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News2021-10-20T00:03:45-07:00

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Breaking Code Silence: From Pain to Purpose

Transforming Pain Into Purpose By Dr. Mel Gurr Twenty-three years ago, on October 21, 1998, I was a depressed, non-gender conforming 13-year-old kid with undiagnosed neurodivergence. That morning, two strangers arrived on my doorstep, and they transformed my life forever. Without my knowledge or consent, I was taken to a remote facility called Cedar Ridge Academy, in Roosevelt, Utah - a place where I would spend most of the years between 1998 and 2003, when I turned 18. Cedar Ridge was a confirmedly abusive program, where physical, emotional, and sexual violence was just part of the fabric of daily life. It was a profitable family-business, charging $5,600+ monthly, per child, and operated from 1996 until 2021. Where most American teenagers experience this life stage as a socially structured time of possibility, and the time to experiment with different interests, selves, and identities, children like me were institutionalized and tortured in the name of “treatment.”  While there, we were prohibited from speaking, moving freely, and deprived of an education. One of my most poignant memories of Cedar Ridge Academy was a moment when my friend Rose and I, taking a break from back-breaking farm chores, and hanging out near the barbed-wire fence surrounding the facility. It was a rare moment when we were out of earshot of staff. We talked about the Holocaust. Did anyone near Auschwitz care about the people suffering and dying in the concentration camps? While our experiences were worlds apart, as institutionalized kids in the U.S., ...

August 2021 State of Breaking Code Silence

What a month! Our incredible volunteers are working hard and making progress on numerous projects and programs. Our Advocacy teams have been very busy and honored to offer our full and multi-faceted support and experience to families, attorneys, and local DHS and other government representatives on several cases where a family needs help rescuing a child that has been abused and/or put in danger by a TTI program. Awareness teams have also launched multiple program investigation and awareness campaigns, as well as shared our experience with survivors outside of the organization wanting to spread awareness about the dangers of their specific program. These campaigns have worked in the past to limit new enrollment and in a few cases, contribute to the closure of abusive programs. We’d like to highlight a few Awareness movements regarding the abuses in wilderness programs and RTCs. Check out the Instagram pages for Stop Second Nature and Uinta Academy. With the Program Reporting Map, developed by our Information and Technology team volunteers, we continue to encourage and show survivors how and where to report the abuses they experienced and witnessed to appropriate agencies.The Legislative team is continuing to meet with and establish relationships with valuable partners across the country. The team participated in the recent Judge Rotenberg Center protest to make our voices heard in support of ethical and safe treatment. The Breaking Code Silence Program Archive has already been instrumental in supporting advocacy cases, research projects, and journalists. With already over 18,000 documents currently available, this ongoing project has only just begun its mission of preserving and organizing all amassed documents ...

Wilderness Therapy

by Dr. Emmanuel Monneron According to the book “Adventure Therapy: Theory, Practice, and Research” (Gass, Gillis and  Russell, 2012), the first Wilderness Therapy (WT) program (Aspen Achievement Academy) was founded in 1988 in Loa, Utah. This program, inspired by military recruit training in a wilderness environment, is supposed to be the first one that had a clinician (Madolyn Liebing, Ph.D.) who provided so-called individual therapy. Almost 35 years later, what can be said about Wilderness Therapy programs? Are they effective? Are they safe? How much do they cost? Before talking about whether or not WT is an appropriate way to help struggling children and teenagers, it's probably best to start with describing what is Wilderness Therapy. Teenagers sent to WT programs are most often transported against their will from their home to a place they were not informed about. The "Escort Service" agency usually organises the intervention in the middle of the night to surprise the teen and avoid too much resistance. Restraints, handcuffs and sometimes electric shockers can be used to control the teen and force them to comply with two or more strangers without knowing where they are going. When the teen finally reaches the destination (which is usually a forest or a desert and can be located on the other side of the country), they are strip-searched, given a uniform,and introduced to their new peers.. Depending on the program, the teen may be ignored by the rest of the group and forced to remain silent for the first few ...

August 28, 2021|Categories: Advocacy, Awareness, Research|

Interview with Sophie, Breaking Code Silence with Social Media

by Sydney Schuck We are honored to be sharing the story of a brave survivor using Tiktok to break code silence and reaching hundreds of thousands of people with her story, Sophie Harned. Sophie, also known as ‘futuretripping’ on Tiktok, is a survivor of the programs Second Nature Blue Ridge Wilderness Therapy and Greenbrier Academy for Girls. She spent her time in 2018 at these programs. During her time in wilderness therapy, Sophie developed frostbite that went untreated, developing into complex regional pain syndrome that she still struggles with today. Similarly to a lot of survivors, Sophie grappled with wondering: "In spite of all the physical pain I was in, I still so badly wanted to believe that suffering was going to be worth it. I wanted to believe the programs were good and fair. When I got to GreenBrier, I couldn’t lie to myself anymore." Sophie spoke on the cult-like practices that are infamously common in the TTI, and how she felt like she knew that she lost time for attempting suicide at fourteen years old: "...part of it was the grief over knowing I’d lost the next year of my life for trying to kill myself at fourteen." It is common among survivors to grieve the time they lost while spent in programs, as it can be a range from a few months to years or more of time lost to the TTI. Despite many programs preventing students from speaking to one another as another form of ...

The Facility Reporting Map

New survivors are being created every day from these programs. Often when they leave, they aren’t aware of the avenues they have in order to report the abuse they suffered. That is one of the reasons we created the facility reporting map to easily provide survivors with information that will help empower them and report abuses. The new facility reporting map has over 5,000 current troubled teen programs, juvenile detention centers, group homes, residential treatment centers, and wilderness programs. This map was created with the hopes to aid people in abuse from their programs and/or the staff to the local licensing bodies. To view the map, navigate to https://www.breakingcodesilence.org/facility-reporting-map/ Here you will see the map which can be overwhelming at first from a high level: To better find your program, click on the button on the top left-hand corner of the map to have the key fold out: The map is organized by phased states. You can roll your mouse over each division to see which states are part of which layer. If your program was located in one of these states, click the downward arrow to view all items. You will now see a list of programs in alphabetical order. If you click on a program name, information about that program will pop up. On the top of the program details, you’ll see basic demographic information about the program. Scrolling down, you’ll see more information such as: Their state licensing contact (if available) How to report child abuse ...

August 28, 2021|Categories: Advocacy, Awareness|

June 2021 State of Breaking Code Silence

Our Awareness Pillar and Media Relations Team have done an incredible job working with journalist Kelly-Leigh Cooper and supporting other survivors in sharing their stories. We are so grateful to Ms. Cooper and the BBC for shining a light on a dark industry and providing survivors a central platform to speak their truth and be heard on a global level. Our Breaking News Team covered topics related to PTSD and queer/trans issues throughout the month of June. We supported a campaign to ban conversion therapy in the UK. Meanwhile, Canadian lawmakers passed a bill this month outlawing LGBT conversion therapy. In America, only 20 states have legislation outlawing conversion therapy. Even then, as many TTI survivors have witnessed, and as an undercover phone call to a facility revealed, there are loopholes. Even without the “conversion” label, programs at times specifically target LGBTQIA+ youth for harassment and abuse. Read more about the dangers and prevalence of conversion therapy here. Our Social Media team has kept our community informed of new developments, articles, and legislation concerning the TTI. Earlier this month, Oregon introduced two bills aimed at regulating the industry. The team helped lead a campaign inviting our community to send letters of support to Senators and Representatives. We were elated to hear that with the passage of SB 710 and SB 749, Oregon is the first state to regulate transport companies and “education consultants.” They have also banned prone and supine restraint in residential and wilderness programs. Visit Thought Reform ...

August 16, 2021|Categories: State of Breaking Code Silence|

Ben Trane Loses Appeal, Ordered to Prison for Sex Abuse

On August 13, Judge Mark Kruse entered an order indicating the conviction of Ben Trane stands and ordering Trane to report to the Lee County, Iowa, jail within 30 days. Judge Kruse further ordered Trane to be transported to the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Oakdale to serve his sentence as originally imposed. Trane appears to have requested a further appeal bond and has been denied, although the full order is not available at this time. In September 2017, Trane was accused of abusing the children under his control when he was the owner and director of the now-shuttered Midwest Academy, a notorious “troubled teen program” located in Keokuk, Iowa. After the campus was raided, searched, and shut down by authorities in January 2016, Trane was eventually arrested and charged with several counts of sexual and physical abuse. Trane’s victims were minor children living full-time at the residential facility.  Midwest Academy was opened in 2003 by Trane and Brian Vaifanua, formerly the owner of another notorious teen program, Paradise Cove in the country of Samoa. After Paradise Cove shut down, Vaifanua sought property on which to open a new program in the U.S. and settled on Keokuk, Iowa. Trane took over Midwest entirely a few years later, running it with the assistance of his wife, Layani. Midwest was a for-profit program claiming to specialize in reforming so-called “troubled teens”, such those struggling with drugs and alcohol, performing poorly in school, or suffering from mental health issues. However, no ...

August 15, 2021|Categories: Advocacy|Tags: , , , |

The Breaking Code Silence Online Archive

Zotero is a free and open-source reference management system to manage bibliographic and data and research materials. Some of the good features include web browser integration, online syncing, etc. Survivors have long needed a collective archive of historic documents, news stories, records, etc in a centralized location. Without copying other people’s content, we will be able to use Zotero to organize and search content by topic, program, and date – even if it’s hosted on another activist’s page. The hope is that this archive will make it easy for survivors, parents, reporters, documentary makers, researchers, and even law enforcement to quickly find relevant information about a specific program, program owner, etc. Currently, the archive has over 7,500 articles, documents, and pieces on it. Over the new few months, we will be adding tens of thousands of articles, documents, etc. To use the archive, navigate to https://www.zotero.org/groups/4288739/breaking_code_silence/library in your browser. Once there, you will see several folders on your left-hand pane. Documents, articles, research, and records that pertain to specific programs are under the Programs folder. In each of these subfolders, you will find additional information about that program. By clicking on a folder, you will see the content in the middle pane. On the bottom left-hand pane, you can also see tags for the folder you highlight. If you click on the top Breaking Code Silence, you can see ALL the tags for the library. Almost every item is tagged by program, state, etc and you may filter by ...

Donate to Breaking Code Silence by shopping on Amazon!

AmazonSmile is a simple way for you to support Breaking Code Silence every time you shop, at no cost to you! AmazonSmile is available at smile.amazon.com on your web browser and can be activated in the Amazon Shopping app for iOS and Android phones. When you shop with AmazonSmile, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection, and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added benefit that AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of your eligible purchases to Breaking Code Silence. To configure on your computer: Navigate to https://smile.amazon.com/gp/chpf/homepage?orig=%2F and click Get Started Search for Breaking Code Silence and click Select After selecting Breaking Code Silence as your charity, shop using the https://smile.amazon.com URL going forward. To configure on the Amazon app: Download the Amazon app if you haven't already and navigate to Settings in the main menu Tap on AmazonSmile and follow the on-screen instructions to turn on AmazonSmile on your phone Search for Breaking Code Silence and choose select if you haven't already selected it from your computer. After enabling, Amazon will donate every time you purchase from the mobile app on your phone.

July 14, 2021|Categories: Donations|Tags: , |

May 2021 State of Breaking Code Silence

What a month! Breaking Code Silence volunteers are working hard and making progress on numerous projects and programs throughout May. The Activism Model & Training Team is at work creating an easily accessible training guide to bring a safe, effective, and appropriate strategic model of activism that empowers us to multiply our reach and create historic change. The Administrative Team has created an onboarding guide, internal communications guide, code of conduct, and several other policies to guide daily operations and the culture of the organization. Our skillful Information Security Team has been updating our website with new and previously developed content, helping our social media volunteers with strategy, and digitizing old program footage. The Mission Control Team remains dedicated to sharing weekly updates of progress by all teams, as well as making sure those updates are shared with our community of survivors, advocates, and supporters. Our Legislation Team has made significant strides in building out our Federal coalition for the introduction of our upcoming bill. Our partnerships will be announced publicly soon! The Media Relations Team aired the “We are BCS” live event at the beginning of May (YouTube link), announcing our official status as a nonprofit organization. The team made a new partnership with Chula Vista Safe to stop a new Acadia facility from being built. The Breaking News and Awareness Teams have published multiple breaking news articles, available on the Breaking Code Silence HUB. They also sent a guest speaker to the "I Don't Get It" podcast. ...

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