Diamond Ranch Academy Survivor Survey – Sophie
Date of Submission: 2013/07/06
Do you wish to grant further testimony to investigators? – Please contact me with further information.
Age and year of admittance – 15 – 2008
How long was your stay at D.R.A.? – 9 months
How long have you been back home? – The moment I came back home, I packed a bag, stayed for about four to five days, and left my parents and home forever. I will never forgive them for sending me to Diamond Ranch. Never. I have not spoken to my parents in five years, and I have no regrets about that either.
Did you graduate from DRA? – I did.
Before the program did you have a serious drug problem? Please describe severity – I didn’t. I tried marijuana a few times, but was not what I would call a “recreational” user. For whatever reason, my parents were convinced I was promiscuous drug addict. Want to know the truth? Now I have a drug problem. Not so much as a problem, more of a tolerance. Ever since my time at Diamond Ranch, let’s just say marijuana, ecstacy, LSD, cocaine, etc. have become a part of my life.
Before the program were you admitted to any other residential treatment, for instance a mental hospital? – I was not.
Before the program did you have a criminal record or spend time in Juvenile Hall? – No. I did commit a break and enter with a friend when I was 14. Looking back, not a smart thing to do. I was never caught however, and it was a one time thing, spur of the moment.
Where you court ordered, or did your parents choose to send you to DRA? – My parents chose.
Did you consent to treatment at DRA? Did you sign a contract? – Absolutely not. I was woken up at at 3am by my parents and was told, “you’re going to boarding school”.
Was there a medical admissions process? Please describe – Nope. Literally just one night, my parents along with two burly “escorts” wake me up at 3am and tell me, “you’re going to boarding school”.
Were your medical records considered before you were admitted into DRA? – I’m sure to a capacity they were through my parents, but I’m not privy to that information.
Were you strip searched? How many times? – Yes, a few times, I estimate about 3 to 4 times. The first time was during my intake process. It was mortifying and humiliating.
How much was your tuition? I’m not privy to that information unfortunately, again I immediately ceased all contact with my parents.
Considering how much your tuition cost, Do you think you were given an adequate education at DRA.? –
In your opinion were the teachers, good teachers? Did they have degrees and certifications? – They might have, but I found the teachers to be: uncaring, unfit for their jobs, always angry, bullying, and in many cases, sadistic. Truth be told, it’s hard to learn something when the teacher has a very obvious disdain for his/her students, and delights in verbally and yes in some cases physically abusing them.
Were your tests open book, multiple choice tests? Would you consider them easy to pass? – It was a mix, they were fairly easy.
How many school credits did you earn in what period of time? – I can’t remember this, sorry.
Did you receive a diploma from DRA? – You graduate from the program boot-camp style.
Was a certified medical professional available to students at their request? – Available? Yes. At our request? No.
Were proper check ups, dental cleaning, and medication observation appointments held regularly? – Definitely not.
If you got sick were you given adequate treatment and rest? – No. I was told to suck it up. In fact, sometimes I was accused of trying to weasel my way out of the program, and was told very curtly it wouldn’t work.
Were you ever refused medical care because staff said that you were “faking it”? – Many, many, countless times.
Was a medical service offered for drug detox or drug rehabilitation? – No it was more about breaking defiant behaviour.
Was there any kind of “Drug Education” available for students who had used drugs in the past? – There was, but not in the way you think. I remember I had to run for three hours straight without any water while getting yelled at non-stop to “cleanse” myself. All that for the five or six joints I tried in high school.
What is the name of your case manager/ “Therapist”? Did they have degrees/ licenses? What were their qualifications before taking the job at DRA? – I don’t remember, I just remember mainly the Diaz family.
Was group therapy considered to be of a confrontational nature? – Yes.
Do you feel you were forced to confess to things you did not do in order to progress in the program? – Yes, I felt my rights were taken away, and I was not charged with a crime. I had to admit to things like being a “teenage whore” and a “druggie”.
Were students encouraged to accept that they were alcoholics or drug addicts? Was this required to advance in the program? – You had to admit it, even if it wasn’t true. We were all seen as the same.
Were students encouraged to follow a 12 step program in order to earn levels and graduate the program – No.
Were students encouraged to accept a “higher power” contingent to their recovery? – Yes, a spiritual kind. Really stupid if you ask me.
In your opinion, How was the food quality? Was it prepared properly? Were safety and health codes followed in the kitchen? – Level 1 was the homeless phase, and I’d compare the food quality to that of a russian gulag. We practically starved, I remember nearly weighing 80 pounds at one point.
Did you ever go hungry? Were you given proper portions? Was food ever withheld as a punishment? – All the time. Proper portions? I wish. Thinking about it now makes me ill. Food, among many other things (like bathroom breaks), were withheld as punishment.
Did you gain a lot of weight? Were you forced to eat more than you were able to eat? – The opposite actually, I lost a ton of weight, and not in the healthy kind of way.
Were you ever punished for vomiting? – I was belittled as a pig for vomiting once by the staff, and one made a comment how I should lick it up with my tongue.
Please describe the “homeless” (Observation & Assessment) experience. How did you feel about this? – Hellish. I’m sure military personnel on basic training don’t even go through what we had to go through. I felt hopeless, and many times suicidal. You couldn’t do anything without permission, like cross your legs or scratch your nose; the punishment was horrific. I tried running away, and the staff broke my wrist while holding me down. I cried out in pain and they kept restraining me. I was then dragged back to the group by my hair. And that was day one. You go hungry, you grow delirious, and at one point, you accept that you have to “go along with it” to get out of it.
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? – I was never privy to anything like that, so I couldn’t tell you.
Where you aware of anyone being restrained and isolated from the group? – Myself and just about everybody in my program. I met some bad kids there. One time, one boy was forced out of class, being screamed all sorts of awful things, then tied down to a bed. He kept screaming in anguish. I felt for that kid, but out of fear, we couldn’t say or do anything.
What reasons were these people restrained? (please describe actual events) – Specifics I can think of include:
-During your 30 minute chat with your parents, one kid -told the truth about what an awful place DRA was. He was accused of “manipulation”, and made an example of.
-Anyone who tried to run away, or challenged the staff.
-One girl who couldn’t stop crying, out of desperation I can only assume, was restrained. She ended up getting a bruise on her thigh.
Where stress positions utilized? Were there more time in isolation given if the student would move, cry or speak? – Look up the “thinking” position for an example of a stress position. We had push up positions to hold as well. Remember, I’m a 90 pound girl.
(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? – You can’t do anything without raising your hand, including speaking. Bathroom sessions were limited and timed. So if you really had to go, forget it. I spoke to my parents every couple of weeks and you were intructed to only speak about you being in the wrong. You weren’t allowed to speak ill of the program. Letters were prooferead to make sure they had “Acceptable” content.
How long before you were able to speak to your parents on the phone? Were your phone calls monitored? – Two weeks, they were, staff were everywhere listening in. Rest assued it pained me to lie through those calls, but I had to do what I had to do to get out quickly.
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? – Nope. Now, I don’t know if this was true, but I’m from Canada right, and this was in Utah, in the middle of nowhere. The nearest town is a long walk away, and the local law enforcement are in cahoots with DRA. So, they are supposedly well aware of everything that goes on, and turn a blind eye towards it. As for a phone to call my parents or anyone else, definitely not.
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, absolutely. The physical retribution alone frightened me. You were always threatened with being put back in the homeless phase, which meant you had to stay there longer.
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? – More like we were basically told to rat on each other, in lamen’s terms.
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, as I described previously. I saw lots of boys and girls have these weird seizures because they were holding in urine or feces.
How often were you allowed to speak freely? Were you not allowed to speak with others in your group? – Hardly ever except on the odd occasion.
Did you have to walk in line? How often? Were there consequences if you did not line up properly? – Yes, the usual getting yelled at, or physically forced to walk properly (they one time grabbed my arms and moved them in an up/down fashion to show me proper walking. Humiliating.)
Would you be given a consequence if you forgot something? (for instance, a pen or a book) – Oh yeah.
Were your personal items inspected by other students? (upper levels?) without your consent or presence? – Students and the staff. Inspections were common.
(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? – Basically, shut your mouth, do e v e r y t h i n g the staff tells you to do, do every activity with a straight face, not act with any sort of defiance.
What kind of staff responsibilities were upper levels given? – Watching over the students and making reports, basically keeping them in line.
Were upper levels required to give out consequences, citations or to hold lower levels accountable for minor rule violations? – Yes, reported directly to the staff.
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 latter sentence of that question describes it perfectly. If there was a rule book for the staff to follow, I wasn’t aware of it. Remember, this was a very degrading, humiliating, scary, and physically hurtful experience.
Were you punished/ held back if you chose not to pass out citations, and opted to verbally warn students instead? – Never happened to me because I was too afraid to do that.
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? – Indirectly, it all depended on what they reported.
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? – Well, it was untold that we had to act and read a certain way. They worded things very smartly as to basically say: “Don’t make us look bad or else…. admit you’re a worthless teenage failure who needs help… and this program is helping you and your family”.
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? – Big time, including me. But I was holding it all in internally. They would be punished, usually by being put back to homeless phase.
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? – Anything the staff deemed unworthy of their respect. Inspection failure, back talk, not following proper procedures.
What are your opinions of the owners/ Directors of D.R.A? – They are people who, for whatever reason, seem to get off on mentally and physically abusing teenagers, and have been given free reign to do so which in the USA and in some ways Canada (because I am Canadian), which makes no sense with our constitutional rights to dignity. They are motivated by their hatred for teens, and money. I hear comparisons to bullies alot, and that’s pretty apt, but being a bully is usually a phase. Not with the staff, owners, etc. at DRA. They love this. They are the type of people that will call a teen boy a “faggot”, push him to the floor hurting him, and say “this is for your own good”. They are sadistic, depraved, and do more harm than good, believe me.
Do you believe that the program acting within the means of “Tough Love” was appropriate treatment for you in your adolescence? – Again, the laughing you’re hearing right now is me, at the other end of the country. To be blunt, no, no, and no. My parents chose a quick fix solution that was sold to them by clever marketers. Teens are teens and they mature at one point, and if they do need help, treating them like garbage found on a farm is not exactly a helpful thing do now is it? Imagine taking an abused child out of his/her natural parent’s house, thenput in a foster home with even crazier and abusive foster parents. You know the problems my parents thought I had? Sex, drugs, alcohol, etc.? AFTER DRA, BECAUSE OF DRA, I had a high amount of anxiety and depression, and BECAUSE OF DRA I got into those things. BECAUSE. AS A DIRECT RESULT OF. And again, my relationship with my parents is forever damaged as a result. I will never contact those people. Ever.
Do you believe that the staff and junior staff usually acted within the US standards for health, safety and well being of the students? – No. No, no, and no. Again, I can’t believe no one has done anything about this, not the media, not congress, whatever it takes, I’m shocked this place operates still.
Considering long term effects, do you think your experience at DRA has an effect on your life today? Positive or negative?Negative. I work in a strip club. I’ve done many drugs, still do. I have no family (to hell with my parents). I’m 19 and my last boyfriend was 55 years old. DRA ruined my life, I’m crying just typing all of this, it’s so hard to relive this misery. Only reason why I’m writing all of this is because I was talking to a friend about my time at Diamond Ranch, and he referred me to this website. It was the single most miserable experience of my life, and I’ve nearly been driven to suicide since.