two stories about abuse

Just a friendly reminder that a closed system in which young people can’t express themselves or turn to outside help is always going to be a petri dish for abuse. (If you want to be cynical, you could also see these stories as showing that the authoritarian model of child-rearing championed by some on the religious right is also a petri dish for abuse. I reserve judgment on that point, but I do think it’s rarer for these kinds of stories to come out of agnostic hippie communes….)

First, Mitt Romney is taking drug policy advice from people who used to run, and are not particularly ashamed of, violent, sadistic “rehab” programs for teens with drug problems:

Mel Sembler’s name is most likely to strike fear into the hearts of anyone involved in teen drug rehabs. Sembler and his wife, Betty, founded a chain of such institutions under the name Straight, Inc., which at its peak in the ‘80s had 12 clinics in nine states and a track record of extreme abuse. Straight’s “rehabilitation” approach was adopted from an earlier program called The Seed, which was suspended by the US Senate for practices similar to Communist POW camps. As in the Scientology’s Narconon rehabs, Straight developed the cultlike feature of turning former students into counselors who embraced and enforced the institution’s brutal regime.

In one of many stories from Straight that have been exposed, a teenage girl testified to being compelled into the program after being caught with an airline bottle of liquor given to her by a friend, and then beaten, raped, locked in a janitor’s closet in pants soiled by urine, feces, and menstrual blood, forced into a false and bizarre confession to being a “druggie whore” who went down on truckers for a fix. Monroe’s story is extreme but in no way unique. Similar accounts from Straight survivors have been collected en masse online at….

“My best guess is that at least half of the kids were abused,” Dr. Arnold Trebach, a professor emeritus at American University and founder of the Drug Policy Foundation (now the Drug Policy Alliance), which supports ending the drug war, told Gorenfeld.

The second story is about Fred Phelps, who is not just a religious kook with an inflammatory style, but is a serial abuser and a font of unending rage:

When we were younger it was a barber strap. That thing got so shredded at the ends that it would wrap around the sides of our legs and tear the skin. It was kind of like a cat o’ nine tails. When I was about 8 or 9 he introduced us to a Mattock handle, which is a farming instrument or tool that you use to pull up roots, and it’s got an axe head on one end and a hoe head on the other end. It’s big. You know, take a baseball bat, add maybe 30 percent to that….

He used all of these strategies that appeared to be very deliberate. He required the older boys to start administering the beatings themselves, and if they didn’t do it properly then they would get beat from him because they weren’t hitting hard enough or doing it as he would do it. And that was kind of a pattern he used even with the passing on of the message that he taught. He didn’t just settle for making sure we knew it. He required us to present it the way he did….

I went and parked the car about half a block up the road, just in case, because it was critical that no one know that’s what I was doing. One of the dynamics of the situation is that we were more than willing to throw each other under the bus to save ourselves.

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One Response to two stories about abuse

  1. Janiece says:

    Or my current, personal, favorite – the BSA taking cues from the Catholic Church when it comes to pedophilia and abuse of power.

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