On May 4th 2009, I was woken up to three strangers standing above me, telling me to undress in front of them and that they were taking me to a school in Utah. I will never forget being absolutely terrified and having no idea what was going on. My mom stood in the hallway and didn’t say a word. They drove me 13 hours to another state and city I had never been to.

I was 16 and had a history of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and rape. I was bullied and developed a lot of anxiety and depression. I had previously gone to a wilderness program in Arizona called Anasazi at age 14 and was promised I would not be sent to anything else again, which was far from the truth. I ended up graduating high school from Island View.

Once at Island View, I quickly realized I could not get out of fight or flight mode while here. It was either fight the system or go along with it. I would see my peers get tackled, restrained, and forced into isolation rooms. They would also be forced to sleep on their mattress in the hall for minor infractions like talking to a member of the opposite sex. They called it “sexually acting out.”

I was once on IF or “individual focus” where you are put on communication restriction and forced to sit at your desk for the duration of the day for not telling on my friends. You could not do anything but write about what you did wrong without any end in sight. You had to drop slips to ask to get water or use the bathroom in the hall. Your team was manipulated into shaming and judging you.

Group therapy was designed to humiliate and break us. We never talked about issues to support each other, but rather what someone did wrong and how we can shove that in their face. You had to confront people and find any reason to hold your peers accountable. You could even get in trouble for getting too close with the other girls there for being codependent. Some of the male staff would get inappropriately friendly and close with the girls. The staff are not licensed or undergo any therapeutic training.

My therapist, Jeff, once asked me to discuss my previous sexual partners in a session while he had my mother listening quietly on speakerphone. After I had told him what he asked, he then proceeded to tell me my mom was listening to our session the entire time. Jeff also told me that in order to graduate from the program, I had to declare a higher power when I am an atheist. I was also told that my feelings of bisexuality were not real.

I continuously have nightmares I am back in this place, even as a 27-year-old adult. This experience made me feel unable to connect to people on the outside. I have issues making friends, and my mental health was worse than it was going in.