Jennifer Halter – Survivor

cropped-1477643_567806516633651_1686991377_n-11.jpgJennifer Halter’s story…

I was at New Bethany from 1988 to1990. At the age of 13, I thought my mother and I were close. I really was a good kid. I never got in trouble and started hanging out with the wrong people. My mom tricked me into thinking I was going to a boarding school; something, I always wanted.

I remember riding down the long road to New Bethany. Upon arrival, there were tall fences with razor wire and gates with chains on them. We pulled up and waited for someone to come, unlock the chains, and open the gate for us. I remember asking my mom where were we, what is this place? We pulled up and were greeted my several girls and a older women with white hair (Miss Shipman). My mom told me this place would help me. I begged her, “Please don’t leave me.”

We went inside and I was taken to Miss Shipman’s room. I turned and saw my mom driving away. I took off running out the front door, screaming, “Mom, Mom please don’t leave me.” I was running behind her car as she drove down the driveway, screaming and crying for her to please stop come back, please! I was yelling, “I’ll be good, I promise I’ll do anything. Please don’t leave me. When I saw her stop the car, I thought she was coming back. I stopped running and just cried. Asking her, “Please I love you I’m so sorry for being bad. I will never do it again!”

When the gate opened for her to leave, I watched her drive off. I had never felt so alone in my life. I was scared! Miss Shipman grabbed my arm and pulled me inside. I was taken in the back to get debugged. I was scrubbed down with a brillo-pad and Selsun Blue. I was sprayed with raid and lice shampoo for my hair. I was given blue culottes and a white button up shirt to wear. I kept thinking to myself, “My mom will come back as soon as she gets home and realizes what she did.”

Mom never came back. My nightmare had just begun. As the next few days passed, all I could do was cry. Miss Shipman told me I needed to stop crying or she would make sure I had a reason to cry; I continued crying. Late one night, Shipman heard me crying, came into the room I was in, grabbed me by my arm, pulled me out of bed, and dragged me all the way to her room. That is when I got my first lick. I was told to pull up my nightgown, pull my panties down, bend over, and hold on to her chair. I had never been hit with anything until that day.

I was hit so many times with a wooden paddle that I threw up. I got more licks for throwing up. That was my first week at New Bethany; as time went by, it got worse. On several occasions, I was put in a secret room, located at the end of White Hall.

The day the police came to talk to us:

I had been in trouble earlier that day. My hands were scrubbed with a brillo-pad and soaked in bleach and pine sol as punishment. My hands were wrapped up and I told the officer what had been going on at NB. Once again, I was abandoned all over again. I was beaten by the staff members of Mack Ford, including Miss Shipman, Nora Carter, Mrs. Garris and her husband Mr. Garris, Miss Shannon Scott, Thelma Ford aka Mama Ford, who was Mack Ford’s wife.

Mack Ford raped me on trips outside of Louisiana. Staff at New Bethany raped me multiple times. Numerous times, Brother Garris, Brother Bobby, the grounds keeper, and Mack Ford raped me. I was raped in the area of the gym/pool. I was raped on Green Hall, I was raped under the stairs in the old dorm, and I was raped under Miss Lori’s office.

Mack Ford, his daughters, and wife looked the other way. After Ford’s children grew up and had families of their own, they returned and lived on the compound with their spouses and children. As adults, Ford’s adult children and spouses did nothing to protect the kids at New Bethany; instead, they hid the abuse, removed girls to protect their parents and in-laws, and helped hide the paddles, pvc pipes, and other objects used to beat children bloody. If Mack Ford’s adult children would have reported to law enforcement, they could have stopped the abuse a long time ago; instead, they kept their mouths closed and allowed physical, emotional, and sexual abuse to continue for decades.

I wonder what they have seen, heard, and know about. I wonder what other things they are covering up to protect the Ford’s and themselves. Robbie and Tim you’re not innocent; you are as bad as your parents because you kept your mouth shut, took girls away from NB to protect your parents, and you knew children were physically and sexually abused at the hands of your parents and staff at New Bethany

How can you live with yourself and sleep at night knowing that you could have stopped the abuse. I still have problems with my back from having my tailbone broken at New Bethany. Every day, when I look in the mirror and see the scar that was left on my body at the hands of Thelma Ford and the NB staff, I am reminded of the horrific abuse at New Bethany. I am terrified to go to sleep at night because the nightmares play in my head. If Ford’s adult children would report to law enforcement, they could end the struggle that so many Survivors of New Bethany live with.

NB director, his wife, and the staff beat and raped me. I know of numerous other girls, who were also beaten and raped. I haven’t forgotten hearing the daily screams of young children. Mack and Thelma Ford, the Ford’s family, and staff should burn in hell for the sake of us children. One day, I will face them again and this time I will not be afraid of the Ford’s or their staff. New Bethany staff did everything you could to make us feel worthless, every day of our young lives; life, that you destroyed for us. I will never forget and I will never let it go. I will be there the day all of you pay for what you did to me and to so many other children.

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