The lessons I learned at Casa by the Sea
By Sarah Barlow, August 6, 2005



I was just reading a girl's article from your site about how she didn't know what the screaming was that came from the R&R room. Well, I do. I was at Casa shortly after they started. I was the 23rd girl to get there and I have seen everything.

Hi, my name is Sarah and I spent 2.5 years at the behavior modification facility that is called Casa by the Sea. My first day was Jan 3, 1999 and I didn't get to go home until the end of May 2001.

I was so upset when I first arrived that I was unable to eat for two weeks. Finally, they had one of the male staff force feed me by holding me down and shoving food down my throat, which continued even after I vomited. I started out in the "Courage Family," which consisted of a group of girls who where there for various reasons, including drugs, sex, violence, run away, etc. As far as I could tell, all I had done was smoke cigarettes, and get bad grades. I spent about the first two months of my time in the "worksheet room" because I spoke out of turn, or didn't fall to the ground and hide my face in time when the boys passed. Apparently it is considered wrong to look at a guy, which is something that it took me a year to get over when I got out.

All schooling was self study. Most of the books were ok, but the math books really sucked. It took me like 8 months to get through one chapter of Algebra because I didn't understand the teachers' attempts to tutor me.

Every family group has a "case manager" and my first one was Imelda, who stole things that my parents sent me. At least half of the books they sent were never given to me, THREE graphing calculators were stolen. Most of my items that were confiscated from me when I got there were missing when I left, the bin that my stuff was in was somehow gone and my stuff was in a laundry basket.

I remember one day when a new girl in our family ran away, and we were forced to stand in the seminar room all day facing the wall with our noses like an inch away. I never made it to level five or six, and found it almost impossible to get to levels 3 and 4. I had to stop brushing my hair because my red hair got everywhere and I was unable to get all of it out of my brush. When I had to live in a room with a girl who had scabies is when it got really bad because I got it too and was forced to be quarantined and wear an awful smelling cream that I still have nightmares about.

I still wake up in the middle of the night thinking that we have to go outside for a headcount, and I even dream in Spanish at times.

I was once sent out to the gynecologist and was told that I had Gonorrhea, which was impossible because I was a virgin, and had never come into contact with anyone who had that, but of course I had to pay a high price for that visit. I was forced to pay with my college money for all of the school's fees, which left me nothing to go to school on. I was forced to go through seminars every month, and found that if I was unwilling to comply with the program I would never get to go home. I was once put on what they called a "challenge" where I was not allowed to speak at all, and was only allowed to non-verbally communicate with another student and was required to do everything that she told me to do. I was told that it was for my own good. I have so many emotional scars from my time there that I will never be able to move passed. I was constantly used as an example by the administration when we had facility meetings as what not to do, and how not to act, and what was wrong with me. I still constantly think that I can't do anything right because when I was at Casa, I never could. My parents were so convinced that they had to keep me away from my friends that when I got out, I had to go to a different school, and was not allowed to socialize until I turned 18. I sometimes wake up hearing the tapes on the "World's 100 Greatest People" or the "World's 100 Greatest Books" that I had to listen to for hours every day until I was able to figure out how the rules worked. They finally had to send me to "PC-1" because I had been there for so long that they were sick of dealing with me. Then a month and 1/2 later I was woken by one of the "mamas" and told that I was going on a home pass, but that I could not tell anyone. Why not? Because I was a special case, and there was more to it, I just didn't know at the time. When I was at the airport I was given paperwork and plane tickets, in it I found a letter from my parents to the administration thanking them for letting me go through the last seminar in May so that I could come home for good. When I arrived back at Casa for the last two weeks of my stay, I was forced to write a 5000 word essay on the importance of being obedient, because I had told my friends that I was going home. I still don't understand why I should have hidden the fact that I was going home and that I was happy about it! I needed to say goodbye to my friends and prepare them for the fact that I was leaving. I still wish that I had been able to keep in contact with some of them. We all went through so much together that we should keep in thouch.

If anyone was there during the times that I was, please e-mail me at freya_alexander@yahoo.com. I think that the only way that we will ever be able to get over the things that happened to us is for us to talk to each other about it.

Sarah Barlow
August 6, 2005


See Related: Casa by the Sea: A memory that will haunt me forever, By Jennifer Ilona Chambard

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