"The Worse Experience of My Life" - Melanie, 1999
Casa by the Sea
Hi, my name is Melanie and I was sent to Casa by the Sea when I was fifteen years old, I was there for 11 months and then sent to “Tranquility Bay” in Jamaica for another year and a half. Before I was able to return back home. It was the worst experience of my life. All I had done was get bad grades and talk back to my parents. It was a last resort I was told that I would not be able to go home for good until I graduated from the program or turned 18. No matter what I do I still cannot get those memories out of my mind. To this day I still have nightmares about it.
When I came home from school. Waiting for me November 12,1999 was my mom and the police, I was told that I was going to a nice fun "boarding school" and that it was going to be a great learning experience. They showed me the pamphlets and it looked ok, or so I thought. That night two large men, who were there to “escort me”, waked me up. When we arrived at Casa By the Sea, I was introduced and told to strip, they went through my belongings I felt so violated. I was then handed a uniform and told to dress.
I was then escorted by a level 4, and shown around the compound. I was then taken to my room, which had two bunk beds by each wall and a tile step with a cot; five to six girls in one room. I was the introduced to the Alliance family. There I was told all the rules. When a boy passes you were not allowed to look at them. Each time you walked by anyone it was a rule to say compromiso (excuse me). We were only allowed to speak Spanish. It took me awhile to understand the "mamas, my case worked Imelda." If we did not we were punished. There were no razors, mirrors we were only allowed to wear sandals that way it would be harder for us to runaway. We had to ask in Spanish to go to the bathroom get up to throw something out, stand, sit, talk, asked to leave your room, etc. Our mail was read going out or coming in. My belongings and packages my mom sent me were never given back to me when I left.
The first few weeks were hard I got in trouble a lot, and were sent to the worksheet room listening to books on tape. I would then be quizzed on what I heard and if you did not get them all right you were sent back to the worksheet room. They made us sit up straight on the edge of the chair, hands folded in front of you starring at the wall for 8-24 hours at a time listening to the tapes. It was horrible. Also, if you didn’t do as you were told. I was forced to lay on my stomach with my chin up, or touching the pavement, hands tied behind our backs. They would force us to lie in this position for hours, sometimes a few days, until they felt we learned our lesson. Also, had to right a thousand word essays about how we learned our lesson. It was torture if you did not follow these rules or they felt you were being defiant they would beat you; the girls didn’t get beat as bad as the boys. I know of several girls including myself hat had been raped, and tied up for hours until they were done with us. If we spoke about or wrote to our parents about it we were punished the same way again and again.
Every night we had to write up our reflections for the day what you learned in-group, from feedback about your character. We had to finish them and turn them in to our "mamas," before we were able to take a shower or get ready for bed. The water was always ice cold and we were an allotted only 5 minutes. Then lights out by 9 o'clock.
It was also mandatory for each student to attend seminars. Discovery was the first seminar it lasted three days. They did everything in their power to mentally and emotionally manipulate, or try to break you. If you did not pass the seminars you were unable to move up to the next level.
The last two months I was at Casa by the Sea, all the girls were placed in doublewide trails bunk beds lined up on each wall. Two families to one side of the trailer. They put all four families in one trailer, with 4 showers stall and four toilets. When we were escorted to our classrooms the people who worked there would search through all your belongings looking for anything that you were not to have.
I was pulled from class and was told I would be leaving Mexico. I was so happy until I realized I wasn't going home instead I was then escorted to Jamaica. I thought Casa By The Sea was bad until I reached Jamaica. If you broke a rule you were whipped then sent to worksheets and denied food or water until you learned your lesson.
I thought being at Casa By the Sea was torture. When I arrived at Tranquility Bay I
realized that they had most of the same rules and punishment techniques as Casa By the Sea had. However, we were not aloud to wear anything on our feet, forced to sleep outside on the ground without a blanket or pillow. The facilities goal was to manipulate us, and forced us to practice their religion. Or be punished for disobeying. When I had returned home I was completely shut down, I. wouldn’t speak to anyone for months. When I was home I was worse than I was before being sent into the program. I had completely shut down emotionally, and physically I am still trying to this day to move on from the experience I have major trust issues with anyone let a lone my parents for sending me there. It was the most horrible experience of my life. The memories will always be with me, and I have to deal with it everyday.
Los Angeles, CA