When I was 12 years old, I was taken by strangers to Spring Creek Lodge Academy in Thompson Falls, MT.
Upon arrival, I was stripped of all of my belongings, including what I was wearing. I was stripped of my dignity and civil rights. I was taken to a cabin where I’d be staying. I’m told that the other girls inside are my new “family.” Our family name was Innocence – I was stripped of that as well. That was just the beginning.
The rules were the primary method of control, and they were endless. You couldn’t talk to anyone unless your level and their level equaled the number 4 or greater. Most people 3 or higher had started to “work the program” and were expected to help newcomers learn the rules. I remained on level one for the majority of my stay there. On level one you weren’t allowed anything, even condiments like salt and pepper were an earned privilege. I would get in trouble almost every day which kept me from advancing.
Some of the rules included:
*No eye contact with authority/staff
*No looking in windows *No looking out windows
*No looking at members of the opposite sex
*No Talking to other “families” or anyone not in your cabin
*No wearing shoes indoors
*No wearing socks to bed
*No questioning staff decisions
*No Breaking Silence
We were required to ask to use the bathroom or to cross over through any doorway other than the room we were presently in. We were timed for everything, showers, bathroom, meals. Throughout every meal, we were forced to listen to “self-help tapes” and watch two additional tapes each day. At the end of the night, we had to write out our “reflections” and how we would apply what we learned from the tapes to our lives.
I was forced to write letters to my family once a week the letters were read by our “family representatives” prior to being sent out. Many times, we were told that the letters had to be rewritten. Most of the time they had to be rewritten because we were trying to tell our families what we were enduring. They would be ripped up in front of us, and told no one would believe us anyway. They would just tell our family we were lying or trying to manipulate them. Often times my mail from my family was kept from me as part of my punishment.
I was forced to attend seminars every month or so that would span over several days during which I was sleep-deprived. I was forced to reenact traumatic events and witness my peers reenact theirs. We were forced to turn on each other and to break one another down. We were forced to bare our souls, secrets, and shame so the facilitators could dance in our worthlessness and amplify every negative feeling we ever felt about ourselves. To make it all worse, we were made to believe that everything was our fault, including being abandoned, abused, and raped.
During my time there, I fell into a deep depression. I felt abandoned by my family, all contact with the outside world and everyone I knew had been cut off. I had vanished. I felt alone, trapped, isolated, worthless, and unlovable. I wanted to die. I felt like death was the only way out. I started cutting and staff found out, they told me I was “attention-seeking and being manipulative” and put me in isolation for over a week. I wasn’t allowed to do anything but sit, every movement was an extension to my stay in isolation.
In Isolation, I was given the choice between a pillow or a blanket in the middle of winter in Montana. The blanket was wool and would barely cover my entire body, the pillow had been used and obviously never cleaned. The “bed” was nothing but a piece of wood covered in carpet. The carpet was covered in various bodily fluids and also never cleaned. I was given white bread for every meal, I wasn’t allowed to shower and my only bathroom access was a port-a-potty that I could only use with a chaperone, with the door partially open, in the middle of winter in Montana.
I was treated like a criminal from the moment I got there, I was treated like a criminal for wanting to die. I’m speaking up for the children sitting in isolation right now, wondering why no one cares. I care! No child should ever have to feel this way. This is only a small part of what I experienced. SCLA was my first placement, but it wasn’t my last. Each place had its own various methods of control, brainwashing, and breaking you down.
I spent 5 years in the Troubled Teen Industry. Thanks to the Troubled Teen Industry, I have CPTSD, anxiety, depression, abandonment issues, fear of people, love, and life. I struggle with self-worth; I struggle most days to take care of myself; I struggle to explain myself or express my thoughts or emotions; I have severe trust issues; I don’t even trust myself most of the time. This is just a small part of my story. It is not the first time I was burned by the system and it definitely wasn’t the last. This is only a small fragment of what I experienced in one place. I was also placed in facilities operating as Kidspeace, Devereux, and Pyramid to name a few.
My name is Jade, and I am #breakingcodesilence because the damage being caused by the unqualified staff members that people blindly leave their children within this industry is real. No child should ever feel so abandoned or alone that they would rather die than try to survive another day through the trauma and abuse.