As I said above there were three “counselors”, Armina, Melanie and a woman whose name I can’t remember. There was also the “teacher” whose name I believe is Donna, she lived in a trailer that was further away from the main house and she smelled terrible. Close to the end of my stay there were only a few girls for a time, and there was one weekend where Mark and Ginny left for some reason and Donna was in charge of us. We went over to her trailer and the placed reeked. For some reason that really burned in my head. I think that Armina and the other counselor were fired, even though I didn’t know it at the time. When they came to tell all the girls they were leaving they were equally sad as us and crying right along with us. Melanie stuck it out for awhile with us, even though she was the only counselor and I cannot recall whether or not she was even there in the end. We did not get along very much, but then again I was 15-16 and not a nice little girl, I was pretty much angry at the world just because it existed.
Mark and Ginny were rarely around, and they were busy doing who knows what. I remember seeing them on any outings we had, and then also on the days that we didn’t go to church but they held “church” in the house. There was one or two rare occasions when we were allowed to go into their “house” (pretty much an apartment that was the second story of the main house) and that was so we could do their housecleaning. I remember thinking even then, considering who I was and all I had done to get myself there, that their daughters had some serious issues. They wouldn’t walk everywhere, they trotted like horses. Now I know little kids do this when they are playing, but they stop to go to other activities and then at a certain point they stop all together and grow up. These girls were 6 and 7 I think and they were trotting everywhere, even outside. Looking back, those girls needed some serious socialization with kids there age and maybe the horse thing was a coping mechanism.
The girls that I remember are limited unfortunately, I have a hard time remembering a lot of my childhood, I guess that was my coping mechanism. Ok well there were more than the 6 girls that they said they always kept it at or wanted to keep it at. If I remember correctly, There were 4 bedrooms in the main house that the girls had and also a trailer that a girl had that had been there for a long time. I remember a girl that we all called Daisy, I cannot remember her real name, and she had bleach blonde hair and seemed real normal to me. She shared a room with a girl that left shortly after I got there and then a girl named Jessica came and shared the room with her. When Jessica first came she told all of us that her name was something different all together and she ended up alienating herself in a way. I had the room next and I shared it with a girl named Jamie, who I became fairly close to simply because we were roommates and that she lived close to where my aunt did. I remember a girl named Brenda that was 13 and she was so funny, a very shy girl and her father worked for Frito-Lay. She had a room with a girl that ran away and actually got free. There was also Tabitha who I remember quite a bit about, she was my best friend there and I really would like to know how she is doing. I remember she lived in Humboldt at the time. She had a roommate that was Mexican with long hair that was straight and really pretty, she always wore baggy sweatpants. The girl that lived in the trailer by herself had been there for over a year and her name was Shar (short for Sharlene I think.) I got close with her as well. I know that there were other girls there but I cannot remember their names at all.
We went to a church that was in Temecula and the drive was terrible because the ranch literally was in the middle of nowhere. We were called the Hidden Valley Ranch girls by the people there; it was absolutely humiliating to go out anywhere. Depending on how new you were to the ranch or how bad you acted you had to stay no more than 2 arms lengths away from an adult, can you imagine how difficult that became at certain places? There some other activities that we got to do that were quite fun despite the situation, we went to another ranch and were taught vaulting with a horse. We saw a Cirque Du Soleil show that involved horses- Cavalia.
We did go to school for a set amount of hours during the day and we were all told that it was accredited. Well, when I came back to the real world I found out that it was not and had lost almost a whole school years worth of work. I was a junior in high school, but I had to work twice as hard to make up for those lost credits. We read the bible a lot- 3 times a day to be exact. When you woke up after you did chores and then got ready you read for an hour. We also read when we first got into the school room and then again at night before bed by ourselves. We had to cook our own meals and clean up after ourselves. We had work hours which were pretty much extra chores like cleaning up the horse pens if you misbehaved. We would get a trailer or truck full of food once a week, that I’m guessing came from one grocery store or a few and it was the reject stuff. We would sort through it and take out what we wanted and the box up everything else and sale it. They took away any personal belongings that you came with and locked them away for example when I came, I came with very little but I had a yearbook, medication that was supposed to help level my moods and various other things. My yearbook was gone through and censored, yes censored. Anything that they felt was inappropriate was blacked out with a marker, I still have the yearbook and there is barely anything to read in the thing. The medication was taken away from me and I was not allowed to take it, they believed that medication was unnecessary and against their religion-Christian. And it’s but at the time what bothered me about them taking away the meds were that they were taking yet something else that was mine that I felt I had rights too, I could care less that I wouldn’t be able to take the meds, I felt like a zombie on them anyway. Unfortunately, I quickly became a very angry person that didn’t know how to control my anger and soon I was screaming at everyone uncontrollably, throwing things at walls and people, putting holes in the walls and doors, at one point my anger was so intense that I was laying on my bed thoroughly upset at something and I started to hit my head up against the wall, until I couldn’t do it anymore. I also cut myself while I was there, it was amazing how easy it was to hide and get away with.
The ranch did not give me one tool to help me learn or cope with my emotions. I didn’t learn why drugs or alcohol was bad. If anything one bad habit was taken away only to be replaced so quickly with something else, like anger and food. I came to the ranch sometime when it was warm, I do not remember the month of course and I remember leaving for Easter break and never coming back thanks to the allegations. I refused to speak to my father (who was the reason I was there) up until my last month there, and the only reason I did speak to him is because he said that I would leave. Neither he nor I knew that it would be that soon. Now I know that I may sound like a spoiled brat or typical troubled teen that blames her own problems on other people, but I am very honest and very realistic about things. I do not sugar coat and I certainly accept when blame is mine. My father was a drug from the high school and still is actually, he beat me whenever he was clean. I was on a downward spiral and I was going fast. I was cutting myself a lot then, I was using drugs and drinking a lot and I didn’t use pot, it was pills and crack and anything else I could get my hands on, the same with the alcohol, it was usually straight vodka because it was easy to get and clear. I was very promiscuous and in general didn’t care about my life. My father certainly didn’t seem to care about his life or mine so why should I? I called the police on him and CPS many times during my childhood, the police couldn’t do anything because he usually had consumed all the coke by the time they came and then hey no evidence; CPS wouldn’t do anything because there was a roof over my head and the place wasn’t infested with rodents. The events that lead directly up to me going to the ranch are something that I will never forget, although I wish I could. I was 15 a sophomore in high school and one day I was outside my apartment sitting on the curb hanging out with some friends. My father came home and was mad that I was outside even though I asked him if I could be outside, he told me to go inside. He grabbed his belt and beat me until my rear had bloody welts and puss welts. My downstairs neighbors heard me crying and screaming and called the police. When the police came, my father said that he was just taking care of a bratty child. The police came and spoke to me and I broke down completely, I showed them my arm where I had cut the word “DIE” into it from my wrist to my middle of my forearm. I begged them to take me out of there and take me anywhere else because I was going to kill myself soon if this stuff didn’t stop. The police were completely unaware of the beating I had just gotten and did not know about my rear. The police officers went and spoke to my father more and I heard him just saying that I was spoiled and starved for attention, the police officers and father thought it would be a good idea to teach me a lesson, so I was handcuffed, arrested and admitted into a hospital where I had pictures taken of my rear for proof. I spent the night there where I was later evaluated by a psychiatrist and my grandmother also came to see me in that condition. Everyone kept asking me what happened and when I told them, I was told that I was a liar, by everyone. I was later admitted into the mental hospital where I stayed for two weeks and was put on the medication because the psychiatrist there said I had about 6 different mental issues. I really was starting to believe I was the crazy one and at one point my father told me that I was so crazy that he could have me locked up forever in a straight jacket. The other option was to go to the ranch. Now like I said earlier the ranch didn’t teach me anything about how to deal with my family or life in general and a lot of what I was going through was normal stuff but intensified by other factors. I believe that maybe if someone would have showed me that I wasn’t crazy but I was just trying to deal with my life in the only way I knew how then maybe things would have gone a little more smoothly. When I left the ranch I still really hadn’t learned from the past and I still continued to use drugs, drink, be promiscuous and hurt myself. I eventually came to a point where most people come to where they learn to grow up. I needed to learn that I am the only person that can change me.
I am certain that I would not be here if it wasn’t for the ranch though, but the only reason I believe that is because it was a change in scenery-nothing more. I truly hope that the other girls have found their way in life. Every day I think about the path that I took to get where I am and hope they are as fortunate as I am. So that is a little bit of my story and some of what happened at the ranch. If I remember more I will be sure to add more. I am also looking for a photo album that was given to me while I was there, when I find it I will scan some pictures and put a link up of them. If anyone has any other questions, feel free to ask or email me. I have no problem talking about my past, in some ways it helps to get it out. I keep hoping that I will start to remember more of what happened in my childhood but who knows.
- Abuse Allegations Re-Surface at California Faith-Based School (The original statement found on Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora)
- 66. Gentle Spirit Ranch (1000 places You don't want to be as a teenager - blog)
- Factsheet about the facility (Fornits Wiki)