Thank you for the opportunity to share experiences, and to urgently request the changes so many of us Americans--parents, youth, teachers, health care workers, etc.-- feel is neccesary in order to protect our children.
I claim 'survivor' status from a faith-based residential treatment center called Julian Youth Academy, located in the mountains of San Diego, CA. Although the extent of my abuse was mostly mental and emotional, I consider the damage to me as harmful as any other form of abuse, such as physical abuse. Broken bones may heal in 6-8 weeks, but hearts sometimes never heal.
At 14 years old, I was awakened on a cold August morning at 5am to strangers who forced me to either dress in front of them or remain in the scant pajamas I was in. I chose the latter for obvious privacy reasons. I was not granted permission to use the restroom, or any other personal hygiene habits before what I was told would be "a long trip." My younger brother was asleep, and I would not get to see, write to, or talk to until a year later. My older sister, I will never forget, stared into my eyes with such sadness and intensity that I was stricken to muteness and shock for the entirety of the 6 hour car ride to Julian, CA. I knew not that I would also not have contact with her, nor family other than my mother and father, for about a year.
As the escorts asked me if I knew or wanted to know where they were taking me, I remained in shock and was unable to speak or express needs to these strangers.
Upon arrival, I remained in “intake” status for almost nine hours, refusing to dress and demanding that I should get one phone call, “Even criminals get a phone call.” I was not a criminal, nor was I ever involved in using drugs or alcohol, promiscuity, or otherwise physically harmful behavior. I was a victim of a statutory rape crime, and the perpetrator is now walking the streets! Due to the emotional trauma that caused and the abandonment I felt from my parents not seeking understanding from me, retrospectively I hold to the fact that I “rebelled” as mildly as any “normal,” healthy teenager would.
During my imprisonment at Julian Youth Academy (aka JYA), which was a period of fifteen months and sixteen days (August 1999-December 2000), I was treated like property through lack of sympathy, lack of care for emotional needs, lack of care for health needs, constant disbelief from staff and directors and punishment for expressing my human and health needs, lack of anyone to trust, zero advocacy, and lack of experienced and trained staff.
- My utmost request to you, honorable members of Congress, is the need for qualified, trained individuals to either BE staff or to hold unqualified and untrained staff accountable according to human and civil rights laws already in place and intended for public or state institution regulations. The private label is a blanket that has cast an ugly shadow on the abuse and neglect that occurs every single day at these treatment facilities. How much more documentation of deaths and injuries and traumatic experiences do you need? How many more children will you allow to be abused? How much more will there be until there’s ‘enough’?
When taken down from 4,000 ft elevation to 3,000 ft to attend mandatory church services every Sunday for fifteen plus months, I would suffer from debilitating and extremely painful migraines. The first two Sundays, I was given no more than 400mg of Tylenol each instance, which was 200-400mg less than the recommended dosage for my weight and age at the time. The third time I was suffering from these migraines, I was denied medicinal relief of any kind, was told I was manipulating staff for merely requesting medicine, and was verbally forced to stop crying or making any noises or movements in attempts to relieve or take my mind off the excruciating pain. I was never granted medicinal relief for the remaining fifteen months, and was forced to suffer in silence with the threat of punishment if I ever asked for medicine for my headaches again. I know that had I had access to an object that could puncture, I surely would have punctured my brain just to relieve the blood from my head. Seeing and reading about the sufferings and numerous deaths of children under the “care” of treatment facilities, my suffering seems humble, but valid nonetheless.
- The other regulation I’d like to emphasize is the need for one or more neutral, medically or otherwise qualified third-party evaluation(s) prior to admittance of a child (US resident under the age of 18) into a residential or non-residential private treatment center. The reasoning behind this is that parents do not always know how to approach their children when a problem is suspected or have the courage or rapport with their children to do so anyway. A neutral and qualified third party evaluation can significantly bridge the gap of communication between parent and child, and can positively influence the parents’ ultimate decision to be an appropriate one.
Residential and non-residential private treatments centers need to be held accountable to human and civil rights laws just as any other treatment facility, regardless of internal policies or practices, because our children are dying and suffering. And we only know about the situations that have been publicized.
Our children are our future. One day they’ll be in your shoes, trying to make the world who spit them out a better place.
Thank you for your time and concern.
Datasheet about the boarding school at Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora
The original statement