Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Troubled Teen Programs Kill

So I've finally gotten around to putting together the latest petition (It's in the box and right here.) This is one is being sent to Senators and the POTUS. From the CHILD (the agency responsible for getting this bill through the House, and an awesome advocacy group) website

At this moment, I feel the need to let my readers know, cults aren't always religious. It's easy for us to look at the Moonies, Heaven's Gate, and the FLDS Mormons and say, "Yup, that's a cult." What I find a lot of people have difficulty with is recognizing the non-religious (or psuedo-non-religious, like Alcoholics Anonymous) cults in their midst.

Teen "rehab" boot camps, wilderness camps, and other residential facilities, are by and large cults. They follow the model, techniques, and even buzz words of Synanon (which eventually changed its name to the Church of Synanon and is listed as a cult by the reliable Apologetics Index. Oh, and they did church-wide wife swapping.)

Reason Online and Mother Jones each did stories on the teen correctional industry in 2007, following the well publicized torturing death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson. Anderson was placed in a wilderness camp in Florida, following a trespassing violation. Within three hours of arriving, he had stopped breathing. He was pronounced dead by hospital staff early the following morning. He was kicked, punched, and beaten to death in an effor to "break him" of his "defiance".

Looking at this list of groups classified as cults, it's strange how many I recognize, and how the name of a group will bring up a full catalog of facts, back story, and death toll in my head. It's like seeing old enemies in your high school yearbook - you never liked them, but you share a history. Sure, I expect to

I think, in part, I study cults because I'm still llloking for the place I belong. I had that need - to be part of the group, the family - instilled so strongly as a child, but I was and still am weird, and I have gaps in my pop culture memory, and I was taught how to control sheep rather than how to love friends. I have a greater need to belong and less capabaility. So I look for other cult survivors, and I find them. From the eastern transcendental cults to the Bible based fringes of non-denominationalism to tough love teen boot camps. And once I find them, I try to help them. I try to raise awareness, raise funds, and raise outrage. Once you're pissed, you're motivated.

So sign my damn petition. Call your Senator, or hey, call mine. Let them know you object to non-evidence based treatment protocols being used in sentencing or diversionary programs (the "instead of jail" route), and that you want stricter oversight for residential facilities housing teens. Ask them to sponsor or co-sponsor HR 911, which is currently languishing in the HELP committee. Tell them you think it's wrong for teenagers to be beat to death by cult members.

Also, check out Kids of El Paso, about one particular Synanon clone and what went on there. The front page advises former program teens who are contemplating suicide to contact the national Suicide Hotline. Sometimes, when I feel like nobody else knows what it's like to grow up in a cult, I remember that I'm an idiot, and that a lot of us are struggling in secret - hidden in plain sight.

To any of my readers who are fellow survivors, hello. I'm glad you're here. I hope this blog helps and I always answer private emails. Let me know what you'd like me to add to the blog or any questions you have. We're not alone.