I went to programs like this.
Things like this are VERY REAL. While my first program was not as horrible as the original poster’s (I went to Second Nature Wilderness Program, one of the ones she mentioned where you hike around Utah for 3 months) and while my program was not forcefully religious I would like you to understand things like this actually happen.
It happened to me. While I hated my time at my wilderness program at first I later enjoyed it. Like the original poster my problem was a severe bad attitude. I was a liar and a manipulator and even threatened my parents with SS without reasonable cause. But did it really warrant this kind of action?
Please listen.. While my first program was a bit extreme they treated me well and I always felt safe or taken care of. Not all of the wilderness programs are like this.. and after my wilderness I was sent to a “Therapeutic Boarding School.”
It was hell. My therapist was wonderful but the rest of it has left me traumatized. Many people who have worked there (very likely my past therapist as well) will say I am exaggerating but I am not. I came home after a year and a half at Provo Canyon School (in Orem, Utah) with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
You know why? For nearly 2 years of my life (this includes the wilderness program) I was not allowed to touch another human being. You might thing this is such a little thing but it isn’t!!! A human’s development depends on it and I was still a young teenager. We were not even allowed to high-five other girls. Now some say that isn’t a rule there.. That was another problem. The rules were always changing. Different staff would have different rules and in an environment where you are “Guilty until Proven Innocent” you live in constant fear of reprimand. Punishments included “Taking a Chair” where I was sometimes told,
- “You’re here because your parent don’t want you.”
- “I don’t care about you. I’m gonna go home tonight and eat my dinner and I wont even think twice about you.”
- “Look at you. You will never amount to anything.”
The punishment itself was not excessive, but the verbal and mental abuse we were subjected to was horrible.
For a truly big offense (often fighting) we were sent to “observation.” A concrete room with towering walls, a steel door and a tiny window at the very top of the room. Some girls were left in this room for weeks (runaways and girls who refused to admit to doing wrong.) You can not tell me that’s not horrible.
The only physical contact I ever got was on Family visits. Since my family is very affectionate I was incredibly lucky to get this attention. My brother and sister lived an hour away from the school and I was able to get more visits than other girls. Other girls were not so lucky. They went years without ANY physical contact.
On one visit with my brother I got sick and ended up puking. At the school you had to prove you threw up by showing the staff your puke and even then you were subject to scrutiny in case you shoved fingers down your throat to make yourself. So I brought my brother over and showed him after which his wife took my temperature. I had a fever of 101.3 Sadly the visit was over and they brought me back to the school. On check in my brother told them of my ailment and from there they took me inside and brought me back to detention as I had hours to finish. I could barely keep my head up and when I put my head down I was told to take a chair. Even on the chair I could barely keep the required position and eventually put my head against the wall.
Because of that I was sent to observation. The giant concrete isolation room. For “bad behavior.” I was being punished for being ill. The next day my therapist yelled at me for ‘acting poorly after she gave me the privilege of a family visit.’ I was in tears. I told her I was NOT faking. I told her to call my brother as he took my temperature and I was legitimately sick. She said there were no nurse records of a fever and I told her “that’s because nobody took it.” I could have been deathly ill and they still would have left me in that cold concrete room all night. How is that ok?
I can not stress the horror of this enough. I and other girls there were verbally and mentally abused. We lived in constant fear of doing wrong and getting in trouble for it. (Bending your knees when you stood in line was punishable to some staff.)
Why did I develop PTSD when that is something soldiers in war get?
Lack of touch.
I lived in ‘survival mode’ for nearly 2 years. Other girls had been there far longer. These practices are inhumane. I survived and have since had to deal with many mental and emotional complications. Am I a better person now? Yes. But that did NOT happen because of neglect and abuse. It happened because I wanted to change as I grew up. They did not have to destroy my worth as a human being to make me better.
These schools are horrible. They need to be shut down.