled the totals into the radio to the guard working sickbed. We went back upstairs to our rooms and into our beds. Someone in Staff Watch began to scream. I held back the tears and reminded myself that I had become a machine and I was not really there. I thumbed through the pages of a bible before sticking it back on the shelf next to my head. Faith was dead weight. I rolled over as a sigh escaped past my lips. I hated to go to sleep because I always woke up again in the morning. It was only a disappearing act and there was a hole in the floor behind the curtain.
Here, as something of a conclusion, I would like to state that perhaps the most troublesome aspect of TB has to do with the manner in which the faculty and staff of Tranquility Bay blindly adhere to a program that has little or no proof of being effective in a positive manner. In reality, throughout history the effects of behavior modification programs and total institutions have proven to be harmful and destructive. What is even more bothersome is that what we know about the effects of such institutions, we learned from adults’ experiences. There has been very little study on the effects of such programs on the adolescent.
The adolescent brain, to this day, remains a great mystery to us. We have made monumental advances in understanding the brain of the adult and the prepubescent child, but the volatile and ever-changing nature of the adolescent brain prevents us from obtaining a firm grasp on what makes it tick. Why then, does a group of businessmen, who posses very little, if any, knowledge of adolescent psychiatry, feel competent in their decision to expose adolescents to such conditions? It is irresponsible at best.
For example, we know that one of the most important periods in a person’s life when it comes to developing the skills needed to interact with the opposite sex is adolescence. What effect does it have, I must ask, for a person to spend his adolescence in an environment that views merely looking at someone of the opposite sex a serious violation of code? The same goes for peer group interaction. How does a person raised in a place that frowned on social interaction learn to operate in a world of people who spent their adolescence in communities that urged social activity?
There are many more important questions that this WWASP experiment has sparked and I do not have the answers. Sadly, however, those of us who were there will find out someday. For me at least, I know that in the four years I have been out, the only friends I have had are people I was in Jamaica with or the men I went through army basic training with. I think that says something.
Datasheet about the boarding school from Secret Prisons for Teens
The original story (Cached version of tbfight.com - may take a while to load)
WHERE IS YOUR MASTERPIECE?, kata rokkar blog
Monday, May 2, 2011
The book is supposed to be named "Trapped in Paradise".
As Facebook group has been created while the book is in the writing process.
The book is now for sale. On Amazon it is stated:
Memoir of the life of a 'student' of the WWASP run Tranquility Bay and Spring Creek Lodge Programs. Imagine what it would be like being taken from your home in the middle of the night by complete strangers? 'Trapped in Paradise: A Memoir' details the history of a troubled teen and her inner-struggle of being held against her will in the controversial Jamaica facility, with little contact to the outside world.
The story details the life of the troubled teen prior to being sent overseas to a controversial reform school for two years. The book has a great depiction of what it is like for a child to grow up with physical abuse, in a family whom also struggled to deal with mental illness. Particularly, obsessive compulsive hoarding addiction, anxiety and severe depression.
While a majority of the subject matter of this book describes the experience of a teenager living in a very strict and confined environment of a program which targeted parents of troubled teens, it also greatly describes the strained family relationship of the struggling family.
The tactics of WWASP programs are highly controversial. Several methods used on children were similar to those which are used on prisoners of war. Children are stripped of their identity, have little to no choices to make in their daily lives, and are broken down mentally to the point of where they have little choice but to comply. Systematic propaganda and coercive persuasion are the main tools used on these teenagers (mainly American) to facilitate change in the subjects way of thinking and behavior. The reader will get an accurate depiction of what the experience of living under these conditions was like for the teen, without dramatization or embellishment.
While there is opinion communicated in the book, the author wanted to leave the content as objective as possible, as to give the reader the ability to form their own opinion on the subject matter.
The Troubled Teen Industry is still largely unregulated. One of the main purposes of the Author writing this book was not only to let the thousands of others whom have gone through these sorts of 'programs' to know they aren't alone, but to also shed light onto important children rights issues, which have largely been overlooked.