Copper Canyon Academy Survivor Survey – Anonymous
Date of Submission: 11-04-12
Do you wish to grant further testimony to investigators? – Please contact me with further information.
Age and year of admittance – 16, 2006
How long was your stay at Copper Canyon Academy? – 1 year
How long have you been back home? – Almost 5 and 1/2 years
Did you graduate the program? – Yes
Before the program did you have a serious drug problem? Please describe severity – No
Before the program were you admitted to any other residential treatment, for instance a mental hospital? – Yes, when I was in 6th grade
Before the program did you have a criminal record or spend time in Juvenile Hall? – No
Where you court ordered, or did your parents choose to send you to the program? – My parents chose to send me to CCA.
Did you consent to treatment at CCA? Did you sign a contract? – My parents talked me into going. I was “willing” just because I wanted to go back home ASAP. I do not recall signing a contract. I was only 16.. are life-changing contracts for 16 year old children even valid?
Was there a medical admissions process? Please describe – There really wasn’t one. After I got there, I had to see a nurse for a check-up. But that was probably a week or two after I got there.
Were your medical records considered before you were admitted into D.R.A.? – I’m not sure.. possibly? I had no part of the conversations about being admitted.
Were you strip searched? How many times? – I was not strip searched.
How much was your tuition? – No. No advanced placement or honors courses were offered. The highest level of science offered was non-lab chemistry. I don’t even remember studying the periodic table in Chemistry at CCA. We watched a lot of Bill Nye the Science Guy videos, though. The bearded math teacher creeped me out too much for me to learn anything in his class.
In your opinion were the teachers, good teachers? Did they have degrees and certifications? – They may or may not have had degrees or certifications. I really don’t know. It would have shocked me if a few of them DID have any education at all, but hey, it’s possible.
Were your tests open book, multiple choice tests? Would you consider them easy to pass? – I don’t think we had many open book tests. Most were probably multiple choice. Easy to pass? I guess so, if you paid attention. They were really basic.
How many school credits did you earn in what period of time? – Not that many. I don’t remember. But school was year-round.
Did you receive a diploma from CCA? -
Was a certified medical professional available to students at their request? – We could go to see doctors off-campus and I think there was an RN on staff.
Were proper check ups, dental cleaning, and medication observation appointments held regularly? – Not really. We had medication appointments with a psychiatrist regularly. He was weird and didn’t really ask much about how we were feeling. I think he took feedback from staff about how we acted and then medicated us accordingly.
If you got sick were you given adequate treatment and rest? – No. I was sick a few times but I never wanted to go on sick day because they made you sleep in a random bunk bed and didn’t really pay any attention to you. I recall a girl having a very bad migraine on the weekend and staff not allowing her to keep the door shut while she was trying to sleep. It was loud.
Were you ever refused medical care because staff said that you were “faking it”? – Yes. Often. One staff member, Janet Moore, always told the girls that if they weren’t feeling good, it was obviously because they weren’t drinking enough water.
Was a medical service offered for drug detox or drug rehabilitation? – I don’t think so.
Was there any kind of “Drug Education” available for students who had used drugs in the past? – There were AA meetings on campus.
What is the name of your case manager/ “Therapist”? Did they have degrees/ licenses? What were their qualifications before taking the job at CCA? – My therapist was Linda Cathcart. I liked her very much, actually. I think she had great qualifications, but I never saw any of them personally. She was much different than the rest of the program. I felt that she treated me like a human when the rest of the program treated me like an animal.
Was group therapy considered to be of a confrontational nature? – Girls did confront each other during group therapy. I found this to be inappropriate at times. When the anniversary of my grandfather’s death came around, I talked about feeling sad and somebody told me to get over it and stop attention-seeking. They were never told that this was an inappropriate thing to say.
Do you feel you were forced to confess to things you did not do in order to progress in the program? – We were forced to write an accountability letter when we first got there. I was forced to re-write it several times because I wasn’t saying enough apparently.
Were students encouraged to accept that they were alcoholics or drug addicts? Was this required to advance in the program? – Yeah, girls with drug problems were required to admit it I guess.
Were students encouraged to follow a 12 step program in order to earn levels and graduate the program – Not exactly. The program was structured differently, but there were many aspects of the 12-step program in there.
Were students encouraged to accept a “higher power” contingent to their recovery? – We had mandatory spiritual time on Sunday mornings for.. I think it was either an hour or two hours. I can’t remember. We also were forced to watch inspirational movies on Sundays. These weren’t religious in nature, but they were incredibly ridiculous and over dramatic.
In your opinion, How was the food quality? Was it prepared properly? Were safety and health codes followed in the kitchen? – Oh dear god. When I first arrived, I had been a vegetarian for quite some time. This was questioned and they nearly forced me to eat meat. If I hadn’t refused and gotten “work hours” for refusal, they would have forced me to eat all sorts of meat. It seemed that health codes were fine. The cooks left their dirty dishes in the sink for us girls to clean up at the end of the day, which was kind of gross because the dirty dishes would be in there for a couple hours. The lettuce in the salad bar was brown sometimes. It was really gross. The food seemed to be somewhat properly prepared, but we never had a choice of what to eat. We were forced to eat 3/4 of our meal before dumping our tray.
Did you ever go hungry? Were you given proper portions? Was food ever withheld as a punishment? Please describe “Non-Compliant” meals. How many days in a row were you on “Non-Compliant” meals? – I was always hungry. I started eating crackers with my medication twice a day even though my medication didn’t state that I needed to on the label. I eventually got “found out” and told I couldn’t have any more crackers.
The portions weren’t great. There were tiny portions of unappetizing vegetables (never any properly roasted or fresh steamed veggies- always frozen and microwaved the hell out of). Nothing was seasoned and we didn’t have seasoning choices. We were allowed a packet or two of ketchup sometimes.
I always asked for non-compliant meals, because they looked delicious. They were black beans and rice and spinach I believe? I think it was cold, but it would’ve been better than what they served us normally.
Did you gain a lot of weight? Were you forced to eat more than you were able to eat? – I lost weight because I was always so hungry.
Were you ever punished for vomiting? – I never vomited there
Please describe the “Work Hour” experience. How did you feel about this? – Work hours.. yuck. We had to get up in the morning at 5, even during the winter, and pick weeds, move rocks, clean things, and all sorts of ridiculous things. Toward the end of my time being there, they started having girls wash the staff’s cars for work hours.
Were upper levels or any level students asked to babysit the staff’s children, or taken to the staff’s house for any extended period of time? – They had a level of the program called transition. I was forced to live with a very bad infant during that time. My transition parents didn’t understand that sometimes, infants cry for no reason and they are meant to be left to “cry it out” if they were given enough attention and nothing soothed them. I was yelled at multiple times for not picking the baby up when the transition mom wasn’t able to. I did not like babies.
Where you aware of anyone being restrained and/ or isolated from the group? – There was a girl in my house who was put on “silence,” which meant she was not allowed to talk to anyone else, quite often. She was put on silence from everyone except upper levels (and at times, there were only 1 or 2 upper levels in the house at a time) for months. It was really sad.
What reasons were these people restrained/ isolated/ made to sit in stress positions? (please describe actual events) Where stress positions utilized? Were there more time in isolation given if the student would move, cry or speak? – I never personally saw this.
Please describe “Staff Buddy”, “The Desert Process” and the purpose of the yellow/ orange construction vests.- Staff Buddy: If staff thought a girl had plans to run away, if a girl was seen or possibly thought to do something to harm herself, if a girl did run away, or just a number of things that are “bad” (two girls manipulated their ways to going on an off-campus visit together with one of the girls moms and they were both put on staff buddy even though they didn’t try to run away), they were forced to wear a neon yellow shirt. They weren’t allowed to sleep in their actual bedrooms. They had to sleep on the couch or a mattress on the floor in the common area/living room with staff. They weren’t allowed to do anything without a staff present, including use the bathroom or shower.
Yellow/orange construction vests were to declare an individual on silence from other students. They weren’t allowed to talk to anyone else.
(Please describe the rules and structure that would pertain to a level 1 student.)
Was contact with your parents limited? Where your letters (to and from) intercepted? Were your letters opened, read, crossed out or cut? – Level 1: One five-minute phone call with their parents per month (obviously supervised with therapist), not allowed to talk to any other level 1s, not allowed to wear tennis shoes except for exercise.. ONLY flip flops, and not even nice flip flops like Crocs that were comfortable and didn’t fall off my feet. I wore them and got in trouble. Not allowed to go to the bathroom on their own or shower, they can’t even go to their bedroom on their own. They had to be babysat by an upper level or staff at all times, even in school.
Contact with parents: It was very limited. We could only speak to them during scheduled therapy phone calls that were very short and through snail mail or e-mails. All of our e-mails were read by curious staff. There wasn’t a policy in place to read emails, but they did anyways.
How long before you were able to speak to your parents on the phone? Were your phone calls monitored? – I wasn’t allowed to talk to my parents on the phone for 1 month. After the first month, I got to talk to my mom for 5 minutes on the phone under the supervision of my therapist.
If you felt you were being abused, was there anyway you could get to a phone and have a private conversation with your parents, child services or an officer of the law? – No. Definitely not. In fact, girls who did try to e-mail or write their parents about it got in trouble when their parents confronted the school. We weren’t allowed to talk to people outside of the school and let them know that we were being abused. There were no ways to call child protective service at all.
If you wanted to leave were you discouraged to tell your parents how you felt? Were you afraid that you would be punished if you were to describe any incidents of abuse to your parents? – If we so much as told our parents that we were unhappy there and it was found out, we would be immediately dropped down to level 1 for “manipulation.”
Were there other students (upper levels) assigned to watch over you? What was their role? Did they give you consequences/ “hold you accountable”? Were they instructed to restrain you or monitor the isolation area, bathrooms and showers? – Yes. Upper levels had to watch level 1s do just about everything. Level 2s could go to the bathroom by themselves, etc. Only level 4s could go to the laundry room alone. Everyone else had to be accompanied by a level 4.
During my first week, I was asking an upper level from a different house if there was anything I could do about my roommates being rude to me. They “held me accountable” for “gossip” and I was later given 4 work hours.
Did you have to raise your hand and wait to ask permission from staff (or upper levels) to speak, stand, eat, go to the bathroom and do other normal activities? – Yeah, we had to ask to do just about anything. Even during our free time, we couldn’t go to the bathroom or even go to grab a book or something from our rooms without asking.
How often were you allowed to speak freely? Were you not allowed to speak with others in your group? – Level 1s could not talk to other level 1s.
Did you have to walk in line? How often? Were there consequences if you did not line up properly? – Every day going to meals, we had to stand in a line. If we weren’t quiet enough or standing in a straight enough line, we had to sit back down and try it again. This cut into our meal time.
Would you be given a consequence if you forgot something? (for instance, a pen or a book) – Yeah. If we forgot books for school or any school supplies or our water bottles when we left the house to go to school or exercise, we got a work hour.
Were your personal items inspected by other students? (upper levels?) without your consent or presence? – I don’t think this was a policy, but I had upper levels look through my stuff multiple times.
(Please describe the rules and structure that would pertain to an “upper level” student.)
What were the requirements in order to progress in the level system? Was approval from the other upper levels required? – To move up, we had treatment team, which was our therapists, some teachers, some staff getting together to discuss if we should move up or not. We also had a vote from the house every week. Students could vote if they wanted us to move up or not.
What kind of staff responsibilities were upper levels given? – Upper levels babysat lower levels, basically.
Were upper levels required to give out consequences, citations or to hold lower levels accountable for minor rule violations? – Not really. Just to ask them to hold themselves accountable
Were the rules upper levels enforced specific to the rule book or were the definitions of those rules assumed? Could rules easily be made up or “held accountable” under a category that was vague enough to be given out for any number of things? – Sure. I was given work hours for things that weren’t in the rule book.
Were you punished/ held back if you chose not to tattle or pass out citations, and opted to verbally warn students instead? – no
Did an upper level have to power to influence a child put onto “staff buddy” or into any isolation process? Were upper levels instructed to watch or participate in restraints? – no
Were upper levels required to give visiting parents a glowing testimonial of their experience in the program, or make testimonial videos or letters? Were pre-written scripts required to be read during the filming of promotional videos? – I never did a video, but I was asked to give a future parent a tour once and I was told beforehand that I could only say good things about the school.
What would happen if an upper level student mentioned anything bad about the program in front of a parent? Were students afraid of punishment if they told the truth? – A close friend of mine was dropped a level because she told a parent on a tour not to send their daughter to CCA.
How easily could an upper level get dropped (start the program over)? What infractions would make an upper level drop and what level did they usually go back to? – It could happen very easily. There were some ridiculous things that girls got dropped for. There were also things that made sense, though. There was a level 4 who got dropped to level 1 for having sex on her home visit. But there was also a level 3 who got dropped to level 1 for saying “Sycamore (another house on campus) sucks.”
Please describe your seminar experience. – I did. My parents were given the option to but never did. They were done by both CCA staff and third parties.
What are your opinions of the owners/ Directors of CCA? – Tammy Behrman was a very sweet lady. She didn’t realize some of the abuse that was going on there. The rest that she did realize was swept under the rug. She was a very active member of the mormon church, but she was divorced. That was a big deal for mormons and I think she was all sorts of messed up from that. So she probably wasn’t the proper person to own this type of school.
Paul Taylor pretended to be nice. He picked favorites and didn’t pay much attention to anyone else. I got a weird vibe from him.
Do you believe that the program acting within the means of “Tough Love” was appropriate treatment for you in your adolescence? – Not really, no. Tough love is great. Cruelty is not.
Do you believe that the staff and junior staff usually acted within the US standards for health, safety and well being of the students? – No. Not really.
Considering long term effects, do you think your experience at DRA has an effect on your life today? Positive or negative? – CCA wasn’t a great place. Not many of my fellow CCA survivors are doing well. I am doing very well and am very proud of that. But most of the other girls? not so much. Many girls are still scarred by their experience. I am scarred by it too. But I choose to not let it ruin my life.