Teens in Lock-Down - Abuse in the Name of Treatment by Michele Ulriksen
The year was 1986 I was a somewhat normal sixteen-year-old enjoying the Southern California summer weather, trips to the beach and preparing to start my junior year of high school in Orange County. However, my puberty driven rebellious behavior was brought to a screeching halt on the morning of September 1st of that year. What was supposed to be a family outing to the San Diego Wild Animal Park was actually a carefully executed plan by my family to deliver me into what would be the worst experience of my life: a year in a locked-down, all-girl, unlicensed, unregulated fundamentalist Baptist reform school.
The Year is 2008 I am a woman of 38 years, a single parent, a college student, raising a daughter and living in Corvallis, Oregon. I’ve had quite a lot of time to think about my life experience, and have made some clear decisions about what’s important to me. One is a commitment to call out these kinds of facilities for what they promulgate in the world: immoral thuggery, degrading behavior akin to spiritual rape, divisive intolerance, and the worst kind of arrogant and illegal abuse of power. There are thousands of survivors of such institutions, and many of them are not doing well in the world. I would consider myself to be among the more fortunate, in that I maintain an independent and fulfilling life, but there is not a day goes by in which I do not relive the traumatic effects of the treatment I received more than half my life ago at a center supposedly devoted to the work of God. My commitment goes deeper than naming the kind of abuse that I and others experienced at the facility. My commitment is to place a spotlight of public awareness directly on such institutions, for there are many located in many states. They need to be identified. They need to be forced to adhere to basic standards of supporting civil liberties, freedom of speech, and equality, or be closed down.
What to do A letter to Congressmen George Miller (D-CA) may do some good. Mr. Miller had tried for several years to conduct an investigation into these reform schools but the Bush Administration thwarted his efforts. It was not until the Democrats took control of Congress in 2006 that he was given the opportunity to launch an investigation into the abuses he had heard so much about in relation to these types of facilities, which included boot camps and wilderness programs in remote areas of the United States. Mr. Miller held a full committee hearing in October 2007 that investigated and heard compelling testimony from parents who had lost their kids in some locked-down programs that were intended to reform them. It was a huge step forward in exposing abuse, and deaths, in alternative residential treatment facilities, some licensed and some not; some religious, and some secular. Write to Mr. Miller and remind him to keep this issue in the forefront and to mandate laws that will hold the owners of these facilities accountable for their abusive actions. (If you’d like to view the hearing, please visit www.ReformAtVictory.com.)
While navigating (badly) through a sea of teen angst, Michele Ulriksen was shipped off to reform school, an experience that inspired her first book, Reform at Victory. As an adult she moved to the Bay Area to study Film and Creative Writing at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. After five memorable years, she headed north to Oregon where she accepted a writing/editing position with Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB.) After four rewarding years working in public radio, she resigned to finish her book and return to school. She earned an associate’s degree and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English with emphasis in creative writing and women’s studies. Her publishing credits include Listen Magazine, World Kid Magazine, Freethought Today, Gazette-Times, OPB Member Guide, Willamette Freethinker, The Peaceworker, The Daily Barometer, International Library of Poetry, The Alchemist, Creative Highway, and The Commuter, where she also served as a Copy Editor in community college. Her memoir, Reform at Victory, was published in 2008. More info at http://www.reformatvictory.com/