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CROSS CREEK PROGRAMS IN UTAH
CROSS CREEK PROGRAMS
Creek uses the same abusive "positive control system" as
Cross Creek uses the same abusive "positive control system" as Eagle Ranch Academy!
One Survivor’s Report
Kelly Adams (contact:
What can possibly be said or written about an experience so traumatic and
damaging that it irrevocably altered the course or my life? How do I begin
to extemporize on the ominous, pervasive black-hole of emptiness,
confusion and anger that, at times, consumes me whole? It's not an easy
task for me to tell a sensical, chronicled account of my 18 months of
incarceration at Cross Creek Manor in Southern Utah. I use the word
"incarceration," because that is what it was, in essence - package the
process in whatever lies and manipulations you wish, but the cold reality
is that we were locked up, plain and simple.
Let me begin by attempting to describe my current mental/emotional/spiritual state. It's imperative that everyone who reads this account understands how far and wide the fallout from my 18 month "stay" at Cross Creek reaches. At the risk of sounding a bit melodramatic, this experience has produced a person who has lost her idealism and faith. I carry the weight of unresolved melancholy and anger, and I have become a stranger to myself in the process. I don't mean to portray that all my days are spent holed up in solitude, crying myself to sleep every night, by most accounts I lead a very "normal" and "successful" life. I DO mean to tell you, however, in no uncertain terms that underneath my seemingly "normal" life is a deeply sad, conflicted and resentful person filled with never-ending self-doubt and self-loathing. If you remember nothing else from this story, remember this -the proprietors of WWASPS and other similar Behavior Modification "Schools" are master manipulators. More than five years since my release in May 1999, the brainwashing still works. Aside from the sometimes crippling depression, I regularly suffer from nightmares about being sent back to Cross Creek. I always have the same one - I get "kidnapped" again and sent back to the Manor, only this time I'm over 18 (I was 17 at my intake). I protest, scream and cry that I'm an adult and I don't consent to being there, but my medical records have been forged and my date of birth always reads a year that makes me underage. This is when I usually wake up sweating and shaken -unable to shake the fear that my nightmare may actually come true. By far the most disturbing result of my stay at Cross Creek has been the complete and total severing from myself that I experienced, and continue to experience today. Before the program, I was a passionate, idealistic and driven young woman - I had a clear vision of the type of person I wanted to be, and the type of life I wanted to live. This is not to say that I wasn't without emotional problems and/or bad judgment, because I definitely had more than my fair share of those - but through those problems I never lost sight of who I eventually wanted to be. Post Cross Creek I am chronically insecure, indecisive, neurotic and conflicted - and on top of that, I was trained so incredibly well by the WWASPS, that I am currently unable to make virtually any kind of decision without being riddled with self-doubt.
I'm not going to misrepresent the truth here and tell you that I was a perfect teenager. I was involved in a lot of the typical "troubled teen" behavior - i.e., drinking and drugs, smoking, lying to my parents and hanging out with "the wrong crowd." This is the kind of nebulous statement that most of us at CCM (and other WWASP programs as well, I'm sure) would give to someone "on the outs" (outside the locked gates, that is) when asked about our past. However, I think that if you're going to take the time to read my story, you need to know the truth about what was really happening with me during those two or three tumultuous years. Unlike most of my peers at Cross Creek, I was not a high school drop out, I wasn't failing classes left and right, and I never skipped school. I had always made good grades, and was taking a pretty challenging course load all throughout high school that included mostly AP level classes. I was one of the Editors of the school's newspaper and Literary Magazine and was an active member of the debate team. My dream was to be a writer - a journalist, specifically - and I was on track to attend an out of state, well-respected University like Syracuse or NYU. I was constantly being told how bright I was, that I was capable of anything, and my parents were always very proud of my accomplishments. During my high school years I did begin using drugs. It escalated slowly from smoking pot at 14, to dropping acid and doing ecstasy at 16, and finally trying (I use the word "trying," because I only used it once) crystal meth at 17. I probably smoked pot more than anything else, it was obviously the most available drug there was, and it was pretty common and accepted among teenagers from all different ends of the social spectrum. As for the acid and ecstasy, it was never something that I did on a regular basis - I couldn't have used acid any more than ten times, and ecstasy no more than five. I'm not specifying this to excuse my drug use, but I need people who read this to understand that I was not a hopeless junkie - I never missed school or work because of drugs, I never went to school high, I never skipped school to do drugs, and my grades never slipped because of my drug use. Most importantly, I never lost sight of my where and who I wanted to be in life. I was having a lot of problems at home, however. It's no secret that I grew up in a difficult family; my father had some issues with alcohol and anger, and my mother could be pretty unapproachable when it came to real-life "teenager" stuff. My parents fought a lot, so consequently, I didn't want to be home a lot. I also was certain that I could never ever talk to them reasonably about my drug use. I was somewhat rebellious then - I listened to (gasp!) anti-establishment punk rock, wore fishnets and knee-high black boots, became a vegetarian and read Karl Marx. I laugh about that now, because really, I was just going through a phase with all that, but to my conservative parents, the clothes and the music were highly disturbing. Everything came to a head when my mother found a baggie with ecstasy residue in the pocket of my jeans one day. She took the bag to a lab, and she and my father confronted me with the help of my therapist during one of my weekly sessions. So then they knew, and my life - which I had to struggle to keep together sometimes as it was - completely fell apart. Of course, my parents lost it, and our household went from being tolerable to absolutely unbearable. The screaming, yelling and crying never ended - my mother let me know that I was a huge disappointment and even told me that she hated me for what I had done to the family. Needless to say, I couldn't handle it, so I decided to move out a few months into my senior year. My plan was to move into an apartment with some guy that I knew from a couple of parties I'd been to and finish high school by correspondence. Obviously, this was a ridiculously stupid plan, but all I could think about back then was getting out of my parents' house. Unfortunately for me, there was a girl that lived on our street that had just graduated from Cross Creek. My parents talked to her parents, and the rest is history.
Shortly after my moving announcement (I can't remember exactly how long),
I was woken up in the middle of the night by two men and one woman that I
had never seen before in my life. I was told to get out of bed and get
dressed right away. Some clothes had been laid out for me on the sink,
and the strange woman followed me into the bathroom and watched me while I
changed. I was extremely disoriented - I'm not even sure if I realized I
was awake at that point - so I didn't fight my "kidnappers." I was
instructed to follow them and get into a strange car in our driveway. I
got in the car without "incident," and I heard the doors lock me in. A
few miles away from my house I began to get very scared and I started
asking my kidnappers, frantically, where they were taking me. No one
would tell me. I guess I was beginning to raise my voice (I was feeling a
bit hysterical by that time), and that's when I was informed without a
shred of sympathy that if I gave them "any trouble" I would be put in
handcuffs or otherwise physically restrained. I couldn't fathom what I
was hearing - never in my life had I EVER had any type of experience that
remotely resembled what was happening to me then. Then they proceeded to
tell me that I was going to a nice school for girls like me, someplace
where I could "take some time off," and work through my problems. The
woman kidnapper even went so far as to tell me it would be like taking a
vacation. This calmed me down a bit, and I even started to be okay with
the idea. I knew that that I needed some help with the way things were
going in my life, and I was open accepting that help. I believed that I
was going to some type of 90 day rehab, I would go back home, be back on
track, and my parents would love me again. I NEVER could have imagined
how grievously wrong I was.
After driving from Houston to El Paso, then flying to Las Vegas, we made
the two hour car trip to LaVerkin, Utah. When we pulled up to the Manor,
I didn't think it looked so bad - I was a really big, nice looking house
with white columns in the front. My kidnappers escorted me through the
doors where I was greeted by 100 or so pairs of eyes all staring at me as
if I was some sort of carnival freak show. It was around 7:30 in the
evening, and all the girls were gathered out in the central foyer area for
the nightly "Manor meeting." Needless to say, I was a little wary of all
those girls in sweat pants and slippers who looked like a bunch of robots
- but I was there to stay. I was taken into a room with a couple of
high-phase girls who did my intake. I remember pleading with them and
insisting that I didn't belong in this place, and they just looked at each
other and started laughing, then one of the girls told me, patronizingly,
"Yeah, none of us belong here either." Shortly afterwards I was strip
searched and "nix-ed" (de-loused) by a very scary looking, and very large
woman - I was unbelievably mortified.
For the next two weeks or so, I kept insisting that I wasn't supposed to be there. I was petrified by the other girls - when they spoke, it sounded to me like someone was playing a tape recorder, and they had absolutely no sympathy for the shock that I was feeling. My first day in "Group" with Ron (he was the director of Cross Creek at the time), he asked me why I was there. All the girls were sitting around in a circle staring at me like I was a murderer or something, so I said "because my parents sent me here," COMPLETELY without a hint of attitude (I wasn't yet accustomed to the program double-speak). This of course, sent Ron into a tirade - he yelled and screamed at me that I was a drug addict and ruining my family's lives, etc., etc. After a lengthy barrage of aggressive, mean-spirited "feedback" from the other girls in the group, I sat down, shaken and unable to process what had just happened.
After I had spent about two weeks in Orientation (OR) Group with Ron, I
had the pleasure of joining my "home" group, the infamous (at Cross Creek,
anyway) B Group. B Group was notorious for being the "hardest" group at
CCM, with its most intimidating therapist at the helm, Garth. Garth was a
very large man physically, which he used to his advantage to create a very
aggressive and imposing persona. Even before Cross Creek, I was easily
intimidated by men, but being under Garth's "tutelage" merely reinforced
that fear and worsened it, instead of combating it. Here is where things
began to get really messy. In my 18 months at Cross Creek, there were so
many harmful and traumatizing incidences that occurred - it would be
impossible for me to recount every one. With that in mind, I will try
instead to paint a general picture that will illustrate the kind of
experience that I had.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the way a WWASPS program is run,
I will give you an abbreviated list of SOME of the rules and regulations
we were all subject to during our incarceration:
We were not
allowed contact with anyone from the outside world aside from our
parents. If you wanted to write a letter to your aunt, for example, it
had to go through your parents first.
All mail was read
by the staff and censored if they felt that the subject matter was
negative (towards the program) or inappropriate.
We were not
allowed to use the telephone unsupervised (and even a supervised telephone
call to your parents was a privilege that had to be earned - my first
phone call came after four months.)
We were not
allowed to close the bathroom doors fully while using the toilet.
We were not
allowed to cross any type of threshold without asking a staff's
While on Level 1,
we were not allowed to speak to other girls on Level 1 (aside from Group).
We were not
allowed to shave or use hair products on Level 1.
We were not
allowed to wear shoes until Level 3.
We were not
allowed to wear any make-up or jewelry until Level 4.
· We were required to show the staff our bras, underwear & socks that we had on each morning to
assure that we only had one pair on.
We were not
allowed to record any phone numbers, or any addresses except for our
We were not
allowed to watch television or read a newspaper.
We were not
allowed to look out the windows (this would be construed as run plans).
We were not
allowed to speak when a staff called "silence" (a regular occurrence).
We were not
allowed to have any physical contact with other girls, aside from 3 second
hugs (except during Group).
We were never
allowed to leave the program grounds - which were enclosed by locked 15
ft. white fences- unless escorted by a staff for some reason (the
first time I ever left the program grounds was for a doctor's
appointment, after I had been at Cross Creek for seven months.)
While on Staff Buddy (a punishment doled out for "serious" offences, or
many times at our therapists' request for whatever reason), we were not
allowed to speak to anyone, look at anyone, and had to remain at arm's
length from a staff at all times. We also had to sleep on a mattress on
the floor right next to the night watch staff. Most of your time on Staff
Buddy was spent sitting on the floor facing the wall.
The vast majority of us were coerced into adopting whatever beliefs that
the program had decided upon for us - if you had done drugs, you were an
addict, no questions asked; if your parents of therapist deemed a friend
from the outside world to be "non-working," you had to cut them out of
your life (even if you did not agree).
Unlike many of the girls at CCM, I was never "restrained," but I witnessed
this incredibly disturbing spectacle too many times to count. To be
honest, I was too paralyzed with fear to ever consider doing anything that
I thought might cause me to be "taken down" by staff. I remember watching
girls being taken down that were simply arguing with a staff not
physically endangering themselves or others - and they would be dragged,
literally, kicking and screaming downstairs and into ISO (the 12 ft.,
locked "isolation" rooms). I also remember seeing a girl sitting in ISO
who had cut herself and smeared blood all over her face and arms. There
were other girls who I saw with broken noses and injured arms/shoulders
that were put into make-shift "slings" that consisted only of an Ace
bandage. I knew several girls who had sustained physical injuries as a
result of being taken down - i.e., broken noses, dislocated shoulders,
torn ligaments, etc. There were plenty of girls who I saw sitting in ISO
for days, weeks, and even months at a time. Fortunately, I was not one of
The trauma that I did sustain was purely mental/emotional. From my first day at CCM, I was told (and screamed at) that I was a worthless person, a disappointment to my family, a hopeless drug addict, a bitch and a slut, a waste of space, a horrible human being and whatever other disparaging remarks the staff and other girls could muster. When I first arrived at CCM, I wasn't sure that I even was addicted to drugs - I knew that I had some problems in my life that I wanted to work out, but I wasn't convinced that I was a junkie - however, I, like many other girls, was coerced into proclaiming/believing that I was hopelessly addicted to drugs. It was made very obvious to me that if I did not affirm the program's assessment of me, that I would never advance past level one, so I played along (at first), and eventually began to internalize and believe everything that they said.
The infamous T.A.S.K.S. seminars & group "processes" were especially
hurtful to me. One of my "issues" that I had to deal with at Cross Creek
was childhood sexual abuse. It happened when I was 11 years old, and I
had never really dealt with the trauma at that point. During one of the
Focus "processes," (which I have been sworn to secrecy never to tell
about) I was physically held down by four other Cross Creek girls (high
phase girls who were seminar staff) while a fifth girl screamed into my
face that "HE'S ON TOP OF YOU AGAIN!!! AREN'T YOU GOING TO DO SOMETHING
ABOUT IT?? ARE YOU JUST GOING TO LET HIM DO IT TO YOU AGAIN?? WHAT KIND OF
SLUT ARE YOU??" I was crying and screaming so hard that I could barely see
- I kicked and thrashed as hard as I could, but the four other girls just
kept pinning me down to the floor, and I was unable to get out from under
them. There was another "process" that Garth facilitated, during which we
had to write our own tombstones (the idea was for us to experience that we
had died due to our "behavior"). After we had all written them, Garth and
a few high phase girls from our group went around the room and screamed
into our faces anything hurtful that they could manage to make us feel
like worthless and horrible human beings. When it was my turn, Garth
approached me calmly and told me, coldly & without emotion, that my
grandfather (my mother's father, whom I loved very much) was dead. My
grandfather had emphysema and was repeatedly in and out of the Emergency
Room, so this was hardly a stretch. Garth and the other girls shouted
inches away from my face that my grandfather died knowing that I was a
worthless bitch, a drug addict, and that I had ruined my family. They
told me that he died knowing what a horrible person I was. By this point
I was sobbing uncontrollably and finding it difficult to remain standing,
so one of the high phase girls was holding me up for the continued barrage
of abuse. After they finished with me, Garth and the other girls moved on
to their next victim - and the scene continued on, as it had with me. The
next day, Garth called me into his office and told me that he was
"mistaken" about my grandfather, and that he hadn't really died. I sobbed
from relief that he was still living, but to this day, I still do not
believe that Garth made an innocent "mistake." I believe that he
purposefully used my grandfather's illness to traumatize and hurt me
during a process. Well, it worked. Congratulations.
Like I said earlier, I was never one of the girls that were routinely taken down, but it still took me several months to really advance in the program. Let me explain - although the program cronies would say like to say otherwise, unless you are crying in group and painting a very melodramatic picture of your "issues," you will not advance to the upper levels, and you will not go home (which is where we ALL wanted to be). I, however, had difficulty with this, because I had a hard time expressing emotion back then -especially when put on the spot in group. Thus, my inability to "be real," (translation: cry) held me back on the low levels for a good seven months or so. As I stated earlier, I had been a good student in school, unlike most of the other girls at CCM, and was always very bright. My intelligence, apparently, was something to be ashamed of. I was routinely punished and chastised in group for being "better than," and being "in my head" all the time. I was specifically reprimanded in group for using "big words" that the other girls didn't understand. This was all brought on because I was trying to help some of the other girls with their school work, which was, apparently, a bad thing. After being "confronted" about my "intelligence issue," (yes, they actually called it that) I remember trying to dumb myself down in order to not incur the group's criticism.
anyone who has been incarcerated in a WWASPS program knows, their "school"
system is, at best, laughable. As I said earlier, I was a very good
student, and I was enrolled in a very challenging high school curriculum.
At Cross Creek (or "Browning Academy" as WWASP likes to refer to the
fictional "school" associated with their programs), I was given a remedial
level text book for each respective class, and instructed to complete the
chapter exercises and a chapter test. This was the extent of our
"education," and it was a mockery of my intellectual ability. I learned
absolutely nothing my senior year in high school - if you could even call
Eventually, I got over the hump and advanced to level three. But let me
first let you know that I wasn't allowed to speak to my parents on the
phone until I had been there for four months, the first time I saw my
parents was after seven months, and the first time I saw my two brothers
was after nine or ten months. And of course, I was not allowed to
communicate with anyone from the outside world besides my parents – not
friends, family or anyone besides my parents & brothers. After I began to
advance in the program, I became one of its most vocal supporters. I was
notorious for giving "hardcore" feedback to new girls, and "not taking any
crap," from anyone not subscribing to the program's mantras. Honestly, I
became a blood-thirsty pit bull - anxiously awaiting the opportunity to
tear another girl down, the way that I had been torn down before. I'm
sure that I probably caused a lot of girls pain, and this is something
that I feel intensely remorseful for to this day.
After I had been at CCM for 10 months or so, I was on level five and able to take an off-grounds pass with my family. My parents, brothers and I went to Las Vegas and another small town in Utah (I can't remember the name) - and had a lot of fun. I missed my family so much by that point that I thought I might break in two. The pass really broke down a lot of the months of brainwashing, and I eventually reached a point where I felt like I would literally go insane if I had to remain in the program. Basically, I cracked – one night at St. George (the high phase facility of CCM), I spent three hours pacing around my room trying to figure out how I was possibly going to complete the program without losing my mind. You see, by then, I was 18, and I was able to walk out of the program if wanted to - however, my parents had made it very clear to me that they would not let me come home if I left Cross Creek without completing the program. My "exit plan" was pretty similar to other kids that were in WWASPS programs - if I decided to leave after I turned 18, I would get $10 in my pocket and a bus ticket to Denver (not Houston, my native city), and my parents would not accept me back in their house. So, back to that night when I lost it - I eventually decided, after a couple of hours of pacing, that I had to leave the program, despite the fact that I would probably be homeless. So, I went to the head staff at St. George, Bernie, and told her that I wanted to leave. She attempted to change my mind for an hour or so, but I wouldn't be swayed. Then my parents were called. We had an incredibly gut-wrenching phone conversation during which my mother told me "goodbye" for real – at that moment she believed that she was talking to me for the last time. After my parents couldn't get me to change my mind, my 17 year-old brother, Cory, was put on the phone. I remember him sobbing over the receiver and pleading with me not to leave the program, because he "didn't want me to die." I cried my eyes out during all of this, but still, my parents and I held firm in our positions. Finally, after a few hours of this, I spoke to my case manager, and she told me that I could still change my mind about leaving. I was petrified by the thought of being abandoned in a foreign city (not to mention the fact that I had no way of contacting any of my other family members, since it was forbidden to record any phone numbers), so I acquiesced, and remained at Cross Creek.
After this incident, I was immediately ostracized and forced to "regain trust" from my group members. I was lucky, however. If I had been under 18, I'm sure I would have been dropped back down to level one, but due to my age, I was allowed to remain on a probationary status at a level five. After a couple of weeks of groveling and enduring numerous group sessions during which I was the object of ridicule and criticism, I eventually convinced Garth and the rest of the high phase girls that I was "ready to work." And so, I was cemented into the system at that point -I was completely brainwashed into thinking that the program had saved my life and that I would be dead if my parents had never sent me there (the same robotic mantra of all brainwashed WWASPS kids). I became a cruel and ruthless high phase girl - just like the ones who had hurt me when I was new at CCM, and I extolled the virtues of the program that had caused irrevocable damage to my soul. The rest of my incarceration at Cross Creek was fairly smooth, and I graduated in late May, 1999 - two months before my 19th birthday.
After I graduated, I returned to Houston to live with my parents for a couple of months before being admitted to the University of Texas - Arlington in the Fall of 1999. By the time I was living in Arlington, away from parental or program supervision, it had only been about three months since I had left Cross Creek. I entered college a completely conflicted, damaged, neurotic, depressed and anxious person - with the next few years ahead of me to experience levels of depravity that I never came close to prior to my incarceration at CCM.
*HEAL is working on creating a staff list for this program. In the meantime, the following individuals are believed to work for this facility: Ron Garrett, Evan Carayas, Beverly Carayas, Gus Carayas, Jason Finlinson, Jennifer Benson, David Gilcrease, Alice Bagley, Yahia Irochen, Cassie Robinson, Mike Herrera, Ron June, Chaffin Pullan, Karr Farnsworth, and Robert Lichfield.
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