Diamond Ranch Academy Survivor Survey – Bella
Date of Submission: 8/24/15
Do you wish to grant further testimony to investigators? – Yes.
Age and year of admittance – 14, 2013
How long was your stay at D.R.A.? – seven and a half months
How long have you been back home? – a little over a year
Did you graduate from DRA? – absolutely not.
Before the program did you have a serious drug problem? Please describe severity – Before my program began i had minor drug problems. I smoked weed a few times a week but that was all.
Before the program were you admitted to any other residential treatment, for instance a mental hospital? – No
Before the program did you have a criminal record or spend time in Juvenile Hall? – I had a charge on my record for stealing but that was all.
Where you court ordered, or did your parents choose to send you to DRA? – It was my parents choice.
Did you consent to treatment at DRA? Did you sign a contract? – Nothing at all was presented for me to sign, and no one spoke to me about consent.
Was there a medical admissions process? Please describe – As soon as i arrived i was brought into what they called “medical” it was a room upstairs that was fairly small. They immediately strip searched me and made me take out my piercings. I believe they recorded the amount of tattoos i had as well. They put two needles in my arm and i don’t recall wether they were testing me for something or injecting me with something. I believe there were at least four staff members in the room all just staring at me and writing things down.
Were your medical records considered before you were admitted into DRA? – I believe they had a copy of my medical records, yes. But they did not give one single fuck about anything i had to say in relations to medical issues. They thought the students saying they had medical problems was us trying to manipulate them.
Were you strip searched? How many times? – i was strip searched three times a day every day for 42 days. Twice during the day and once in the middle of the night. Also if you ever left campus for any reason (you never did other than visits) they would strip search you upon returning.
How much was your tuition? my parents paid around 6,300 a month.
Considering how much your tuition cost, Do you think you were given an adequate education at DRA.? – Everything i learned was self taught. The teachers were not “teachers” we considered them babysitters. They sat at their desks and did close to nothing other then watch absolutely everything we did, and hand out citations. We were given a syllabus and the required books for each class and that was all. We did everything on our own. I will admit DRA brought up my GPA, but i give them no credit. i did it all on my own, but it was forced. We were required to get an 80 percent or above on every test, quiz, and assignment. Otherwise we would retake them as many times as we had to until we got 80 percent or above. Once i had to take a science test 11 times.
In your opinion were the teachers, good teachers? Did they have degrees and certifications? – I could have taught as equally well as the teachers we had taught. Simply because they did not teach. They weren’t required to either. Their job was to make sure we didn’t speak and didn’t run out of the room. Its possible that the teachers had certifications, but they could have got away with them being garbage men and no one would ever know.
Were your tests open book, multiple choice tests? Would you consider them easy to pass? – The tests were never open book. Occasionally we did have multiple choice tests but they were never easy. You had to know every bit of the information in order to pass. (passing is 80 percent or higher once again)
How many school credits did you earn in what period of time? – Since the schooling was self paced, i finished an entire year of high school in 6 months.
Did you receive a diploma from DRA? – No.
Was a certified medical professional available to students at their request? – Absolutely not. Medical attention was denied to students 90 percent of the time. Regardless if it was a paper cut or an asthma attack.
Were proper check ups, dental cleaning, and medication observation appointments held regularly? – WHAT LOL I didn’t attend one single doctors appointment while there, not a dental appointment, not a gynecologist appointment, not a check up, absolutely nothing.
If you got sick were you given adequate treatment and rest? – You could not go to sleep unless lights went out which was usually at 8:30 or 9 o’clock. You had to wake up at 6 every day and there were no exceptions for sleeping. If you were sick you were usually told something like “deal with it”
Were you ever refused medical care because staff said that you were “faking it”? – Multiple times.
Was a medical service offered for drug detox or drug rehabilitation? – NO. This is what i had a huge problem with. I witnessed a girl come into DRA fresh off of heroin. She had been addicted to the drug for months before coming. They put her on suicide watch and made her sleep in the hall because she cried every day for months. I was haunted every night by the sound of her gasping for air, throwing up, and begging to go to the hospital. They refused her requests every time and did absolutely nothing to help her other than gave her water. (the other girls were ONLY allowed water at mealtimes.)
Was there any kind of “Drug Education” available for students who had used drugs in the past? – surprisingly they did hold weekly NA meetings. And by weekly i mean, they were extremely inconsistent and if we were lucky they were held once a month.
What is the name of your case manager/ “Therapist”? Did they have degrees/ licenses? What were their qualifications before taking the job at DRA? – Jessica.
I believe most of the therapists were legitimate therapists. They all had licenses and degrees but that means nothing. Each therapist had a lot of kids so we were lucky to see them once every two weeks for 45 minutes which practically did nothing at all.
Was group therapy considered to be of a confrontational nature? – group therapy had no nature to it what so ever. we usually sat in a room and did some pointless task such as drawing a picture and they pegged it to be extremely beneficial and therapeutic.
Do you feel you were forced to confess to things you did not do in order to progress in the program? – Yes. My therapist multiple times tried to accuse me of having a sex problem. I was a virgin upon entering the program and she refused to take that as an answer. Also i felt like i was being accused and having to admit to my parents distress on ALL levels. levels that sometimes had nothing to do with me.
Were students encouraged to accept that they were alcoholics or drug addicts? Was this required to advance in the program? – We were all encouraged to accept the problems we were sent to the program for. Whatever our parents said they were even if they could have been completely making them up, they put it in our heads and forced us to believe it. Yes, accepting our problems was required to move on in any way with the program.
Were students encouraged to follow a 12 step program in order to earn levels and graduate the program – The program was six levels. I don’t know anything about steps.
Were students encouraged to accept a “higher power” contingent to their recovery? – Yes. In one part of our level work i remember specifically we had to find a higher power, whatever that may be, and write 500 words about what it is, how we’ve discovered it, how it’s helped us, ect. we HAD to complete all level work in each level in order to advance to the next level. I completely bullshitted that entire portion of the level work, as did those who didn’t have a higher power.
In your opinion, How was the food quality? Was it prepared properly? Were safety and health codes followed in the kitchen? – The food was absolutely disgusting. My parents paid 60,000 dollars plus more in total. i should have been eating fucking gourmet meals. I don’t believe the food was prepared or preserved properly at all. it was often the wrong temperature or not cooked thoroughly. The kitchen was fairly clean but certain areas went untouched for weeks on end.
Did you ever go hungry? Were you given proper portions? Was food ever withheld as a punishment? – i went to bed starving and thinking about food every night. we were not given proper portions and if the cook liked you he’d give you more. If he didn’t you’d be lucky to get half what someone he liked got. Before i arrived they way they used to do it was, the kids in the “bad kids” group got the left over food which was absolutely repulsive.
Did you gain a lot of weight? Were you forced to eat more than you were able to eat? – when i left DRA i was 25 pounds heavier than when i came. The food was extremely processed and we ate at the same time every day and had to eat ALL the food on our plates otherwise we were punished. my body reacted very erratically to that.
Were you ever punished for vomiting? – i never vomited, but i do know one student was punished for using too many paper towels for cleaning up his own vomit. That student died the next day for a heart problem and lack of proper care by the staff members who refused to take him to the hospital or give him any sort of medical attention.
Please describe the “homeless” (Observation & Assessment) experience. How did you feel about this? – this experience was horrifying. I cleaned all day every day for 42 days. Everything as far as shoveling horse shit while steeping in it in flip flops for four hours to scrubbing toilets to the staffs expectations. during O&A we had absolutely 0 contact with our parents. i got 3 minute showers and was strip searched twice during the day and once in the middle of the night. I had about three shirts to wear and one pair of jeans. i wore the same clothes everyday and we only got three very small pumps of shampoo and conditioner. I had to count from 1 till whenever three minutes was up with a staff right outside the door (with the door open) to ensure i wasn’t trying to commit suicide while in the bathroom though it was impossible. i couldn’t shave any part of my body either. we had to do calisthenics every day three times a day which were extremely hard. i have activity induced asthma which was vastly triggered by these activities, and even when i begged for an inhaler they did nothing. my legs arms, and hole body was extremely sore every day.
Were upper levels or any level students asked to babysit the staff’s children, or taken to the staff’s house for any extended period of time? – No.
Where you aware of anyone being restrained and isolated from the group? – Yes. I witnessed restraints at least ten times and was restrained myself. RFI (refocus initiative) was the isolation group. it made you feel like you were the only person in the world. Like O&A which i forgot to mention, we had to ask permission to speak, stand, sit, spit, put on chapstick, cough, move, ect. We couldn’t do anything besides sit in a room for fourteen hours and read the same book over and over. It felt like one hour was one week, the time could not have gone by slower. If we weren’t sitting in an all white tiny room in silence we were scrubbing toilets, floors, or horse shit.
What reasons were these people restrained? (please describe actual events) – People were generally restrained for not complying with staff’s orders. regardless or what they were. One day i was crying and had some mascara running down my face. i was ordered to immediately wide my tears and wipe the dripping mascara. I refused so after three times of giving me the same directive i was slammed to the floor and my wrists were twisted until i was in hysterics begging for them to stop. Another time, on christmas of 2013 i was in RFI cleaning all day. i was physically and emotionally exhausted so i collapsed on the floor (purposely just to take a break not legitimately collapsing) and they immediately told me to get up and continue cleaning. i asked for five minutes just to sit and explained i was extremely tired. Again, after three times of not complying they came over and twisted my wrists again for minutes on minutes. One girl, Shelby, who i believe to be skitso and depressed, wouldn’t make her bed in the mornings and she would have very hard times getting up because she was tired and just not a morning person. if she didn’t get up right when they said they would drag her out of bed and slam her to the floor. we would hear her screams all morning every morning.
Where stress positions utilized? Were there more time in isolation given if the student would move, cry or speak? – They wouldn’t let us out of the restraints until we began to cry and beg for them to stop. They would then ask us three times are you going to comply and we’d have to say yes yes yes, then they would release.
(Please describe the rules and structure that would pertain to a level 1 student.)
Was contact with your parents limited? Where your letters (to and from) intercepted? Were your letters opened, read, crossed out or cut? – we were allowed one phone call a week that lasted about 45 minutes. at any time your therapist could end the call for any reason and you’d have to wait until next week to speak to them again. We were able to write letters but they were read by your youth detention counselor, the front desk, your therapist, and the girl’s campus leader. Half my letters were never received by my parents. they would send them at the last possible minute so communication was as limited as possible. Or if they were too negative or “manipulative” they would just mysteriously never get to our parents. (they would rip them up and dispose of them)
How long before you were able to speak to your parents on the phone? Were your phone calls monitored? – the phone call time depended on your therapist and if she felt you deserved to speak to your parents for a long amount of time. The longest amount of time possible to speak to them was 45 minutes. It was only once a week, we couldn’t just pick up a phone and call them whenever. They were monitored by our therapists, or sat directly across from us and listened to every word and directed the phone call.
If you felt you were being abused, was there anyway you could get to a phone and have a private conversation with your parents, child services or an officer of the law? – absolutely not. We had 0 access to phones, computers, or any type of communication with the real world.
If you wanted to leave were you discouraged to tell your parents how you felt? Were you afraid that you would be punished if you were to describe any incidents of abuse to your parents? – Yes. You were told specifically to not be negative, say anything negative, or reflect on any negative experiences you’ve had to your parents. if you did they would hang up the phone or not send out your letters. I felt extremely nervous to tell me parents what was truly going on because i knew it would only hurt me and i would only be punished.
Were there other students (upper levels) assigned to watch over you? What was their role? Did they give you consequences/ “hold you accountable”? Were they instructed to restrain you or monitor the isolation area, bathrooms and showers? – no. staff was required to monitor us 24/7
Did you have to raise your hand and wait to ask permission from staff (or upper levels) to speak, stand, eat, go to the bathroom and do other normal activities? – yes. we needed to ask permission to do everything
How often were you allowed to speak freely? Were you not allowed to speak with others in your group? – We could speak freely for about two hours of the day. Teachers did not allow free speaking. We couldn’t speak in our rooms because they couldn’t monitor the conversations well enough if we did. During meals with our staff at the table monitoring everything we said, we could speak freely.
Did you have to walk in line? How often? Were there consequences if you did not line up properly? – Before i arrived i was told you had to walk in a line and everyone had a number. every time they went through a door they would have to state their number after the person in front of them. It was all single filed lines.
Would you be given a consequence if you forgot something? (for instance, a pen or a book) – Yes, you would be given a citation.
Were your personal items inspected by other students? (upper levels?) without your consent or presence? – No, they were inspected by staff members, weekly, often daily.
(Please describe the rules and structure that would pertain to an “upper level” student.)
What were the requirements in order to progress in the level system? Was approval from the other upper levels required? – upper levels basically have the same set of rules as everyone else. To progress in the level system you had to pass a certain amount of weeks, complete a certain amount of school work, complete all of the level work for that level which was usually multiple 1000 word essays, memorizing and reciting ridiculous motos. we had to recite a moto before dinner every night that basically stated we were failures and we’re responsible for every decision we make. it was the most robotic thing I’ve ever had to do.
What kind of staff responsibilities were upper levels given? – their responsibilities weren’t much different from the lower levels
Were upper levels required to give out consequences, citations or to hold lower levels accountable for minor rule violations? – no
Were the rules upper levels enforced specific to the rule book or were the definitions of those rules assumed? Could rules easily be made up or given under a category that was vague enough to be given out for any number of things? – the staff basically made the rules up as the days went on. Yes absolutely
Were you punished/ held back if you chose not to pass out citations, and opted to verbally warn students instead? – no students were ever required or allowed to give citations or punishments to any other students.
Did an upper level have to power to influence a child being taken to the isolation room? Were upper levels instructed to watch or participate in restraints? – no but students were often witnesses to other students restraints.
Were upper levels required to give visiting parents a glowing testimonial of their experience in the program, or make testimonial videos or letters? Were pre-written scripts required to be read during the filming of promotional videos? – yes, often upper levels were the ones chosen to do promotional videos and testimonies because DRA staff knows the wouldn’t say anything to compromise the “progress” they’ve made so far in the program. Because one wrong move or statement can be a major setback in someone’s program as far as even having to restart from the beginning. the students were bribed with food and benefits if they said the right things in the videos and testimonies.
What would happen if an upper level student mentioned anything bad about the program in front of a parent? Were students afraid of punishment if they told the truth? – we weren’t allowed access to our parents or anyone elses parents. and the upper levels doing the testimonies for the parents were being monitored by the staff at DRA to make sure nothing like that would ever happen.
How easily could an upper level get dropped (start the program over)? What infractions would make an upper level drop and what level did they usually go back to? – upper levels can be dropped for anything such as: failing a home visit (failing the drug test upon coming back, fighting with parents during visit, failing a goal their therapist made for them before the visit, seeing their boyfriend on the visit) trying to run from the program, having a random outburst, ect. they could be dropped back to the very first level but often they would just be dropped one or two levels depending on the severity of the offense. (if you tried to run no matter what level you were you would have to restart the entire program)
What are your opinions of the owners/ Directors of D.R.A? – money hungry fucking assholes. I’ve met them all and i despise every single one of them and i hope they rot in hell.
Do you believe that the program acting within the means of “Tough Love” was appropriate treatment for you in your adolescence? – hahahah tough love, they don’t give a shit about us. theres no love, not even close.
Do you believe that the staff and junior staff usually acted within the US standards for health, safety and well being of the students? – absolutely not. They all care about their paycheck they could careless about our well being which is evident when they let one of the students die in the hands of multiple staff members, as they refused to give him the medical attention and help he so desperately needed.
Considering long term effects, do you think your experience at DRA has an effect on your life today? Positive or negative?i have nightmares about DRA every night. Theres not a day that goes by that i don think about it. i still have very prominent fears of returning and i just don’t have a clue what i’d do if i did. it’s the last place on earth i wanna be and i feel horrible for the poor kids still trapped in there. the long term effect is 100% negative and i would never in a million years wish DRA on anyone.