Institutional abuse in the USA?
President Obama, when speaking about torture at Gitmo, insists that there is no sanctioned torture in the USA. Nick Gaglia disagrees.
Nick knows better, as do thousands of victims and their families, who spent years in an organization that started out as Straight Inc.
http://www.fixmykidthemovie.com, and then became KIDS of (insert town here), after many millions of dollars were awarded in legal settlements with families of the abused. These places were considered safe, tough-love drug rehabs for kids and were advertised by President George Bush Sr. on television. (http://vimeo.com/33508783).
Nick spent 2 1/2 years being emotionally, physically and sexually abused at the hands of a monster known as Reverend Doctor Virgil Miller Newton (he has a degree in anthropology), and the staff, all graduates of his program, still children themselves, many whom have never graduated high school since they were not allowed to attend school in 1st phase. (Miller’s program has 5 phases, more on that soon). KIDS took children from ages 12 – 24, often holding kids 18 years and older, against their will. Virgil Miller is now known as Father Cassian Newton and lives free in Sarasota, Florida.
What would make a parent desperate enough to take their child to a place like this? Nick was a loving boy, close with his entire family. He started experimenting with drugs; marijuana, alcohol and acid. His parents were worried about him since his passion for filmmaking disappeared and his overall behavior changed rapidly when he began using drugs. Nick had been accepted into a professional performing arts school but after 3 months, he dropped out. He was more concerned with partying than pursuing his filmmaking dreams. His once close relationship with his father had deteriorated, his relationships with the entire family were strained, his parents had divorced when he was 11, and Nick was heading down a path that understandably worried his parents. He was quick to yell and scream and break things in the house. His father saw a commercial on TV, told his mother about it, and Nick soon found himself in KIDS of North Jersey.
One afternoon Nick thought he was going shopping with his mother. They came to a warehouse. He ran but he was tracked down by many staff members and forced into the building. His mother was assured that he was in good hands and he was immediately taken to a room where he was forced to remove all his clothes and pushed to squat facing a wall, so that he could be strip-searched for drugs and receive an intake assessment. As you can imagine, he was screaming for his mother. This intake abuse was a 5 hour ordeal, and he was promised that when he signed the contract, he would be allowed to see his mother. They lied … his mother was long gone and Nick was completely, emotionally and physically, broken down.
For the next 2 1/2 years, Nick was not allowed to take a shower or go to the bathroom without being watched. His showers were timed, 60 seconds (at the most), and if by the end of his time he had not rinsed off, that was just too bad. He was not allowed to speak without permission. He was not allowed to have a bowel movement without being watched, and he was limited to one square of toilet paper. He was not allowed to go to school or read. In fact, reading the back of a cereal box was punishable by severe restraint. “If we read the cereal box we would mostly be screamed at and have other privileges taken away from us, which is crazy because we had virtually no privileges at all. While we were being screamed at, if we opened our mouths at all, even if we weren’t being wise, they would slam our mouths shut with their hands. If we tried to protect our mouths from being slammed, they would restrain us on the floor.” He would be wrestled to the floor by 5 men, one on his head, the other four on his arms and legs, forcing him into the floor. Nick describes this restraint as extremely painful and demoralizing. Often, when he was restrained on the floor, he was rolled up tightly in a big blanket and left for long periods of time, unable to move.
His fellow kids were forced to restrain him and if he was to block their punches and pokes, encouraged by the chain of command, he was seen as the aggressor and was restrained on the floor for hours. He was forced to sit in hard blue plastic chairs all day, listen to chants, sing songs like Let It Shine and Kumbaya, and forced to motivate. “We were also forced to say “I love you (insert name here),” in unison after each person spoke, whether they did a good job or not. That was part of the mind controlling and brainwashing, having the group say “I love you” to you after being screamed at.” The kids were forced to invent stories of drug use in order to avoid abuse. He told me of one girl who had never done a drug in her life but was forced to be labeled a druggie and invent stories of her druggie past. Miller did not stop at druggies. He also took kids with so-called behavioral problems like eating disorders. These eating disorder kids would be routinely force-fed large amounts of food by other kids forced to abuse their peers. “I saw girls go from being 100 lbs. to over to 200 lbs. from being force fed. It was disgusting.”
As you will see in Nick’s film Over The GW, “motivating” is pumping your arms up and down while sitting in your chair until you, or someone else, was called upon to speak. Nick reports that if he was not motivating hard enough, he would be forced to sit in silence with his hands on his legs looking down at his lap … for hours, sometimes days, weeks, even months. He was yelled at, slapped, punched, called a “druggie” and a “loser” and many other abusive names. KIDS was staffed by graduates of the program. No one was trained, or licensed, or educated in any form to allow them any authority or competency in addiction treatment. The KIDS were forced to abuse one another; It was either be the abuser, or be the abused. http://www.nickgaglia.com/
At one point there were 175 children in KIDS of Bergen County. The details of the sexual abuse suffered by Nick will not be covered in this article, but he was sexually abused, and he has since been told many stories of rape and molestation from survivors of KIDS. Nick was in KIDS of North Jersey. There was also KIDS of Bergen County. (KIDS of Bergen County.) There was a KIDS of El Paso Texas, a KIDS of Yorba Linda in California and a KIDS of Greater Salt Lake in Utah. KIDS was a chain across all of the USA. If these groups found they were in hot water with the law, they would shut down, wait for the heat to subside and open up again, sometimes in the exact same building.
You have most likely been asking yourself – How and why could parents allow their child to be abused in this way for 2 1/2 years? What kind of parent does that? How is this even remotely possible? The following describes how Miller and his staff, the chain of command (which constantly changed), managed to brainwash the parents, right along with their kids.
There are 5 phases of the KIDS program. On 1st phase, you have no rights, no free will, no freedom, have to have permission to eat (and were often deprived of food). All you are allowed to talk about are your shortcomings as a druggie. The teens spend seven days a week in the building, up to 18 or more hours a day. 1st phase children do not live at home. They stay with other clients on higher phases of the program and are only allowed to talk to their families twice a week for five minutes at a time (under strict supervision, of course). “Being able to talk to your parents for 5 minutes twice a week was something you had to earn, not a given. I was maybe awarded this privilege a handful of times. And when we did speak to them it had to consist of us apologizing for awful behaviors from our druggie past.” They are called “newcomers” but most times 1st phase lasts for well over a year. “If you only lasted on 1st phase for a year, that was impressive. Most never left 1st phase. Some would get promoted to higher phases but then would be dropped back down to first constantly. Also, whenever someone was on 1st phase they were called newcomer no matter how old or how long they were there.”
Even now, at 31 years old, Nick struggles with the program indoctrination. “According to them, I am not a success because I am not dedicating my life to the program and restraining someone on the floor.”
On 2nd phase, the kids lived at home but still spent all day at the building. At this point they were called “oldcomers” and took 1st phasers home with them where children were fully responsible for other children. A lot of abuse occurred in the “host homes.” The parents witnessed this abuse but were just as brainwashed as the kids.
You see, Miller and his staff would abuse other people’s kids in the host homes, never allowing parents to see their own children being abused, but brainwashing parents to believe the abuse inflicted on other children (tough-love) as necessary for their recovery, for their very survival. Parents were told that if they took their child out of the program, their child would most certainly die. How can a parent take that risk? Miller used cult mind control and knew precisely what he was doing. The staff encouraged parents to enroll all their children in the program since they had a “family disease.’
On 3rd phase, the kids returned to school or are allowed to get a job but still had to spend time at the building every day. They are not allowed to have any contact with people who are not members of the program.
On 4th phase, entire days off are allowed. They still take 1st phasers home with them, but they are able to start to develop friendships with other clients, but only of the same gender.
On 5th phase, clients are allowed to talk to other 5th phase clients of the opposite sex, and day off excursions could be co-ed … as long as the ratio of boys to girls was uneven. After graduation, there is six months of aftercare and no dating is allowed for five months.
However, in the 2 1/2 years Nick was in the program, he never saw anyone graduate, ever. Not one time. Not one person. Not ever.
Nick was on 1st phase the entire 2 1/2 years. The slightest infringement sent him back to 1st phase. Nick says that Theresa (his sister also ended up in the program – “family disease” remember?), was better at playing the game than he. She made her way through the phases and planned her escape carefully after one failed attempt. Theresa spent a year in the program with Nick. If they communicated with each other, they were punished severely. She escaped, and with the help of her friends and grandmother, has remained free from this cult.
In fact, Theresa has written a book documenting her experiences in KIDS and it is a great read. It’s called Run, and documents her experiences and harrowing escape from KIDS. The people from the program were looking for her everywhere and would do anything to find her … and I mean anything. Theresa, along with thousands of other kids have successfully escaped from KIDS. Of course, they still suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and are in need of deprogramming from the negative labeling of druggie, among many other horrible labels. Read Run by Theresa Pena. It’s a cover-to-cover read. Her story is a film waiting to come to a theatre near you. http://www.amazon.com/RUN-ebook/dp/B00C6VJ81I.
Let me get this straight – He was 14 years old and was not allowed to go to school or even read a book? You read that right. The one and only thing he was allowed to read were the big bold black steps of the KIDS program on the white wall in front of their plastic blue chairs where they sat for 12+ hours a day, listening to mantras and enduring endless abuse. We’ve all heard of the 12 steps of recovery for addiction. Were these the same steps? See for yourself. Virgil Miller and his staff of program graduates told the kids that the 12 steps did not work, but their 8 steps did. Here are KIDS 8 steps for recovery:
1) Admit I am powerless over drugs – that my life has become unmanageable
2) Come to believe that a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity
3) Make a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand him
4) Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself, daily
5) Admit to God, myself, and another human being the exact nature of my wrongs immediately
6) Make direct amends to such people wherever possible except when to do so would injure them, myself, or others
7) Seek through prayer and meditation to improve my conscience contact with God as I understand him, praying only for the knowledge of His will for me and the power to carry that out, and
8) Having received the gift of awareness, I will practice these principles in all my daily affairs and carry the message to all I can help
There were three additional bold black signs on the wall. The Serenity Prayer, and a sign with these 4 slogans: One day at a time, Easy does it, Think, think, think, and First things first … and the Five criteria for straight thinking, which are:
1) Based on objective reality
2) Protect my life and health
3) Goal producing
4) Feel and act the way I need
5) Keeps me out of significant conflict with myself and others
These Five criteria for straight thinking are strange and non-sensical, not at all conducive to straight thinking. All this is brainwashing at it’s most deceptive and destructive. This form of mind-control keeps the member of a group in a negative state of mind and constantly in conflict with self-determination and personal power, forever dependent on the program.
Nick and the kids were forced to write a moral inventory daily, mostly of fabricated lies. I mean, how many horrible things could a 14 year old have accomplished? They were told everyday that they were safe there, and only there, and if they left, they would end up in three, and only three, places: Jail, an Institution, or Dead. Nick was cut off from his family and was brainwashed to believe that his life depended on staying away from his family. As close as Nick was to his family, this was the worst abuse of all.
At one point while Theresa was in the program, their mother came to ask them if they wanted to leave. She was worried and although Theresa wanted to leave, Nick was too frightened. He was too afraid to leave and begged her not to take him out. He was so brainwashed, convinced that he would die if he left, that he was paralyzed with fear. Their mother reluctantly left them there. After Theresa successfully escaped, the program staff told Nick that Theresa was living on the street and was strung out on crack. They told him that he could never, for the rest of his life, have anything to do with Theresa nor his father. Nick’s father had turned on the program when he found out what was really going on from Theresa.
Of all the abuse he had suffered at the hands of these mentally disturbed people, after all the times of being called a ‘druggie,’ after all the times of being labelled powerless, writing daily moral inventories, after being forced to restrain other kids on the floor and being brutally restrained himself … this … this threat of never being able to see his family again, was the worst of all. This was the most devastating blow imaginable. Nick sank into a deep, dark depression and gave up. After all the times of being told over and over again that if he left the program, he would die, he no longer cared. It is then that things finally became clear.
Nick had what he calls a Guardian Angel come to him and tell him, “If you leave, you will be okay. You will not die – your sister is not on drugs. They are lying to you.” As it turned out, Theresa had graduated high school and was attending college at Columbia University on a full scholarship in New York City. Nick successfully escaped soon after his guardian angel paid him a visit.
Nick is a student of cults and the effects of brainwashing. What was supposed to be a one hour interviewed turned into over 2 hours and he has been very generous with his time since our initial interview and provided the picture above. Nick is an inspiring and brave man and I am honored he took the time to relay his story to me. His work has and continues to free people from cults and abuse and validates the need for the truth to be told regarding proper, science and evidence-based, professional treatment for addiction problems. Cults destroy lives. Nick has helped countless people to rebuild their lives and live with the knowledge that they are not powerless nor do they need to stay in a program that breaks them down and requires them to recruit others where they can never graduate. Nick’s parents are mortified that they ever trusted this program with the care of their children. They genuinely were as brainwashed as the kids.
When I asked Nick if these places still exist, I was praying that he would say, “no.” Sadly, they exist in full force, not only in the USA but all over the world. The Aspen Education Group is one which to avoid. Any parent should conduct due diligence before allowing their child to be put into one of these programs. Please spread awareness of these groups. We are talking about the future of the planet here. If we allow this to continue, we leave our children with nothing but mental health problems that will haunt them forever. http://www.youthrights.org/2012/04/20/body-bags-and-child-torture-mitt-romneys-new-approach-to-education/
Today, Nick’s relationship with his parents is one of unconditional love, forgiveness and understanding. After his father learned the truth of his son and daughter’s abuse in this cult, he confronted Miller and he has a great scene in GW. (Yes, Nick’s father is in the film as himself.) Nick is engaged to the beautiful and soon-to-be-very famous (whether she likes it or not), actress Kether Donohue. http://www.ketherdonohue.com/ He is not “in recovery” he is recovered and free and full of power. Nick is not only surviving, he is thriving and fulfilling his dreams and continuing to build his beautiful, miraculous life. Nice work Nick, nice work indeed.
“Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.” – George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 7
— Laura Tompkins
SIA: Survivors of Institutional Abuse:
For more information on Reverend Doctor Virgil Miller Newton (aka Father Cassian) see here:
See the congressional hearing here:
For secular alternatives to the 12 steps, please see here:
For the Sinclair Method, please see here:
Addiction is not a disease, read here:
Tax report for Straight Inc here:
See Dr. Stanton Peele’s work here:
Please feel free to write to me via my email: firstname.lastname@example.org