Did you know that in the US there are an estimated 120,000 youth living in abusive residential facilities?
Why estimated? Because these kinds of facilities operate largely in secret and have little to no accountability.
How do I know? I’m a survivor. I was imprisoned in one of the places I’m now working so hard to shut down.
While there, I spent weeks locked in an isolation room that, because of its poor design, was unimaginably cold. I had to fantasize to stay sane. I fantasized about being rescued. Men in military-style black canvas uniforms would drop through the ceilings on zip-lines to rescue me. A visiting pastor would work a miracle that turned the twisted hearts of the staff. An ethical therapist would visit, cry foul, and stop the abuse I was receiving from teachers, nurses, counselors, and security. I imagined being taken outside and held back by firefighters who—aware of the real-life horror film unfolding inside—would stand by and watch the facility burn to the ground. I stayed warm in a cold room by imagining flames on my face. From a place of imaginary safety, I would plan what I would say at a dream hearing where everyone would listen to what had occurred and, in light of irrefutable evidence, truly believe me.
That younger me, the teenage girl in a facility, was resilient but powerless. The suffering she endured, while unfair and traumatic, informs me—her older self.
That is why I am working so hard to raise awareness. I’m working to bring isolation-room fantasies to life for the sake of other powerless kids—not through zip-lines, chance pastors or therapists, or understanding firefighters, but through a movement of survivors and advocates.
There are thousands of us. We have joined together. We are walking in solidarity. We’re ending realities that never should have been.
We are brave. We are strong. We are capable.
We’re saying enough.
We will not stay quiet.
We are Breaking Code Silence!
Below is a map of facilities in the US:
Youth in facilities today unfortunately experience almost exactly what we experienced decades prior. Nearly all belong to one or more vulnerable groups: people with mental or physical difficulties, children involved in juvenile justice, special education, and/or child welfare systems, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBTQ) identified, or members of a Native American tribe. An additional vulnerability includes those of cultural or racial-ethnic background (for example, a third of the children sent to out-of-state "Troubled Teen Industry" (TTI) facilities by the State of California in 2019 were Black or Latino, although this population comprises only 6% of California's special education students).
Separated from the protective oversight of their families, institutionalized youth are particularly vulnerable to neglect, maltreatment, and/or violence. Multiple Government Accountability Office investigations have identified systemic issues within these programs that played a significant role in the deaths of too many youth, including:
• Basic human rights violations and inhumane, degrading discipline
• Inappropriate restraints (physical, mechanical, and chemical) and social isolation rooms
• Forcing sedatives or psychiatric medication without psychiatric evaluation
• Denial of proper nutrients, outdoor recreation, and critical medical care
• Substandard or restricted education
• Conversion and aversion therapy
• Severe restrictions of communication and lack of access to parents, lawyers, and advocates
• Restricted peer to peer relationships
• Sexual assault, harassment, grooming by staff and peers
• Financial opportunism and deceptive marketing
I am one of the thousands of survivors and more than one hundred volunteers of Breaking Code Silence.
Breaking Code Silence (BCS) is a nonprofit organization and movement organized by a network of hundreds of survivors including Paris Hilton to raise awareness of the problems in the Troubled Teen Industry (TTI) and the need for change in how society responds to children and youth from vulnerable backgrounds and circumstances. In addition to raising awareness, BCS investigates facilities, reports abuse when discovered, develops research to understand the effect of abuse on child abuse survivors, and actively pursues policy change.
Our mission is to prevent institutional child abuse in residential facilities and to empower adult survivors to engage in positive self-advocacy. We utilize education, outreach, research, and community organizing to protect the civil and human rights of youth in congregate care.
Here is what we are up to:
We are a rapidly growing team and are making changes in the industry.
TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATIONS WILL SUPPORT:
- the development of our comprehensive database
- acquiring additional reports from police and DHS reports
- fees associated with survivors receiving records
- obtaining legal support for youth currently in congregate care
- costs of developing and implementing legislation in various states and on the federal level
- other direct and operational fees in the effort of creating a future without institutional child abuse by engaging, uniting, and empowering adult survivors to become effective advocates for change.
***We anticipate the next year to be our most impactful yet, and we need your help to make it possible!***
To those locked away—We are coming.
To these terrible programs—We are coming.
Together, we are BREAKING CODE SILENCE.
Learn more at http://www.breakingcodesilence.org
To view a story of Survivor, Activist, and Board member, Paris Hilton, please click below.
- Finch Williams
- Jessica Fuller