July 29, 2015
My name is Jeneen Miller and I am a survivor of institutional abuse. When I was 16-years-old, my extremely religious parents sent me to a reform school against my will in 1988-1989 for approximately eight months against my will. They thought my actions were delegated against the credence and Word of God, and despite good academic standing and meeting their curfews, that I was experimenting with drugs & alcohol by the way I was responding to them when they did not believe me about statutory rape by my uncle under his care. I was only 15-years old at the time of abuse. Known as “tough love” programs, my parents signed over their legal rights to me and entrusted the program with full legal guardianship of me, allowing them to abuse me mentally, physically and spiritually. Whenever they would update my parents, I would be “doing well” or “being ornery”, depending on the day. I was allowed no contact through telephone or letters to anyone from the outside world (only letters to parents but monitored), as this was against their policy and may cause “distraction” as the school fought to squeeze the evil out of me. They found legal loopholes to get away with abusing the teenagers who are committed there. This reformatory was located in Ramona, California and the name of the institution was called Victory Christian Academy. See a piece of my experience on my website as well as the accompanying mini-documentary.
I wrote a book about my experience called Pieces of Victory and it is my memoir of what my life was like there. It is non-fiction, and in the book I am locked up in isolation and I flashback to a love story of my high school sweetheart. A good comparison of my book would be ”The Notebook” meets “Shawshank Redemption”. What I witnessed and experienced in this lockdown is despicable and illegal, but the staff did not get prosecuted at all.
I contributed to closing down the facility in 1992, along with the other survivors. The preacher, Michael Palmer, moved his facility to Florida and rebranded the abusive school where the laws are different and you can run programs there without a license. It was open for business for over two decades until Alexandra Zayas from the Tampa Bay Times exploited the isolation room, known as the “Room of Grace” along with a survivor and how she was abused in the name of God. These reform schools, boot camps, wilderness programs, conversion therapies, drug rehabilitation programs are a billion dollar industry. Anderson Cooper published a video report of these schools in Indiana called the Hephzibah House, which you can watch here. Part II is here.
A sister program to Victory Christian Academy, New Bethany located in Louisiana promoted sex trafficking, beatings, isolation, and other forms of torment in the name of God. Mack Ford unfortunately was never indicted for his heinous crimes let alone prosecuted. Arcadia grand jury declines to indict Mack W. Ford. Shortly after, he died. See Jennifer Halter’s story…
As you can see, my story is by far from being an isolated incident. A publicly funded documentary, Kidnapped for Christ, came out in 2014, telling the story of U.S. teen David Lawrence who is kidnapped and sent to the Dominican Republic. His parents could not accept the fact that he is gay. They wanted to change him and when Christian counseling did not work, they shipped him off to Escuela Caribe where he was abused physically, spiritually and emotionally. They were going to leave him locked up until his 21st birthday. You cannot throw your kid in the trash for how they were born, who they love, or their gender. You need to accept them. Period. Unfortunately, parents are sending teenaged victims off to these boot camps because of their judgments, damaging them emotionally for the rest of their lives. Thousands have taken their own lives after leaving “treatment”, haunted by their experience and unable to lift the lifelong stigma that scarred their hearts and minds.
See also Nick Gaglia’s films, especially Aaron Bacon. He was killed in Utah at the wilderness camp and not given food or water, but rather chastised for being “unmanly”. Nick Gaglia is a survivor himself of a straight program and is a writer, filmmaker and producer. SIA (Survivors of Institutional Abuse) is an organization that brings survivors together to heal, spread awareness and empower. This organization is bringing light onto the subject matter because it has been swept under the carpet for far too long. Parents should work together as a unit instead of separating a child from the family and singling them out as the problem. It is a whole family dynamic. There are so many red flags with these programs that parents need to be aware of. When you cannot see your child for weeks and months at a time, that’s a problem. I could not write, call or have visitors from anyone other than my parents and letters were monitored. I never once made a phone call. I genuinely could’ve had more rights in prison. I couldn’t use the restroom on my terms. Many children today are being abused by isolation, starvation, beatings and sex trafficking. This is the United States of America and unfortunately, abuse continues today.
Recently, I was interviewed at the SIA Art Gallery in Hollywood on the red carpet by Alexis Kiley while our spokesperson for SIA, Caroline Burt (Dash Dolls), was having a reality show at this event. Caroline is a survivor of institutional abuse. Visit http://www.sia-now.org/.
I would love to come onto your show and talk about my upcoming book and discuss how my story is not just an isolated incident, but that this is an epidemic happening across our nation that needs to be addressed by taking action. For far too long, it has been hushed and not talked about.
Thank you for taking the time to review my story.
Survivor of Institutional Abuse