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VICTORY CHRISTIAN ACADEMY IN JAY, FL

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SURVIVOR STATEMENT #1

BY K. of California (contact through info@heal-online.org)

 

Following please find my statement concerning Victory Christian Academy:


Everything I am submitting to HEAL is true to the best of my experience and knowledge. I give permission to HEAL to use this statement.


My parents sent me to Victory Christian Academy in Jay, FL in the summer of 1993. Although I was told it was a one-year program, there were many girls who were there much longer. We were threatened with being there until we turned 18 if we didn’t turn into good little christian girls. I was not allowed to have any privileges as a new girl in the school until I made a profession of faith ("got Saved") and I was kept on buddy (level) for over a month until I broke down and went along with it. My personal memories of the school are terrible. There were so many rules, all unwritten, that we just had to know and follow. As new girls we had 2 weeks to learn them before we were accountable to follow them. The program is set up in a way that makes most girls try to catch other girls breaking rules or exhibiting behavior that could result in a new rule being made. We had Rap sessions every Sunday night where girls would have a free-for-all with the staff leading the charge. New rules were being made all the time. I believe that Victory is probably much worse today than when I was there 10 years ago because the program rules are always growing. For instance, when I was a new girl, if you said "Oops" during Quiet Time you would get a demerit and have 24 hours to write 100 lines, something like "I will not talk during Quiet Time." When I left VCA in 1995 the rule had become 1000 lines for breaking Quiet Time.  We were not allowed access to news, music, radio, tv. We were not allowed to talk about anything but our parents, no discussion of favorite movies, singers, nothing. We were not allowed to talk about the past. There were no counselors or therapists, only the regular (unqualified) staff. We couldn't even sing, for instance an Elvis song or anything other than the hymns in our hymnbook and a few other songs by Christian artists.  There are too many other instances to record for the sake of brevity.

 

After reading Warning Signs of a Potentially Abusive Behavioral Treatment Center as provided by ISAC, I will list what I observed first-hand at VCA.


1. Verbal and/or written communication between the client and family members is prohibited, restricted or monitored. All my mail was read, incoming and outgoing. Only mail from parents is allowed. Letters I sent home at the beginning had had my complaints blacked out before VCA mailed them.


3. The program requests/demands legal custody of juvenile clients. Lock-down facility. No exceptions.


4. The program houses clients in foster homes or host homes instead of allowing them to reside with their parents. Dorms, sometimes supervised by staff, but usually just older clients.


5. The client or parents are forbidden from discussing the daily happenings at the facility. Often this policy is called "confidentiality." We were told it was idle talk and we were punished by writing lines if we were caught saying anything.


6. The client is denied access to a telephone. No access at all for first three months. After 3 months, phone calls are once per month for 30 minutes maximum and parents are required to call in. I had no way to make a telephone call.


8. The program uses confrontational therapy.

 
9. The staff includes former clients of the program.


10. Clients are restrained or otherwise physically prevented from leaving the facility.


12. Parents are not allowed to stay with their child during the entire intake/entry process.


13. The program inflicts physical punishments on clients such as exercising, running, food restrictions, and cleaning.


14. Reading materials are prohibited or restricted. I was only allowed the King James Bible for much of the time.


15. The facility does not have a clearly visible sign outside the building stating the name of the program

.
17. The program is run and staffed by persons who lack adequate experience or credentials.


19. A medical doctor (MD) is not present at any time during normal operating hours.


20. Clients of the program conduct, participate in and supervise the intake/entry process.


22. Clients are observed on any level of the program, while bathing, dressing or using the toilet.


23. The purpose of the program is to treat drug abuse, but the program does not conduct a drug screen prior to entry.


24. The program requires clients to be strip-searched.


25. The program does not allow clients to follow their religion of choice. The only form of religion allowed is Victory’s unaffiliated Southern Baptist-based church. They also forced vegetarians to eat meat. Even girls whose parents were Seventh-Day Adventist and had never eaten meat.


26. Staff members must approve friends, siblings, family visits, or employment. No contact whatsoever  with friends. No employment is allowed. Family visits are only allowed once every three months, girls are not allowed off-campus on a visit unless they’ve been there for at least six months, they are not supposed to return home for visits until they’ve been at VCA for at least one year.


27. Juvenile clients are not afforded an education in accordance with state requirements.  VCA was not accredited by any institution or government while I was there. Our curriculum was workbook/quiz based with no lab time or supplemental materials.


30. Clients escort/supervise other clients.


32. Clients have to "earn" the right to speak during group sessions

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33. Clients are denied outside activities on any level/phase.


34. Staff must approve the withdrawal of clients from treatment.


35. The program expects total and unquestioned support of parents.


36. Clients on any phase/level are forbidden to speak to other clients. We are also forbidden to keep in contact with one another after we leave the program. When a girl leaves, staff members and senior clients go through her belongings to check for addresses, phone numbers, etc. before she can leave.


While I was at Victory, a new girl from Texas who was almost 18 had concealed a lighter from the girls who checked her in. Less than two weeks later she decided to torch a closet full of dresses in dorm 3. Fortunately for us, this was around 10:30 AM when we were all outside doing PE exercises so no one was hurt. We thought the smoke alarms were a fire drill at first. I consider myself lucky because I had no way to be able to call 911 & if the fire had happened in the middle of the night, who knows? The fire raged and burned so hot that almost everything was destroyed in Dorm 3, and Dorms 1 & 2 had extensive smoke and water damage that took months to repair. We slept on the floor in the Multi purpose room that also served as our church, our chapel, our school, and our cafeteria. Brother Palmer continued to take in new girls during this time. We were smashed together like sardines for months, meanwhile our parents were sending money for our treatment that just went towards the building of another larger-capacity dorm that had already been in construction before the fire broke out. This was actually the first of two fires at the school while I was there. The circumstances for the second fire were never fully explained.


Victory Christian Academy is not a healthy place for teen girls to be in. If your daughter or someone you know is in Victory Christian Academy, please seriously consider taking them out and looking into a REAL treatment facility. You know, the kind with doctors and trained therapists who can help girls understand why their behavior needs to be modified and give them the necessary support to do so.


I have listed 27 out of 36 Warning Signs that I know from my own personal experience to be true. It is very possible that other survivors have witnessed other Warning Signs and I encourage them to spread the word about the potential for abuse at Victory Christian Academy.

 

SURVIVOR STATEMENT #2

 

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

 

My experience at Victory Christian Academy in the hell I refer to as Jay Florida. I do not blame my parents for sending me away because they really didn't know what to do for me. My stepfather being raised in the south is a very religious man, and figured that the best way for me to get straightened out was to become closer to God. I believed in God before, had been to church before, etc.... But this was excessive.

 

After spring break in 1995 I really started to slip up. I ditched school all the time, forged my moms signature to get back into classes. Started to smoke pot a lot and drank occasionally. I was your typical teenager. I wanted things to go my way, with my rules. Not my parents rules. So I finally left. I ran away for a few days.  Stayed with some friends. As soon as my parents found out where I was I would relocate. (Mind you I was going back to school at this point. I didn't want to miss school) It finally got to the point where I was staying with people I hardly knew, and no longer had a way to get to and from school. So I didn't go for a few days.

 

Mothers Day eve 1995 I scared myself to death when I almost went to a party and was going to give myself a first try at any new drugs I could get my hands on. I started to realize that this wasn't who I was, and this was not how I wanted my life to be. I came home. Sat up the entire night talking with my mother, apologizing for hurting her so much and telling her how badly I wanted things to change for myself. And I honestly meant it. I was terrified. Eventually we both went to sleep. I wake up the next morning to help my mother cook our Mothers Day Dinner (which we ate in the afternoon around 3 or so as always on occasions like this) My little brother and sister were out riding bikes and were nowhere around the inside of the house. My step dad kept disappearing and coming back inside and checked on mom and I. Finally my mom said she needed to get something from the cabinet in the garage, and that was when I was ambushed.

 

Two women who had formerly been policewomen came to take me away. To escort me to a school that was going to "straighten me out." I was forced into a corner by one of the women, while the other woman removed any knives or scissors she could find so that I wouldn't try to hurt myself. I had the option to go quietly and cooperate, or I could put up a fight and I would be handcuffed for my entire trip. Still in total shock I walked out of my house with these two ladies, one on each side of me. My mom and step dad were across the street just watching from a window at a neighbors house as I screamed I hate you at the top of my lungs. And my little brother and sister were at the end of the street just watching and staring as these strange women put me into a car and took me away.

 

They came to get me earlier then planned that day because I wanted to go off to a street fair and see if I could find a nice lamp for my room. My step dad thinking I would not return had them come early. I got to enjoy the pleasure of watching one of these ladies that was going to take the ENTIRE trip with me pack her stuff, and then they treated me to a movie. And I'll never forget it... "While You Were Sleeping" with Sandra Bullock. (last thing you want to see before you go away to a strange place is some love story!) I can remember going to the bathroom with them and all I could think of was taking off and running. But I couldn't I was surrounded. And if I tried to, they would hand cuff me. I had already been a crying wreck the entire day. My eyes were almost to the point of being swollen shut.

 

Finally we arrive at the airport and we board our plane. It isn't until we arrive in this SMALL airport in the middle of nowhere Florida and get into the rental car that I am informed of what exactly is going on. Amy you are going to be spending the next YEAR at an all girls Christian boarding school here in Florida. They have a pool so you can swim and you will be able to do schoolwork as well. Blah blah blah. We pull up. All I can think about is that one of my friends WILL find me and save me. (which is a thought I had daily through this year of hell) I am taken into the front door and immediately every girls head turns from their school work to the new girl being escorted into the door and into the main house for her SHOWER and CAVITY SEARCH. All the things I came with with were taken away. My jeans, my T shirt, my underwear, my backpack.....everything. (did get to keep my sneakers though that was nice of them) Everything was to be put in the locked attic until the day that I left the school. The clothes would be sent home to my parents. I was given a GOD AWFUL dress, granny panties, dress shoes and a bible. Then was sent upstairs to sit in a strange room with a dozen other girls, to sit on my top bunk bed and read my bible quietly because it was "bible reading time."

 

As time went on I moved from dorm to dorm. Changed my weekly jobs, became a part of the yard crew and got a killer tan, then was promoted to shower helper. Wow I had a helper position. I was able to have the ability to tell people who fucked up my shower rooms and bathrooms to write lines! The point of all this is that this whole thing is a game. You play the game right... you go home when your year is up, you get better jobs then the other people, you are treated better then the other girls, etc.... But, if you don't play the game... you're writing lines until your hand is about to fall off and you aren't speaking to ANYONE because you are not allowed to!

 

Two days before coming home I broke a rule. Two people were on what is called "separation" because either they knew each other from before the school, were from the same city, had become too close at the school, or in one case when I was there... they were sisters. Being on separation means you can't look at them AT ALL, or be within a certain amount of feet of them. You may not talk about them to anyone, or try to have someone pass messages from one of them to the other. Well,... I did. And I didn't give a crap. I knew my time was up. I didn't care. Being there for a year you form special bonds with these girls that no one will ever be able to relate to or fully understand. But they want you to go home and have it as if the girls at the school never existed to us. Bullshit. If anything we needed each others support when we got out of there. We were thrown back into the world after living a sheltered live for a year or more.

 

I had started to black out during choir and they started to take me to the hospital to have tests done on me to try to figure out what was wrong. All tests came back negative.

I came home a year and two days later. And had more testing done out here. I eventually got so bad I wouldn't leave my house. I couldn't even walk out my front door to the sidewalk without freaking out. So, my mother and a friend of mine (who had to sit on me in the car to restrain me from jumping out of the moving car) took me to a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with severe panic disorder and agoraphobia from my experience at Victory Christian Academy.

 

In some ways yes VCA did help me. It helped me get in touch with my spiritual side again but then again... how could it now when it was shoved down my throat 24/7. And it made me realize how valuable time with my friends and family really is. Other then that it was a game. A game I eventually won and came home from. But a game that made me VERY ill. I am still suffering to this day. I was doing very well for awhile but the medication I was on well... I became immune to it and now am trying new medication. I relapsed. And none of this would have never happened if VCA did not exist and if I did not go there. Their rules, the way they treat you like you are heard's of animals, etc...My brain just could not take it any more. I snapped. As any normal person would. And now here I am... 10 years after being there and still suffering because of that school. I encourage anyone who did go there to talk to me. I would really appreciate the moral support in knowing that I am not the only one who felt any of this. I could go on for hours on end on my thoughts, feelings and memories of my days at Victory Christian Academy. But, I am going to stop here. If anyone wants to know anything feel free to ask me. This isn't something that I keep secret, and I have nothing to hide. Except for that they broke me and my spirit and now I live a sheltered life because of their screwed up rules and screwed up idea of how the "way of life" should be.

 

Amy D.

KatEyesGrl@aol.com

If you would like to submit your statement about Victory Christian Academy, please contact us.

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