Troubled Teen Boot Camp Survivors Speak Out

Playing Drs. Investigate: Torture Camps for Troubled Teens?

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The Doctors investigate camps for troubled teens and we speak to 3 women who survived stays in three camps which they say were "torture."

Jodi, Liz, and Cyndy were all sent to camps and programs as teenagers and tell us they experienced numerous traumas while there and discuss how they have managed to cope. They say these camps conducted practices like isolation, brain-washing, intimidation, and physical abuse. Both Jodi and Liz say conditions were so bad that they both attempted to take their own lives while at the camps.

Watch: Does Tough Love Work for Troubled Teens?

Cyndy says it took her 15 years to overcome the abuse she says she suffered in the camp and it was not until she met her husband that she was able to deal the experience.

Jodi, who is the founder of Survivors of Institutional Abuse, also says it took her around 15 years to "undo" what she claims was done to her. She is now fighting to raise awareness about programs and hopefully stop them from harming other people.

Watch: Son Was Killed in Teen Wilderness Camp Nightmare

Liz is now a therapist who exclusively treats people from the troubled teen industry.

The Doctors also welcome Lynn, who says she sent her son to a wilderness camp in order to work on his self-esteem. She claims that her son was being abused at this camp. She says she was contacted by the camp saying her son was having trouble breathing and said he was being transported to a hospital. Before she could get to the hospital, her son diedLynn says that the medical examiner's report stated her son had two bruises on the back of his head in the shape of the end of a walkie-talkie. She also says the report stated that he had bruises on his legs, liver, and spleen.

"I was absolutely lied to," she says of the camp. Following the death of her son, she helped write and pass legislation in Oregon that has created laws for the camps to abide by.

Psychiatrist Dr. Domenick Sportelli tells The Doctors that a punishment style treatment, used by some of these camps, is not effective long-term and that the alleges abuses happening at these camps are often swept under the rug.

So how can parents discern between a good camp for kids and one that might be putting them in danger? According to Liz, potential red flags include:

  • Interrupted communication between parent and child
  • Not having medical personnel on-site
  • The camp not providing credentials for their employees
  • If program participants are responsible for enforcing rules and treatment
  • If the camp claims to be able to diagnose your child's issues via an online quiz

More information on possible warnings signs when considering a residential placement for a child or adolescent can be found here