- Resource Directory
- School and Program Directory
- Addiction Treatment Programs
- African American Youth
- Asian Youth
- Boarding Schools
- Boot Camps
- Boys Only
- Buddhist Youth Programs
- Catholic Programs
- Christian Based
- Clinically Based
- College Support
- Eating Disorders
- Educational Services
- Equine Therapy
- Girls Only
- Hebrew Youth Programs
- Hispanic Youth
- Learning Disabilities
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender
- Military Style
- Muslim Programs
- Native American Youth
- Over Seas & Abroad
- Preteen Programs
- Semitic Youth
- Special Needs
- Summer Camps & Programs
- Teen Homeless Shelters & Programs
- Therapeutic Treatment Programs
- Transition Programs
- Treatment For Sexual Issues
- Young Adult Programs
- Weight Loss Programs
- Wilderness Based
- Resources For Parents
- Local Resources
- Resources for Teens
- Resources for Professionals
- School and Program Directory
- Hotline Directory
- Guest Posting
- Contact Us
I am a Survivor of a Cult-Like Teen Program that Physically, Sexually & Psychologically Tortured Me
My name is Nick Gaglia and I’m a 29-year-old filmmaker. Back in 2007 I wrote and directed a film called Over the GW. GW is based upon my 2 ½ year experience in an abusive, cult-like, tough-love drug rehab called Kids Of North Jersey, back in the late ‘90s.
Before Kids opened, there was a program called Straight that opened in the late ’70′s by the same owner: Miller Newton. George Bush did a video that recommended parents to send their kids to Straight. After years of harsh abuse Straight got shut down. The sociopathic owner opened Kids and was back in business running the program in the exact same harmful manner. After Kids eventually got shut down in the late ‘90s, Newton moved to Florida, changed his name to Father Cassian, and started a new cult under the guise of religion.
My short video about George Bush and the troubled teen industry.
As a child, the two things that had the most impact on my life were my father and film; I was closer to my father than any other human being alive and our favorite hobby was going to the movies together. We would even dust off the old camera and film little movies together. At a very early age I knew that I wanted to be a professional filmmaker some day and my father wholeheartedly supported my dream.
My dream was put on hold when I started experimenting with pot and alcohol at the age of 13. By the time I was 14, I no longer expressed an interest in filmmaking, nor was I close with my father like I used to be. I was irrational and fought with him all the time, I stopped going to school altogether, and I started getting into harder drugs like acid and mushrooms.
My parents knew I needed help. They found a rehab near where we lived called Kids of North Jersey. Kids claimed to have the highest success rate out of any other rehab in the country.
Now to fully detail the dynamic of Kids, I will use Orwell’s 1984 to help you understand how Kids operated.
Orwell portrayed a state in which government monitored and controlled every aspect of human life through the use of telescreens and posters. At Kids, we didn’t have posters or telescreens but what we did have was staff members who watched, scrutinized and controlled our every move 24 hours a day. We were watched while sleeping, in the shower, during bowel movements. We even had to ask how many squares of toilet paper we were allowed to use; which was usually about one to two.
In 1984, The Party controlled every source of information, managing and rewriting the content of all newspapers and histories for its own benefits. In Kids of North Jersey, they controlled every source of information we had as well. We weren’t allowed to read anything, not a book, not a bible, not even the ingredients on the back of a cereal box. We weren’t allowed to have contact with the outside world, not even our mothers. We weren’t allowed to look out the car window to and from the host home. And the group room, where we were located most of the day, consisted of four windowless white walls. We weren’t allowed to engage in topics of a druggie nature. I got in trouble once for mentioning Tom Hanks’ name. Staff told me that he was a druggie because he played a homosexual in a movie, and that my talking about him will in some way lead me back to using drugs. I don’t think I need to even touch upon how convoluted that theory is.
By controlling the information we were being fed in the present they were able to make us believe we did things in the past that didn’t really happen. As a result, we believed we were worse than we really were and this was exactly the vulnerable state they wanted us in. For example, Kids convinced a family whose son was already in the program to enroll their daughter as well because she was displaying “druggie behavior” by wearing black outfits and listening to Madonna music. They convinced the family that she was a threat to her brother’s sobriety and they would straighten her out. This girl had never done a drug in her life; the worst thing she ever did was masturbate, if you would even classify that as a bad thing, so after a grueling interrogation and humiliation sessions in group, they got her to admit to being a sex addict. She ended up staying there for 13 years.
In 1984, Big Brother forced its members to undergo mass morning exercises called Physical Jerks, and then to work long, grueling hours at government agencies, keeping people in a general state of exhaustion. Anyone who managed to defy the Party would be punished and reeducated through systematic and brutal torture. By controlling the minds of their victims through physical torture, the Party is able to control reality, convincing their subjects that 2+2=5.
Well, in Kids of North Jersey, we didn’t have Physical Jerks, we had what was called “motivating.” Motivating was an act by which one would have to fling their arms in the air back and forth, as hard as they could in an effort to get called on in group. We would spend 12 long, grueling hours a day, every day, constantly in a general state of exhaustion. Anyone who didn’t comply would ultimately be restrained on the floor by 5 other group members, pressing down on the restrainees’ limbs as hard as they could. The only way one would get up from being restrained is if they signed and admitted where they were wrong for being violent. I for one, was never the catalyst for violence, but after being restrained on the floor for hours upon hours by guys encouraged by staff to inflict as much pain on me as possible, suddenly 2+2=5 and I found myself in a place willing to admit that I was wrong even though I wasn’t. One day I was even sexually assaulted while being restrained. I tried to fight back but couldn’t. Later on I tried to tell staff but they laughed at me and told me I was lying. I truly had no voice in there. After being restrained well over a hundred times, I couldn’t take the physical and psychological pain anymore, suddenly I found myself pledging allegiance to the program and accepting their claims that their program is the only place in the world that will keep me alive and off drugs. Again, suddenly 2+2=5.
But out of all the physical and psychological abuse, the worst of it for me was coming to terms with the pseudo-fact that if I wanted to stay sober then I would have to give up the things I loved the most in life – filmmaking and my dad. The Program claimed the film business to be a druggie industry that would undoubtedly lead me back to drugs. They told me I could no longer have contact with my father when he confessed to not supporting the program and their bogus philosophies. They told me that because my father didn’t support the program, he did not support my sobriety and if I had contact with him I would be in danger of using drugs again and dying. Of course death is a strong word. But I ask you, how can someone really live if they ignore the things they love? They were suppressing who I was as a person, my identity.
It’s not uncommon for someone to think, “Well, if the ends justify the means, and you’re sober then that’s all that matters.” What I say to them is that I am sober now in spite of the program. If it were up to them, I would still be in there motivating right now or restraining a kid on the floor. My life would be dedicated to the program and its philosophies. There were people in there for 5, 6, 10+ years.
After 2 ½ years I devised a plan to escape and finally got away from that place. I made a promise to myself to never forget what it was like in there. I must admit it was a very rocky road for the first few years. In fact, I did more drugs when I got out because I so badly wanted to numb the pain. But today I once again have a very close relationship with my father, I’m completely sober and happy on my own terms, and I’m a professional filmmaker. Thanks to Transcendental Meditation, I have a tool to help me combat the Post Traumatic Stress I acquired from that whole ordeal.
I knew my feature film debut needed to be on this harsh subject matter because virtually no one on this outside world knows the full scope of this issue. What I also know and think about every day is the fact that, although I may be enjoying life right now, I know that there are thousands of kids this very moment being taken advantage of and exploited. I know that there’s some kid right now being sexually assaulted while being restrained. And I know they have no one to complain to. They have no voice in there. I know that our friends like Aaron Bacon (the subject of my second film) who was brutalized and died in one of these tough love facilities no longer have a voice, either.
But I’m grateful today that I’m able to communicate to the world through film what is happening to these children this very moment and give these suffering kids a voice who don’t have one. All the bills in the world can be passed but the most powerful tool for change will always be bringing awareness and education on this complicated topic to the masses so that parents may make informed decisions as to where to send their children. If my parents read an article on abusive rehabs or watched a film accurately portraying tough love programs they would have recognized the signs early on and never sent me there.
One last note, in reference to the shutting down of Guantanamo Bay, President Obama stated: I can say it without exception or equivocation that the United States does not torture. But right now, this very moment, our own children are being tortured in facilities that have license to torture. And because these places are privately owned, there is no oversight from the federal government.
But I do believe with the right movement that one day we can truly live in an America without torture. I am grateful to have the opportunity to share with you all today. Thank you for your time.
There is a subreddit dedicated to exposing the industry, /r/troubledteens.
Originally posted 2012-01-11 10:25:01.