This statement were given in relationship with the GAO hearding years back. All rights belong to the original contributor edantes169 who wrote it on the End Institutional Abuse Wiki:
My eyes jerked open. NO.
No. You have GOT to be kidding. Not now. Not after we’ve all just settled down…
These were my thoughts, the moment I heard P’s voice sound throughout the silent wood, as I felt tears spring to my eyes yet again. What, in the name of God, could it possibly be now?
We had done something else wrong. That was the obvious answer. But what vile, unforgivable sin against mankind had one of the group members committed to make us deserve this?
Fighting tears, lest that weakness earn some other punishment, I felt around in the pitch black tent for my discarded socks, already filthied from three or four straight days’ hiking in the wilderness of Georgia. I laced back up those detestable boots, covered with caked mud which I felt crack and scatter over my sleeping bag and other possessions which I tried so hard to keep clean. The darkness was impenetrable, and as I rose once more I could only follow the sound of Petra’s barking call for us to assemble at the beastly hour.
I could see the staff’s hat flashlights gathered in a circle as I stumbled through the deciduous vegetation in the darkness. As I joined the circle I observed the expressions of my fellow groupmates. E was crying. I could not blame her; I was about ready to cry myself. In addition to being imprisoned in this physically, mentally, and emotionally strenuous Wilderness program, I was being forced to take a powerful anti-psychotic, Abilify. This medication made me constantly exhausted, flat. It was like a perverted joke. I had been on the border of sleeping; we had been dismissed to our tents for only ten to fifteen minutes at the most. Why they had waited this long to call us, I can to this day only assume is to inflict misery and suffering on the weak and disadvantaged. Upon the face of every staff- P_, D_, M_, the lot- was fixed what we called the “Staff Expression” something which can be most simply described as a borderline smile. It was like a smile of sadistic pleasure suppressed only from acting and experience in hiding the pleasure gotten from watching the us suffer.
We were constantly exhausted: the routine of hiking, mile after mile, day after day- was too much for us. We were never permitted to know what time it was, or where we were going, or to even speak while we were hiking. Staff, meanwhile, could laugh, talk, and joke all they wanted. This was their power. If they didn’t like something that was said, they could put you on “Silence.” No talking. No one was even allowed to talk if a Staff wasn’t in earshot. We were not permitted to say certain words- words such as “very,” or “kind of.” If you said, “I am very tired,” or “I’m kind of hungry,“ you were punished, because you are tired, or you aren’t. You are hungry, or you aren’t. You were also not allowed to feel “secondary emotions.” These were emotions that resulted from other emotions. For example, anger is not something you can feel in a wilderness program. You can feel sad or frustrated, but not angry, because anger is a Secondary Emotion stemmed from sadness or frustration. This is what we were taught, and if we went against it, we were punished.
They called a Random Pack Search. We all stood in that circle of misery and waited, waited in turns for them to finish searching everything we had so that we could just go back to our sleeping bags and let the darkness envelop our bodies and minds. One staff stayed with the rest while the other three went with three different group members at a time to search their things. P went with me on my turn and I emptied everything I had onto the ground until she was satisfied and ordered me to put everything back.
They waited until the very last to bring out the evildoer. As D_ and K came back from her tent I could see tear streaks that cut through the grime on her face. Dave was holding a summer sausage in his hand. I felt a stab of weary frustration: we had already put up the bear bags. Every night, part of our routine was to rope together all the food bags and hoist the heavy load over a tree branch so that animals would not reach it.
“K,” D_ said, the Staff Expression dancing on his face. I remember watching him to see if he would break into a smile, and at one point he did. “Would you like to explain to the group what this is?”
We all looked at the perpetrator. K was burning with shame and anger. And why not? She was the one we had to blame for being called out of our sleeping bags after we had already pulled our rough socks and boots from our swollen and blistered feet, only to pull them back on again, like an April Fool’s joke from hell. And for what? As it turned out, she confessed to us, she had noticed the forgotten sausage only after the bear bags had been hoisted, and stuffed it into her own bag to save us the suffering of hiking the half mile back to the bear bags to replace the sausage with its fellow food items, which could, as we were taught, attract bears living in a sanctuary twenty miles away. Because bears will travel twenty miles in pitch darkness just to torment a treatment kid with a single summer sausage buried deep at the bottom of her bag, as the staff knew.
Since one person is guilty then the whole group is guilty. And since one person suffered, the whole group suffered. It is the way of Wilderness. If one person fails to complete a task, the whole group fails. We are all punished. For the transgressions of another. And because of K’s great sin- putting the whole group in danger of a bear attack stretching twenty miles, then covering it up like the delinquent conspirator she was- we would all suffer the same fate as she. I remember pitying K- she acted out of consideration for us all.
We began our trek to the bear bags. Since they were across a stream, we were all soaked again. The darkness covered everything not within five feet of one of the staffs hat , and so as we climbed, I remember tripping and stumbling over the uneven ground as we journeyed closer toward the bear bags, and hearing similar cries of pain from my groupmates. Staff, meanwhile, jumped and strode cheerfully onward, jauntily swinging their lights around as though to mock us in our blind desolation. One girl asked M_ twice to keep her light steady, and both times she was ignored.
We reached the bear bags, untied the holding rope and dropped them to replace the sausage. The loathsome task completed, we hoisted the heavy food bags again and journeyed once more back through the woods and back across the stream. Then, and only then did they dismiss us back to the tents that were not big enough and the sleeping bags full of spiders and millipedes and slugs and god knows what else. “Let this be a lesson to you all,” D_ had said, before letting us go. “Always be honest. Don’t ever try to hide anything, because you will get caught, and you will be punished. Good night.” The next day, K__ was put on “Separates” and we were thus forbidden to speak to or of her.
More than three years have passed since then. Why, then, do I recount this story? Because I must. I must give this snapshot, one of countless other sufferings that occurred and continue to occur there. It is my obligation to expose the corruption, the misery, the suffering found within Second Nature Blue Ridge Wilderness Program. As a veteran and survivor I denounce that place of suffering and desolation masquerading as a program of help, of healing, of positive energy. I forget nothing. I forgive nothing. I will remember, and I will see justice for that suffering.
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