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April 17, 2009

Parents seek fast-tracked public funds for rape-reeducation camp

My friend Maia Szalavitz has an amazing story about an allegedly abusive boarding school in Oregon that has found itself in the middle of a Supreme Court battle over state reimbursement for special needs education.

The Court will decide whether parents get reimbursed for special education before the public special ed program has tried and failed to help their kid. It just so happens that the parents who are suing want to send their son to a self-proclaimed therapeutic boarding school that uses bizarre and abusive methods to "treat" kids for a variety of ills ranging from post-rape trauma to ADHD and marijuana use.

The case isn't about the merits of the curriculum, but it has focused national attention on abuse allegations against the Mount Bachelor Academy. Szalavitz interviewed several former Mount Bachelor residents who told consistent stories of sexualized abuse and humiliation in the name of treatment.

Some of the female inmates were sent to the school specifically to treat behavioral problems supposedly linked to rape:

But according to 10 students, two separate parents, and a current part-time employee interviewed by TIME — some of whom are involved in the state inquiry — Mount Bachelor Academy regularly uses intensely humiliating tactics as treatment. For instance, in required seminars that the school calls Lifesteps, students say staff members of the residential program have instructed girls, some of whom say they have been victims of rape or sexual abuse in the past, to dress in provocative clothing — fishnet stockings, high heels and miniskirts — and perform lap dances for male students, as therapy.


One 18-year-old former student and victim of rape wept while recounting what happened to her during a Lifestep seminar. Jane, who asked not to be identified with her real name, left the school in March. "They had me dress up as a French maid," she said, describing an outfit that included fishnet stockings and a short skirt. "I had to sit on guys' laps and give them lap dances," while sexually suggestive songs, such as "Milkshake" by Kelis, played at high volume.

"They told me I was dirty and I had to put mud on myself for being raped," she said, in reference to a separate Lifestep session. "They basically blamed me for getting raped." [TIME]

Mount Bachelor promises to cure "promiscuity" and drug use in rape survivors.

Former resident Amber Ozier told Szalavitz that the school forced her to role-play the drowning death of her younger sister in the name of therapy. Mount Bachelor's interventions is designed to stress and humiliate students until they regress to a hyper-suggestible infantile state for easy reprogramming.

One of the heroes of this story is whistle-blower Susan Owren, a part-time driver for the school who reported the school to the state in mid-March after hearing dozens of similar stories of abuse from students. "Every single kid has told me something horrifying," she told TIME.

Owren's complaint sparked an official investigation that is ongoing.


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Was there a bill in Congress a year or two ago for oversight of these places? Do you know what happened to that?

Somebody needs to go to prison over this. This is torture. And for fuck's sake, you don't "reprogram" a human being.

Well, this sounds like something Republicans would come up with for punishment of kids. Not their OWN kids of course... but other people's kids.

Promiscuity doesn't belong in scare quotes here. Women who have been raped often become (unhappily) promiscuous subsequent to the rape. They do need psychiatric help dealing with what for them is a trauma-induced, psychologically self-destructive behavior.

Which makes this place all the more disgusting. Shame, stress, and humiliation are not ways to heal psychological trauma; they are simply ways to inflict more. "Oh, hey, we tortured your daughter into no longer embarrassing you with the effects of her PTSD. If you're lucky, she won't have a total breakdown until she's in her twenties and is living in another state."

Promiscuity doesn't belong in scare quotes here. Women who have been raped often become (unhappily) promiscuous subsequent to the rape.

Children who are raped- especially by family or loved ones- tend to confuse sex with love, and become what society calls "promiscuous"... this is less likely to happen the closer they get to adulthood. Such is my understanding, anyway. Of course, the word "promiscuous", as it was used here (and almost everywhere else) has less to do with the percieved suffering of certain women than the pathologies of other people regarding those women. (The same kind of pathologies which obviously possessed the people running this asylum.)

Any establishment, job, or career field dealing with vulnerable people tends to attract authoriarian personalities like bugs to a mercury vapor streetlamp. It even happens in the domestic violence field, though we usually do a good job of screening them out. Society as a whole is unfortunately still very naive.

Mount Bachelor's interventions is designed to stress and humiliate students until they regress to a hyper-suggestible infantile state for easy reprogramming.

Wait a minute - isn't that exactly the same MO as the Scientologists?

I was forced to be at this place for a year and a half of my life. I was sent there at 15, and finally ran away, acted out or refused to "cooperate" to the point at 16.5, they finally let me free. I am 27 now. I still have nightmares about this place to this day. The things they do there are SICK. The school was under investigation at least one other time when a boy named Brandon hung himself from a frickin tree... THAT IS HOW BAD THEY TRY TO MAKE YOU FEEL ABOUT YOURSELF. Unfortunatly, it worked on Brandon. I hung on to reality with every bit of life I had in me, but I will admitt that the past 10 years have NOT been easy. My life is FAR from normal. I came back from that place 1000X worse then when I left. All I wanted to do was drown out those memories, which led to a downward spiral of "trying to forget all the things I've done to try to forget". I can only hope and pray that parents will stop believing these "educational councelors", or simply out of desperation, believing what these scum bags tell them. If ANY ONE AT ALL is thinking about sending their child to that place- DONT DO IT.

You need to call the State of Oregon and share your story. Every piece of information they receive is helpful to the investigation.

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