Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sharlene's Story

My name is Sharlene Davis-Curnow VCA 1988-1992.

Let’s start from the beginning; my mother married a man when I was 10, when they married he point blank told me "I already raised 3 kids of my own I don't want to do it again".

I was 13 years old when my parents had heard of this "boarding school" for girls from some of their friends at church.

At this point in my life I was mouthy and failing in school but I had not yet done drugs ect.. the worst I had done at that time was to sneak out and toilet paper a friend's house. My mother's husband was very verbally abusive, she told me she was sending me there to save me from a horrible life with him. According to my mother divorce was not an option that she wanted to do again in her life.

I went shopping with my mother for new clothes that would be suitable for the school as I was still under the impression that it was your typical boarding school that you would see in the movies.

When we pulled up the dirt road to the school I was ok until I saw the what seemed to be a 50 foot tall chain-link fence with barbed wire on the top and a very large gate that automatically opened for us to drive through.

We were met in the entry by the staff along with a couple of other girls. They allowed me to say my good byes to my mother, it was a very tearful one as up until I was 10 it was just me and my mother. She was my life.

They whisked me back to this institutional like bathroom filled with a horrible sterile smell, told me to get undressed, take a shower and wash with lice soap. I was a basket case. I had been on anti-depressants and I was told I would no longer need them so they just abruptly took me off my medication (I found out as an adult this could have caused seizures along with other adverse side effects).

I was put on buddy and did not like the girl I was paired up with nor did I like anyone there as I was your typical teenager who did not like being told what to do. I also had a pretty severe issue with lying. It seemed I would lie before I could even think about the truth.

These behaviors led to some horrible events in my life. I was placed in the GR(get right room).This room had plywood walls, industrial office carpet, 1 small light in the ceiling, and an industrial lock with a peep hole on the outside of the door. I was in there for several days on several occasions. My food was brought to me and I was allowed only to leave the room to take a shower. When I was not in GR I was sitting in the corner writing sentences all day and was not even allowed to go to school while in the corner. I wrote lines in the corner, ate in the corner, and the only time I was allowed to come out was when it was time for chapel or bed.

At one point I was made to stand all day in the dinning hall with my nose to the pole while the entire school and staff went on with their day as usual. We were made to write the book of James if someone said "oh my gosh". We had huge dorm searches where girls under things would be put on display. If a torn fingernail was found on the floor they would round us all into the dorm until someone would confess and if they didn't we would all pay the consequence. We had to endure an activity called sheep and goats. They would label each girl either a sheep or goat. Goats got nothing but to go back to the dorm and have quiet time while the sheep got to have a party.

I was called a "puke", a "liar" and several other things I have managed to block from my memory. I wrote letters to my mother that never made it to her as I was told I was trying to manipulate her.

I finally got to see my mother after the first 30 days, all I could do was cry. I tried to tell her what was going on but she was being manipulated by the staff with their fake concern, fake smiles, and were so nice to me while she was there.

I finally got smart and "got saved" several times in fact, as that seemed to be the only way I could get a second chance around there.

Life in hell went on and it was pretty much one tumultuous event after another. In 1989 my time was over, my mother took me home and I was enrolled in a Christian high school. I was out for 7 months. I did start to behave worse than before and sneak out of the house more and more. Finally my parents said “hey lets go visit Victory”. Me being so utterly stupid agreed, not that it would have mattered if I opposed. We went on a Sunday I sat through Church service with my parents and immediately after the service we were greeted by the staff at which point we were invited to stay for lunch. Needless to say once the girls left the chapel, the staff and my parents took me into a room and told me I was not leaving. My heart sunk. I remember waking up the next morning crying, thinking Oh my God I am here again.

This time I had learned how to play the game from my previous stay. So no GR or corners for me this time. However one early morning not to long after I had arrived maybe about 2 or 3 months, I was told to get my things together, get dressed, that my mother was on her way to go on a plane with me to Florida. I was actually excited as I hated the walls of the Ramona school.

My mother and I flew to Florida and while on the plane I tried to save a Mormon Man. We got to the airport in Florida and we were greeted by the staff. We were taken to the Jay, Fl school and it was this huge house almost mansion like. It was a totally different world as there were only 3 other girls there besides myself. We ate at a normal dinning table in the kitchen and got to have seconds. We went to this little church in town ran by Brother Jimmy who seemed to spit saliva every time he preached and they had a horrible choir, the song "Turn the radio on" still is remembered. We did our school work, worked out in the yard, took trips on the tractor, chased snakes around the property and chopped of their heads. Life was what seemed to be better there. Still the indoctrination continued and we were still basically told that women were the lesser of the human species. While there I received a phone call from my mother and she told me that her and my step-father were getting a divorce. "Right On!" I thought as I was under the impression that would mean I was coming home.

Oh how life had another plan entirely for me. My mother who was manipulated by the staff decided that it would be a good idea for her to work at the Ramona school so she packed up all her belongings and moved there. She made 300.00 a month to run the kitchen. The difference between my mother and most of the other staff is she genuinely loved the girls. She thought she was doing what God wanted her to do.

Once my "time" was done in Florida I was put on a plane only to return to Ramona to live. Not as a girl in the school, but, a "staff kid". This was different. I hung out with the owner’s daughter and her husband, was taught how to drive in the staff vehicles, and would sneak into the walk in with my mom in the middle of the night to eat left over 5 layer desert.

After a few months the Ramona school was officially closed by the state of California. My mother and I stayed at the school until the last girl was either transferred to Florida or went home with their parents.

Once closed it was desolate no one was there but my mother and myself. Oh how eerie the place was and so full of residual negative energy. My mother and I packed up our van and drove cross country to the Florida school where she and I lived for the first few months in a 20' travel trailer. I would go to school but would hang out with the girls most of the time.

In 1991 my life took yet another unexpected turn. My mother told me one night that she had received a phone call from my step-father; he was going to be in Louisiana and wanted her to go there to meet him for the weekend. I begged my mother not to go as I knew how utterly manipulative he was, a real womanizer. I told her before she left that I knew if she went that she was going to get back together with him. She assured me this would not happen. So off she went, she came back and told me what I knew was going to happen all along. She was getting back together with him! I was upset as I never developed a good relationship with him. I never thought for a minute that I would be placed back in the school as a girl in the program. Unfortunately that is what happened. My mother got married at the Florida school; I was then placed back in as a girl in the program while my mother and step-father left to go live their lives. I was told I could leave when I finished high school.

When I was placed back in the school I sometimes think that Mrs. P felt sorry for me because she would allow me to go on the weekly all day shopping trips with her and Debbie. I was able to go spend the night at Debbie's house and use the phone when I wanted with in reason.

Through my entire affiliation with the school not only were the girls dictated to by Brother P but the staff was as well, and very closely. New staff would come and if they did not fit the mold they would mysteriously disappear being "called by God to do other things".

I finished my paces early, a year earlier than I should have because I wanted to get out. All I wanted to do was to be with my mother. My mother paid for and reserved my dorm room at Pensacola Christian College as that is where I was to go after high school however, I had different plans. My mother and step-father came for my graduation and they took me cross country to go to their new home in Oregon for the summer until school started. Once we got to the West Coast I told my mother I did not want to go back to Florida. I was finally 18 and they could no longer dictate to me where I was to be.

I enrolled in the local community college in Oregon but all of a sudden I discovered men, drugs and all the things that I had been previously accused of by the school but had not yet ever done.

My life has been very hurtful and challenging. I am now going to be 36 years old. I have had 1 failed marriage and am now on my 2nd. I have a beautiful 14 year old daughter who I have had the privilege to help raise since age 3. My relationship is like no other with her as I learned one thing in that place called VCA and that is, our children are precious gifts not to be thrown away like trash. Life happens and there is no teenager on this earth who is perfect. As long as you keep open communication even if it is something as a parent you don't want to hear, it is the best gift ever. I also have a wonderful son who is 3 he was born with a rare brain defect and is a strong, brave, and intelligent boy. I have my oh so supportive husband of 10 years Al who talks with me and listens to all my horrible stories of my past. He helps me realize that I am not trash, I am a woman who deserves the best life has to offer.

So everyone that is my story, I am a survivor and I am so thankful for the life I have now.

First of Many....

 We planned this get together about a week before we actually met. Meeting for Brunch at a nice restaurant near the water in Mission Viejo. Kelli was coming into town so she (thankfully) started the ball rolling for all of us to get together. As the time got closer I don't mind saying that I was a little... no a lot nervous. Not really about seeing the ladies, but more about bringing up old feelings and my own insecure nature. I had put on a "few" pounds and you know I don't look like I looked at 18.

As I was driving to the restaurant I was shaking, not really sure why but I guess it was those little butterflies swimming around in my stomach. I had to have a conversation with myself in the car to calm down. Your going to be okay, it will be fun, don't worry everything will be great.  Finally, arrived at the restaurant pulled in and I go into the wrong place. Man... so I thought maybe I missed it. I called Shannon and she got me to the right place.

As soon as I saw Shannon my scary feelings all went away. We hugged it was wonderful to see her after all these years. She guided me to the table and as soon as I saw everyone I can't express to you the emotions I had. I think they all came up at once! We all hugged it was brilliant! When I hugged Michelle I began crying. Anyone who knows me knows I am not someone who sheds tears at the drop of a hat. We hugged and cried for a long time. I think I made all the other ladies tear up a bit. Sorry Ladies!
We laughed, we cried, we talked about our lives during victory and our lives after victory. We shared intimate details about each other because we felt so close. The bond was so strong. As you can imagine we stayed at the restaurant until 6pm and just shared our lives with each other.

Victory brought us all together in a way that is so hard to put into words. We gave each other strength when we were together at Victory and when we left Victory we didn't have each other. I don't mind saying that my life was broken and seeing these girls and listening to there lives helped me to heal a little bit inside. Victory left deep scars for many of us. Trying to put into words and express my thoughts is a bit tough. I don't event know how to express my deepest truest love for these ladies. My heart weeps. I am so proud to know them and be a part of their lives.

I also thought of those who weren't there and those we still haven't located yet. We talked much about friends we remembered and wondered how they were. We also shared updates on those we are in contact with.

When I got home my mind was spinning in a million different directions-- I felt a bit out of sorts, completely exhausted. I got the kids and hubby all taken care of and went and crawled into bed at 8pm. A bit overwhelmed with the events of the meeting and all of the emotions that go along with that. Trying to wrap my head around all that had been expressed and the powerful stories that were told. It was something that I will never forget. I wish I could express my feelings but the feelings are so powerful and overwhelming for me.

This meeting made me more determined than ever to get the reunion planned out and get all of the girls of Victory together so they can express there thoughts and share their stories. reunite with old friends and make new friends. We all share that common thread of Victory and we will always be tied together in a way others will never understand.

I am putting a non-profit organization together to help gather the funds to be able to put on a great reunion. My goal is for sometime late in August 2010. Many have come and helped me get the ball rolling. We all have so many amazing talents, thank you all for your input and hard work.

The reunion will be held in San Diego. The plan for the Reunion is to have a fun night and then have a day filled with speakers, forums, and time to just connect and share. It will be a weekend filled with emotions and healing. As we get closer to the time I will share more information on what is planned and any other information that is important to the Reunion. Please send me an email if you have any other ideas.

Please visit the News and Updates blog for updates

One last thought, Please share the website and blog with VCA girls that you are in contact with. also please register to be a member of the blog if you already haven't signed up yet. to the right on the bottom there is a link that says follow just click to become a member.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Monsters and Rockets: BLEEDING ART: Elizabeth McGrath

Monsters and Rockets: BLEEDING ART: Elizabeth McGrath: "Elizabeth McGrath survived a punk kid’s worst nightmare. It was the early ’80s, and McGrath was a 13-year-old L.A. hellion with spiky boots and a tri-hawk haircut. One day, her parents said they were taking her to the zoo. Instead, they took her to Victory Christian Academy, a Fundamentalist Baptist correctional school. She was there a year, spending her first month locked in a closet-like space called the Get Right With God Room. Girls would sit in the hall praying for her in shifts while she was subjected to bright lights and loud religious tapes 24/7. She had to pee in a bucket.Flash-forward a couple of decades, and McGrath, now nicknamed Bloodbath McGrath by pals, has blossomed into one of L.A.’s wildest, sexiest characters. She is a rising star in the lowbrow art movement, a punk princess who sculpts bizarre little monsters, fronts a band called Miss Derringer with her tattoo artist husband, and does the occasional modeling job dolled up in corsets and fishnets. Not only did Victory Christian Academy fail to crush McGrath’s rebellious spirit, it’s possible the tortuous treatment she received there gave her the touch of madness that makes her art so unforgettable.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Maggie's Story

I did survive VCA 1990-1991 Follow Maggie's blog

My name is Maggie and I wanted to give you all some insight as to why and how I started my journey to Victory Christian Academy.

I was 16 and out of control. I never really did any real drugs, except weed. I constantly ran away from home, ditched school and stole a car once. I was also fighting at school. My parents had already put me through a psychiatric facility for up to a year when I was 14 and 15. At the time of my capture I was a runaway living with my boyfriend; he was 19 at the time. My parents were waiting for me to come back to school so they could take me to VCA.

I started my day. It was June 8th 1990. I was found playing craps at the flagpole. I was taken into the office, were later my father showed up to take me home (that is what I thought). He asked me if I wanted to go and see my mom before we were to make a delivery for the small family business that my parents started in 1983. My father tried talking to me and telling me things that I wanted to hear like they were going to get me a car and pay for me to have my own place. I should have known then that that was a lie.

We turned onto a dirt road (something in my mind was telling me to jump from the car and run). We pulled up to the large gate; it was a Friday around 1pm. There were girls outside running at the time. I did not know what they were doing but I noticed they were dressed like nerds. My dad got out the car and asked me to come in with him. I told him that I did not want to so I stayed in the car. Five minutes later a little white man with some glasses thicker than a wall said, “Come on in here, girl." I got out the car and went into a small office. I will never forget this day. I sat there and the man said told me his name was Pastor Palmer but that everyone called him Brother P. He continued to tell me that I would be required to stay with them in this facility for a period of one year. I started to cry. I turned to my father and said "I can't believe you lied to me." Pastor Palmer said, “And how many times did you lie to your parents, girl?"

One minute later a large woman later to be known as Ms. Connie came in to the door. Brother P continued to tell me about the school. I told him that I was not going to be staying there and that there was nothing they could do about it. He started to laugh. A second later Ms. Virginia came in the room and told me it was time for me to get ready to meet the other girls. She grabbed me by my hair, and she and Ms. Connie and dragged me to a bathroom that had a shower. She told me to go in the bathroom stall and take off my clothes. They were laughing in the background and she called me a little bitch. I was so angry! I took a shower and they gave me some of the ugly clothes the other girls had on; dorm clothes and big underwear that looked they were not even clean. I was told to follow behind a girl by the name of Mercedes, she would be my buddy and show me the RULES. I think they paired me with her because I was black. Thinking that when the staff were not around she could tell what was really going on in this Church. I thought damn for Christians or Godly people they were not so nice at all.

They next took me to the school room and I was told to read a Bible for the time being. I told them that I could not read. So I guess my dad was still there and he of course told them that I was lying. They came back and told me to read so I said no. Then again Ms. Virginia came and pulled me by the hair and took me to the Get Right Room. They pulled my clothes off and pushed me in the room. They blasted tapes of preaching. I will never forget. It was called the Ever Dying Fire. I could hear them outside of the room with the small peek hole laughing at me. The school was full so when I was finally let out of the cold cell with the light on the ceiling and no carpet, plywood walls, I was told to sleep on the floor. We were not allowed to look out the windows. I cried myself to sleep for the first couple of months. I thought the worst of it was over but was I ever wrong.

They read my letters to my parents in front of the whole school of girls and staff. I was put on detention was told to face the corner (called the chicken coop) I wrote 1000 lines a day "I will learn to obey the rules." There were others in detention. One girl rebelled by pulling her hair out. She was going bald on top. Another girl was only 12 and they treated her like crap. Ms. Virginia used to pick on her the most. I thought of running away very often. But it was unlikely because of the walls and secluded area.

I remember the Raps they used to have. This was a way girls could vent there anger onto newer girls who were not doing as well as expected. In this rap they accused girls of being gay. It was humiliating. Ms. Virginia was always head of the group. She said you better not have an attitude girl, saying this pointing her finger in my face. I hated the school on my first visit. I fought my parents to come back. They overpowered me and held me down in the car. I was put back on buddy after my visit. I still have nightmares about the school and wake up drenched in sweat.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Respect, Reunite, Remember

I have created this blog for the Girls of Victory Christian Academy who attended either the school in Ramona, San Diego or Jay, Florida.
I wanted a place for all of us to come together and be able to share our experience.

Respect= I want this to be a place of Respect for all the girls so it is important that we all respect each others feelings and our own personal experience at Victory.

Reunite= Eventually, it would be great to get together and have a reunion. I am working towards this goal.

Remember=Finally this is a place to remember and share our experiences.

Only those who are a member of this blog can post comments or share their experience, I feel this is our site and it needs to be meant only for the Girls of Victory Christian Academy to come together and have a voice
Posted by Picasa