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sorenson's ranch school in utah

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One Parent’s Story

By Anonymous (for more info, e-mail: info@heal-online.org)

 

My son attended Sorenson's Ranch last year. I was led to believe that if misbehavior occurred, students would be sent to the time out room (which was staffed by a therapist). In my mind, kids would receive counseling and reflect on their negative behavior and set goals for improvements. This did not occur. I was also told that the longest a kid would have to stay in the room would be three days. I was very much misled about the actual specifics of this beh. mod/therapy and found it to be extremely punitive.

 

After I pulled my son out of there, I found out much more about this so called therapeutic timeout. According to my son, he and others were forced to sit at the edge of a bed in an orange jumpsuit for several days (depending upon the offenses). Students could NOT EVEN lay on the bed and stare at the ceiling or even read a self help book or the bible during the day. They had to sit at the edge of the bed and stare at the blank wall for one, two, three, or several days at a time. (there was some type of wall dividers between the students).  They used to hope that one of the staff members would come in at shift change because that one individual let them lay down on the bed during the day. 

 

My son was kept in this situation for ten days straight (only being allowed to get up to go to the bathroom, go get meds, or lay down during the night. Although students were supposed to get one hour of exercise a day (taken on a hike), this did not regularly occur.

 

After ten days of staring at the wall in an orange jumpsuit, he still had to pay for his misbehavior, returning to the lowest point level. At the lowest point levels, students don't even attend school but do several hours of manual labor instead (cleaning the barn, picking up trash, etc.). Just think---all of this supposedly wonderful therapy for approx $4,000 or more a month!

 

Except for a few kind staff members (especially one nice night staff member who prayed with my crying son and other sad youth), I have nothing good to say about this facility. It was very punitive and led by the disciplinarian rather than the therapists. My son also said that there was an underground drug market (students on higher levels supposedly smuggled in cigarettes or other drugs for others--something that likely occurs in many facilities).

 

Consequently, I would never ever recommend this facility to others!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Survivor Statement #1

By O. M.  (Contact O.M. through HEAL at info@heal-online.org)

 

Everything in my statement is true.  I give HEAL permission to use my statement. 

 

I WAS FIRST HOSPITALIZED FOR THREE MONTHS WHEN I FIRST ARRIVED AS I DID NOT GET ALONG WITH THE 'GUARDS' SO THEY HAD 12 OF THE LARGER KIDS (I WAS 16 AND SKINNY WHEN I ARRIVED, BUT I REFUSED TO BE TRAMPLED) BEAT ME AT ONE TIME CRACKING MY RIBS AND BRUISING EVERY INCH OF MY BODY. I TRIED TO LET MY FAMILY UNDERSTAND WHAT WAS HAPPENING, BUT THE MAIL OF COURSE WAS CENSORED AND I WAS BEATEN AGAIN BUT MANAGED TO FIGHT BACK AS I HAD NOT LEFT THE WEIGHT ROOM. I KNOW KIDS WERE RAPED, BUT I NEVER HAD THAT PRIVELEDGE, THANK GOD.

 

I ESCAPED 3 TIMES, BUT WAS CAUGHT TWICE BY THEIR BOUNTY HUNTERS BRIBING FICKLE HALF FRIENDS... AND TURNED MYSELF IN THE THIRD TIME WHEN I REALISED I DID NOT WANT A LIFE ON THE RUN. LUCKILY THEY WANTED NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SPOTLIGHT, AND HAD ME RAPIDLY EVICTED FROM UTAH FOR LIFE - OH DARN.

 

I WAS ALSO SENT ON THE IDAHO SURVIVAL PROGRAM THAT WENT HAND IN HAND WITH SORENSONS. I ALMOST DIED THERE, BUT TWO GIRLS FROM SEATTLE SAVED ENOUGH FOOD TO SEE ME THROUGH UNTIL THE NEXT WEEKLY FEEDING. I DON’T REMEMBER THEIR NAMES, I HAVE TRIED TO FORGET THIS PERIOD IN MY LIFE, BUT I OWE THEM MY LIFE AS I DO KNOW TWO KIDS WERE ABUSED TO DEATH THE MONTH BEFORE OUR 'EXCURSION'.

 

THEY INVENTED TORTURES FOR ME ESPECIALLY, INCLUDING TWO WEEKS ON A DIRT MOUND IN MY BOXER SHORTS WITH TWO BOWLS OF RICE DAILY AND NO HUMAN CONTACT, I WAS MADE TO SLEEP IN A CHAIR AT THE END OF A HALLWAY AT NIGHT, THEN BACK TO THE MOUND, WHERE 'FELLOW STUDENTS' WERE ENCOURAGED TO THROW CLODS AND ROCKS AT ME. THEN IN WINTER I WAS MARCHED DAWN TO DUSK BACK AND FORTH IN THE SNOW WHERE I DEVELOPED FROST NIP AND MY RIGHT FOOT IS STILL DEVOID OF FEELING. ONCE AGAIN A BOWL OF RICE FOR BREAKFAST AND ONE FOR DINNER - THEY FINALLY RELENTED WHEN I WAS IN HIGH FEVER AND TALKING TO MYSELF, AS I LATER WAS TOLD.

 

SOMEBODY SMUGGLED DRUGS IN, AND Again i was TORTURED IN SIMILAR FASHION UNTIL I ADMITTED AFTER 3 WEEKS JUST TO MAKE IT STOP. THE HEAD OF LEGAL AFFAIRS EVEN RISKED HIS JOB TO EXPLAIN 'COERSION' AS HE KNEW I WAS NOT GUILTY BUT A SCAPEGOAT FOR THEIR INABILITY TO FIND THE TRUE CULPRITS. HE WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO EVER ATTEMPTED ANY HELP, BUT I FEEL HE WAS ONLY FEARING THE CONSEQUENCES IF DISCOVERED.

 

THE WAY THEY FOUND OUT ABOUT THE DRUGS WAS A BEAUTY IN ITSELF, A BOY WAS SO HIGH HE ADMITTTED HIS 'LOVE' FOR A CERTAIN COUNSELOR, AND WAS BEATEN TO WITHIN AN INCH OF HIS LIFE WHILE THE GUARDS 'DIDNT NOTICE' OF COURSE.  I AM PROUD OF WHO I AM AND EVERY THING THAT MADE ME THIS WAY, EXCEPT THIS PERIOD. I GREW UP IN HAWAII, WAS PRETTY INNOCENT, BUT FOR A GOOD THREE YEARS AFTER I WAS EXPELLED FROM UTAH I WAS INCREASINGLY VIOLENT AND BECAME ADDICTED TO HEROIN, A DRUG I HAD NEVER TRIED BEFORE UTARD.

 

I WISH I KNEW OF THE FOUR YEAR PERIOD, BUT ITS BEEN ALMOST 18 YEARS NOW. SO I GET TO SUFFER MY MEMORIES WITH NO OUTLET. I OFTEN THOUGHT OF GOING BACK AND FINDING CERTAIN OF THE WORSE BASTARDS, AS I AM SURE THEY ARE SNUG IN THEIR LITTLE VILLIAGE, RELATED TO THE COPS AND JUDGES IN RITCHFIELD AS ALWAYS.

 

I WAS SO DESPERATE TO ESCAPE THE FIRST TIME I WALKED THE 18-23 MILES TO RITCHFIELD IN A SNOWSTORM WEARING A FLANNEL SHIRT AND CONVERS - AND STOLE A CAR, THE FIRST TIME I BECAME A TRUE CRIMINAL.

 

THAT NIGHT I WOULD RATHER HAVE DIED IN THE COLD THAN GET CAUGHT, I JUMPED INTO SNOWBANKS WITHOUT A THOUGHT OF THE HORRIBLE COLD EVERY SET OF LIGHTS THAT CAME DOWN THE ROAD SEARCHING FOR ME. I TRIED SUICIDE SIX TIMES, BUT WAS UNSUCCESFUL DUE TO BEING WATCHED AND FORCE FED. I AM A FAMOUS ARTIST NOW WITH NO CRIMINAL RECORD, OUT OF LUCK FOR THE FIRST THREE YEARS OF FREEDOM, AND OUT OF MY NATURE FOR THE NEXT FIFTEEN.

 

THE HEROIN ADDICTION IS ALSO 13 YEARS PAST, I AM NOT AN ADDICTIVE CHARACTER, I WAS 'SELF MEDICATING' AND TRYING TO FORGET BEING IN THE PIT OF HELL AND THE DEMONS I SAW THERE.

 

I HEAR STORIES OF PEOPLES SOB TALES, BUT I KNOW 88-89 WAS FAR WORSE THAN ANY TIME SINCE THEN. THAT WAS WHEN THEY WERE 'IMPECCABLE' AND COULD RUN RAMPANT WITH THEIR SICK AND TWISTED CHILD ABUSE AND SEX FANTASIES.  SHORTLY AFTER MY DEPARTURE IS WHEN THE FIRST ACCUSATIONS AND DISMISSALS SURFACED, I HEARD FROM MY FRIEND [removed per individual named's request], WHO WAS SEVERAL YEARS YOUNGER, ALLOWED TO LIVE OF CAMPUS IN A GUARDS HOUSE, AND LATER BECAME A FAMOUS MODEL IF YOU CATCH MY DRIFT.

 

I HOPE TO GOD WHAT I FEAR HAPPENED TO HER DID NOT, SHE WAS SO SWEET WHEN I MET HER, AND SO JADED WHEN SHE CAME BACK TO THE REAL WORLD.

 

THERE IS SO SO MUCH MORE, BUT THESE FEW MEMORIES MAKE ME WANT TO SCREAM AT LIFES INJUSTICES, BUT I CAN DO NOTHING BUT HURT MYSELF.

 

Survivor Statement #2

By Mike Horgan

 

Everything in my statement below is true. I give HEAL permission to use my statement.  I was "being reformed" at Sorenson's Ranch School in 88 - 89. 

I read this other persons (Alumni) letter and felt obligated to write my fair warnings as well.  I wanted to cry while reading the other alum's words.  The sad thing is the types of things the person described in their report happened allot and to so many kids.  I realized I have repressed a lot of shit inside over the years and have not wanted to think about those big abusive Mormons.  Judgmental, Prejudiced, Cruel, but at the same time they truly believe in their cult and think they are doing the right things to help.  At my low, I also helped steal a car and try and break out, 2 attempts, I also marched through the wilderness program in Idaho with a bunch of fucking heroin addicts from around the country, some big black guy from Compton broke my nose… I had religion stuffed down my throat, forced to do allot of shit...  But what was bad was the night time… we hurt people.. for the first 6 month's I got beat down a bit, I was 14, some kids were 19 even one 20 year old (court ordered).  So with the time you stop getting beat and you start beating others.  Fuck it right, it was sink or swim.  I remember being strip searched, repeatedly, they (Staff) were always looking for contraband.  We did have some good weed on occasion...  They would call it "restraining" us... if you sat quietly and refused to follow an order the staff would slam you on the ground and whoop your ass.... this happened often and I couldn't figure out what good it did.   I am aware of sexual abuse.. there was allot of bad shit going on... but like I said the Mormon Cult truly believes they are saving us poor little bastards.  Too any of my friends who happen to run into this letter, sorry for any bad memories.. I turned out well, hope you made it out ok the same…  And there were definitely some good "counselors",    There were also some devious fuckers… I love my kids way to much to send them to a place like that...

 

P.S.

Learned how to be really fucking sneaky and manipulating…

 

love you all,

 

Mike Horgan 1988 - 1989

BayAreaMusicians@yahoo.com

www.organiccrackrecords.com

 

Survivor Statement #3

By Anonymous [Author submitted request for anonymity on May 20th, 2011--You may send messages to the author by referencing "Survivor Statement #3--Sorenson's" and e-mailing info@heal-online.org.  We will forward legitimate messages to the author.]

 

Everything in my statement is true. I give HEAL permission to use my statement.

 

I read the testimonials on here, and wanted to respond... I was first sent to SRS in 1990. Things did get better from 1989 to now, but not by much... I remember all too much, things I wish I could forget. There were still so-called counselors with nothing more than a high school diploma and their "SICK AND TWISTED CHILD ABUSE AND SEX FANTASIES," as O.M. put it. I was there, with a short break for about a year, from 1990-1994. I have since found recent survivors and heard that there are still horrible abuse stories coming out of there. As a former resident of the school, I can attest to the horrors endured by many including myself. Those physical restraints they were doing in 1989 and when I was first there, were actually illegal as they didn't have a license to be doing them. They've since obtained one and are still performing them, but then? I watched them kill a teenage boy with one of their "restraints." He was beaten to death by at least 3 overgrown, overweight men. His head was split open, and he never returned from the hospital. Before it was a school for the more privileged of children (monetarily speaking), it was home to kids who were a ward of the state, and often not even the state of Utah. I was under the impression for many years that it had been cleaned up, and was now a good school. How they could have fooled me, after enduring what I did (as I know to be true for recent survivors as well) I'll never know.

 

If there are any parents out there considering to send your child to Sorenson's Ranch School, PLEASE contact me first. I promise to put you into contact with other survivors, both past and present... This is not a place for a child. If you love your child and are fearful for their safety, this is NOT the answer. My parents sent me away because of a "bad attitude," and when I returned I was much worse. After watching my friends get handcuffed and shackled to the school's fence for hours, even days and weeks (sometimes in nothing more than their underwear and a sleeping bag in the snow for fear they would try to run away), being fed nothing more than rice cooked in chicken broth only ONCE a day, having been tortured by "counselors" while on their camp-outs, raped repeatedly by someone I/we should've been able to trust, I was returned to my parents ready to try everything I had learned while attending SRS. I was quickly sent back as my parents were unequipped to handle what they had paid to create. Don't let this happen to you... You will undoubtedly be racked with the guilt my parents are still unable to face. Don't let this happen to your family. If you think things are bad now, I can guarantee Sorenson's and places like it will only make it worse.

 

SRS Survivor 1990-1994

 

Survivor Statement #4

by Lukas Larson

 

 

Everything in my statement is true.  I give HEAL permission to use my statement.


 

My name is Lukas Larson.  I'm 26 now, and 10 years ago I spent 10 months at Sorenson's.  I have never been able to talk about my experiences at this place without breaking into tears, and writing this right now is no exception.  I just got out of a therapy session today where my therapist and I decided to google Sorenson's and found this website.  I'm glad to hear that I am not the only one who is brave enough to speak out about what this place does.


 

I was a very troubled child.  I came from an abusive family with drug addicted parents.  I had an undiagnosed behavioral disorder that prevented me from doing well in school, and that issue alone led to abusive discipline from my parents.  I was stripped of everything my parents could take from me, and so I finally ran away from home.  I was tracked down by bounty hunters and taken to Sorenson's.  I was into punk rock, and looked the role.  I was stripped of my clothes and was given some clothes that were far too small with shoes that were about 3 sizes too big.  I was not allowed to speak to my parents for 3 weeks after my arrival at which time they informed me that I would be there until I was 18.  At 15 years old this is eternity.  I escaped in the middle of the night shortly following that phone call and spent about 24 hours in sub-freezing weather trying to make it through the mountains.  The attempt was futile as I was tracked down by some of the staff and was introduced to the "behavior modification" practices first hand.  I was strip searched for one of many times while I was there, and forced to wear an orange jumpsuit and sit in isolation for 1 week.  I was in a room and was not allowed to lay down, talk, read, or do anything but stare at the wall.  During this time I was not allowed to bath, and was not fed on the regular routine that the others were kept on.  I was hungry, dirty, very cold, and was planning my suicide at 15 years old.


 

I got out of isolation, which they DO call isolation in there, but I noticed that they tell parents it is "behavioral modification time out."  It's complete bullshit, and I have yet to tell any professional about this that does not consider it criminal child abuse.  Needless to say I never killed myself, but that was only in fear that I would get caught.  Another kid in there was found after drinking a bottle of toxic surface cleaner, and after was transferred to a even stricter and abusive place where he wouldn't be able to try that again.  


 

This place makes many claims of it's treatment success, but I never saw any of it.  There were a great number of very troubled children, but in this environment, treatment was not the right word.  Children were beaten for just talking back, but it was not called beating.  The called it "restraining," but restraining from what?  These children who presented no threat to themselves or anyone else had their faces forced onto the pavement or dirt and had their arms bent back around until they screamed, begging them to stop.  The used this method to prevent leaving any marks that could be used as proof of their actions.  It didn't always work though.  Many children still ended up with black eyes, and scrapes and bruises with torn muscles and ligament strains, but that didn't matter, because no one was allowed to report to anyone what was happening.  I sent many letters describing what was happening, but only to find out after my release that they were not even sent.  I personally suffered the least of most of these children because I was so weak and scared that I just never opposed anyone in that place.  I was however beaten by several of the other kids there on a regular basis.  The old "kick the dog" expression, where a kid gets beat up by his bigger stronger father and only has the dog to retaliate against.  Well, I was the dog.  I would walk into the my room (which were not much more than slums) and would have a blanket thrown over my head and was beaten by fists, feet, and frequently a broom stick.  They called this a "blanket party," and it was done this way so you couldn't identify any of the attackers.  Despite reporting all of these incidents, no precautions were ever made to protect any of the weaker children.  I believe that they thought this was just extra encouragement for us to behave and get out of there.  


 

During the 10 months I spent about 3 or 4 hours a day, but sometimes 8 or 9 doing hard manual labor.  This included saturdays, and sometimes sunday.  They would send us around to the surrounding farms to haul hay for other people, which they DEFINITELY were paid for.  This is a crime!  There are child labor laws for a reason.  School was optional if we had time, but was certainly not encouraged.  The place is run by fundamentalist Mormons who don't place education as a high priority.  We were run through workouts that would drop most adults before completion.  If we couldn't finish it or refused, then we were put into isolation.  I trained myself outside of the general workout so I could successfully complete it and avoid more isolation.  I made it out with only 2 weeks under my belt, but there was a kid who spent 40 consecutive days in there.  


 

I got out before I was 18 by lying and manipulating everyone around me, but it wasn't easy.  They know when you are placating.  If they even sense that they will enforce discipline for your dishonesty.  I gradually changed the tone of the letters I was sending people, telling them how "good" I was doing.  Once I got out though, the facade came down.  I couldn't hold in all the pain and anger I had for my parents and what they did.  To this day I am still somewhat of an outcast from my family, and I accredit this place with that alienation.  The mindset you enter to manipulate people never goes away.  I still have fear of telling anyone in my life how I feel, or what is going on, fearing that they will find a way to use in against me.  With therapy, I'm learning to let down my guard, but I will always carry the pain inflicted there.


 

It doesn't surprise me that there are so few people speaking of the abuse that took place, not because they don't consider it abuse, but because they are so afraid.  We were told we were lying the whole time we were in there, and they convinced our parents that this is just part of the process of behavioral modification, and that we are just acting out.  It's been 10 years, and I'm still feeling the pain of abandonment and abuse.  When I went there I had never done drugs, and was proud of it.  When I got out I began a spiral of severe addiction and suicide attempts and destructive behavior that I never would have occurred if it were not from the trauma inflicted upon me by the redneck, bible wielding, child abusers at that place.  I hope that this gets through to at least one person who chooses to find a better solution and spare their child the nightmares and years of therapy.  I have nothing to gain from this, except acceptance that I've done something to help.  I'm not promoting any competing treatment facility.  I'm just telling my story.


 

In case you all are wondering, I am living a healthy life now.  I'm drug and alcohol free for over 4 years now, and am getting a degree.  None of my current success in life could be attributed to the abuse I suffered, but from loving and trusting people who encouraged my growth and healing.  


 

Anyone who wishes may contact me and I would be happy to talk to them.  This includes other survivors, or parents who are thinking of sending their kids to this place.

If you would like to submit your statement about Sorenson's Ranch, contact us for information.

For staff and background information, click here.

 

 

 

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