Troubled Teen Industry Survivors are Breaking Code Silence

Thinking of sending your kid to military school? Don’t.

Valentine Wiggin

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White van with snowy mountains and grass in the background
Source: Johannes Andersson on Unsplash

If you’ve ever seen references to a vague ‘military school’ in school or film, you’ve seen a nod to the troubled teen industry. This industry is made up of a series of institutions, such as schools or camps, that promise desperate parents and teens an end to problems such as depression, addiction, truancy, or just plain inadequacy in a parent’s eyes. The most common formats for these institutions are boot camps, wilderness schools, and camps dedicated to LGBTQ+ conversion therapy. Other popular formats include pseudo-psychiatric facilities and faith-based boarding schools.

In an interview with Vice, three survivors, Theo, Mary, and Sarah, all recounted their experiences. They all came from Cross Creek Manor, an institution based in La Verkin, Utah. At this for-profit reform school, students were forced to attend supposedly therapeutic seminars that involved rape reenactments for female students who were sexually abused. During these reenactments, others were encouraged to call this student a “whore” or a “slut”. This school also used solitary confinement as a means of punishing students for any infraction, even something minor like missing a spot on the floor.

Theo, Mary, and Sarah are not alone in their experiences. Twenty-five survivors banded together and filed a lawsuit against the school for child abuse, fraud, assault, battery, false imprisonment, and other charges in 2006. While in the program, these people had to endure various forms of isolation and physical torture. Specific methods include being thrown to the ground, forced to eat their own vomit, bathroom denial, and being forced to exert themselves beyond their capacity.

Not only did the 25 survivors allege physical abuse, but they also accused Cross Creek Manor of psychological abuse. Strict monitoring of letters and prohibiting phone calls and personal visits from parents created an environment of near total isolation from the outside world. As a result, many people who enter these programs exit unprepared to live out the rest of their lives.

That’s not the only lawsuit against Cross Creek Manor. In 2013, Sarah Artim and her mother Nancy Artim, sued this institution…

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Valentine Wiggin

Death-positive, sex-positive, and LGBTQ-affirming Christian. Gen Z. I hate onions. She/her