I had seen it several times.
Perusing the Guide on my TV, the title showed up at various times on various premium channels.
But each time, it was near bedtime and I knew it would get me hot under the collar.
I know me.
And purposefully making my blood boil when I already suffer occasional premenopausal night sweats just did not seem like a good idea.
So each time, I surfed past.
Until yesterday when a writer friend of mine emailed to ask if I had watched it yet. He had, and he knew it was something I would write about.
So I did a search on the Guide. Found it. Queued it up to record this morning. I just finished watching it, and yes, I am fairly, how shall we say?, Vesuvian.
Kidnapped For Christ.
A documentary by Kate Logan, it evolved into so much more than what she - an earnest young Christian university girl at the time - envisioned when she first heard of Escuela Caribe, and went to film it. It, in her understanding at the time, was a wonderful, devoted Christian reform school.
Kate's background was, as I said, earnest. She believed in doing good, being good, loving the Lord, serving Him. She did mission trips whenever possible, outreach, helping others. When she heard of EC in the Dominican Republic, she was already down there doing mission work. As a film student, she asked for permission to film the school - believing they were doing the work of the Lord in helping teens who needed saving.
Saving from what?
Drugs, alcohol, misbehavior. Oh, and being gay. Yeah, that was a big one. Can't be gay. Noooooo way.
She began her 7 weeks of filming in 2006 and it was not long before she began to question the "behavior modification" practiced by the "school." Students she interviewed were panic attack victims, rape victims, typical teens who were doing typical teen acting out. Yet they were there, incarcerated in a completely unregulated system where punishments were frequent, mental and physical abuse rife.
One of her early interviews was with David, then 17 (now 25), who had come out as gay to his parents. David was a promising AP/IB student in his high school. Theater was his passion and he hoped to pursue it in college. He was loved by friends and neighbors and teachers. He was not a troublemaker. His crime was being gay.
In return for his honesty, he found himself ripped from his home in the dead of night by burly strangers, literally dragged through airports by a belt tied around his waist, and taken out of the country to be "modified."
Again, good Christian mom and dad cannot have a gay son. In fact, his mother told him, "I could never love a gay son."
Let that sink in.
"I could never love a gay son."
If there is a God, I hope His first words to her at the Pearly Gates will be, "I could never love a mother who cannot love a gay son. GET OUT."
David's plight was not unlike that of the untold numbers of students who had come before him, were there with him, or who would arrive after he left. They were all deemed unacceptable on some level by their Christ loving parents who forked over upwards of $72,000 per year to have their teen kidnapped and hidden from the world while they were modified.
Modification took place by beatings, a completely arbitrary point system, denial of interaction, running till a student would puke blood, washing rocks outside, and of course, the Bible. Lots and lots of the Bible.
Let's go back to that big number for a moment. $72,000. That's an awful lot of money. Well, as it turns out, the teen behavior modification industry is estimated to rake in $2 BILLION a year.
BILLION with a B.
Funny, bullshit starts with a B, too.
Though these type of programs have grown like cancer throughout the states, and into small island nations, there is no regulation. None. No recourse, no oversight, no protections for the teens who are stripped of their rights and mentally/physically beaten into submission.
Click this link to see how many there are: http://batchgeo.com/map/65aaf63de2389616a2ccb87a2598ecbd
Watching the documentary, I found myself imagining what I would do in those circumstances. One word kept coming to mind.
I would LIE. And that's exactly what survivors of Escuela Caribe state they did. They said, did, acted whatever, however they needed to finally convince their captors that they were "modified" so they could leave.
For most that took over a year, in some cases almost two. But, do the math. The longer the stay, the longer they can milk the stupid parents who sent their child away.
David managed to smuggle a letter to his best friend out with Kate. Like everyone else in his life, she had no idea what had truly become of him. She was shocked and enlisted the help of her parents, friends, and teachers to try to gain David's release as he would be turning 18.
Two fathers went to the Dominican Republic, yet were unable to even see David when they went to the school. The US consulate was not particularly helpful either. That is disturbing. Here was a US citizen, 18 years old, being held against his will, and no one would help him.
Legal work was done in the US. David eventually made his way back to Colorado, his parents controlling his life again. Based on things they told him, he was afraid to even speak with the people who had tried to help him, were at one time his best friends.
Fast forward 5 years. Kate, once an evangelical Christian who now identifies as agnostic, had come away from her experiences questioning everything she thought she knew and believed in. In 2012, she started a Kickstarter to try to get her film made. It debuted at the Slamdance Film Festival in January 2014, and is now in rotation on Showtime.
As a result of all she learned, Kate now assists Survivors of Institutional Abuse (SIA) in their efforts to help those who have been through the trauma schools like Escuela Caribe and others inflict, and to push legislation to regulate these facilities.
Not surprisingly, institutions like these are funded, supported, and championed by the likes of Focus On The Family, and many far right wing Republican efforts.
Deirdre Sugiuchi, also featured in the film (sent away because her wealthy parents, fundamentalist Christians, did not like her behavior - minimal teen stuff), now works to shed light on these heinous facilities and their supporters, “If you follow the money, you’ll see that the Republicans are so, so in bed with these people,” she said. The Romney family contributes heavily to the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs (WWASP), an umbrella organization for evangelical reform schools like Escuela Caribe — which was briefly closed down, then reopened under the name Crosswinds — and their Mormon equivalents. (- Rawstory 12/2013)
It is all more than troubling. It is unforgiveable. It is religious brainwashing at its very worst. Not only the brainwashing attempted on the teens, but the brainwashing that gets parents to do something like this to their child in the first place.
A teenager who suffers from an extreme panic disorder does not need God thrust down her throat or whipped up on her ass in some bogus religious prison. A teen who was raped as a child and is suffering emotionally does not need beaten down by a Bible. And a teenager who is gay does not need modified by Christ.
That any parent pays to have this abuse inflicted on their child? Well, they should never have been parents to begin with. They do not deserve the privilege of another human being trusting them.
What needs modified is this notion that God - your god, his god, her god - trumps all, cures all.
That is the biggest load of snake oil to ever be sold, and it continues to sell well because it absolves a person of any accountability for their actions and behavior.
A gay person is a person. Their gayness is not a disease that needs prayed away. It cannot be prayed away. It just is. And if you believe that God is love and God created everyone, everything? Then woe betide. Your efforts to demonize His creations? Asshole, party of 1, your table in hell is ready.
Panic disorders are real. And no amount of Bibling will cure a person who suffers from them.
Kidnapped For Christ. It sickens. And what it amounts to is actually Hiding Behind God.
Hiding behind God because you are total shit when it comes to parenting. Hiding behind God because you have zero understanding of unconditional love. Hiding behind God because you are willfully ignorant and would rather be led by someone charismatic at a pulpit than think for yourself.
Are there teens who go completely off the rails and need intervention? YES. Drugs. Depression. Anxiety. Crime. But there are REAL facilities with REAL programs; doctors and therapists armed with knowledge, experience, science, and proven therapies. Not Bibles, paddles, and power drunk dullards whose answer for everything is "God."
I've said it before and I'll say it again, religion is fine if it provides a sense of comfort, community. But when rational thought, common sense, and personal decision making are abdicated to it? No, it's not fine. It's dangerous.
And people suffer.
Who, incidentally, is still gay.