When I was a young missionary, I heard about Escuela Caribe, a small Christian boarding school that billed itself as a rehabilitation center for troubled teens. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to make a difference. I was hoping to document the positive effects a place like this could have on struggling youth, so I was allowed to stay and film on campus in the Dominican Republic for a summer. Once there, though, I discovered the shocking truth of what was really going on at this remote reform school. I heard stories of kids being taken by force in the middle of the night, rumors of physical abuse, and witnessed staff imposing arbitrary and degrading punishments on the young students. This led me to make my film, Kidnapped for Christ.

David is the main subject of the film and will also be answering questions.

The film has been airing on SHOWTIME and you can check out the trailer at


Comments: 176 • Responses: 67  • Date: 

Smashingflowerpots54 karma

I took high school German with David. We sat across the room from each other and made little jokes. I didn't know him well, but he always seemed like a cool guy. I was shocked and horrified when I heard his story years later. Thank you for telling it.

Do you know how his (or anyone else's) parents were received in their communities once word got out that they'd sent their children to place like this? Do you think most parents understood the terrible conditions at these schools, or is that a glossed over aspect of the program?

Did you meet any "students" that came out of the school having been successfully reprogramed? If so, do you know how they felt about the experience?

KidnappedforChrist60 karma

I've never been able to speak with David's parents, but my understanding from knowing David and several of his friends and teachers, is that his parents' decision to send him away was not received well by his community. There were several people who tried to get David out of Escuela Caribe after his parents refused to bring him home (or even admit where he was). Currently, I don't believe they have any contact with those who tried to help bring David home.

I don't think that David's parents, or most families, knew the extent of the abuse going on at the school. The students have all their communication cut off and/or heavily monitored, so the kids can never tell their parents what it's really like. Also, the school administrators were very good at manipulating parents into believing that they were not only doing the best thing for their child, but that if they pulled them from the program they were risking their kids life and future. It was very cult-like in that way.

As far as students who came out of the program "reprogrammed" that's a hard question to answer, because most kids did come out changed - just often not for the better. Some were able to overcome things like drug addiction, failing out of school, etc - simply because they were forced to. But, most former students I've spoken with, and there are many - report having nightmares about being sent back and having to spend years deprogramming themselves. Hope that answers your question.

pixel853 karma

I started /r/troubledteens to save kids from being abused at places like Escuela Caribe. I just watched Kidnapped for Christ on Showtime when it premiered a few nights ago and I was absolutely blown away. The footage you shot is extremely rare, no members of the public are usually allowed in these types of places, let alone take photos or video. It truly gives people like me, who have never been in a program, a glimpse into what daily life is really like for these kids. I was shocked and outraged when I saw it before of my own eyes.

Thank you for making this important film, it's great to see it's been getting fantastic reviews, celebrity support, winning awards and now--WOW--it's a Featured Documentary on Showtime! I've been following it since it was a Kickstarter project (that reddit helped to fund), it's been incredible to watch it grow.

My question is, at what point did it start to dawn on you that Escuela Caribe was not what you expected? And at what point did the staff start to realize that they were actually acting out of bounds, and start blocking you from filming the worst incidents?

KidnappedforChrist45 karma

First of all thanks for starting reddit troubled teens! I know lots of survivors of these programs need a safe place to share their stories and to spread the word about efforts to shut abusive programs down. So bravo! Also thanks for all your help promoting the film.

To answer your question:

Before I went down to Escuela Caribe the first time (was on campus once for a week and then the second time for 6 weeks) I had JUST found out a few weeks prior to my trip that there was a book about the school by Julia Scheeres. Julia's book "Jesusland" is a memoir about her and her brother's time at Escuela Caribe in the mid-80s, and her stories were horrifying. But, I thought to myself, that happened over 20 years ago, so it may or may not be the same now. So, I went down there with the knowledge that there could be abuse going on, but that I didn't have enough evidence to know for sure.

Within my first week there I noticed a lot of huge red flags. Within my first few days there I saw a lot of kids being given really pointless and repetitive punishments like scrubbing steps all day without taking a knee, or scrubbing a pot all day facing the wall. I also heard a story (over breakfast!) from one of the staff members about another staff member forcing a girl to do pushups over her own excrement because she had failed to dump the bucket she was forced to use as the bathroom in the proper location. The fact that this girl had been locked in isolation with only a bucket was bad enough, but to make her literally put her face in her own shit, that was horrifying. So, yeah - it wasn't long before I realized this wasn't a totally positive place that was helping troubled teens get their lives back on track.

manos_fate24 karma

Do the children have any rights under US law for repatriation or parental separation? If so, are lawyers ever allowed to interact with the children to ensure that their rights aren't being violated?

KidnappedforChrist37 karma

Basically since most of the kids were under 18 (all were under 18 when they were originally sent to the program) they had no rights to contact a lawyer or other third party advocate. Their parents were the ones who sent them to this program, so unless their parents chose to bring them home, legally they were pretty much stuck there.

Frajer21 karma

Why did they let you film? Didn't they realize you'd expose them?

KidnappedforChrist52 karma

They let me film for a few reasons:

1) I was a film student at the time, so I probably didn't seem like much of a threat and I don't think they viewed me as a journalist (although I viewed myself that way). I was also attending a conservative Christian college and I knew missionaries in the area where the school was, so I had "Nice Christian Girl" credentials. They probably assumed I'd be on their side.

2) I genuinely thought it would be a positive film when I began the project and got their permission to film. Maybe they thought that it would be a good tool for them to combat some of the bad press they were starting to get at the time.

3) They truly believed that what they were doing was saving kids, so they admitted a lot of terrible stuff because they either didn't think it was wrong, or they thought that their "sins were forgiven" so it wasn't a big deal.

LAKingsDave21 karma

Are you, or were you, religious in any way when going into this project?

KidnappedforChrist54 karma

At the time I was a devout evangelical Christian and was attending a Christian liberal arts college to study film. Now I no longer consider myself a Christian, in part because of what I saw and experienced filming at this school. However, lots of people who worked on the film are Christians, so we never wanted to make the film an inditement on Christianity or religion in general. These horrible things could have happened in any isolated community.

LanguageIsOppression18 karma

You mentioned in another comment that these camps exist in the US. I actually used to know someone who was sent to one of these work camps in Oklahoma. She told me that at that camp alone there were around 50 kids anywhere from 10-17. The stuff she described (and what I assumed you experienced while filming) sounded horrendous. Why do you think there is no media coverage or public outcry about this?

KidnappedforChrist22 karma

Every once in a while these places get news coverage, usually when a kid dies in one of them (which is sadly not that uncommon). But, as you noted, in general this isn't an issue most people are aware of. I think that part of the reason that there hasn't been much news coverage and no large pubic outcry is because the kids that get sent to these programs often don't talk about their experiences for years if ever. It's kind of like the Catholic priest abuse scandal - it was happening for decades before enough people came forward to get attention on the issue.

I hope that this film contributes to a groundswell of people speaking out about their experiences in the programs so that this issue can get the attention it needs.

BoldDog17 karma

What tactics did they use to keep kids there after they turned 18? Could David have walked away if he wanted to or would they have used force to keep him there?

KidnappedforChrist36 karma

Once the kids turned 18 basically nothing about their situation changed. Technically, they SHOULD have been able to pick up and leave since this was not a prison or a mental hospital where kids were committed by a judge.

The campus was surrounded by barbed wire and their was an armed guard at the gate. The students were monitored at all times as well. Even if a student managed to escape one they turned 18, their passports were locked up in a safe and they were never allowed to keep money on them. If they didn't speak Spanish (students by and large weren't allowed to learn Spanish because of concerns about them escaping) they would have a pretty difficult time getting anywhere in the Dominican Republic (especially without money or a passport).

Any students that tried to run away (regardless of their age) were subject to extreme punishments that made the examples for others so that no one else would dare try to run away. Girls would get all their hair cut off, for examples. Anyone trying to run away would face weeks in isolation, getting swats on the ass, doing a tons of strenuous exercises, hours of pointless labor, and even more demeaning punishments.

As a result of all of this - kids who turned 18 just stayed their way past their birthdays until their parents decided to bring them home.

BoldDog31 karma

That's appalling. Those people should be in jail.

KidnappedforChrist29 karma

Couldn't agree more. I also hope the US Embassy keeps a MUCH closer eye on the program currently operating in the Dominican Republic.

graphictruth3 karma

Yeah, well, you might want to see how many predominant conservative christian families swear by such programs. They don't, to the best of my knowledge, even recognize the problem exists within their OWN jurisdiction.

khakimage7 karma

Well "spare the rod, spoil the child" so obviously if you just beat your children constantly for no apparent reason, that must be really good for them!

KidnappedforChrist5 karma

KATE: It would be great if more States (and the federal government) enacted laws like the ones in CA and NJ that ban conversion therapy for minors. These laws were enacted because the scientific evidence is clear that these types of treatments are harmful. The evidence on corporal punishment for teens is equally as clear that it doesn't work and can cause harm. If we based our laws regarding youth rights on evidence verses religious beliefs, we'd have fewer of these types of harmful programs out there.

drewiepoodle16 karma

Hey Kate, thank you for making this documentary. I mod a few queer subs and there are quite a few people there who have gone thru these jesus boot camps. My question is, would you perhaps think about doing a documentary on the ones they have here in america? and perhaps a follow up question to that would be, do you know how many overseas camps like this exist?

KidnappedforChrist24 karma

I'm not sure any of these places would let me in after directing this film! There are actually a few other projects in production that cover other programs, and I hope they get as much if not more attention than my film.

As far as the numbers of overseas camps like Escuela Caribe (and ones in the US) there are no solid numbers because they are totally unregulated. However, there is a great crowd-sourced map where people who've been send to programs have posted the locations where they were sent:

Not all of these programs are necessarily abusive, but most are unmonitored.

drewiepoodle13 karma

holy crap, that's a lot of camps. no wonder we have so many people in the queer subs who have gone thru a "re-education" program.

KidnappedforChrist15 karma

Yeah it's shocking. Forbes magazine reported that the "troubled teen" industry is worth around 2 billion dollars.

cvillemade15 karma

How have I never heard of this? That's horrifying! It's like the Boko Haram of the Caribbean.

KidnappedforChrist27 karma

Prior to discovering this place I had no clue that anything like this was happening either. Even more terrifying is the fact that there are tons of unregulated "troubled teen" programs in the States and in other countries around the world.

ergoegthatis17 karma

If you want the world to know more about this, just slip a rumor that these are actually Muslim reform schools. Every news source will report about it in minutes with rage and passion. Then refute the rumor the next day.

KidnappedforChrist14 karma

Ha! That might work - sad commentary on our perspectives as Americans.

cvillemade11 karma

I'm definitely going to find some (legal, yes) way to watch your documentary, since I don't have Showtime. This is just as fascinating as it is troubling.

KidnappedforChrist14 karma

Thank you for not pirating the film :) It will become available on VOD, itunes, etc in the coming months.

KidnappedforChrist14 karma

Just so everyone knows - David (the main subject of the film) couldn't make it today, but he will be here tomorrow at 2pm PST / 5pm EST to answer questions about his experiences at Escuela Caribe and being a part of the film.

tommmyboy77859 karma

I watched the first half of your doc this weekend, but couldn't continue because it was too depressing. David's story was particularly bothersome due to his circumstances. He seemed like such a normal, well-rounded teenager who just happened to be burdened with intolerant parents. Is he doing well?

KidnappedforChrist14 karma

Watch the last few minutes if you want to feel a bit better.

The film is, admittedly, not easy to watch. David was a normal teenager who hadn't done anything wrong - in fact he was a 4.0 student who participated in practically every after school activity. Some kids at Escuela Caribe did have some major issues they needed help with whether it was mental health issues, drug problems, violent tendencies, or some other major problem. But, these kids, even though at times it's harder to sympathize with them, were harmed just as much as the "normal" kids were. This "treatment" didn't help them for the most part.

tomatostew13 karma

Hi, Kate! I watched your documentary on Showtime and loved it! While watching, I just kept thinking about how I would respond to being sent there by my parents. I thought that I could fight back or run away and find someone to help me, but I'm sure that if it was that easy, all the kids would have done that. So my question is: What would be your strategy to survive/ get through being sent to a place like this?

KidnappedforChrist23 karma

Great question - no one has ever asked me that!

You are right, if it were that easy most of these kids would have fought back and escaped. The entire program was designed to break kids down until they were compliant, so eventually everyone got in line, if just to survive.

If I were sent there today, knowing what I know, I think I would take the route that Tai took in the film. I would comply enough to not have my life be made miserable constantly, appease the staff members that needed appeasing, and I would do my best to always hang on to my true self. Tai told me after she got out that she kept her sanity because she "always knew that what they were doing was wrong." That's simple, but powerful, and not every kid there realized that. I would also probably not move up the levels on purpose (like Tai) because to move past 1st level you would have to rat our your fellow students, and I think that mentally protesting that would be an important factor in maintaining your identity in that situation. But who knows, they could have broken me too - no one was immune to the brainwashing techniques they employed.

AndrewMartian12 karma

I spent the past five months living in Jarabacoa, as a high school student doing sort of an exchange program at a different school, when I stumbled upon this project and it shocked me. I couldn't believe that this sort of thing was happening in the town I was staying in! I talked around, and found out that Escuela Caribe had been shut down, due to the press, and is now Caribbean Mountain Academy (CMA). How much has CMA improved on the conditions there? I was able to meet some of the kids, but didn't get to talk for long. Also there was someone run away from there while I was down there, was that common at Escuela Caribe? Thanks, and I can't wait to see the movie!

KidnappedforChrist21 karma

It's important to note that Escuela Caribe did not get shut down (as in, no government body forced them to close, to my knowledge). They did, however, run out of students (and tuition dollars). I imagine the bad press they've gotten contributed to that.

As far as the new program operating on the campus in Jarabacoa, "Crosswinds" or "Caribbean Mountain Academy" (which is strangely also a name that Escuela Caribe tried to adopt, presumably to avoid the bad reputation that the name Escuela Caribe carried). It's hard to say how much they have improved because no one from the outside who is critical of the school has been able to visit. They did invite me and a few others to come to campus, but then sort of rescinded the invites or made things so difficult that it was impossible to actually make the trip. With me, as I was making plans to go, they started "questioning my motives" and then stopped writing back.

In general, I think that even if this new program was operating in a totally professional way, there's no good reason to send a child to a foreign country for long periods of time in the name of therapy. The isolation that many kids feel being sent overseas, away from their families and friends, isn't therapeutic. Not to mention, that Crosswinds has had trouble retaining any qualified (i.e. licensed) teachers and therapists. Their staff has changed a bit, so I'm not sure who there currently is qualified to provide therapy, but needless to say, I think these kids would be better served closer to home and for less extended periods of time.

I'm VERY curious to hear about students down there now who are running away. I would not be shocked at all if some abuse is still occurring, since a few of the old Escuela Caribe staff members have continued to work there.

AndrewMartian8 karma

I remember being told about the student who ran away with the rest of the high school students, and they showed us his face and a number to call if we found him anywhere. I really wanted to find him and talk to him, to hear his story, however that didn't happen. Everyone was worried about him, but no one would talk about any circumstances on why he would leave, besides that it was just a place for troubled kids so he escaped because he was bad? I didn't really believe it, but I couldn't get an answer either way.

The only other experience I had with them was one student who took the SAT with us, and was too tied up about the test to talk to her about the school.

KidnappedforChrist7 karma

Interesting ... keep me updated if you hear anything else about the new programs ([email protected])

NorbitGorbit10 karma

Did they sign releases prior to your changing the direction of the documentary? Does that mean they have no legal recourse to stop you from releasing the movie as you like?

KidnappedforChrist21 karma

Yes, everyone agreed to participate in the film who is featured. When I originally spoke with the staff about filming there I told them that I wanted to follow the experiences of their students - which, of course, I assumed would be mostly positive. The experiences of the students were very different than I had anticipated, but really I feel like I still followed my original intention, to tell their stories.

The school administrators agreed to have me on campus for a decent amount of time and allowed me to interview them about most aspects of the program, including some of their more controversial practices, so it's not like they could claim that I told them I was making a promo video for them or anything.

manos_fate8 karma

Did any of the students come out of the program supporting it?

KidnappedforChrist21 karma

Yes, some do. There are probably a variety of reasons for this. Some maybe had it so bad at home that Escuela Caribe was an improvement. Some kids did have major drug problems before they got sent away, and for those kids they at the very least were forced to get clean and finish high school. And others just chose to view their time at Escuela Caribe as an overall positive.

In my personal opinion (as I can't speak for those students who support the program) I think some were helped in spite of, not because of, the program. Sure, if you were hooked on meth before being sent away and got clean, that's a good thing. But, this was not the best intervention and often caused a lot of other problems like PTSD.

bankythehack8 karma

What do you feel knowing that things haven't really changed much since you even started filming the doc, let alone since the public has begun to see it? Are you hopeful that change will eventually happen?

By change, I mostly mean the government doing something about this.

KidnappedforChrist15 karma

I'm gonna take this opportunity to point everyone towards this link where they can write their reps asking for legislation to be passed that would regulate residential programs for teens:!write-your-representatives/caf8

I am hopefully that change will happen. These fights are always tough because there is a LOT of money in the troubled teen industry, not to mention that many of these programs are backed by powerful religious denominations (though not all). But, I do think that if enough people make their voices heard, we can change our laws so that treatment programs for teens have to abide by the same laws and standards that we hold our public schools to.

windowsangel7 karma

Kate it is Jodi, President of SIA, I just wanted to thank you for everything you have done! 2 Questions, What if any response have you received from any government reps, since this all started? What is your next project that you are working on?

KidnappedforChrist8 karma

Hey Jodi!

1) I haven't received any responses from government representatives yet, but I hope to start irritating them soon to get things moving on the H.R. 1981.

2) Next projects include one on the United Methodist Minister Frank Schaefer who was defrocked for officiating the wedding of his gay son (, a documentary on the first marathon in Haiti, and a super secret one I can't talk about yet :)

windowsangel3 karma

I will be at the Topanga Film Festival this weekend, cant wait!! I am right there with you on H.R. 1981, working to talk with each state representative about it and ask them to support the bill! Everyone can go to website and do the same! Please tell your state rep to support the bill! Your upcoming projects sound wonderful! Cant wait to see them!

KidnappedforChrist3 karma

Thanks Jodi - where should people go to learn more about the work SIA (Survivors if Institutional Abuse) does?

ironpete6 karma


KidnappedforChrist12 karma

Yes Terrell has been very insistent that CMA has nothing to do with Escuela Caribe. Here's my opinion:

First of all, I fundamentally don't believe in sending "troubled" teens overseas in the name of treatment. While I do believe that cross-cultural experiences could be great for at-risk youth, sending a child away to a foreign country who has problems so great that they require in-patient treatment, is inherently unnecessary and dangerous. The general consensus among psychologists, doctors, and other mental health professionals is that the least restrictive intervention necessary is the best. The closer to home and the least amount of time away, the better, in most cases. CMA advocates a solution that is not in line with the current best practices in psychology or education.

Second - besides disagreeing with the entire concept of having a "therapeutic" program for US teenagers in a foreign country, there are several red flags with CMA that Terrell has not adequately addressed.

One, CMA advertises itself as a therapeutic program, yet they do not have (at this time) medical staff on campus - which is not safe for those students who need the supervision of a licensed medical professional to oversee their medications.

Two, despite what Terrell has said, they do still employ at least one former staff member who worked with Escuela Caribe for decades. They also did not see a problem in hiring several former Escuela Caribe employees in the past. To me this shows that they don't truly believe that Escuela Caribe was an abusive program. Otherwise, why would they hire people who allowed abuse to continue around them for years without ever reporting it? A public school teacher would be fired for not reporting abuse, the same should have gone for CMA if they were serious about their students' safety.

Three, students (to my knowledge) are still not allowed unmonitored contact with the outside world, including their families. There is no justifiable reason for this.

I truly hope that CMA isn't abusing kids in their care. I hope they are operating in a professional and caring way. They might be. However, we are not going to know until students start getting out of their program and speaking up about their experiences. Either way, I think there are much safer ways to help struggling teens than sending them to a program thousands of miles away where parents cannot regularly see their child.

ironpete4 karma


KidnappedforChrist6 karma

Couldn't agree more. Like Escuela Caribe, CMA/Crosswinds seems to hire unqualified people to do the jobs of therapists and teachers. They also advertise themselves as a program that can help teens with a wide variety of problems, which - like you said - is very problematic.

rjm20136 karma

As someone who was also kidnapped and sent to a "troubled teen" facility just for being gay, I am really curious why David wants/wanted anything more to do with his family?

Although I previously enjoyed a literally fantastic relationship with my mother, ever since then (6 years now) I've had no relationship with her whatsoever; even though she was diagnosed with cancer at the end of last year. I understand how heart-breaking it is to have to cut contact like that, but if it removes poison from your life, then I think it is for the best. There will be no contact and reconciliation in my case.

I actually think David's parents are far worse than my mother. I do not believe she would have sent me to the Third World; and I know she wouldn't have had me held against my will after the age of 18. If I were David, I would have filed criminal charges against them for false imprisonment.

I'm just curious to know why he opted to do as he did. But as a fellow survivor, I hope he is well and has success and happiness in all things, always.

KidnappedforChrist6 karma

DAVID: While my parents initially saw this as a "last chance" to try and change my sexuality, there's a bigger picture. The facility was essentially a cult, convincing parents that what they were doing was right and telling them that once in the program, if they change their minds, it could be devastating due to the nature of the therapy. My parents were sucked into this cult, yes. Now that several years have passed, my parents do love and accept me. It may not be the way I wish, as they never ask me about my dating life, I still have them in my life. I believe family is important and I believe my parents are victims to this cult when they felt they were at a time of need.

KidnappedforChrist3 karma

DAVID: The people who deserve charges pressed against them are the program's staff, not parents. Also, thank you for your thoughts.

KidnappedforChrist3 karma

KATE: I agree - I think a lot of parents are duped into sending their kids to these types of programs. That doesn't mean that they aren't culpable, but as far as charges for abuse, I think the actual abusers should be the ones held accountable for their actions first and foremost.

Citizen_O5 karma

Apart from the letter that David asked you to take back home, did any of the other teens have messages for people that they asked you to try to deliver?

KidnappedforChrist17 karma

Only David asked us to contact someone on the outside. The punishments for trying to seek out a message were severe (would likely include being put in isolation, being given "swats" on the ass, and/or other degrading and painful punishments). So most kids wouldn't dare try to give me a message. Most kids actually didn't even say anything negative about the program to me at all, because they were terrified of the consequences. We were lucky to meet David and Tai, who both were brave enough to tell us the truth.

KidnappedforChrist5 karma

Thanks everyone! I'm gonna take off for today, but David will be back here tomorrow 5pmET to answer your questions.

Three-colours1 karma

Hello. I don't have a question as such but I recently saw your documentary at a film festival here in New Zealand and just wanted you to know that your work is reaching a global audience.

Thank-you for making this documentary.

KidnappedforChrist1 karma

KATE: Thanks for going to see the film in NZ. I wish I could have been there!

sortapunkrock5 karma

Hi, Kate! This is the first I've heard about your documentary but I am very interested in seeing it when I can do so legally (no Showtime!). In a response to another comment you said that making this film contributed to why you no longer consider yourself a Christian. Can you elaborate on that?

KidnappedforChrist18 karma

We don't have any solid dates yet for when the film will be available on other platforms like Netflix, VOD, iTunes, etc. but it will be within this year. Check on our website for the latest updates (and where soon-ish you will be able to buy DVDs). Also we are playing film festivals in Denver, Portland, LA, Detroit and Martha's Vineyard if you are in those areas. Check here to details:!watch/c1t44

To answer your other question: Their were many things in my life that contributed to me drifting away from the Christian faith, but hearing staff members at Escuela Caribe talk about how they felt "called by God" to work there and then finding myself in a position where I was working against their "calling" had a profound impact on my faith.

I had previously believed that god spoke to me personally (not in a crazy way, but just that god was a guiding force in my life). If all the staff at Escuela Caribe had been crazy psychopaths it would be easy to write-off their genuine beliefs that god had called them there. But, many of them weren't "bad" people, in fact, some of them reminded me of myself more than I was comfortable with. The school was like a cult - most members of a cult aren't crazy or evil, they are just caught up in the culture of the group and can't see what's really going on or the damage they are doing. I'm not calling Christianity a cult at all, but it was scary to me how easily it could go that way under the right circumstances. That made me question my faith in ways I don't know if I would have otherwise.

such_hodor_wow4 karma

Will this documentary be available for viewing online anywhere?

KidnappedforChrist4 karma

Yes, but we don't have solid dates quite yet. Stay tuned.

BecomingMolly1 karma


KidnappedforChrist1 karma

KATE: The film will be available outside of Showtime in the coming months.

catch22milo3 karma

I can see on your IMDB page that you've been involved in some other documentaries as well, but only as a producer or production manager. Do you have any plans to make another documentary with yourself filling the role of director? Are there any projects or concepts that you'd especially like to work on?

KidnappedforChrist3 karma

Indeed I am! I am currently co-directing a project on the first marathon in Haiti and directing another project about which I cannot speak quite yet :)

KidnappedforChrist3 karma

Hey everyone - we're starting a new thread.

KidnappedforChrist2 karma

Hello Everyone - this is Kate back to answer questions. David, the main subject of the film is also here. We'll be answering from the same account, so we'll just note who we are in the beginning of each answer.

ironpete1 karma


KidnappedforChrist1 karma - new thread :)

ironpete1 karma


KidnappedforChrist2 karma

DAVID: I have, and we sorted that situation out. When most kids leave the program, staff continually contact them to keep them "programmed" in a sense. Matt was there for quite a while and he admitted to me that he felt the staff manipulating him even after he left. He apologized for that. Even after I returned home, staff were calling me every day trying to keep me from contacting or getting involved with Kate. I remember Samantha my sort-of-counselor form Escuela Caribe saying "You know we're good people, and Kate is just trying to make good people look bad for her own fame." Keep in mind this was 7 years ago when Kate nor myself knew this story would end up where it is today, and Kate's intention for the film was to complete her college senior film project. Staff were incredibly nice to me the last week or so I was at that place.

ironpete1 karma


KidnappedforChrist1 karma

DAVID: I think "some" were. There was a handful of staff who weren't involved as much in the disciplinary parts. While I was there, I saw some staff come and go very quickly, and we were never told why they left. I definitely think it's because they realized that what was happening wasn't right. For other staff, it was a gold mine for sociopaths to command and abuse kids. I definitely feel like some staff got a thrill out of it. There's also some staff who went to work at the school who may have been too ignorant and succumbed to the cults ideas just because they were told to do it.

KidnappedforChrist1 karma

KATE: Yeah, lots of the staff (most actually) had zero qualifications or experience working in education or counseling, so they had no concept of what was appropriate or not. Many staff members didn't even have Bachelors degrees. That still doesn't excuse them though. Common sense, in most cases, should have told them that what was happening was abusive. But, that's what often happens in a cult-like environment, people kinda check their brains at the door.

KidnappedforChrist1 karma

KATE: David's internet is being bitchy, so I'll take this one for now and David can jump in when his wifi is back up.

My experiences with the staff (which were obviously a bit different from the student's experiences) were that some of them were basically normal people who were following orders to do some horrible things. As we know from the Milgram experiment and the Stanford Prison experiment - "good" people are capable of doing horrendous things if they are told to do so by an authority figure and/or if they are given unchecked power over another group of people. By no means does this excuse any abuse they perpetrated, nor does it excuse them for not reporting abuse they witnessed.

Some staff, though, were the kinds of people that in a normal environment would probably be bullies or just general ass-holes. Some staff clearly enjoyed inflicting pain on the children in their care. I would't be surprised at all if some of them were actual psychopaths.

KidnappedforChrist1 karma

DAVID: Thanks Kate, I'm back safely after battling the internet bitch.

ironpete1 karma


KidnappedforChrist1 karma

DAVID: My parents are not happy about the film; they're quite upset actually. They believe it's a stab against them. While it doesn't put them in the best light for making the choice to send me there, they still don't fully grasp what that program was actually doing to kids. They want no involvement with the film. One day I hope they realize that they were manipulated terribly by New Horizons. It's almost as if they still don't believe the things they did there. Time will only tell.... As far as accepting me for being gay, they've done a complete 180. They accept me and I've had the pleasure of bringing home a boyfriend. My extended family has also reached out to me in acceptance and I'm in a good place.

AlexBerghe2 karma

What's your favorite quote ? :D

KidnappedforChrist10 karma

"Live every week like it's Shark week" - Tracy Jordan (30 Rock)

Ashleysdad1232 karma

How would this compare to those situations where people send their troubled teens against their will to those "boot camps" to reform their bad behavior?

KidnappedforChrist3 karma

It's the same - there are hundreds of boot camps and reform school that use similar tactics that Escuela Caribe did.

sousedbergin2 karma

Is there any legal recourse the children can take against their parents and/or the proprietors of these schools once they come of age?

KidnappedforChrist5 karma

I'm not a lawyer, but yes I would imagine that many teens who were abused would have cases against the people who ran these programs and maybe even their parents for sending them to an abusive program.

Even before they reach the age of 18 it is illegal for them to be abused - so there could be criminal cases brought against abusers regardless of the age of the student. The problem is that in most cases kids who are harmed in these programs don't have the support of their parents and thus find it very difficult to pursue criminal or civil cases against their abusers. Another factor is that most victims don't even come to terms with what happened to them for several years after the fact (very common among abuse survivors of all kinds) and by then its an uphill battle to prove anything since so much time has elapsed.

That's not to say that people shouldn't start pursuing cases against these school - I would LOVE to see lawyers take up some of these cases pro bono and even bring class-action lawsuits against some of these programs. That would start to bring justice to those harmed and would send a strong message to the "troubled teen" industry that they are going to be held accountable for their actions.

darkwind51 karma

I remember reading about some lawsuits against Tranquility Bay, a similar facility in Jamaica. I'm not sure how any of them turned out though.

KidnappedforChrist1 karma

KATE: Same here. There were some successful lawsuits filed against Straight Inc. and a couple of other behavior modification programs (as documented in the book "Help at Any Cost"), but sadly I think these are few and far between.

gogojack2 karma

Hi, and thanks for doing an AMA. I don't have Showtime so perhaps this is answered in the film, but what was - for lack of a better term - the "oh shit" moment, when you realized you were documenting something terrible rather than what you came there to see?

KidnappedforChrist2 karma

See my response to pixel8

omgwtfdiaf2 karma

What's your fav color?

KidnappedforChrist6 karma

Green - but not because that's the color of money (I don't have much of that as an indie filmmaker) because it's the color of trees and I grew up in Michigan with lots of forests around me.

dolphins32 karma

Has there been any governmental response to your documentary?

KidnappedforChrist4 karma

Nothing yet, but I hope that if enough people write to their reps and bring this issue to their attention that I'll be able to start productive conversations with key members of Congress and the Senate soon.

Noble_King2 karma

Since I'm allowed to ask anything, where can I go besides Showtime, but if I have that package I'll check On Demand to watch this documentary?

KidnappedforChrist2 karma

KATE: we will have more information on when the film will become available on itunes, netflix, etc. in the coming months. Also DVDs will be available starting Sept. 1st.

MikeTheInfidel2 karma

I first heard about (and was horrified by) Escuela Caribe in Julia Scheere's book Jesus Land. Thank you so much for shedding more light on this.

Julia's Wikipedia page says Escuela Caribe was shut down in 2011... it's still gone, right? I haven't seen this film yet so I'm desperately hoping what you filmed wasn't the camp after it reopened or something.

ironpete6 karma


KidnappedforChrist1 karma

KATE: ^ what Ironpete said.

Also, it's always important to note that Escuela Caribe and the organization in Indiana which ran the school (New Horizons Youth Ministries) were not shut down, they voluntarily closed. The people who ran the school could re-open another program at anytime under a new name.

magnoliafly2 karma

How has your family responded to your change in faith after witnessing these awful things at Escuela Caribe?

As a former Evangelican Christian myself, I always find it odd that they champion anti-abortion legislation but don't find this type of treatment of children and teenagers a problem at all because it is in the name of God.

Thank you for your work on this film, I really loved it and I hope it helps to get more people talking about these torture facilities.

KidnappedforChrist1 karma

KATE: my family was pretty liberal to begin with, so they were completely fine with me evolving in my faith (of the lack-thereof)

gritdog2 karma


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KATE: I haven't explored that topic yet, however there are many fascinating aspects of Islam and the struggle many Muslim communities face around the world.

ganjafarm2 karma

Hi Kate, what a bizarre and shocking topic. Watching the trailer I became interested right away. When searching I couldn't find a place where I can watch your doc in my area. Are you planning on submitting your doc for play anywhere in Europe/The Netherlands in the near future?

Thank you and good luck!

KidnappedforChrist2 karma


We have a festival in Norway coming up (can't be announced yet because the festival hasn't made their line-up public) and we have submitted to several other festivals in Europe. We are also working on getting the film distributed on Television in the EU and elsewhere. You can always check the website and/our our facebook page ( for the latest.

Upgrayeddz1 karma

You're probably not answering any more questions, but on the off chance that you are, here's one.

Are you aware of any litigation pending against these companies? The most egregious abuses I hear about in this subject generally come from overseas camps, so perhaps it's a jurisdictional thing, but still.. I'm a court reporter, and I've been privy to quite a few elder abuse cases which seem to have many of the same features. Family sends a loved one to an assisted living facility, loved one's health rapidly deteriorates seemingly out of nowhere, and all of a sudden the loved one develops an alarming condition and dies. After troubled family members take the time to investigate, they find that the majority of caretakers, most of whom having not even graduated from high school, go through a half-day course to become "certified" and aren't actually equipped to deal with the level of medical care they are presumably hired to provide. These caretakers have very little understanding of geriatric care, and they consistently make decisions that put their patients into even worse conditions. Naturally, upper management doesn't care to change procedures, since cheap labor is essential to these business models, and bam, lawsuits everywhere.

Anyway, I hope these folks get justice somewhere. Thanks for the great iama!

KidnappedforChrist1 karma

KATE: I am not aware of any pending litigation against the school we filmed at or any other "troubled teen" programs - but that doesn't mean there aren't any active lawsuits, I just might not be privy to them. I hope that many suits will be brought against these places, since they need to be held accountable for the harm they cause.

Daymanahaaah1 karma

Have you had any feedback from larger Non- governmental human rights groups? You've done the world a great service by getting this out there and informing the masses of this truly disgusting practice, what would you like seen done about it, and how do you think this could go about being accomplished?

KidnappedforChrist2 karma

KATE: So far we haven't been contacted by any large human rights organizations like the ACLU, etc. We have worked with several LGBT rights organizations like GLAAD, The Trevor Project, Equality CA, and several others to promote the film.

I would to encourage some of the bigger human rights groups to help lobby congress to pass legislation to regulate private residential programs for teens, as well as to bring class-action lawsuits against the programs with long histories of abuse.

mudmonkey181 karma

I've been to the DR quite a few times, at it seems like religious fever is growing every year, and it seems to get more and more hysterical each year, like revival baptist hysterical. Do you think growing religious fever is a problem in the country? What's your favorite part of the DR?

KidnappedforChrist3 karma

KATE: It's been almost 7 years since I've been in the DR so I can't speak to the growing religions fever there. I can certainly see how pockets of Charismatic evangelicals could quickly get out of control there though.

My favorite part of the DR was probably the beautiful landscape. The mountains and the beaches are gorgeous. I'm also a huge fan of Presidente and Brugal :)

mudmonkey181 karma

Also, I just looked on google maps to see where escuela caribe was located (between Santiago and Santa Domingo for those interested) and it said permanently closed, so hoepfully that's true.

KidnappedforChrist2 karma

KATE: There is another school operating on the same campus called "Crosswinds" or "Caribbean Mountain Academy" they are run by a different organization, but it's the same concept - send troubled kids away to be treated in a foreign country.

matthewv931 karma

Hey as an aspiring director, what were the ways in which you raised money for your production?

KidnappedforChrist2 karma

We raised money on Indiegogo and Kickstarter. Both of those platforms take a lot of work, but can be a great way to raise money and build a fan-base at the same time. We also found private donors through working tirelessly to get press coverage and networking with people who were interested in the issues covered in the film. It was really a lot of hustling :) Also most people didn't get paid while they worked on it, we were very lucky to have such a dedicated team who believed in the project.

matthewv931 karma

Thanks for the reply ! :) Just checked out the trailer for it and will look out for it in the UK

KidnappedforChrist2 karma

Great! Good luck on your future projects.

KidnappedforChrist3 karma

Oh also - there are a lot of grant opportunities out there you should look into. They are often very competitive, but even if you don't get any of the grants you apply for, the process will help you to better develop and articulate your project. Also, once you finish a few extensive grant applications, you will have a sold proposal ready for any investors or donors you happen to meet, so you don't have to scramble to put something together.

Catish751 karma

I'm from a mostly catholic country. In the 20th century we had a dictatorship with strong ties to the catholic church. It was very hard to get a decent education back then (and to escape poverty education was the only way out). School and religion were connected teenagers and children suffered emotional and physical abuse regularly. This isn't an exclusive of my country, it happened in Spain, Ireland and so many other places. So my question is: Did you know this happen in other countries? Why did you think it would be different the Escuela Caribe?

KidnappedforChrist3 karma

I don't know specifically about troubled teen programs in other countries that are not specifically for American teenagers (except in Canada, I am aware of several Canadian programs that are similar to Escuela Caribe). I would imagine that many other countries have places like this if there are no safeguards in-place to monitor them. I think wherever you find parents that are desperate to help their kids you'll find people who want to make money off of them. The key is to make sure that these facilities are not abusive and that only kids who really need in-patient treatment are sent away from their homes.

Catish751 karma

I understand that you are exposing problems that affect America now and that are slightly different from what I was referring to. What I meant was that abusive behaviour towards children and teenagers was widespread in religious organizations. Which included regular schools as well as programs for troubled kids. I thought it was common knowledge that this has been happening for at least decades now. I would like to also thank you for standing up for these kids, for giving them a voice.

KidnappedforChrist3 karma

Yes, unfortunately you are correct that abuse has been happening in many religious schools for decades (if not longer). Perhaps part of the problem is giving adults unchecked authority over children. Most adults aren't going to abuse kids, but some inevitably will use their positions of power to demean and harm the children in their care. The only way, in my opinion, to combat this is to increase accountability and oversight - regardless of the nature of the school.

notacrackheadofficer-3 karma

Wow. will reddit actually start looking st the most important civil rights sub around? /r/troubledteens ?
Because that would be nice to see.
I'll watch the number of subscribers, as I do, to see if they change at all this week. I find it particularly fascinating.
''It's the MEN'S fault'' blather ''It's the women's fault'' blather
.....whispered in the the teens in bootcamp.......
cricket cricket cricket

KidnappedforChrist2 karma

KATE: Maybe we should start a #yesalltroubledteenindustrysurvivors hash tag, kinda long though ...