Straight Inc. Executives frequently left Straight and recreated the exact same program with a different name. Or Straight would get shut down only to reopen right away with a different name. These programs are referred to as Straight spin offs, Straight renamed programs, 2nd generation Straight's etc. Those programs include: Kids Helping Kids, LIFE, Pathway Family Center, SAFE, Growing Together, KIDS, Possibilities Unlimited, AARC, Phoenix Institutie for Adolesents, etc. Before Straight opened, it was known as the Seed. This page is for survivor stories from any of these programs.
Flowchart of all the Straight, Inc programs
Lucy Hundley, KIDS - El Paso, Texas
My little brother was something of a recluse. He struggled socially and scholastically which I never understood. He always had such a beautiful mind. He was obsessed with taking things apart. Stereos, hair dryers, anything electronic he wanted to understand how it worked. Using any electronic device in the home became a scary endeavor for fear of electrocution. This never fazed him and he always seemed to get a little kick out of the prospect.
My brother wasn’t athletic or popular. He was uncomfortably awkward. He didn’t have many friends. He was the kid that got bullied and picked on relentlessly. He seemed helpless to me in his inability to defend himself. I found myself constantly having to stand up for him. I had to take on the local bullies for him. I never put a second thought into it. He was my little brother. I would never have admitted at the time how much I loved him but I did. I hated to see him struggle. It broke my heart so I spent a good part of my life trying to protect him. Sadly I let him down more times than Id care to count.
Our father passed away when we were just kids. It was a difficult time for all of us. The man that had abused us for so long was gone. It was bitter sweet. My mother found herself alone as a single mother with 4 children to raise. She also became distant and depressed. She always felt guilt for my brother not having a father figure so she shipped my brother off every summer to different parts of the country. She said it was so that he could have that male influence. I hated that he was gone so much. I worried about him. When he would come back he was always so happy to be home. He also seemed to become angrier after each trip.
My mother began to move him from school to school and this took its toll on him. He eventually landed at a private school where he seemed to be doing a little better. His freshman year in High School he decided he wanted to attend public school with me. I was happy and scared for him. It was a giant sea he had never swam in. He did ok for the first few weeks. Then I lost him. He became angry and started experimenting with drugs. At first it didn’t worry me. During this time we became very close. We told each other almost everything. I thought we had an unbreakable bond.
One day my little brother told me had been smoking marijuana and tried peyote a few times. I really worried he was losing control so I tried to reel him in. We were both sneaking out until all hours of the day and night. We were taking my mother’s car out when she was out running around with her new boyfriend. We felt completely abandoned so we found new boundaries to push and new laws to break. My brother once took the car out and went out on a joyride with his friend. He wrecked the car so I came up with a plan so he would not get caught. We parked it exactly where it was and slashed the tires and damaged it more. We told her someone must have vandalized it. I think she always knew something was awry but never spoke a word about it.
I was very involved in school. I was an athlete and I had many friends. I worried my brothers trouble would create problems for me. He once told me he had peyote with him at school. I decided to tell an adult. I didn’t think for a moment anything would happen but a stern warning. The school decided to make an example out of him and call the police. He was arrested and our mother was called to the station. She was very upset and my brother was terrified. He was also full of rage for what I had done. He got home and just went off. I tried to explain my stance with no avail. He felt betrayed by the one person he trusted more than anyone else in the world. There was nothing I could say to calm him. He believed I had turned on him.
That night I had a couple of friends stay over. We hung out in the room I shared with my older sister until she left to college. We tried to laugh and enjoy ourselves. Little did I know my dear little brother had planned to kill me that night with a butcher knife. He told me the next day and I believed him. I became fearful and paranoid. I didn’t know how to help him or let him know that I loved him and cared. I could no longer reach him and it killed me. I knew his pain as I grew up with it also. I knew the loneliness and emptiness well. I knew the heartache of never feeling loved or wanted. I knew the pain in the physical and mental abuse we endured at the hands of those that claimed to love us.
I don’t remember exactly what happened next. I know our mother was in a panic. I didn’t think she would take it to the level she did. She called her church and asked for help with my brother. She discussed the matter with her friends and her boyfriend. She never once asked for my opinion. The church recommended this great program that helps kids and boasted a high success rate. My mother called them and set up interview without telling me or my siblings. She took her boyfriend and went and met with the program. They took those two in hook line and sinker in one visit. My mother finally told me about it. I told her I had a bad feeling about this place and if this is the route she wants to go she needs to really check them out and keep her options open by looking into other places. She insisted this is what he needed and off he was taken when I wasn’t home. Needless to say I was furious and fought with my mother to take him out of there. She said the program told her she would meet resistance. How could this place be controlling her already? I couldn’t comprehend this.
The next few weeks I spent home alone. One of my sisters was off at college and the other decided to run off when things became strange with the program. It took over my mother’s life. She began attending weekly meetings. She forced me to go to a few and I just never felt right about that place. I was never ok with my little brother being in there with no one to protect him. He was only 15 years old. I could not convince my mother to sever ties with that place and I refused to have anything to do with it so I moved out at 17. I stayed with friends and eventually moved to ca. with my sister. I had to get away and I couldn’t stand being alone in that house. I felt like I had a giant target on my back.
I called my sister in California and told her I wanted to go there. She somehow managed to get guardianship from my mother and hesitantly took me in. I got out there and had to get a shitty job. I also enrolled in school. I enjoyed school out there it was so laid back. I followed through with sports and that was my safe place. My life was not easy. The feeling of being unwanted grew stronger daily. I became a burden. The relationships with my family became further strained. I was basically riding the time until I turned 18 so I could go out and fight to get my brother out of that place. I thought I knew everything back then. I was so naïve.
During my time in So Cal I met a guy. He asked me out and I was flattered so I said yes. He wanted to take me out dancing. I was only 17 so our options were limited. We decided to venture down to Mexico. We danced and drank a little. We were walking down the street and he disappeared for a little while. He returned and grabbed me and forced me into a hotel room where he brutally raped me. I somehow managed to escape after hours of torment. I ran down the street and finally fell to my knees near an alley and cried. I didn’t know if this guy would come back and kill me. A car drove up and stopped. The man rolled down the window and asked me if I was ok. I was in shock and crying uncontrollably I could not respond. He asked me if I needed help or a ride back to the border. I was sure if I got into the car the same or worse would happen to me. I realized I was 80 miles from home and had no choice in that moment. I got into the car and he tried to console me. He drove me back to the border and made sure I got back across to the American side. I was pleasantly surprised by this person’s generosity and kindness. To this day I will always believe he was an angel. I somehow made it back home. I could not bring myself to tell my sister or anyone what had happened. I believe she assumed the worst in me because I had been out all night.
My life began to fall apart. I became depressed and self destructive. I felt that my life that had been riddled with abuse had no value. I was lonely and angry. My life was unraveling and I was lost. I felt unwanted and unloved. I spent most of my time wandering the streets or hanging out at the beach. The beach was the only place I could find any peace or solitude. There was something about the smell of the salty air mixed with seaweed and eucalyptus. The sound of the waves crashing down gave me comfort. I would paddle my board out and stop to look back at the world that had become the source of so much pain fade away in the distance. Paddling further out I would see the edge of the world and try to reach it knowing a nasty rip tide could catch me off guard. Giant waves lurked waiting to land on top of me and suck me down to the ocean floor to toss me around relentlessly. This was still the place that gave me comfort. I felt at one with the mighty ocean. She was forgiving at times and unforgiving at others. Welcoming in a moment, churning out the biggest wave for me to ride to the shore all the while reminding me how small I truly am.
One day I came home and the phone was ringing. I answered to find my mother on the end of the line. She informed me my sister that was off at college would be coming to visit her for thanksgiving. She asked if I would like to come home. She told me I would be able to visit my brother. I missed my brother dearly so I agreed. A part of me had hoped she had come to her senses. Maybe this would be a time for healing for us. I knew it was bullshit. That woman was not going to listen to the voice of reason. I decided to go anyhow.
I arrived at the airport and my sister and mother were there to greet me. I was happy to see my sister and it was uncomfortable at best seeing my mother. We loaded up and went back to the house. I stayed up late catching up with my sister. It was nice. I missed her too. The next day we got up and my mother said she would take me to see my brother. We went outside and my mother and step father got into the car. My sister and I stood outside the car for what seemed like an eternity. She had a look of regret and sorrow. I remember half smiling at her as though telling her it wasn’t her fault. We got into the car. I will never forget that day. I will not forget what I was wearing. I will not forget the wind or the chill in the air. I will never forget the silence on the way to the building. I will never forget that building.
I walked into a room and was told to have a seat. I don’t take well to being told what to do. I have always been strong willed and do what I please. I stood and waited and was escorted into an office. My mother, stepfather, brother, a few staff members and the clinical director were sitting in a circle. I went to hug my frail weak brother. I was told I could not have physical contact with him. That did not stop me. I was also told I could not directly communicate with him. I laughed and continued to speak to him. I asked him if he was ok and I told him I would not stop fighting to get him out. This clearly was not about me visiting my brother. The tone quickly changed and I was asked to sign myself into the program. My brother was crying. I told them I would absolutely not do that. I continued trying to speak to my brother and the meeting abruptly ended. I was escorted to another room where a couple of staff members awaited my arrival. An interrogation ensued. I was asked about my drug use and sex life. I couldn’t believe this. I didn’t answer. I let them know I was 18 and wasn’t having any part of their bullshit. The interrogation was stepped up. The staff members were switched out and they began their marathon spit session. They screamed and yelled at me for hours and would not let me leave. It became physical and I still refused to sign myself in. I was then taken into another room and stripped of all my clothes and my dignity. I was strip searched for at least an hour and forced to stand there with no clothes on. I told them I would not break and I would not sign myself in. I was given my clothes back and taken into the main group room. I was in complete shock. I had just been kidnapped at 18 and my captivity began. I shouted out at the top of my lungs any chance I got that I could not be broken and I would be the person that shut that place down.
There are no freedoms in this hell. There are no phones. There is zero communication with the outside world. There is no chance of escape and worst nobody knew that I was there. Food, sleep and water deprivation are part of the daily ritual. I had zero privacy. I was forced to shower and use the restroom in front of others. Everything is considered a privilege and if I did not follow the rules you do not get these privileges. Breaking down of the individual is crucial. Indoctrination occurs daily for a minimum of 15 hours a day and abuse is rampant. From day one I refused to comply. I was often tackled and thrown to the cold floor by other members of the group. Each of them would grab a limb and stretch it out to the point of dislocation. Then they would take their knees and dig them into my elbows and knees to the point of excruciating pain that I could not properly describe. Then someone would cover my mouth so I couldn’t scream and nose so I couldn’t breathe. Right when I was about to pass out they let me breathe for a bit then repeated this for hours. Eventually I became numb to the pain. I was held that way once for 17 hours. No food or water and no restroom. I was forced to hold in my own waste until I couldn’t anymore. Some kids were forced to stay in the clothes they soiled for days.
Once I was taken into what was called the quiet room. About 20 people came in and started screaming at me and proceeding with their spit therapy. I was pushed around and beaten. I stood and fought back. I screamed back. I came out with a fury and started punching and taking anyone down I could. I paid a price for it but again I made it clear that they could not break me. This abuse and much more went on for 7 months. It’s mostly a blur. In my time on the floor I became angrier and I often wondered how this could be happening. How could so many parents blindly subject the children they are supposed to love to nothing short of torture and a gross violation of basic civil rights? I wondered how so many intelligent individuals could become brainwashed in such a fashion. I also wondered why other kids didn’t fight. Why that sat and took what was dished out. I always thought if any number of us stood up they would never have a chance. Instead I suffered much horrific abuse at the hands of these children. I guess the worst part of this was I knew I was 18 and had been kidnapped and held against my will. To this day I don’t know how my little brother survived watching me be abused the way I was. Here was his protector unable to protect him. I failed him yet again.
I had to watch some of those kids fall apart and lose it. Some would stare off into space. Others picked at their skin. Some cut themselves. Others talked to themselves and literally went mad. I was also in this place with rapists, a murderer, child molesters, and people involved in serious criminal activity. It was a scary place on so many levels. It was worse than a prison. The constant muffled screams will never leave me. I will always hear them in the quiet of my mind. I thought I was holding it together but on some level I was broken and brainwashed I just chose to never show it outwardly.
After months of this hell we were told one day that the commission on alcohol and drug abuse was running an investigation. We were coached on what to say if spoken to and our lives were threatened if we did not comply. We were told that they wanted to speak to a few people. We were also told that the investigation was due to program exes that were angry and out to get the program. They were liars and the truth would come out. I had no reason to think I would be pulled aside since my whereabouts were unknown. I didn’t think much of it but hoped for freedom. A few days passed and I lost hope.
One day out of the blue I was pulled out of group and taken to an office. I was told they would be listening to anything I said through the speaker phone and if I said anything derogatory about the program or me being held there I would be shipped off to New Jersey where I would never be found. I have to admit their threats got to me a little but I held on to my senses and the fight in me. I met with John Luther and he showed me his credentials. He asked me my age. He told me that some ex program members had filed complaints of alleged abuse and my name had come up often. He also mentioned that he thought I was being held against my will. I was very clear in my statements that I was not being held against my will but found a way to communicate none verbally that I was. He shook his head and walked away and everything drained out of me because he didn’t escort me out at that moment. I had to go back to the program. The staff members said I did well. I felt defeated. I tried to hold on to the fact that at least now someone knew where I was.
About a week went by with no word. I was still trapped in this hell. Something strange was happening though. I could yell and scream that I would shut the place down and I didn’t get tackled to ground. The abuse mostly stopped. When the kids would ask if they needed to use one of their torture methods the staff would say no. I had no idea why this was happening but I ran with it and pushed as hard as I could. On one occasion the director asked some of the group members to take me to a room. I was sure I was about to get the beating of my life but I still pushed. These girls kept sitting me down calmly. They were told not to harm me. I was in shock. I explained to these two that I would be getting out and I would be fighting to get this place shut down. They didn’t say much. After a few hours the director came in and opened the side door of the building and told me I was done. I looked at him in disbelief. “You are letting me go?” He instructed me to leave and never have any communication with anyone in the program or my family. I laughed and asked him why he was running scared. I asked him why he was putting me out in the middle of the night with the clothes on my back. No answers. I went out that doorway took a deep breath and started walking. I was overwhelmed with emotion but mostly I was mostly filled with rage.
I made it to a payphone and called my best friend. I didn’t know what I would say and I had no idea what I was going to do. She answered and came and got me without question. She took me home and I am pretty sure I didn’t say much. I was lucky to have her. I was confused and angry. I had lost my life. I had lost any sense of normalcy or dignity and I was left with the memories I could never explain to anyone. The next day she went to work and I remember sitting on the couch while the magnitude of everything that had transpired set in. While my friend was gone her sister told me I wasn’t welcome there. She told me to get my things. I looked at her in disbelief. I didn’t have any things. I literally had the clothes on my back and that was it. She drove me to a homeless shelter and dropped me off at the front door and drove off. I was heartbroken. All I could think is that I wanted to die. I felt completely empty and alone. I felt like I had been thrown away. I had no money, no food and no hope. That feeling in that moment was like no other I have ever experienced in my life. I slept there that night in the filth. Pipes were leaking water everywhere. There was a community shower and bathroom. I tried to sleep but all I could do was lay there and cry. This woman came over to me and attempted to comfort me. She told me it would be ok. She told me she would walk me through the process the next day. I couldn’t begin to care. Things kind of become a little hazy at this point. I think I had finally completely broken down and I shut down.
I called my mother at some point and she said I could stay with her friend for a little while so I did. I still had no food. My mother one day brought me a bag of groceries. It was mostly stuff I don’t eat. I think she was still trying to punish me. I think she wanted me to feel like the garbage I was. I guess she hadn’t realized I already knew what I was at that point. I somehow came into contact with someone else that had left the program. I remember his mom let me stay with them for a while. I am forever grateful for that. I got passed around between many people over the next year. Some took me in out of love and kindness. Others took me in for their own gain and threw me out when they were done. It was rough to never feel wanted and to never know if I would have a place to rest my head or have food to eat. It was scary and lonely.
During that time John Luther contacted me again. I was a mess and I suppose I was somewhat in survival mode at the same time I didn’t care anymore. I met up with John and he asked me if I wanted to help shut the program down. I naturally agreed. I told him all I cared about was getting my brother out and I would be willing to do what I had to in order to make that happen. We met a few more times after that to discuss strategy and in one of those meetings he told me he had someone he wanted me to meet. I assumed it would be an attorney or expert witness. It wasn’t it was K.B. I was so happy. We hugged and talked. She was on board with fighting and she introduced me to the underground of exes a P.I’s and attorneys. It was wild. K.B. and I had an instant connection and became fast friends.
In the program K.B. was often my host home. Nobody wanted to take me on in there. She was always willing. I was relieved when I found out I would be going to her house. She was the only person in that horrible place that ever showed me an ounce of decency or kindness. She would feed me and mostly let me be. She was my safe haven in that place and my only good memory. To this day I will never understand why she chose to show me kindness but I will always be indebted to her for it. We became close after the program. We were engulfed in this battle to shut the place down. Shortly after we went public the death threats started rolling in. We were followed constantly. Our mail gone through. The harassment became commonplace. It was a trying time. We went from one prison to another. There were times we had body guards. The threats were very real. We learned to protect ourselves. We were forced to live in our little underground world. In spite of this we chose to see this through. We chose not to give up at any cost. We were there to picket. We were there to testify. We were there to the very end fighting. Through the course of it we had small victories. The program shut down for a few days and there was media frenzy. I never spoke out publicly. K.B. was always in the public eye.
I again received a phone call from my mother. She wanted me to meet her so that I could see my brother. Hmmmmm. We had done this once before and it didn’t work out so well for me. My attorneys and John were against this. There was also a rumor out there that my mother planned to kidnap me again and haul me off to New Jersey so I could not testify. I decided to go. I arrived to find the same set up. My brother is there with the director and my mother. I spoke to him briefly. The director got up to close the blinds and I stood up. He saw cars outside and asked me if anyone knew I was there. I told him my attorneys, my friends, a P.I. and the commission all knew exactly where I was and if I am was not out that door soon they would be busting down the door. I walked out and they never explained to me why I was there in the first place.
It took a long time for the program to shut down after the trial but it did. Parents began to pull their kids. Between that and all the bad publicity they finally went bankrupt. Some parents took their kids to other programs. The other programs could not shake the public allegations of abuse and eventually shut down too. My brother finally got his freedom two years after he went in. He was never the same and we never much discussed any of this. I lost touch with K.B. a few years later. I decided to hide. I lived my life mostly off the grid. I didn’t want to be found. All of that took its toll on me. It destroyed my family and killed my hopes and dreams. I guess I grew to realize the aftermath of that place. The memories will always be somewhere in the darkest parts of who I am. I am still unable to explain the hell to anyone with any sort of understanding or compassion and I will always blame myself for what happened.
Our mother passed on before I made any peace with her. I suffered so much at her hands. She also testified against me at that hearing. Just when I thought there was nothing else she could do to hurt me she kicked me in the gut one last time. In the few conversations we had before she died she admitted to the plan to have me kidnapped the second time to keep me from testifying. She never admitted to any other wrong doing. She never apologized. She never tried to make it right. I am still baffled by how such an intelligent individual could get sucked into a cult. As a mother I could never imagine inflicting this kind of pain on my child. I cannot fathom allowing anyone to live that inflicted any pain on my daughter. As a mother I feel that I have an obligation to all children to protect, nurture and love them.
Last year I found myself lost in that dark place. I could not come to terms with what happened or why. That dear friend that picked me up from the program that day dropped back into my life. I thank god for that. She has relentlessly fought for me and my peace and sanity. She never once judged or doubted me. She has stood by through it all. She sat with me on the edge and calmly brought me back time and time again. I am so grateful. That place took everything from me including my best friend. I got back something I thought I lost forever and I will live my life with gratitude for that.
Another year has come and gone and I find K.B.. That gave me instant peace and validation. I think she and I will always be connected on some deep level. I understand and I know that she does too. We took down the giant. She will always hold a very special place in my heart. She is by far one of the most compassionate, loyal and giving people I have had the pleasure of knowing. I hope someday she and I will be able to find a place of peace and friendship again. She has suffered so much and it truly saddens me. She is an amazing person and I want the world to know that. I want her to know that. I need her to remember that she has a powerful voice and I believe that the world is ready to listen.
As for my little brother I think he finally found some peace in his own life. We have spoken only briefly electronically. There is so much time lost and a lifetime of pain. I can no longer protect him and realize that I never really could. I hope that we have more time. I hope that someday we can see each other again. I still miss him every day. I still wonder what his life would have been if I had not let him down so many times. I wonder what damage that place caused. I wonder if he is okay and happy. I want my tears to stand for something. I want the same thing I always have. I want my little brother to find his way. Mostly I want him to find his way back to me.
Copyright 2009 Surviving Straight Inc. All rights reserved.