I was sent to my first program because I ran away from home. I didn’t drink, smoke, use drugs and I’d never had a boyfriend, but my home life was abusive. My father was successful so no one listened when I asked for help.
At House of Hope, my knee was broken by another student on the first day because I wouldn’t cheek my meds for her to snort. The staff knew but took measures to hide it along with the full-body poison ivy I’d caught. I was eventually kicked out for running away. When the abuse was discovered, the school shut down and reopened as a rebranded and relicensed program.
After being locked in my room for several months, I was taken to SUWS – a reputably abusive wilderness program. We wore the same clothes (including underwear) the entire time we were there. If we hid or puked up the moldy food we ate every day, we were forced to dig it up and eat it again. Many students suffered serious injuries while I was there and went untreated. It was the same for illness. While I was a student, it was apparent West Nile was in the field, but no one cared until a student died. Even then, it was another six years until they were shut down in Idaho, Up until the time I graduated, we weren’t treated with any additional caution or measures to protect us.
Next, I was moved to a residential program name Montana Academy. While there, I learned that other students were coached to not believe what I said. The therapist ignored my requests for help. I was kept at the school until after I turned 18. At that point, my parents sent me to a Catholic seminary and I went due to having no life or adult skills. I knew I could not survive if I defied them. I eventually left and was date raped. I lived in a homeless shelter in Michigan to escape my family and I eventually had to join the military to prevent my father from claiming me on his taxes.
It wasn’t until I turned 22 that I was able to file for a student loan or anything free of my family’s influence. By then, I was deeply traumatized. I have no family, and to this day I suffer from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). Even though I became professionally successful, I spend every holiday and birthday alone. It wasn’t until I took five years to write and publish my story that anyone believed me and it breaks my heart and fills me with anger to know these programs still exist.