Treatment Abuse, Behavior Modification, Thought Reform > Benchmark Young Adult School / Benchmark Transitions

Student IM Interview

(1/2) > >>

The following is an interview with a former student of Benchmark Young Adult School.  Names have been changed to protect the identities of the students and the conversation has been edited for time (it was originally 10 printed pages)

Michael Crawford: so when were you at bmark?
Alice: 2003-2004
Michael Crawford: i guess you weren't there when i was. how bad was it when you were there?
   2:45 AM
Alice: awful haha
Michael Crawford: so what were you sent there for?
Alice: anything and everything pretty much
Alice: depression, drugs, eatting disorders..just to name a few
Michael Crawford: do yo think the place helped you at all?
Alice: nothing more than getting me out of where i lived
Michael Crawford: what drugs were you doing before bmark?
Alice: drinking, weed, cocaine, speed, pills
Michael Crawford: Can i interview you for the website?
Michael Crawford: no names
Alice: yeah it's fine as long as you don't put my name parents still think janie is a
Michael Crawford: holy fuck. you should send em to my website...
Michael Crawford: How did you feel the students experienced "emotional growth" at benchmark?
Alice: emotional growth, please i was coming up from bad depression when I got there and
1/2 the staff put me down for the things I did
Michael Crawford: What was the worst thing that happened to you at Benchmark?
   2:55 AM
Alice: i feel like they prevented my getting better in a way
Michael Crawford: how so?
Alice: or made it harder
Alice: my eatting got bad while i was there, and i had a hard time grocery shopping because
of the limited budget
Alice: the drs had us drink lots of gatorade to balance electrolytes, and my dr actually had to
write me a perscription because they wouldn't let me buy it
Alice: i was also a cutter...they'd send me to my room alone when i was having a hard time
Michael Crawford: they punished you for that?
Alice: well they got mad cuz i was talking to Tony about it...he was the only one i actually trusted
not to rat me out there, and they got mad at me for "isolating"
Alice: they were more concerned about relationships than the problems we went there for
   3:00 AM
Alice: when i did cut they'd take away my money or give me work ethic
Michael Crawford: Were the staff ever verbally abusive. If so, please be specific.
Alice: don't remember any specific events
Alice: although they did make me feel like my problems didn't matter
Alice: Tony told me about a situation where one of the staff members started talking shit about
me to him
Michael Crawford: did they ever talk bad about him to you?
Alice: they told me he lied
Alice: about who he was
Alice: when i did friendship workshop
Alice: i was cinderella and had to say that i loved my boyfriend even though he was abusive
   3:05 AM
Michael Crawford: abusive? did they ever predict anything?
Alice: i'm not positive but something along the lines that we would have an unhealthy
Alice: they put all these negative ideas in your head, knowing that your unstable, so you
question everything and wveryone
Michael Crawford: did you question yourself? your identity?
Michael Crawford: (the real you under all that BS) rhetoric
Alice: i always questioned myself, i was severly depressed and i think they took advantage of
that situation
Alice: i also had bad trust issues
Alice: just taught me to keep everything to myself again
Michael Crawford: did benchmark help that?
Alice: i went through intensive treatment prior to going there and i felt like they took me
Michael Crawford: did you ever lose hope?
Alice: many times
Michael Crawford: did you feel like you had anybody who you could trust, or turn to? your parents?
Alice: no one till i met Tony
Michael Crawford: did you ever witness any physical abuse at benchmark?
   3:10 AM
Alice: witness not really, i was in the room above the room when Frank got whipped
Michael Crawford: whipped?
Michael Crawford: how do you know if you weren't in the room?
Alice: i know the sound of a belt, i herd him scream, and i herd people talking about it
Michael Crawford: was he bruised afterwards?
Alice: people say they saw welts but he wouldn't really talk about it when i asked him, the kid
was a skin head, and so was the couselor who did it, so he didn't want to get him in trouble
Michael Crawford: skinhead? as in neo-nazi?
Alice: yep
Michael Crawford: what did he do to get whipped?
Alice: i think he put ketchup packets between the toilet seat or something
Alice: some kind of prank
Michael Crawford: What was friendship workshop like for you?
Alice: don't remember much of it everyone got sick in ours, i passed out for 2 strait days after
cuz i was sooo sick
Michael Crawford: sick? how?
Alice: one of the girls was getting over the flu when we went in
Alice: the only part i really remember is the thing with the candles
   3:15 AM
Michael Crawford: the disclosure circle
Alice: where we had to go around and share secrets
Michael Crawford: what kinds of things did you hear?
Alice: it was totally uncofortable and we where pushed so much you almost felt like you had to
say things that weren't true
Alice: don't remember much, mostly people cheating, incest, stuff like that
Alice: lies people told
Michael Crawford: Were the staff qualified? educated?
Alice: joel and steve where the only ones in mine and no they were deffinalty not
Alice: i knew more than they did about psychology
Michael Crawford: that is not surprising
Alice: pretty pathetic
Michael Crawford: did you ever try and complain to your parents about what went on? what happened?
Alice: all the time, they didn't get it, we didn't have much of a relationship, and i was sent to a
program by drs orders, they had no idea what to do with me
Michael Crawford: wait a minute. a doctor sent you to benchmark? for what reason?
Alice: I was in impatient, and part of my being discharged was under the condition that I went
to a program, we had an education consultant and she refered me there, I did 8 weeks of outpatient before i
Michael Crawford: interesting. so you were referred to benchmark as a program. Did benchmark claim to
be a program?
Alice: yep, when i went on my tour they told me there would be group therapy every day, i
woulld me an individual therapist, and do other work towards my recovery as education would be
completed on the side
Alice: i had interviews all over the country, and picked benchmark because of what i believed
they offered
Michael Crawford: what did they claim to offer but not deliver?
Alice: they made themselves out to be a program that could handle my problems, i had a lot of
very serious issues
 benchmark was like a hotel they tricked our parents to pay they and all the place they
sent us while offering nothing
Michael Crawford: did you know of people who complained to their parents? what normally happened?
were they accused of manipulation?
Alice: well i complained and the next day got in trouble for it
Alice: i told my dad to pay attention to what he was being billed for and lost my phone
Alice: yeah really, ann was hanging over me the entire phone call, i told my dad strait out that i
wouldn't be talking to him for a while
Michael Crawford: others too?
Alice: oh yeah
Michael Crawford: did you ever go through something called "framework for recovery"
Alice: no never made it that far
Michael Crawford: do you know people who did?
Alice: yeah
Michael Crawford: did they have AA/NA meetings on property?
Alice: friday mornings we held our own meetings
Michael Crawford: optional or not?
Alice: not, there where 2 groups, although all we ever did was watch movies cuz the staff were
in their meeting
Michael Crawford: lol. we did that too.
Alice: haha yeah it was pretty stupid i usually fell asleep on the couch
Michael Crawford: did the counselors ever try to help you with your drug/alcohol issues?
Alice: they did stuff in the mornings i believe but i was never there so i don't really know
Michael Crawford: never there? what happened? motel?
Alice: no i was either at school or the bmc
Alice: thank god for the bmc!
Michael Crawford: so basically they charged your parents to subcontract out to a third party recovery
Alice: haha yeah
Alice: it was a joke
Michael Crawford: i noticed on the staff page all the RCs have drug/alcohol issues. Was there a reason for
that? Did they ever talk about thier problems, share "war stories""?
Alice: we were told it was so we could look up to them and have support
Michael Crawford: they changed their tune since i was there.
Alice: although on of the resident couselors i lived with ended up getting fired for doing drugs
Michael Crawford: on the job?
Alice: yeah, she drove the bus hahahaha
Michael Crawford: you're referring to Beth Sutch?
Alice: yeah
Alice: but i have to say i think she was the nicest and most honest of them all
Michael Crawford: i know
Michael Crawford: did you feel the staff respected the privacy of the students?
Alice: hell no, they repeated everything we said to them
Alice: they discussed it and i'm sure made fun of us, i lived i nthe resident apartment for a
while i always used to hear them talking shit about students
Michael Crawford: were personal issues often repeated in group?
Alice: brought up, yeah
Michael Crawford: what types of things? do you have any specifics?
Alice: i had an incident in the beginning and it was brought up in a group later, and they made
me feel stupid
Michael Crawford: what incident? if you feel conmfortable enough to answer?
   3:45 AM
Alice: i was a bad cutter before i went there, i did it a bit while i was there, but no where near
as bad, i went into sherri one night cuz i was bleeding all over and i wanted someone to talk to, a couple
months later in a group she compared me to someone else and said i cut for attention.....i was not one to show
or talk about my cuts, but after the program i had been in we were encouraged to talk to people after an incident
so it wouldn't get worse
Michael Crawford: after that. did you feel more comfortable talking to somebody?
Alice: no i kept every incident after that to myself...including on in which i actually passed out
Alice: everytime i spkoe up i got in trouble for it
Alice: you learn how to work the system after a while, cuz it's not like you get help when you
do speak up
Michael Crawford: so they just didn't want to hear it? they thought you were using cutting as a
Alice: pretty much
Michael Crawford: did you give in to the system?
Alice: for a while, kept all my secrets to myself acted like i was better, followed the rules ( at
least in a way where i wasn't getting caught), that's how i got my level 2
Alice: it's funny cuz i talked to kids after i left and they'd tell me all the stuff they did haha
Michael Crawford: then what happened?
Alice: got in trouble for having Tony in my apt
Michael Crawford: how did they find out? dirt list?
Alice: no debbie came into my room
Michael Crawford: eeekkk.. that must have been awful...
   3:50 AM
Alice: yelled at me for being in bed before i was allowed to, turned on the lights, and there
was Tony, it was pretty funny
Alice: bound to happen he was in there every's funny cuz most of the time we wern't
doing anything bad, just talking about stuff
Michael Crawford: so you lost your level for that i assume... and were put on bans i assume.
Alice: yep
Alice: left 2 days later
Michael Crawford: did they let you take your property?
Michael Crawford: money?
Alice: i had money missing, jewelry stolen
Alice: it was rediculous
Michael Crawford: and Tony?
Alice: they wouldn't give me my meds when i left, and i went on a total crash
Alice: it was actually really dangerous
Michael Crawford: did you have to threaten them to get your money / property?
Michael Crawford: call the police?
Alice: yeah we had to call the police
Michael Crawford: how many other kids did that?
Alice: well adam gave us the idea, cuz that's what he had to do, i'm sure how many more after
us did
Alice: they told me i had to make an appointment to pick it up i was like yeah right so you can
break all my stuff again, and more things can go missing
Alice: no i was told i could leave whenever i wanted...they knew i had no where to go...i was a
spoiled brat who had no idea what being on my own ment
   3:55 AM
Alice: plus they had my parents wrapped around their finger
Michael Crawford: were you permanantly banned from property after calling the police?
Alice: yep property, and all my friends were banned from talking to me
Michael Crawford: so in other words it was a warning to the other kids who might try it saying "if you do, and
you fail, there's no coming back"
Michael Crawford: ?
Alice: yep
Michael Crawford: did you require parental assistance to get back on your feet?
Alice: i stayed with an outside friend for a couple of weeks, then i moved in with Tony and
finished parents didn't start supporting me until a couple months later
Alice: i guess once i graduated they realized i was doing it without the program
   4:00 AM
Michael Crawford: but you made it without the program right?
Alice: i had a really hard time when i first left mostly due to medical stuff...but i'm doing pretty
damn good
Alice: better than the kids who graduated anyways
Michael Crawford: do you feel like benchmark permanantly changed you? and i don't necessarily mean for
the better?
Alice: benchmark did some damage
Michael Crawford: go on
Alice: luckily it was counterbalanced with bmc stuff...but i guess i never realized how
manipulative people can be....they really opened my eyes to the real world, and i don't mean that in a good way
Michael Crawford: you have no idea how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Alice: i just can't ait for them to be shut down, there is nothing health about that place
Michael Crawford: do you feel more paranoid after bmark?
Michael Crawford: on alert? edgy?
Alice: no, but i do worry about people still stuck there, that's why i helped my friend get out
Michael Crawford: would you describe friendship workshop as cultish?
4:05 AM
Alice: haha yeah you could say that
Michael Crawford: would you aggree that in friendship workshop, kids were meant to feal miserable at the
beginning, and then comforted later, to build up an attachment to the staff?
Alice: yeah, broken down and built up...altough i never bought into it
Michael Crawford: do you remember an excercise when you were supposed to lay down on the floor and
remember something?
Alice: no
Alice: my memory sucks though haha
Michael Crawford: do you remember the "i am a rock" exercise?
Alice: what was that
Michael Crawford: curl up in a ball on the floor, staff yelling at you, they played "i am a rock, i am an island"
by Simon and Garfunkle
Alice: oh yeah that was fucked up
Michael Crawford: you're lucky you don't remember the rest.
Michael Crawford: though it's very common for people to block most of the workshop out
Alice: yeah my memory is real bad for everything... although i ket journals all through
treatment bet i can find some interesting stuff in those
Alice: i had a lot of issues after i left
Michael Crawford: how so?
Alice: i just felt unstable in the world...different from before.. goes back to trust and
manipulation i guess
Michael Crawford: were you too "used to" program perhaps?
Alice: then i had been told what to do for over a year....finally got to do what i wanted
Alice: make my own decisions without unrealistic consequences
Alice: i spent more time weeding those damn gardens, and washing cars and walls
Michael Crawford: after benchmark... now... do you feel less comfortable around groups of people?
Alice: i deffinatly lost some of my social skills, you get used to having a world of 50 people
   4:15 AM
Michael Crawford: lemme guess. after benchmark, you would share things you would not normally, with
perfect strangers?
Alice: haha yeah
Alice: after i caught myself doing that i became super quiet
Alice: not as outgoing as i was
Michael Crawford: did you jump to conclusions, thinking "i know his/her real story!" or "i know the truth of
what you feel"
Alice: yep
Alice: figured people out
Michael Crawford: side effects of group ... and the confrontation.
Alice: sweet..thank you benchmark
Michael Crawford: rather you thought you figured them out... how often were you right?
Alice: eh i'm pretty good about people...but i have a bit more education
Alice: people tend to talk to me about;s weird
Alice: haha
Michael Crawford: i believe you. But i learned the hard way I wasn't always right about my opinions on
Alice: yeah, i'm not to quick to judge though...i guess pople realize how fucked up i was n are
like oh ok well listen to this
Alice: haha
Michael Crawford: did you ever feel like group was a firing squad of sorts?
Alice: when they gang up on you
Michael Crawford: yeah
   4:20 AM
Alice: i never had that experience but i saw it happen to many...i was usually the one to come
to defense, and then got yelled at for that
Michael Crawford: was this encouraged by staff? did they every put you, or somebody else on display, in
the center of the "ring"?
Alice: in girls group it happened all the time, and whenever i brought up a counter opinion i
would get yelled at for "saving people"
Alice: my first day there i thought this girl was going to be eatten alive haha
Michael Crawford: so compassion was condemned?
Alice: yes
Michael Crawford: confontation, anger was truth?
Alice: yep
Michael Crawford: that comes from Synanon
Alice: they yelled until they usually ended up breaking down and crying
Michael Crawford: yup. that's the stuff.
Alice: girls group was rediculous
Michael Crawford: did staff ever attack the kids?
Michael Crawford: in group?
Alice: yeah they were the ones who started it usually
Michael Crawford: how good was the quality of education at Benchmark Young Adult School?
Alice: it was a joke, i completed a year and a half of education in like 7 months
Michael Crawford: at benchmark? or at Redlands adult school?
Alice: oh right that twas redlands adult
Alice: there was no education at benchmark
Michael Crawford: really? they why do they claim to be a school? the california Dept of education lists them
as a private school?
Michael Crawford: i am just puzzled at this
Michael Crawford: hmm???
   4:30 AM
Michael Crawford: So if benchmark wasn't a school, what was it exactly? if you were to put a label on it?
Alice: it was a holding cell haha
Michael Crawford: that i know. but offically. what would you classify it as?
Alice: a place where parents who either didn't want to or didn't know how to deal with there
children could pay to have them sent away
Michael Crawford: whoo. you'd fit right in on fornits.
Michael Crawford: a treatment centre? a program?
Alice: it was deffinatly not a treatment center
Alice: boot camp maybe
Alice: haha
Michael Crawford: would you say it was a "residential treatment facility"
Alice: a residentail facility maybe but no treatment
Alice: obedience training
Michael Crawford: ok. but if you were benchmark... and you were talking to a parent, what would you
describe yourself as?
Michael Crawford: a school, a program, or it depends on the parent?
Alice: they claim to be a residential
Alice: depends on the parent
Alice: whatever will close the deaal
Michael Crawford: or rather.... depends on the ed-con
Michael Crawford: are you aware that educational consulting is not a regulated industry, that they can take
compensation from programs for placement?
Alice: no i wasen't
Michael Crawford: you were likely sold off like a head of cattle
Michael Crawford: it's legal too
Michael Crawford: what did benchmark claim as it's graduation rate?
Alice: well the lady who refered it didnt really know much about it
Alice: i dont think we ever asked
Alice: they claimed students completed the program in a year which is bull
Michael Crawford: they use that shit for marketing
Michael Crawford: who referred you to the educational consultant?
Alice: i dunno parents found her
Michael Crawford: her name?
Alice: i can ask them
Michael Crawford: cool. if you can get her name i'll look up here other bad deeds.
Alice: sure
Alice: yeah we had a hard time finding a placement cuz i had just turned 18
Michael Crawford: what happend to most students in program? where did most of them end up?
Alice: well the ones i knoow who graduated are in pretty bad shape
Michael Crawford: and the ones who didn't?
Alice: some are doing good, and others bad
Michael Crawford: initially, after program, where did they end up?
   4:40 AM
Alice: there where a bunch of us who stayed in redlands ffor a while, and then we moved to
the orange county area
Alice: some went strait back into drugs
Michael Crawford: what i'm getting at is: how many ended up on the streets, either by being dropped onto
them, kicked out, or awoled because they couldn't take it anymore?
Alice: oh gosh out of my group there where about 10 who left
Alice: don't know about the group under us
Alice: some parents pulled them out to
Michael Crawford: did benchmark ever provide any viable way to leave? one that would not involve living
on the streets?
Alice: no
Michael Crawford: bingo
Alice: they took all your money, manipulated your parents
Michael Crawford: did you ever feel that you would be in program as long as your parents still had money
   4:45 AM
Alice: oh yeah i knew if i stayed i would be there for a long time, the problems i had gone ther
for where under control, but i broke stupid other rules so i would never succeed....felt like i was wasting my life away
Michael Crawford: what percentage of kids would you say graduated?
Alice: i know like 4 kids who did
Michael Crawford: out of?
Alice: probably like 30
Alice: there the ones in the worst shape too
Michael Crawford: So when jayne claims it was 90% (just a month ago) and 97% in 2001... what would you
say to that?
Alice: i would have to say i think i'm going to call her on her bullshit
Michael Crawford: really. that surprises the shit out of me... really it does.. let's move on to the next question.
Alice: hahhaha
Alice: i would really like to see how she got those numbers
Michael Crawford: out of her ass
   4:50 AM
Alice: i mean 25% is pushing it
Michael Crawford: What would you think real psychologists would say to benchmark's therapy?
Alice: people at the bmc hated that place
Michael Crawford: really? why?
Alice: the psychiatrist who worked for benchmark made fun of them
Michael Crawford: nelson?
Alice: no
Michael Crawford: aah. they got a new one.. nelson must have misbehaved.
Alice: who worked at the bmc too
Michael Crawford: oh... he made fun of benchmark..
Michael Crawford: how so?
Alice: the rules are rediculous, the way they punished us
Alice: they started making us go to the gym, but i was in an ed program n wasen't alloud to
work out
Michael Crawford: was he aware of the groups, or friendship workshop?
Alice: no i don't think so
Michael Crawford: that shit has long since been dismissed by the APA as harmful
   4:55 AM
Alice: amazing
Michael Crawford: ok. next question, almost done: did you ever feel abused in any way at benchmark?
Alice: no i was made to feel insignificant
Michael Crawford: did you feel like your mind was violated? broken into? messed with?
Alice: mesed with yes
Alice: oh i got a good one
Michael Crawford: go in
Michael Crawford: on
Alice: after i left, and was not given my meds i ended up going back for like 4 days cuz i had
no where to go
Alice: before joel let me back in i had to tell them everything i knew, and given many false
Michael Crawford: you were on the streets?
Alice: yes
Alice: then
Alice: they put me in a circle and made me confront all those people
Michael Crawford: so you never lost hope of leaving to the point where your only hope became the
program, and you gave your mind to them?
Alice: pretty much i was going through med withdrawls so i couldn't think clearly
   5:00 AM
Alice: course they thought i was on drugs cuz they have no medical training
Michael Crawford: so you never lost hope of leaving to the point where your only hope became the
program, and you gave your mind to them?
Alice: i guess thaats what i did, stopped carring and told them everything
Alice: im a softspoken person, and faced verbal abuse growing up, so i had to sit there and
listen to felons yell at me and tell me i was a liar
Michael Crawford: you felt like you needed program at that point?
Alice: no i just had no where to go
Alice: i needed to finish detoxing
Michael Crawford: so you decided to fake it?
Alice: yeah
Alice: never unpacked
Alice: i knew i was leaving again
Michael Crawford: I think you've answered the questions i had. Thanks for taking this time to be intereviewed.
 I'll post this on fornits later, as well as my website. i'll send you a link, to the fornits discussion... you can answer
 questions i'm sure people will ask. i'll set you up a pseudonym if you wish, or you can register one yourself.

What is wrong with your country that she went back because there was nowhere else to go?

I wonder what happened to Tony?

how old is she now? how old was she then?

When did the interview take place?


--- Quote from: ""exhausted"" ---What is wrong with your country that she went back because there was nowhere else to go?
--- End quote ---
A lot.  truly a lot.  Benchmark set themselves up in a location where it is nearly impossable to emancipate without the program.  They use this to try and convince kids that they are hopeless without the program, that they "weren't making it on their own, so they must need the program succeed."  

--- Quote ---I wonder what happened to Tony?
--- End quote ---
They're still together actually.  They left pretty much together after the incident with debbie catching them in bed.  AFAIK she had to go back for a few days to get her meds weened off but that was the only reason she went back.  Tony's father visited the program and figured out it was horseshit.  He offered Tony a chance to leave but he stayed there because of Alice.  Tony's father supported them after they were banned from benchmark for calling the cops.  If he didn't have his father, he would probably be just as fucked as the rest of the Bmark kids.

--- Quote ---how old is she now? how old was she then?
--- End quote ---
you know.  i've never bothered to ask. i can check.

--- Quote ---When did the interview take place?
--- End quote ---

The same day I posted this.  Alice should be around to answer questions later sometime (she's not online often).  I registered a her a username: "AliceFromBenchmark" Just to make sure nobody imitated her.  I emailed her the registration info and when she comes online (once in a while) she will probably answer questions you (or others) might have of her.

Well I look forward to meeting her, good for them sticking together, and good for the dad for admitting his mistake and supporting them through it

It would be interesting to have Tony here too to get his perspective on how he saw it all.


--- Quote from: ""exhausted"" ---Well I look forward to meeting her, good for them sticking together, and good for the dad for admitting his mistake and supporting them through it

It would be interesting to have Tony here too to get his perspective on how he saw it all.
--- End quote ---

I'll invite him too.


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version