Programs that claim to help parents with “troubled teens” have become a multi-million dollar industry in the United States. The unregulated business of boot camps, wilderness programs, and training academies make promises to parents desperate to help their children, but what parents don’t understand is how dangerous these institutions can be.
“My mom didn’t like it when I came out as a lesbian, so she hired two men to kidnap me in the middle of the night. They told me I was going to jail. Unfortunately, I was sent somewhere worse – where I had fewer rights and was isolated from the outside world.” – Rebecca Lopez, Survivor
Many of the alleged “treatments” for young people at these facilities are actually torture. They include food and water deprivation, beatings, hard labor, electric shock therapy, denial of medical care, and extended solitary confinement. It’s hard to believe this is allowed to take place in the United States, but Survivors of Institutional abuse have documented more than 300 deaths of youth at these facilities.
“Aaron’s mother and I will never escape our decision to send our gifted 16-year-old son to his death at NorthStar. The guilt of our apparent naivete was crippling. We were conned by their fraudulent claims and will go to our graves regretting our gullibility.” – Bob Bacon, Father
The LA LGBT Center and Survivors of Institutional Abuse have launched a new campaign to once and for all implement a system to regulate these residential treatment programs. What these facilities do to young people would be are against the law. If parents did these things, they would be investigated by the Department of Child and Family Services. Unfortunately, these “boot camps” currently exist outside the law.
“When I was 17, two large men woke me up before dawn, tied a belt around my waist and forced me out of my home. I was taken to a dumping ground – guarded by men with guns – for kids whose families didn’t know how to solve their child’s issue. In my case, it was the fact that I’m gay. The program was an endless nightmare of torture, including public beatings and humiliation, hard labor, and sometimes solitary confinement in a windowless cell where we relieved ourselves in a bucket.” – David Wernsman, Survivor
Representative Adam Schiff and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have introduced HR3060 to regulate these programs in all 50 states. It will take all of us, however, to move this work forward. All of us can play an important role in raising awareness of this issue and taking action to support our LGBT Youth, and in fact, all youth that are at risk of being sent to these facilities.
Take the first steps now, and join the LA Center and Survivors of Institutional Abuse: