Author Topic: the truth about it...  (Read 9822 times)

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Offline kerryberry420

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the truth about it...
« on: March 13, 2005, 06:10:00 PM »
my name is kerry hambleton. i am 21 years old and am a student in Maryland. i was sent away 20 times from when i was 13 to 19 and have since been looking for a way to give back and educate people about the inner working of these treatment centers.  i have been to lockdowns, rtc's, wilderness programs, rehab, and behavior modification boarding schools.  i have been in expensive ones, coed, single sex,  and more varities mission mountain was one of the many places i was sent to, however that is the one that stands out in my mind.  first of all i want to tell you that the founder and headmaster (john mercer) does not in fact have a degree in psychology anything related to that, he majored in biology.  in fact only a few of the staff there had any formal schooling in psychology the therapists did but the teachers, outdoor recreation coach, and daily living coordinator all ran groups too.   now i will start at the beginning.  

i was kicked out of school in tenth grade for basically just being an outcast.  i had low self esteem, dressed "gothic" was promiscuous, drank at parties, and got in arguments with my parents.  i do agree that i needed some kind of help and support to get me through that difficult time; i just don't think mission mountain was the right choice.  my parents didn't know what to do with me so they contacted and educational consultant.    she convinced my parents without help i was going to die, and then one night at 3am two strangers showed up in my bedroom and took me away.  i was crying and screaming and asking where my family was and they wouldn't tell me.  they took me to the airport in my pajamas and we got on a plane without me even knowing where we were headed we touched down somewhere in utah where i was then whisked away to second nature wilderness program.  i still hadn't talked to my parents and didn't know what was happening and next thing i knew i was in the middle of the desert with a 50 lb pack on my back.  (just for the record i really enjoyed second nature and got a lot out of it.  the staff were really kind and supportive and helped me to regain lot of my confidence.)  after being at second nature for 13 weeks i was told that i be leaving and going mms i didn't know anything about it except that it was in montana and they did lots of outdoor activities.  which sounded fine to me, i love the outdoors.  the first thing i noticed when i got there was that the campus was deserted.  one of the teachers took me to a barn and outfitted me with my new mms clothes.  sweatpants, hiking boots, t-shirt, fleece jacket, safety goggles, and work gloves.  they took away my few belongings (clothes, pictures of my family, necklace, pictures of my very nice churchgoing boyfriend).  i was crying and they yelled at me and handed me a backpack and took me out into the woods where the girls were on "intervention".  a group punishment for the crime of "collusion"  (girls having exclusive friendships and talking about their "old lives").  so immediately was already suffering for two girls mistakes.  "intervention" consisted of waking up at dawn and clearing forest with hand tools and then carrying heavy debris to large piles to be burned.  we would do this all day with a 3 minute bathroom break every three hours (the bathroom was an outhouse with five holes in it instead of one with no separation in between).  we would work until it got dark and sometimes later (in the summer so it was pretty late) and then have to sit in a circle silently until john mercer showed up (he was always late, we would wait for hours without talking or getting up to pee).  once he got there he would pick a few girls and yell at them all night.  or we would all have to make lists containing all of our lies, transgressions, our "war stories", how we about the other girls, things we knew about other girls that they weren't telling, and then read them aloud and have everyone respond.  he never  believed that i hadn't done drugs and i got so tired of hearing him yell and getting in trouble for "lying" that i finally lied and said that i had.  he accused one girl of being nazi and screamed at her until she was sobbing violently.  i tried to stick up for her and tell him to stop but he wouldn't listen and made her tell her best friend she hated her for being asian.  it made me sick.  and i felt even worse that i couldn't do anything about it.she gave in eventually and said that she was, but she wasn't.  anyway continuing about "intervention"....it went on for like 3 months.  we weren't allowed to shower, write to our parents, or anything.  when we finally got off of intervention i saw what mms was really like, not much different except we slept indoors.  we lived in cabins, 8 girls to a cabin.  we sometimes went to school in the morning on weekdays (on intervention we didn't go to school).  usually though the staff would have us do work crew (chopping firewood, clearing forest, landscaping, maintenance, intense cleaning of buildings).  or we would have to go work on the staffs houses.   so we got little to no schooling.  (i will say though when we actually did have classes our teachers did do their best to teach us and give us help if we needed it) and even when we did have class we wouldn't have any time for homework because of all the chores we had to do and sitting in group for hours on end.  the other thing we had to do was outdoor recreation.  it was like Gym class except outside and harder.  i actually enjoy outdoor activities but this was too much.  we would first have to run laps (run the whole time, no stopping, no slowing down) if you did stop or slow down, or cry, or throw up you would have to run more.  if  girls refused to run everyone else would have to run until they gave in and did it.  if girls refused to do push ups everyone else would have to until they did.  we had to get on mountain bikes and go on 12 miles rides up mountain without stopping.  even if you fell off you kept going.  i do see why they did this, to encourage perseverance and confidence, but i think they pushed too hard.  as for daily life we woke up at 6am and went to breakfast.  the dining room was set up in a large horseshoe shape and every girl had a "food partner" and "feelings journal".  in the beginning of the meal we had to write our feelings about the food we were about to eat and again at the end.  we all got the same food to eat and for condiments they had to measured out and checked by our partner to make sure we weren't cheating.  we weren't allowed to talk at mealtimes except for a topic that one of the staff would give and we would all respond one by one.  everyone had to finish all of their food and if someone didn't all the other girls would have to go outside and run laps backwards or shovel horse manure.  some of the girls had eating disorders (i didn't) and we all got treated like we did.  we weren't allowed to know our weight and we had to eat even if we were full.  they made the vegetarians eat meat and forced them to run laps if they didn't.  every cabin had chores to do both in the cabin and on the campus.  like setting up for meals, cleaning various building, shoveling horse manure, vacuuming, making the bed, cleaning the bathroom, etc.  all chores had to be done every day.  if anything were wrong (a hair on the sink, dirt on the floor, manure in the fields, wrinkle in the bedsheets) the person or cabin responsible would be given a "callback", three callbacks meant you were on work crew on sunday instead of studying.  

i don't want to make it seem all bad though.  some of the staff there were really compassionate and caring and really wanted to help us.  a lot of the outdoor activities helped me feel more confident and strong (unless i had to do them while i was sick or with a sprained ankle).  i don't think mms was abusive in the traditional sense however I view so many of the things they did as wrong and hurtful.  when my dad saw how we were treated there he pulled me out immediatly i just people to know what really happened there so other girls don't have to go through it and parents are informed of the real nature of the school.  i wish i hadn't of taken my first post off because now you may question my credibility.  but when colleen called me i felt like i did at mms was immediatly intimidated and lied about what i had written.  i realize that that was wrong of me and have since e-mailed her telling that and i am now posting this again.  i hope you still believe me.  if anyone has any questions or comments you can e-mail me at [email protected]
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Offline Kathy

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the truth about it...
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2005, 02:21:00 AM »
Kerry and Melissa.  Thank-you so much for letting us in on your experiences while at Mission Mountain.  I'm sure this will be invaluable to help parents when considering MIssion Mountain.  It's only fair that they get all perspectives of the school, not just the one shown forth when visitors arrive.  We appreciate your honesty about the good and the bad.  
Kathy
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Kathy
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."    ~Plato

Offline Anonymous

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« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2005, 03:47:00 AM »
Hi Kerry,

Your post is very much appreciated, thank you!!  :nworthy:

I agree that people should hear the truth. It takes courage to come forward. I commned you and anyone else who has the courage to come forward and tell their story so that parents can evaluate the situation and decide for themselves if this is what they truly want their child to experience.

And it might be good for parents to let their child have a say in where he/she goes, and IF he or she goes, depending on the circumstances, of course.  

There are many things that need to change. Too many children are whisked away in the middle of the night to an undisclosed location, scared to death they are being kidnapped.  :nworthy:

Whoever Colleen is (assuming she works at MMS from your post), she should feel proud that you had the courage to speak the truth.

Again, thank you.  :tup:
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Offline Antigen

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« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2005, 10:17:00 AM »
Kerry, would you happen to know the name of the edcon who refered your parents?

I'm a PATRIOT because I believe in the nations ability to un-fuck itself.
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Offline granny19

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« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2005, 02:12:00 PM »
Dear Kerry and Melissa,
I am very grateful to you both for having the courage to post your stories on this forum. Until you came along it had been nearly impossible to gain any first-hand information about Mission Mountain. Hopefully your messages will allow parents to make more informed decisions about sending their daughters to this facility. It is good to hear that you are both doing so well.
Thanks again!
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Offline kerryberry420

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« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2005, 02:34:00 PM »
yeah, her name was susan skeleton.  but i don't think she is to blame at all.  these educational consultants really don't know what is going on either.  when edcon's would come to visit mms (or anyone else) suddenly we would all be on a "normal" schedule.  we would wake up and go to school, then have ODR, then have group and go to bed early, or maybe have a treat like watching a movie.  so they really see what mms wants them to see and nothing else.  and mms would pick a girl who had been there awhile and was probably about to graduate to show them around because she would only say nice things.  the thing with the edcon though was that she only talked to me on the phone for about ten minutes before she got my parents to ship me off.  i thoguht that was ridiculous.  she should have at least met me.  yes i did some things that showed i needed help and structure, but there is so much more to me than that.  these edcons should evaluate the whole person not just their actions.   programs like mms do work fro some people, but for others (like me) they do more harm than good.  like i am really intellectual (i'm not being conceited it's just a fact i have a 161 IQ) and i have never really known how to act socially.  so when i acted out it was because i was trying desparately to fit in and be accpeted.   i always wanted to please everyone i was around and i never stood up for myself and as a result have been drugged, raped, and even kidnapped for a day.  sending me to a place where i was going to be yelled at and broken down just hurt me and made me feel more worthless.  i needed to go somewhere where the staff celebrated my differences and helped me to develop my real personality.  new haven was like that.  i was sent to new haven when i was 17 as a last ditch effort befroe my 18th birthday to save me.  and i loved it there.  there was a level system so if you did the work you could earn priveleges like going to the mall, going to the movies with other girls, having your CD's, calling your friends., and things like that.  you didn't get all of that at first but you could work up to it and when your therapist thought you were ready you could do it.  you could have your own clothes, make up, pictures of your friends and family.  you could eat when you were hungry, and have good home cooked meals too.  we went camping, rafting, and rock climbing.  we had horses, dogs, and lots of kittens.  we had a pool and a rope to swing on into the pool.  the girls there always seemed happy (well, most of the time).  we felt like the staff really respected us and genuinely wanted to help.  i think new haven is great and my family and i are still in touch with my therapist from there.  and just so you all know i ran away from there on a home visit so i was not even the perfect student (i ran away to boulder colorado while my plane was laid over in denver on my way back to new haven in utah).  but i liked new haven so much that as soon as i got to boulder i called the staff and told them that i was in colorado and would not be coming back (i was almost 18 and anxious to start my life) and we stayed on good terms to this day.  so i hope this helps!
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Offline Anonymous

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« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2005, 04:18:00 PM »
I am sure you are right about the ed cons. However, they have no business holding themselves out as experts and getting paid substantial fees for doing what any parent could do by throwing darts at a map. A 20 minute conversation either by phone or in person is an insult the child as a person. It would take a qualified counselor MANY hours to render an opinion as what would be best for a particular individual, or even determine if a residential program is appropriate. I seriously doubt that any of these vultures ever tell parents that their child does not need residential treatment. It just goes along with the rest of this sickening industry, it's all about the money!
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Offline Antigen

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« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2005, 06:34:00 PM »
Thanks Kerry. Yes, anon, that's my point in asking. I don't know how many edcons there are out there. But I think it might be worth the trouble to give them due credit for their work. Next time Sue Skeleton advises a parent to send their kid to MM, or maybe next time she swears she never has made such a recomendation, a parent who's paying attention can google her name and get a little more info.

Creationists make it sound like a 'theory' is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night.
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Offline Anonymous

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« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2005, 06:45:00 PM »
From my experience, and clearly everyone has their own,being taken away from my house by escorts unknowingly was no day in the park but it certainly didn't scar me. Perhaps my escorts were different, but when asked they could atleast tell me that I was going somewhere for treatment. I didn't like not knowing to what state, or what program I would be going to, and what would go on there but atleast I knew I wasn't being abducted. I knew that my parents knew where I was and regardless of my feelings of not wanting to be there I knew I was safe. Of all the girls I know who also were "escorted" to programs none have been scarred by it, and none have fears of abduction. Just another perspective for you.

Melissa.
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Offline Anonymous

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« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2005, 07:50:00 PM »
That's great. Maybe you could tell us which escort service they used because some of the kids were hand-cuffed, and threatened with pepper spray. They weren't told right away that their parents did this. I guess it depends which servcie you get. I am so glad for you and the other girls.
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Offline Anonymous

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« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2005, 11:27:00 PM »
I lived in the San Francisco area at the time. I'm not sure what the service was called and my mom doesnt remember but the escorts also worked at the local juvenille detention center.
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Offline Anonymous

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« Reply #11 on: March 16, 2005, 12:06:00 AM »
Any others out there who have had any experiences at Mission Mountain? ANyone know if they have a website? a friend of mine thinks a neighbor of hers (in california) was sent there about a year ago. the girl's name was sarah. anyone know her? they think she's still ther but not sure.
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Offline katfish

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« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2005, 02:32:00 AM »
I attended MMS, I am 26 now.  I found the methods used to push for change were coersive at best, abusive verbally and emotionally- even physically if you include all the labor at it's worse.  

Education was sorely lacking- it has taken me many many years to catch up with my peer, although perhaps I would not have attended school anyway- left to my own devices, unless sent to a place, perhaps like 'New Haven' someone mentioned- sounds nice....  Things went from bad to worse after I 'graduated.'  From what I have heard from friend that attended MMS, some it was a learning experience, for others it has not. ( I think a lot of this also has to do with transitional period b/c MMS and the real world- going from being so isolated to living at home after only a few visits is a terribly difficult adjustment to make.)  
At MMS they pushed the AA thing, and pushed students to 'admit' they had been abused and drug problem.  truthfully I often would lie about things just to tell them something so that during group they would lay off.  
During my time at MMS I was also dealing with gay issues, so that's another point that I felt was important to have addressed if the aim of the school was in fact to be helpful, but that was ignored and it was suggested that this was displacement of feelings, as if this desire to act out was like the desire to do drugs.  Most things were considered displacement of feelings, actually.  I was often told I was too f**ked up, that's why you're hereand that my own mind couldn't be trusted.  Took about 7 years to get over that one...
The counselors were often so condescending I never felt understood or like I was allowed to question anything I felt was questionable, often downright objectionable.  That was considered being resistant and would have extreme consequences. So, intimidation play a huge role in maintaing cotrol.  Essentially I played dumb the entire time.  I repeated word for word whatever they told us to believe and after 2 years began to almost believe it- I became a very good liar, unfortunately...  
Like everyone else has posted, the work is brutal- chopping wood for all the counselors to enjoy as 'consequnece'/punishment, 'intervention' was awful, being cut of from friends whom you love is extremely traumatic, the pressure to go along with everything is unbearable...Funny, someone mentioned Colleen called them and they felt intimidated as they did while attending MMS- yea, she called me too a few years ago, I s'pose after I posted all over the web how awful and ineffective I thought the school was.  At first the wave of fear washed over me, for a moment I turned 13 again and had been caught doing something I wasn't supposed to- expressing my true feelings and criticizing this program.  I even began thinking, maybe I'm wrong and perhaps it's only me who doesn't think this program is  harmful... then I thought, damn- i must be nuts, it's been 10 years since this experience and yet the feelings of it still linger. . . I returned the call but never heard back. And, I stand by what I feel.  Too much time has passed for me too feel intimidated and for this to be anything less that a carefully considered representation of my position on MMS.  I think this school and probably many others need to be better regulation.  Years ago I would have liked to file criminal charges, but now I would like to just move. I feel strongly that their methods should, if it they are not already, be considered criminal...
 EdCon need to keep their eyes open and watch for regurgitation of words feed to the student day in and day out- the words may sound good, but I remember when they would visit us at MMS I would pray they would see the desperation I felt inside despite the bs coming out of my mouth- but nothing...

Thankfully, however, the educational consultant I dealt with will not recommend MMS anymore, Jill Porter of La Jolla after she saw that the program did not work for me and another student who was sent there by her. We both left worse than when we arrived.
Needless to say, I would not recommend this school.
I can't resist mentioning that at about 70k a year, could be- probably is- more, these couselors are make a killing off desperate parents...esp considering upkeep, maintanance is done by students. When I was there we chopped wood for the counselors personal use and built paths along the campus, not to mention daily upkeep was all done by the students.
ON a slightly positive note- I did enjoy the outdoors, learning to winter camp and x-country ski, but think I could've gotten that out of a better program at a cheaper price.
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Offline kerryberry420

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« Reply #13 on: March 20, 2005, 03:11:00 PM »
wow, you said it!!!  it hasn't changed at all!!!  except the price has gone up. my parents said it was about $83,000 a year,  when colleen called me she adamantly denied that.  it's true we did most if not all the maintenance of the the place, and not only on campus, we maintained the staff's homes as well.  we were "giving back".  you also mentioned "gay issues" when i was there there were a few girls who were obviously true lesbians (not just because they were in an all girls school for two years) and the staff just flat out ignored it or said they were displacing their feelings by trying to focus on other issues.  the weird thing was NO ONE ever kissed there or anything.  i have been in a lot of all girl programs and there was always an element of girl girl attraction (which in that circumstance is pretty normal even if they aren't "gay") but at mms they stressed how much we shouldn't be sexually active and told the girls who masturbated that they were sex addicts.  i still feel a little twinge of guilt when i masturbate or have sex with my boyfriend.  they also pushed the 12 step thing hard, i had never done drugs (i drank and smoked pot sometimes) but they didn't belive me so i eventually "admitted" to all my drug use and started working the "steps".  then on homevisits i had to go to aa meetings (i was like 16) and be around all these drug addicts and alcoholics.  well those meetings had the opposite affect on me.....i started doing drugs.  subconsciously my philosophy was "i've done the time i might as well do the crime".  the other thing that mms did to me was pretty much kill my abilty to stand up for myself and what i belive in.  everyutime i did it there i was accused of being "defensive" or trying to "justify" so eventually i just shut up and did what they said.  i belive this was one of the main things that led to my getting hurt in relationships, drug use, and being raped.  i am just now learning how to stand up for myself again.  but still if people talk down to me and stuff i always think "what did i do?  how can i make them happy?"  it's awful.  i have a boyfiend now and this is the healthiesat reltionship i have evr had but it is still messed up, i have no idea how to interact with him in a "normal" way.  mms took me about as far from society as i oculd have gone and i missed critical years of social interaction and dating and when it was over got throw in, i had no idea what to do.  i think these programs should have like level which over a year or so introduce girls baqck into society step by step.  like first have to stay on campus, 2 months later allowed to go out with staff and other girls, 1 month later allowed to go out with just other girls, 1 month later go to the local school, 1 month later allowed to hang out with kids from school, 1 month later allowed to date....etc.  reintegration is key.  anyway, any comments e-mail me [email protected]
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Offline Anonymous

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« Reply #14 on: March 21, 2005, 04:26:00 PM »
Thanks to all of you for posting about MMS. Someone very dear to me is currently a "student" there, so I am interested in learning as much as possible about what goes on way out there in the wilds of Montana. I have been suspicious of the secrecy, and now I am finding out why it is so necessary for them to keep a low profile. If parents knew what was happening to their daughters, the place would be out of business. They are trying very hard to appear more like a legitimate boarding school, when in reality they are every bit as bad as the notorious WWASPS programs. The more former students who come forward with their personal experiences, the sooner places such as MMS will be out of business. I personally would be thrilled to see their doors close for good. Please spread the word about the forum so others will speak out!
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