My name is Aileen Jaramillo, I was at Hephzibah House in 1999 thru 2001 and the following statements are true.
I have to tell you that I can’t remember all that went on for the simple fact that I have done my best to forget that such a place exists. I can tell you that my mother is truly sorry for sending to such a facility and that I came out of there learning absolutely NOTHING.
Upon my arrival at HH, I was stripped of all my clothing and personal belongings as a staff lady watched me and then I had to shower after explaining to them that no less that an hour ago I had showered. They explained to me it was to wash away all my impurities, as to say I had some sort of deadly disease. The girls came in and I starting talking to they and they stared at me as if I was an alien.
Conversing with other girls was forbidden and looked at as only a privilege. It was truly sad and then to only discover I would turn out to act in the same matter as they did. I could go on for days telling you stories that I remember but I will focus on just a few and then what it did to me emotionally and mentally. I can’t say that they ever hit me but I can remember a time they made a comment to me in regards to being "spanked" and being sixteen at the time I clearly told them, "I will turn gangster on you if you ever lay a hand on me." One girl and I will not mention her name did tell me she had been "spanked" and it truly made me cry as I had already heard stories on how "spankings" were done.
They made me perform several embarrassing actions such as an exam in the closet performed my a man who I till this day do not think he was a real doctor, mark my bowels and menstrual cycles or even show them, count my dirty underwear, hold my bladder to the point were I was "dancing" because I could hardly hold it, etc. The girls that couldn’t hold it had to wear a diaper, which I just felt horrible for them.
We had to do numerous chores, exercises in days were it was freezing and snow coming to our knees or unbelievably hot (mind you we had layers of hideous, itchy clothing on.) We would miss meals if things were not done correctly.
When we had a meal the amounts were enormous and I am in no way exaggerating. That was probably one of the hardest things for me, which was trying to consume such large amounts of food in just 20 min. and I knew if I did not finish all of it that it would be what I continued to eat for the next meal. I would get extremely ill from such large portions, yet they continued to serve them to me. I recall one incident were we had Swiss chard for dinner and while I was eating a chewed on something that was obviously not lettuce and then spit it up to see a half chewed worm. The staff stood and debated whether I had to eat what I had thrown up, after debating I did not have to but did have to eat the rest of the worm that was in the Swiss chard. Then I took a bathroom break, (to throw it up) which was not scheduled so I received 20 demerits which resulted in me being on punishment for the next week.
I had to write countless sentences and could not take part in activities that showed an ounce of fun. The Bible and God were shoved down our throats as punishment and clearly not what God intended it for. They make it very difficult to continue your high school education anyplace else but there. The picked a curriculum that I have yet to find any other school to offer.
We were only allowed to see our parents every four months and they visitation was only three hours long. I could not write to anyone except for immediate family. I got one a call a month which was only 20min to talk to my entire family. We had a staff member that would sit less than a foot away and connected to another phone to hear everything and if they felt it necessary suspend the call. This visitation was not only monitored but short and ridiculous for the significant amount of money that was spent for families to get there.
They had my parents send a certain amount of money every month including all my necessities and supplies that I would need. They had clothes, food, material, money, etc. donated yet the always wanted more and it was never for us girls. I couldn’t imagine how our water bill was so high seeing that we only were allowed a three minute shower.
I did and said what I had too to make it there and by the end of my stay I was extremely confused. I didn’t keep 99% of their standards or beliefs, but at the same time I felt as if I was the wicked person that walked the Earth because I didn’t continue in their cultish ways. They made me feel that I wasn’t good enough for anything or that I would never make it in the world.
I now have a wonderful husband, two beautiful boys, and live a pleasing, successful life. HH does nothing to make, train or teach a woman to be a better Christian or a well respected citizen. I still have weekly horrible dreams of the things that went on while I was there and wake up in a panic mood. I think about it daily and try to understand what sort of pleasure and accomplishment they get for treating people in such a demeaning manner.
We were constantly working and till this day if I am not engaging in work or some form of activity I feel guilty and lazy. Yet at the same time I keep myself busy so I don’t dwell on it much otherwise I get depressed.
It has been 8 years and I continue to have a wall up and will not allow people into my life. I shun any form of help seeing as the only kind I "received" from HH has done nothing for me. It is something that I struggle and work on daily.
I hope that from this statement I save one girl from the treatment I received.