What is the name of the facility you were in?
New Beginnings Girls Academy, it was located in Pace, FL.
What kind of a program did they operate?
It all revolved around one thing and that one thing was God. I didn’t understand how they could get away with brainwashing girls and shoving religion down people’s throats. It made no sense to me. The program, when I was there, was unfair & misleading. I'm sure, without a doubt, it has not changed. I looked up their website and saw pictures of the girls. Some girls I remembered from when I was there. I know they’re unhappy. It's like being locked in a cage and having nowhere to run.
When were you there & how long did you stay?
I was there for 10 months in 2006. It was the longest & hardest 10 months of my life.
Whose idea was it for you to go to this facility?
My grandfather’s, he was "friends" with Brother McNamara. He said he was a good Christian man. Obviously my grandfather didn’t do his research. I came to my grandpa for advice because my mother had found out I had gotten on drugs. When I talked to my grandpa he automatically got up and went into the living room and grabbed his phone. The next day they asked me if I wanted to visit a place where I could get help. I said "I'll go check it out, but I'm not making any promises."
Were you included in the decision?
Not at all, when we arrived to "visit" it was a trap, the papers were already signed. My mother had gone behind my back. Bro. McNamara kept smiling like ‘Hahaha I got you now’, kind of thing. It made me extremely uncomfortable. When I went into the dorms, he made the girls get up and sing. They looked like sad robots. He was the only one in the room with a smile on his face.
When my grandparents took me in the office with Bro McNamara, I remember seeing a wall of pictures of the girls when they first arrived. We all looked like we really needed help but not this kind of help. This was robotic brainwash crap that I was completely against. I was all about freedom and being who you wanted to be, not being forced to be someone you’re not.
How did you get there?
I was driven by my grandparents, who lied to me, and knew from the moment I got into the car with them that I was going to be away for a very long time. Everyone in my whole family knew, besides me.
What happened when you arrived? How did they process you into their program/facility?
Bro. McNamara basically put on a show in front of my grandparents and me. Showing off the girls singing abilities, quoting Bible verses, etcetera. When we got into his office my Grandma kissed my cheek and walked out the door. I had no idea what was going on. I freaked out, I tried to open the door but Bro. McNamara had already slammed it shut and said. "Welcome to New Beginnings."
He called a girl into the room, she was to be my "buddy". They basically are your little babysitters. When walking outside in line, we had to have our heads down & the “buddy’s” had our arms locked so we couldn’t run. I complained to a staff member that one of my “buddies” held my arm too tightly, she simply said, "Get over it".
Can you describe a typical day?
Wake up was around 5:30 a.m., you had to make your bed perfectly or that was 5 demerits. Ten demerits at the end of a week was a weeks worth of discipline. ‘Discipline’ was standing with your hands behind your back, nose on the wall. No looking away from the wall, you couldn’t breathe wrong or you would just get more demerits.
I stayed on ‘discipline’ the whole time was there. I was a good 195 lbs. when I went into the program, I came out weighing 167 lbs. because they made us do painful exercises, instead of them doing the pain to us they made us do it to our selves. After doing morning chores, we had to stay in line and go through what they called dress check and they made sure our hair was pulled back perfectly, or that was a demerit, made sure we had slips under our skirts, etc… We had to remain in line with straight posture holding and reading our Bibles with our heads down at all times.
We went to breakfast then headed to school. Sometimes Bro. McNamara would grab girls to work in the yard for the day, most of the time it was only trusted girls. After school we had lunch, if the Macs were in the mood, they'd give speeches on how stupid we were and how we were such sinners it disgusted them.
After school we went into the dorms had a time where we said scriptures, there was a name for this my memory is just blurry. We'd sit, most of the time we would have to stand if we sounded "lazy". It wouldn’t be over until we said it to their liking.
Then we had showers, dinner, chapel, or we'd sing. I remember one time I didn’t want to sing because I was light headed, being between all the girls, all the body heat, I wasn't allowed to sit, let alone not continue to sing. So, I forced myself and ended up passing out. They STILL made me get up and sing. After that we went back to the dorms and slept. I know I never slept, I couldn’t. It made me sick to my stomach to know that this country allows such things to go on.
Can you describe some typical rules?
Hair had to be pulled into a clip 4 inches from the top of your head. If they didn’t like it, that was like 2 demerits.
The waist of skirts had to be above or right at the belly button, which obviously isn’t comfortable for teens, especially me. It wasn’t because I was a "whore" or a "slut" as Mrs. McNamara called it. It was because to me it was not comfortable.
You were given limited toilet paper.
There was a ‘new girl rule’. I was accused of looking and "communicating" with them constantly by the girls that were "trusted helpers". The staff and the Mac's called me a liar almost every day. It hurt so much, but I knew I had to get out of there and make a difference so I went along with it.
That was until he said something out of line to me one day in the cafeteria and I finally said, “F you”. I was on discipline at the time; I sat down and refused to do anything. If he was going to sit there and humiliate me in front of everyone I just didn’t care anymore. I wanted to die. He had a girl attack me, pulling my hair to get me up. I wasn't going to move. After he called another girls name I grabbed the girl that was pulling my hair and got my hair away from her, they wrestled me to the ground. I kept fighting back. The next thing I know I have one girl digging her knee in my back, 4 girls on my legs; one girl with her arm on my face. I tried with all my strength to move but I couldn’t, I ran out of energy.
After that I was taken into the dorms and had to stay there. Later that night I walked into the shower area and sat in the shower stall turned the water on hot and wished to melt away. They tried to get me out but after an hour of me being in there they just left me alone.
To me, you didn’t get to have an opinion and you weren’t allowed to have a social life. You were made a ROBOT nothing else.