Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"longtime" at Sorenson's Ranch School (From Fornits)

This story was originally written on the message board called the Fornits Home for Wayward Webfora. All rights and credits goes to the author known as Longtime:

While my peers busied themselves with junior prom and the blissfully petty concerns of high school life I was planting roots in Portland, Oregon. Since my daring escape that spring I had crisscrossed the country up and down, back and forth before finding a small home among other wayward street kids in the Pacific Northwest.

I was happy. I had kicked a meth habit on my own and managed to find space to sleep in a small studio apartment with my girlfriend. Even though I rarely had money and my girlfriend and I sometimes had to steal the occasional bit of food from our neighbors (I’m sure they knew) I had a place in the world. Most importantly, my life was my own .

Eking out a living underage on the streets means one of three things: turning tricks, slanging drugs or good old fashioned thievery. My girlfriend dabbled in casual prostitution while I sold the odd bag of weed or hit of acid. I wanted something else. I knew it was a dead end and a friend told me he could get me a job working at a pizza place.

The only thing keeping me back was my social security number, a requisite for any legit job. Few people under the age of 18 know that number by heart. Shortly before my 17th birthday I began a campaign to get my social security number from my mother. I called at odd hours from payphones hoping she would suffer a moment of sleepy weakness and give me my information so I could live my life.

No dice. The familiar power play raged between us until, that fateful night, I called her from the LGBTQ youth drop-in center landline.

When the cops came an hour later I was lining up a billiards shot. They said my name. I was so shocked I gasped. The jig was up. One of my friends grabbed me and tried to hide me in the back room but the cops insisted I come with them.

My crime? Underage runaway.

The jail made three attempts to put me on a plane to Utah, all of which I thwarted. Round 1: Induce asthma attack. Round 2: Make scene while handcuffed in front of the gate. Round 3: Flat out refuse to get on the plane.

I knew I was going somewhere awful. In my time at San Marcos I heard just how bad it could get. Anything on a ranch was a danger zone, just one step above international reform camps. I knew about beatings, sexual assault, physical torture, isolation, and the occasional deaths. I was prepared to make transporting me there as difficult as possible.

The escorts came, a Mormon husband and wife team in a rental car. I hated them immediately. I sat in the back watching my whole world disappear into the rearview mirror. I would never read my journals again, my clothes would be donated or sold and by the time I returned a year later most of my friends would be dead.

A period of my life wiped off the planet in one fell swoop.

I taunted the escorts. I asked where the other wives were and told them I was a practicing Satanist. The man’s face flushed red and he called me names before informing me 90% of the world was Christian. I laughed and asked if he’d ever heard of India. Or the Middle East. Or China. Or Northern Africa. I found some perverse delight in intellectually dominating this backwoods middle aged man. After he snapped and yelled at me I slumped into the backseat with my feet against the window.

I began tapping with my tiptoes and asked, “What if I broke this?”

“Is that your plan?”

I shrugged. “Maybe.”

The car swerved to the side of the road, locks went up and into the back burst a husky escort, his frame rushing towards me. Behind my head his wife clicked the door lock down.

I landed one backhand across his face as he came at me but it was too much to fend off. He landed on top with a thud, using his forearm to choke me into submission. Tears welled from my eyes. I tried to scream but all that came out were mangled rasps. The more I thrashed against him the harder he weighed on me.

I finally went limp. He pinned me there for a moment longer before getting off of me and back into the driver’s seat.

“Not such a smartass now, are ya?”

I touched my tender throat and wiped the tears off my face. No words came out for him. I simply sat in shock for a little while. But I am nothing if not determined and soon came up with another monkey wrench.

I had to pee and, no, it couldn’t wait. They were rightfully suspicious of me but their aversion to a urine stained rental car proved stronger than their misgivings. When we pulled into the rest area both escorts turned to me and said I had to follow everything they told me to do.

They never told me I couldn’t mouth the words “HELP ME” to a stranger as we walked back to the car. Our little group looked suspicious to say the least: a tiny teenager sporting a buzzed head with two long locks in front being flanked on either side by a redneck couple in Wranglers.

As soon as he asked what was going on, the female escort tightened her grip on my arm and started dragging me towards the car.

I wasn’t going without a fight. I began screaming: “THEY’RE TAKING ME AGAINST MY WILL! HELP ME! SOMEONE HELP ME!” Everyone in the rest area snapped to attention as I was shoved into the backseat still screaming. I pounded and tried to get out but to no avail.

No-one listens to a teenager. The people in the rest area talked to the escort, accepted whatever he said and let us go. And even though someone called the cops, the officer who pulled us over also let them continue on their way with me despite that fact the escort had no card identifying himself as a legal child kidnapper.

I began to give up hope. No-one would help me. I had no rights.

By the time we reached Idaho I felt defeated. I lay in the backseat while they had a tire replaced, facedown, arms folded across my chest, barefoot (they took my shoes), softly sobbing and saying goodbye to myself while Rolling Stone’s “Ruby Tuesday” crooned from the radio. Apparently I looked like I was tied up and we had another visit from the police. Of course, nothing happened.

Despite my protests, despite my struggle, we pulled up to Sorenson’s Ranch School late that night.


My first glimpse of Sorenson's Ranch School remains burned into my memory to this day. While the other cabins and buildings hid under cover of a mountainous rural winter darkness, the main lodge sat illuminated under the sickly amber glow of high pressure sodium lights, speckles of snow softly interrupting its view. Defeated and numb I followed my new captors inside and up to the stairs where they made me trade the clothes on my back (the last of my belongings) for wrangler jeans and a baggy green shirt: my uniform for the next eight months. My protests were greeted with the threat of a death-row style orange jumpsuit and a week of solitary confinement. I acquiesced.

For the first couple of weeks my shoes were taken from me and I couldn't go anywhere without someone watching me. Sometimes this was staff and other times I was given a PPMer, an acronym for Positive Peer Model. Basically, another student.

My first PPMer was a girl who had been on the ranch for over a year. We sat in the lodge by a large bay window so she could watch her other charge: a 13 year old girl from Brazil sitting outside in the snow dressed only in an orange jumpsuit and flip-flops with a sleeping bag wrapped around her for warmth. I learned that someone had brought back drugs from a home visit and the staff were keeping her out there to force a confession.

A tall lanky old cowboy strode towards where she sat. He bent over and began yelling at her. She cowered and tugged the sleeping bag tighter around her shoulders. Then, he grabbed the back of her head and shoved her into the snow before walking away.

I later learned that man was the town's Sherriff in addition to his employment at Sorenson's Ranch School.

I realized then how utterly powerless we were. They even took the last scrap I had of myself, my rather unorthodox haircut, buzzed short all over except for long, front bangs. (Many years later I discovered Shane Sorenson, the man with whom I pleaded to keep my haircut, was under a court order not to work with minors.) I stood in front of a bathroom mirror and sobbed at my image: drab, ill-fitting clothes and short, uneven hair framing a desperate and sad face. There was barely anything of me left.

Before you think to yourself that a haircut and change of clothes is no big deal, consider how much of our identities are tied into these seemingly superficial things. An editorial in COLORS magazine said it succinctly:

"If hair is language, capable of expressing everything from political rebellion to religious devotion to a choice of poor hairstylists, then having no hair (or having no control over it) is a kind of speechlessness. During World War II, the Nazis reduced their prisoners to silence. Today armies subordinate new recruits with a hair clipper; Iranian clerics control female sexuality by enforcing the veil; Japanese schools instill discipline with the marugari, an impersonal buzz cut; and police mark criminals by shaving their heads (in a local twist on this ancient punishment, Malaysian police single out illegal aliens by razing their eyebrows, making it impossible for them to find work in the country)."

And that was the point of controlling our appearance: taking control of our minds and who we were. This was one of many tactics to break us down.

At this point I was a veteran of the troubled teen industry. I had little less than a year until my 18th birthday, that magical date that would finally grant me my rights. My plan was to keep busy and stay out of trouble. After the first month I figured out which guys were smuggling drugs in through their contacts in the next town. I knew which students were chronically in solitary confinement. I knew that I had to make up drug issues for the "therapy group" (led not by a therapist but by staff) and spent each session talking about how much I loved meth, a destructive drug I came to despise after quitting on my own the year before. I knew one of their stated goals for me was to go to college, my only way out before I turned 18, so I spent all my time buried in books to get a high school diploma at my own pace.

But the one thing they wanted to hear from me was that I was there because I was a bad kid. I knew they were wrong and tried to tell my mother what was going on there. Unfortunately, all phone calls were monitored by counselors and I was silenced after trying to tell her about the isolation cabin and the punishments that went on there. My counselor cut me off by hanging up my phone. "You're getting too excited," she said. "You can't talk to your mother like that."

They wanted me to admit I was wrong and that my mother was right. That was the only thing I denied them.

That is, until D arrived on the scene.

D was a tiny, sprite-like 13 year old girl. She arrived a month after me sporting the same haircut as I had. I went out of my way to warn her about the impending cut and we came to find out we had friends in common in the outside world. This thread of commonality proved to be a bond I couldn't resist. We hugged each other and played with each other's hair, willing it to grow as fast as possible. We swapped stories and laughed. We found some sense of unity in a world filled with arbitrary punishments, isolation and powerlessness.

Our friendship proved to be fodder for our downfall. Two months after my arrival I was summoned to the attic office in the main lodge. I ran into D on the way over, both of us completely bewildered as to what was happening. The only time you were called into that office was when you had broken one of their hundreds of rules. We hadn't done drugs, had sex, masturbated, snuck a phone call, plotted an escape, tattooed ourselves, been chewing gum, stealing or anything that could be considered a violation. Confusion mixed with mild terror settled in as we sat down in front of one of the head staff members.

He sat in front of a wall of monitors feeding images from each stall of the solitary confinement building. The screens inhabitants sat with their backs to the cameras, still and stiff in grayscale. On the floor at his feet was a small garbage bin. He spat pistachio shells, a contraband item to students, into the container and spoke slowly.

"Do you know what this is about?" My heart beat against my ribcage. I had no idea. There were few things more terrifying there than not having an answer to a question like that. We shook our heads no.

Another shell hit the garbage, bounced off the rim and onto the floor. "I get to eat these because I have privileges. You know how you get privileges? You follow the rules. I've been hearing from staff that you two have been breaking some rules." Speechless, we looked at each other and then blankly back at him. He continued: "People are saying they've seen you two touching each other. Seems you two have been having unnatural sexual relations."

I found my voice. "What? No, we haven't done anything like that. I swear we haven't done anything wrong!" D nodded in agreement.

He put the pistachios aside and leaned back in his chair. "Well, I'm inclined to believe the staff here. I think you two will just have to go into solitary until you learn to tell the truth."

My heart plummeted into my gut. I tried to protest but I knew it was useless. He radioed to the staff monitoring the isolation cabin and told them to expect us. Aside from my arrival, I had only been threatened with solitary confinement one other occasion. My friend, who was openly lesbian, was slow dancing with D at a (rare) social event in the lodge when they were separated by staff. When they told me I became incensed and demanded to staff they be allowed to dance together since the straight girls were doing the same thing. We were quickly whisked to the upstairs attic office and shown three orange jumpsuits with our names on them if we pushed the issue, good for one week in the cabin for solitary confinement.

The isolation cabin sat to the left of the main lodge, tucked in among the cabins on the boy's side. A long rectangular building with about eight to ten stalls along the back wall, a tiny bathroom on the far left, and a door on each end of the wall opposite the stalls, each of which was monitored by a small video camera mounted on the ceiling. In addition to the cameras, a staff member sat at a desk across from the stalls and made sure that students sat upright on the tiny prison cot in each stall facing the blank back wall. Our hands were to remain on our knees, our backs upright and our mouths silent.

We stayed like this for 12-15 hours each day before being allowed to sleep fitfully under bright lights on the hard lockboxes in the main lodge. D and I were allowed to remain in our uniforms instead of the bright orange death-row jumpsuits because we weren't officially being punished. Each morning, we were individually taken to the office again and asked to confess to sexual activities that never happened. When we refused we were sent back to solitary.

Every chance I got, I whispered to D to stay strong, to not give in, to find strength in united defiance. But she was only 13 and not yet hardened by these places. After three days of forced silence and immobility she broke down and gave a false confession.

I spent my last day in solitary betrayed and frightened. I didn't know what D told them and needed to make sure our stories matched. If I couldn't give a similar account I feared I'd remain in there indefinitely.

As I wracked my brain for a solution, a girl in a neighboring stall had a defiant meltdown. She'd grown tired and started leaning against a wall. The staff in charge yelled at her to sit up straight and when she refused, more staff members came in and forced her to "hold the wall" a physically taxing punishment where you leaned forward against a wall and held yourself at a 45 degree angle. Because the girl was already tired her arms gave way after several minutes and she slid to the ground. Staff shouted at her to get up and she refused. I heard them tackle her with a thud and the screams grew louder, mixed with tears and sobbing.

I remained still and upright in the seated position on the other side of that wall the whole time, only wincing slightly at her snot-drenched shrieking.

By a stupid stroke of luck the next day, staff was shorthanded and took us into solitary confinement an hour late. I saw D come into the lodge for breakfast as we were about to be led out and in one quick hushed moment, we stared in different directions pretending not to see each other while conversing under our breaths. She repeated everything she'd confessed to and said she was sorry. I only felt relief knowing I could be released from solitary that day.

I went into the attic office for the fourth time that week, shoulders slumped and weary. Lies tumbled from my lips. I stared at the floor while I told a middle aged man how I had fingered my friend in the bathroom, kissed her many times and had sex with her in a cabin. Disgust welled inside of me like a broken sewer pipe, flooding my veins with self-loathing for having to say those things to him.

"Doesn't it feel good to finally tell the truth?," he asked.

I wanted to vomit.

He sent me back to solitary to wait for my counselor to pay me a visit. She and I hadn’t spoken since I refused to grant my mother attorney privileges over my educational trust fund, a trust set up in my father's will meant to support me through higher education. I was livid that they would use my money to keep me locked up. They were determined and figured out how to access my funds despite my protests. I remember walking past the open door of an office where my therapist (who only met with me on four occasions over eight months), my counselor and another staff member counted out stacks of cash on a table. As I stared, my therapist looked up and said, "I'm not talking to you, little missy, since you won't sign those papers." I walked away flushed with anger.

But now I couldn't muster anger. They'd broken me. My counselor came into the stall and sat down on the bed. She told me she was glad I had confessed and it represented progress. Then she repeated the question posed so many times to me already: "Do you understand why you're here?"

I said the answer I knew they wanted. "I need to learn to listen to what my mother says." I began crying and continued with a nugget of truth: "I just want to be good." She hugged me and told me they'd let me out that day.

After my release I was demoted to Level One. Upon arrival, everyone was a Level Two but common knowledge held that part of the program was demotion to the lowest level before being allowed to gain more privileges. Each level granted more freedom and was one step closer to being released. The day I was sent to solitary I was living in one of the Level Two cabins but would now be demoted to the filthy and overcrowded Level One lodge, where I contracted a horrible fungal infection on my feet from the dirty showers.

Of course, I was made to sleep in the main lodge for a week while staff debated whether or not I was a danger to the other girls. They said they were concerned I would sexually assault them. My self-esteem sank into oblivion.

But I persevered. I endured the physical punishments doled out to Level Ones, thankful for the winter that prevented too many long desert hikes. Every Friday night we did The Workout, a several hour test of physical endurance. It started with laps around the gym, counting off each one in unison. For every late person, we got five more laps. Every time they caught us cheating by skipping numbers, we had to start over. After running there were burpees, push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, sprints, duck-walks, crab-walks, kangaroo-walks, and wall-sits. After all that we were given 5 minutes to eat an apple, have a glass of water or go to the bathroom. I use 'or' because there was never enough time to do them all. You could only finish one before repeating The Workout over again. Then we went to bed to sleep a bit before doing another workout at 5am both Saturday and Sunday mornings.

The Workouts usually took three hours, though any defiance or lagging by one person would earn punishment for the whole group. I was told of one workout that lasted for over 7 hours.

During the rest of the week, we went on hikes or did forced labor on the ranch. If someone was still being defiant they had to shovel piles of horse manure (wearing their own shoes of course) or made to dig 2'x 6' x 6' hole in the ground or fill another hole up. Before I had arrived, kids were made to both dig and fill the hole but a complaint to a child protection agency put a stop to that.

I kept to the rules and focused on getting out through college admissions. I turned a blind eye to the physical hold downs and punishments meted out to the lower levels and put all of my energy into getting myself out. I ascended quickly through the program and after four more months I had earned my high school diploma, taken the SATs and been accepted to every college where I applied.

I was so good that they allowed me to go on campus tours with my mom that June. I behaved. I didn't run away, even when I had the chance. And that kind of behavior from a girl who had jumped out of a second story window the year before. I was too numb and broken and scared at that point to do anything on my own.

When I got back from college visits they kept me for another month. I lived in a private trailer with other high-level girls off campus and spent my time filling in for staff and supervising lower level students. When staff wasn't looking I tried to treat the other kids with kindness, telling them they could cry or scream or jump around but to do it quickly because I'd have to take them back outside to sit on the fence. I spent my last month in relative freedom there. My housemates and I even rented an R-rated movie from the town general store: The Matrix.

It blew our caged little minds. We watched it three times, back to back to back. The idea that what we were experiencing wasn't real but a computer simulation was an intoxicating one. We laughed hysterically at the thought that we had really been free this whole time. We held it with us like a warm secret. We also returned the movie as early as possible the next day for fear of reprisals.

And just like that, I was released in August. I spent three weeks living with my mother. The outside world frightened me. For the first time in my life I was having nightmares and anxiety attacks. When I spoke, I did so looking at the ground and covering my mouth with my hand. A once ballsy young lady, I had become sad and hesitant. Months of punishments, walking single-file in public with my hands behind my back, forced to avoid eye contact with outsiders and the constant fear of physical assault for the catch-all "defiance" violation had left me broken. I cried for no reason. People terrified me.

By the time I went to college and found out most of my friends in Portland had died from drug overdoses I was in a pit of loneliness. Everything I had before they took me to Sorenson's Ranch School was gone: my friends, my enemies, my clothes, my journals, my art, my entire life wiped out in one night. I thought often of suicide. I tried talking to a therapist on campus but found the very act of therapy to trigger me. I wanted to drop out of college, wracked with guilt over my friend's deaths.

And there was no-one to talk to. I tried, but the story is so intense that most people look at me in a shock that I can't handle. They don't know what to say and the conversation inevitable stalls into an itchy silence.

I did my best to move on and forget. By strokes of luck I found circles of loving people who accepted me for all of my weird quirks and occasional emotional outbursts. Eventually I found a therapist that I could talk to and I went on to get a Master's Degree in a field I found mentally engaging. In short, lots of love and acceptance combined with two years of weekly therapy sessions healed me over time.

This August marks the ten year anniversary since my release. I've tried many times to write about what I went through but was never able to get past the first few sentences. When I read Xandir's post a few weeks ago I felt physically ill and spent a week uncontrollably sobbing on my couch. Then I pulled out my laptop and began to write my story.

The Happy Ending

My life is awesome right now. I have amazing friends who support and love me. I have nothing but opportunities in front of me right now and the future looks bright, though uncertain. Most importantly, I'm free. I can go where I want when I want with whomever I want. This is all I ever really wanted in the first place and now I have it.

Above all else, getting through all that turmoil showed me the extent of my unwavering resilience.

Sorensen's Ranch School on Fornits Wiki
Sorenson's Ranch School 2000-2001, a thread on the Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora


  1. Thank-you sooooooo much for your story!! I was thinking of sending my step-son to Sorenson Ranch and thought I better "google" it first. I'm reading horror stories about this place! Because of you and others who have spoke out, I'm not sending my son anywhere!! Thank-you again for your courage!!

  2. Sorensons is the most fucked place on earth

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  4. My name is Bryce, I was court ordered into SRS at 9 days before I was 18 years old, September 21 2009 to July 23rd 2010. Worst hell of my life ever. They took away my freedoms, my rights, my entire livelihood. Thank God I played the system best I could and left before a year there at Level 5 (almost unheard of). They dictate when you can and can't even talk to your parents. You can't see your parents again unless THEY say so. Kids died yo, "accidents" my fucking ass! I'm from Utah, born and raised, I'd beat the shit out of anyone who thinks sending their kids to this hell home, black spot upon a already fucked up state, these fuckers need to be shut down, level 1 you're a slave, you do literal slave work, with no shoes no shirts, in the cold, pointless meaningless work outs, and 4am to 9am hikes, no breakfast, in below freezing weather, snow, etc etc. There's a special place in HELL reserved for these neo-nazi slave driving, child abusing, egotistical narcissistic bitches. Man Fuck this, SRS what a bitch, you get level 1 for the simplest shit, they abuse you, choke you, and confuse you, literally shocking your head in and treating you like doo doo, they straight make a fool of who? Mother fucker, e'ry one involved, ooooh, these niggas need to smoke some weed, and get their ass's caught fire, yeah ablaze, cause fuck this place, it's a shadowy Haze, they damn near killed me, and fucked others up foh dayz. FUCK SORENSONS RANCH HELL!!! 🖕😠🖕

    1. Hey Bryce, I remember you. It's Amanda F. You might not remember me because I was in isolation for much of my time there. I was very openly gay and they kept me far away from the others for that reason specifically. I ate my meals outside, I spent a total of 4 months in the field, I slept in the isolation cabin.. I can't remember the name for it.. but it had a name. It was meant for people who were a danger to themselves and others or who were on run watch. I wasn't a threat, I was just simply gay and not to be trusted around others. I spent the entire time as level 1 because any interaction with a girl was "questionable" and I got punished for it. My only way to gain trust was to play "straight" and I gained some of my freedom back by pretending to be into a few of the boys. You might remember them: Kevin F (rest in peace) and Mark M.
      Hope you are doing well now, and I pray every night that places like these get shut down. There's now a movement for it, #breakingcodesilence

    2. I was there. Its called ISU intensive supervision unit. I too had a horrible experience and was abused and assaulted during my time there. I felt like id die there back then.

  5. If I began to speak about sorensons ranch I will only call my eyes out ..I'm am so strong ...oh my gosh

  6. I attended SRS from 2003-2004. I played the system the entire time. When I returned home, after receiving zero help for my drug addiction and mental and emotional issues, I slid right back into old behaviors. I was there for 6 months and met with a counselor 2 times. It was only later that I realized more than half of my friends were there for conversion therapy and they were not allowed to talk about their sexual preferences. That place, with all of its faults, made me stronger and who I am today. They certainly didn't help me. I also had no idea that my dad emailed me every single day and they only showed me 1 every 2 weeks. I guess they didn't want me to know that my parents loved and supported me.

    1. I also went to Sorenson's the same time as you. Is there a way we can figure out if we know each other? I will check frequently to see if you respond. - Whitney Powell

    2. So was I!! We’re we all there together?

    3. I went 03' 04 also!! Was in the 18yr old program for a sec... Damn

  7. 1995 -96 and we mf survived to warn others about their inbreed cult . CHEERS to the SURVIVORS!!! Mousechi

    1. I was there in 1996 too. Aweful!

    2. Me too. 1997. It was bad, but the shit I was into before that was worse.

    3. I was there in 97 as well. FEB 2ND 1997 began my Sorensons nightmare. For those of us with mental health disorders ie:complex ptsd, BPD, anxiety, child abuse, sex abuse, etc.etc. this environment will exacerbate if at the very least will provoke a more serious outcome (self harm, suicide, substance abuse and harm to others) for the individual student thus resulting in life long trauma and irreversible emotional damage.
      Sorensen's is a place I liken to a POW camp in a communist foreign country.

  8. I was there with you. You told me once to see the beauty in all things. Thank you for writing this.

  9. Thank you for this. It is well written and comes across clearly. This brought back many memories, vividly, from my 8 months at Sorenson's Ranch School in 2000. I was 17 at the time, quickly finished my Senior year (self paced is a joke, read a book, take the quiz at the end) and was forced to work the ranch for 4 months at $2 per hour, which they paid to me when I left.

    I, too, was demoted below level 3, due to my refusal to sign documentation waiving my HIPAA privacy rights of my confidential counseling sessions. I knew this was illegal, and thus complained to every staff member I could. This actually was fruitful, as my counselor changed tone the next time we spoke, and offered to adjust the documentation to my liking before signing.
    All in all, I do not think this school helped me. I was non-violent kid who liked to party, with very religious parents who didn’t understand. It took college for me to grow up, not a “placement” school. The staff did go out of their way to intimidate all the kids, with several 200lb+ men tackling a ~100lb kid, twisting hands backwards and arms to the side in full restraints, if he said “no” to an instruction. I was shocked this type of behavior was legal. Parents can't event do that to their kids in most states.

    1. I was there in 200-2002. I was one of those restrained often and level one. Marie... I was 16 thru 18 there was the worst two years of my life. My sister was also there .

  10. I went to SRS when I was 15 in 2001 to 2002. I haven't thought of that place in a while. I just googled it to see if it was still open and saw this. My God, thank you all. I forgot. My mother told me I could raise ponies, the peers that picked me up at the airport with the worker, well I guess they noticed I was really smiling. On the car ride there I remember them asking me, "Do you know where your going?" and I told them what my mother had said and they looked at each other and shook their heads, " You have no idea what you go yourself into." I was anorexic before going there and still struggle with it to this day, but I remember them saying it was a form of self mutilation. Level one, isolation and the workouts. I also had to work off 90 hours. Speeding through school and the modules was the only thing that saved me.

  11. It's been 18+ years since I've been at that fucking place from hell, i still have thoughts of that fucking ranch prison, the beat downs, work outs, standing in that fucking field for hours, the ten+ mile hikes and the bales of hay. It was a nightmare there, to all the parents out there trying to send your kids to that place DON'T. Thanks for reading. Ps to this person who wrote this you survived and are not alone.

  12. My name is Micah Kestell. I was abused. Anyone I was there with in 02-03 on here?? I’ve tried SOO hard to find my brothers from there. Aaron swaboda. Spelling is wrong on last name I think. And ray lee. And Jose Perez!??

    1. I remember Aaron Swaboda!!? I remember you too!! Do you remember Wes and Stephen? And weren't you friends with Luke too?

    2. hey hell yes stephen was my homie for sure. u should call me asap. 509-496-4295 this is micah!!!

  13. I will post my story. Never have I spoken of what happened to me. Darkest times of my life. Easily in 30 years that four or five months was life WRECKING! PLEASE PLEASE DONT SEND YOUR CHILD THERE!!!!! EVERY PERSON INCLUDING MY ABUSER ARE STILL WORKING THERE! THERE ARE BETTER WAYS TO HELP YOUR CHILD THAN TO SEND THEM AWAY!!! I BEG YOU PLZ DONT! I was molested when I was 15 by one of the very staff members charged with my so called “well being”. Plz feel free to contact me for any questions and I’ll be happy to answer. 509-496-4295

    1. Andy here.
      I cant recall a lot of my time there (I've blocked lots of things out) but I think we were there together it was around the same time period.
      A fat older kid tried to do some things to me, didnt succeed, blood was spilled. Still left me traumatized though fighting him off. I remember a kid got seriously injured by putting a hand through a single pane glass window, his hand looked like a palsied claw afterwards. I remember a kid getting brain damage from falling on the gym floor, never came back. Another kid ate a bunch of Datura Strimonium (JimsonWeed) seeds and lost his mind, never to return. Some of the staff would beat my ass for refusing to comply, others would stick me on grueling work details and yeah I spent a few stints in isolation for being an individual. I was level 1 for 8 of the 12 months I was there, I think they understood that they couldn't program me and sent me packing back to Mississippi. All after depleting a meager inheritance from my father for 'THERAPY' costs far exceeding the monthly costs of living there.
      Place was a nightmare but the memories of living through that place and the work ethic I gained on the ranch instilled within me fierce determination to survive whatever life throws at me.
      Im successful now, well respected by my peers and still remain who I have always been. No one but God can take from me who I am.
      I'll never send one of my kids to place like that, I'll just be the best parent I can be for them.

      Anyone who was in that place, or anyone who considers sending their kids there feel free to contact me.
      Oh and Sorensons: You were too far beneath me to defeat me.

    2. Please contact me. 509.496.4295 were we there together for real?

    3. No one believes they were ever sexually involved with us. At least I can tell you your not alone. I was and had became pregnant and they forced me to have an abortion. If you ever want to talk email me.

    4. i would but it says unknown so i cant. my phone number is on this site in more than a few places above this convo. just txt or call me any time. plz.... i need to reconnect with people from that place. thank you.

  14. Isolation cabin bahahahah they put me in the cow field in a blizzard for Two weeks u got lucky u weren’t there when I was and I was there for 3 years

    1. Piss smelled sleeping bag in my boxers freezing my balls off just trying not to lose my 14 year old brain thinking of a warm place in my head while lying in a cow field during a blizzard it was called the fence I got beat I got cattle prodded I got in a lot of fights but I don’t give a fuck I had some great times met some cool fucking people RiP Beaner RiP Casey Collier who was restrained and beaten in front of me many times then he was killed at his next stop by restraint so live and let go the horses were dope the View was dope The food sucked But shit they had a basketball court and a boxing ring lol I was stabbed there I had knee surgery there.... I fought and earned my motherfucking respect there... I was also taught a lot by some older guys who were almost 18 pretty scary for a kid who just turned 14 to see 6’4 17 year olds walking around but so what it was what it was and it is what it is.... Yeah I was tortured sometimes but life moves on I could of sued the shit outta them so easily my hand is still fucked up from doctors fixing my stabbed finger bahahajajhHh I’m still alive motherfuckers couldn’t break me bhahahahhahahhah I learned how to ride a horse break a horse I got with some chicks it was aight Hahahhahhah #LifeMovesOnWithOrWhithoutYou

  15. danny here im a lot younger than you guys. july 14 2015 - december 16 2017. i assure you. everything is the same if not worse. justin the english tacher molested 3 girls on a camp out and wendi sorenson was fucking one of the boys from cali. it was just a whole wrap.

  16. We must get them shut down !!! I cant believe I know the staff you are referring to.You were not lying nothings changed only gotten worse It is just crazy that I know the staff you were referring to that means the same people 20 yrs later are terrorizing young at risk youth THE BIG SHUT DOWN IS a COMING so many witnesses too So I suppose Jay is old and grey now just idole watching this go on Debbie and Tom also? Well this sounds like a BLUE government job to me Im so glad you responded we need to start a Sorensons page then we might be able to get a couple testimoneys Thank you for posting


  18. I too went to Sorensons Ranch school and witnessed firsthand the atrocities mentioned above.

    I'm 36 now, and was 16 at the time, so 20 years ago and I still have the horrible memories.

    1999-2000 - Child abuse is an understatement - I did thankfully not get abused firsthand but witnessed other kids who did. The orange jail jumpsuits, the kid they forced to live in the main lounge where everyone at their meals - no bed, blankets or pillows, just an orange jumpsuit and barefooted - and he had to sleep on the cement floor.

    The fact that this place is still open to this day sickens me and I want to do something about it. I want to rescue the kids who are probably still getting abused as we speak.

    If the litigious owner who sued MySpace loves court so much - maybe we should organize a Class Action lawsuit comprised of former students.

    Are there any lawyers interested in taking on a case like this? There must have been over 1,000 kids who have been through their by now - and some experiencing PTSD worse than others, I'm sure.

    More importantly - this place should not still be open in the year 2019. There are too many witnesses. And with the thousands of kids attending, exorbitant "tuition" fees, the land and houses owned by the school, I'm sure the owners are millionaires - or there must be millions of dollars in assets - the point is - this may be enough to get a lawyer to take on the case based on a contingency - a Class Action lawsuit could not only shut down the school once and for all, but also serve as justice, closure, and reparations for any/all past students - I believe the records can be subpoenaed in a Class Action - and it would rescue the poor kids who found themselves in Koosharem Utah, who are likely suffering the same way we did so many years ago.

    The stories are heartbreaking, but worse - it's August 2019 and somehow this place is still operating. It is not a school. It is a child abuse riddled jail for troubled teens disguised as a school.

    I'm a man of action - Sorenson's didn't teach me this, or anything for that matter, but stories on the internet are just words. I want to see this place shut down, and put out of business once and for all - and to rescue the kids still there today, and justice served. I would be shocked if ANY former 'student' would say the placed helped them - their website is such a complete joke - the testimonials must be made up.

    Unfortunately I'm not a lawyer, but I do think there is plenty of evidence and eyewitnesses and possibly even proof out there of the abuse - cell phone cameras weren't as popular as when I attended.

    We need to get a lawyer who is interested in taking on the case of bringing down a Muti-million dollar child abuse factory - otherwise known as Sorenson's Ranch School.

    1. I am a lawyer, I could probably organize something but I am so busy and I've never handled a case like this, I would need help with outreach and getting plaintiffs signed up.. I was there in 2001-2002. I can confirm everything you are talking about

    2. I was sexually assaulted there. 02'-03' my name is micah kestell and number is 5094964295

  19. My name is Madeline I was there 2000-2001 I was kept in isolation 6 months straight for braided hair and being openly bisexual. I was threatened and physically abused by staff on a regular basis.

    1. I may have overlapped time with you there.

  20. I was stripped of everything. I was told my hair styles were gang related and had my head shaved. I was denied ethnic hair care products and shamed for my culture. I hope to God this hell hole is closed sooner rather than later! Clay, Tom, and his daughters, Norm ... all of them should be in prison!

    1. I remember them I was there 2003 to 2004 yeah I could write a book about that place. Hey and this goes out to everybody that was there from 2003 to 2004 I think I'm going to write a book about my stay there if anybody wants to help me out with stories and remembering like what actually went down there hit me up 817-862-3878

  21. I was also there in 1996. I don’t understand why this place is still open with all the abuse. Something needs to be done, I just don’t know how to do it.

  22. I am 50 years old and this place is still in my mind. Visited my sister there in 1996. The staff were child abusers and dishonest, and the place was filthy. I call it The Mormon Prison Camp. No way this place can be legal. My dad finally had to kidnap my sister to get her out because they told him she could not go. $3,000 a month in 1996 dollars. I even talked to a lawyer about suing my parents for custody of my sister over this.

  23. Someone needs to get a class action started - I am also a victim of Sorenson's Ranch School. Paris Hilton has been using her fame to shed light on abuses by these types of schools. Everyone should sign her petition on Change.org and write their story to her email address in her petition!! These sick fucks need to be shut down and made to pay reparations for their abuses.

    1. I was there from 2015-2017 that place was horrendous I still cry from it. They ruined my goddam life. If anyone would like message me on my Instagram destiny_._michelle

  24. I am the commenter above, I forgot to say I was there in 2001-2002. I may have overlapped time with previous commenter.

  25. dont ever send your child there my child was sent there for beveral problesn they made her eat in the barn went it was snowing she could not let us know she she was treated they didnt let her have the christmas present we gave her it is nothinng but a slave camp so utah doenst have to hire local to do the work and california payws them to treat your child like shit it should be shutdown and save california a lot of money we took her out after 8 months of hell they all need to go hell please do lr child there i am thinking of filling a law sue agaist them they hire crimals as couslent l

    1. I posted my story. I too am interested in a lawsuit. Plz contact me personally on my cell. 509.496.4295

  26. My goodness ... I am feeling a flood of emotions as I read the main author's story and those that follow. I don't know if there is any amount of justice that could be served for the absolute horror and abuse you endured. To the main author: Your horrible experience is so beautifully written (you are a very talented writer) and although I do not know you, I am proud of you!

    I hope the attorney who has reached out in this post is able to take on this class action suit or can recommend someone who can.

  27. I was there for 18 months so tramatic and so many things happen within 18 months...I know alot that has gone on there while I was there I am 25 now and still in shock about the memories there. My case manager was octavia the coldest meanest lady there and along with norm they are horrible people. I can go on and on about the abuse it's so sick 🤢. Email me for more info.

  28. PTSD. All I can say
    I went when I was 16-18
    Didn't diagnose me right either
    Ruined my relationship with my parents
    You're right no one listens to a troubled teen

  29. I forgot my name is Kim Montgomery but when I went there it was Kim Kyle. I got way busted for tattooing sooo many people and for the rat poison we passed out to all the girls in cabin 1 that ended in over 10 girls in the hospital needing vitamin K shots for the next month. I was in a few memorable fights Emily and Kelsie) and blanket parties, hogs back and horse camp. Octavia was indeed my counselor and they had me on over 175mg of Ritalin daily perscribed by who?...and then wondered why I couldnt keep out of trouble. I was no stranger to the orange jumpsuit no shoes or coat no socks sleeping bag -check- sitting in the field out the back of the lodge in two feet of snow and it being -10 outside, sitting on the fence, and level one room. Odly the one comfort I found was my allowance in which I spent that shit on microwave popcorn and ruby red squirt. Anyone remember Jeremy and his obsession with huffing in the shed or Pud and LIZ? THE only lady that was halfway decent was the music teacher who also did art class. I can't remember her name. Started with an M. Melinda I just remembered. Burnell was still the head of the school back then. Greenwich was the ten mile hike starting point. And grandma. Yeah grandma was cool. I remember having only one ciggarettein my 8 months vaycay up in the top of the lookout in the barn. It took the pain from being assaulted repeatedly month after month by male and female staff away if even for one brief moment.
    Please feel free to text or call me if you want to talk or need signers for a suit. I'm all in. I'm 40 now but its still fresh in my mind.
    208-993-9664 or email anytime. I'd like to hear from other from my time there.


    1. Lol I smoked up there too!!! We got cigarettes out of some ashtray rolled up cigarettes in bible pages.. 2003 to 2004

  30. I was there for 7 months from 1998 to 1999. I’m turning 40 next year, and I’m just now realizing how deeply I’ve buried my experience. Sheriff Norm’s daily wake up calls, “Yip yip, yahoo. Get outa bed!!” Clays incessant belittling, Tom’s neo-Nazi menacing eyes, the jumpsuits, the workouts, the level 1 hikes, my counselor (Mike) dismissing my family trauma that led to my drug use, the constant fights I got into simply trying to defend myself, and the CRAZY restraints I saw the staff inflict on kids. I worked the system, lived off-campus with a family in town (Christine and Greg). They treated me like family, and for that I am grateful. I lived there with Charlie, aka “Peaches”. Graduated and then worked for $2 per hour with the ranch hand, Bill. Once, I helped birth a dead calf. Another time, I watched a baby colt die in my arms after Bill put the hydration tube down the wrong pipe, into the baby horse’s lungs. Devastating to watch. At best, SRS is inept and incapable of providing counseling and treatment. At worst, it was straight up child abuse. Is it just me, or did they have EVERYONE on Trazodone? Scary shit. My name is Jesse Miller. I can be reached on IG: jessetimmmiller if anyone wants to reach out and connect. Class action time.

  31. I cannot press this issue enough. This place is not going to change or help children unless they 1. Have actual serious problems, 2. Already want to change, and 3. Are a boy. This place is not safe for children of all ages and genders, but girls are exclusively in danger at this establishment. I have seen many disturbing and perverse happenings in koosharem Utah and have spent my fair share in court speaking upon the subject matter. Do. Not. Send. Children. To. Sorenson's. Integrity, identity, morality, and any sense of security; developmental human characteristics that undoubtedly will be stripped from any child sent to this valley school. You have been thoroughly warned. Find another well-warrented place for the child you see as needing desperate help. Owning a large perspective of the boy's life in koosharem Valley, as well as a small glimpse into the girl's lives; I find it hard to feel in any way joyous about a 4-day hike through 24 degree weather with overalls, a hoodie, and cowboy boots. And if you're in the business of sending a child to a reformation program, be sure to do a smidge of research on the type of characters that will be put in direct daily contact with the child in supposed need.

  32. Hello all

    My nam ei Nicole and I am a survivor of SRS, I attended in the early 90's and was held hostage for 2 years. I have created a survivors group on Facebook, please see link blow if you want to join. Additionally I am working with a production company out of NYC and am starting the process of filming a documentary about SRS, our promotional trailer will be released in a few weeks. Please reach out to me if you want to be involved you can reach me at nicolevantavish@gmail.com


  33. please excuse all my typos!

  34. hit me up 9163706561 i went to ranch in 2011 been through the same shit and worse hmu....


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