My name is Marissa Joungblood and I attended Hephzibah House from June 1998 to January 2003.
My memories and experiences at Hephzibah were far from pleasant.
I wouldn't describe myself as a bad kid; I was a normal teenage girl with the normal problems of those awkward years everyone goes through. I remember I had cut class and a big deal was made of it....well i was deemed as a rebellious child and therefore sent to Hephzibah.
I personally was never physically abused though I was abused emotionally. They seemed to enjoy public ally humiliating girls including myself. I remember a few girls made to wear depends because they were unable to hold it until the staff decided to take all of us to the bathroom. We were made to drink a lot of liquids and I remember having to take a lot of vitamins making you have to go frequently.
One incident I remember shortly after I arrived was one of the girls was speaking out about something right before church and Patti (Ron Williams wife) was called down and Wendi (Don Williams wife). Patti had slapped the girl across the face and put her in one of the closets and we were all rushed off to church. The girl was left behind with Patti and Wenda, and I could just imagine what went on when everyone had left. She was made to lay in bed for the rest of the day. This was a quick reminder to me that I had better do everything I was supposed to do.
Another unpleasant thing, of many that I remember, was some so called doctor came down to give us an exam. I told him I was a virgin and he still continued with the pap smear or pelvic exam not sure exactly what he was doing. I was in extreme pain! He also had the hardest time taking my blood poking me several times. I've never had anyone have such a hard time taking my blood.
I also remember the tremendous amounts of food we were given to eat in a certain amount of time. This was very difficult for me because all too often I couldn't finish in time and had to eat it at the next meal (including the other meal). Sometimes a few of us girls would sit and rock in our chairs trying to get the food down. I was told I was rebellious because I had such a hard time finishing my food.
There was absolutely no privacy for ANYONE. We had a "BM" chart where we had to record what kind of bowel movement we had made that day. If you forgot to sign it it resulted in demerits.
I remember having to do back breaking work made for a man to do. Carrying five gallon buckets of dirt, water, rocks. Work was always a priority over school. If there was a project to be done we were pulled out of school to do it. I feel we were used for labor many times.
I also remember a lot of food was donated to us from stores and food banks. The Williams and other staff would sort though it and use all the good food for themselves.
Most things I chose to forget and push out of my mind. I think Hephzibah House does more harm than help. Maybe their intentions are good but what they are doing is really no help. I hope my statement could be of some help.