My name is Sharlene Davis-Curnow VCA 1988-1992.
Let’s start from the beginning; my mother married a man when I was 10, when they married he point blank told me "I already raised 3 kids of my own I don't want to do it again".
I was 13 years old when my parents had heard of this "boarding school" for girls from some of their friends at church.
At this point in my life I was mouthy and failing in school but I had not yet done drugs ect.. the worst I had done at that time was to sneak out and toilet paper a friend's house. My mother's husband was very verbally abusive, she told me she was sending me there to save me from a horrible life with him. According to my mother divorce was not an option that she wanted to do again in her life.
I went shopping with my mother for new clothes that would be suitable for the school as I was still under the impression that it was your typical boarding school that you would see in the movies.
When we pulled up the dirt road to the school I was ok until I saw the what seemed to be a 50 foot tall chain-link fence with barbed wire on the top and a very large gate that automatically opened for us to drive through.
We were met in the entry by the staff along with a couple of other girls. They allowed me to say my good byes to my mother, it was a very tearful one as up until I was 10 it was just me and my mother. She was my life.
They whisked me back to this institutional like bathroom filled with a horrible sterile smell, told me to get undressed, take a shower and wash with lice soap. I was a basket case. I had been on anti-depressants and I was told I would no longer need them so they just abruptly took me off my medication (I found out as an adult this could have caused seizures along with other adverse side effects).
I was put on buddy and did not like the girl I was paired up with nor did I like anyone there as I was your typical teenager who did not like being told what to do. I also had a pretty severe issue with lying. It seemed I would lie before I could even think about the truth.
These behaviors led to some horrible events in my life. I was placed in the GR(get right room).This room had plywood walls, industrial office carpet, 1 small light in the ceiling, and an industrial lock with a peep hole on the outside of the door. I was in there for several days on several occasions. My food was brought to me and I was allowed only to leave the room to take a shower. When I was not in GR I was sitting in the corner writing sentences all day and was not even allowed to go to school while in the corner. I wrote lines in the corner, ate in the corner, and the only time I was allowed to come out was when it was time for chapel or bed.
At one point I was made to stand all day in the dinning hall with my nose to the pole while the entire school and staff went on with their day as usual. We were made to write the book of James if someone said "oh my gosh". We had huge dorm searches where girls under things would be put on display. If a torn fingernail was found on the floor they would round us all into the dorm until someone would confess and if they didn't we would all pay the consequence. We had to endure an activity called sheep and goats. They would label each girl either a sheep or goat. Goats got nothing but to go back to the dorm and have quiet time while the sheep got to have a party.
I was called a "puke", a "liar" and several other things I have managed to block from my memory. I wrote letters to my mother that never made it to her as I was told I was trying to manipulate her.
I finally got to see my mother after the first 30 days, all I could do was cry. I tried to tell her what was going on but she was being manipulated by the staff with their fake concern, fake smiles, and were so nice to me while she was there.
I finally got smart and "got saved" several times in fact, as that seemed to be the only way I could get a second chance around there.
Life in hell went on and it was pretty much one tumultuous event after another. In 1989 my time was over, my mother took me home and I was enrolled in a Christian high school. I was out for 7 months. I did start to behave worse than before and sneak out of the house more and more. Finally my parents said “hey lets go visit Victory”. Me being so utterly stupid agreed, not that it would have mattered if I opposed. We went on a Sunday I sat through Church service with my parents and immediately after the service we were greeted by the staff at which point we were invited to stay for lunch. Needless to say once the girls left the chapel, the staff and my parents took me into a room and told me I was not leaving. My heart sunk. I remember waking up the next morning crying, thinking Oh my God I am here again.
This time I had learned how to play the game from my previous stay. So no GR or corners for me this time. However one early morning not to long after I had arrived maybe about 2 or 3 months, I was told to get my things together, get dressed, that my mother was on her way to go on a plane with me to Florida. I was actually excited as I hated the walls of the Ramona school.
My mother and I flew to Florida and while on the plane I tried to save a Mormon Man. We got to the airport in Florida and we were greeted by the staff. We were taken to the Jay, Fl school and it was this huge house almost mansion like. It was a totally different world as there were only 3 other girls there besides myself.
We ate at a normal dinning table in the kitchen and got to have seconds. We went to this little church in town ran by Brother Jimmy who seemed to spit saliva every time he preached and they had a horrible choir, the song "Turn the radio on" still is remembered. We did our school work, worked out in the yard, took trips on the tractor, chased snakes around the property and chopped of their heads. Life was what seemed to be better there. Still the indoctrination continued and we were still basically told that women were the lesser of the human species. While there I received a phone call from my mother and she told me that her and my step-father were getting a divorce. "Right On!" I thought as I was under the impression that would mean I was coming home.
Oh how life had another plan entirely for me. My mother who was manipulated by the staff decided that it would be a good idea for her to work at the Ramona school so she packed up all her belongings and moved there. She made 300.00 a month to run the kitchen. The difference between my mother and most of the other staff is she genuinely loved the girls. She thought she was doing what God wanted her to do.
Once my "time" was done in Florida I was put on a plane only to return to Ramona to live. Not as a girl in the school, but, a "staff kid". This was different. I hung out with the owner’s daughter and her husband, was taught how to drive in the staff vehicles, and would sneak into the walk in with my mom in the middle of the night to eat left over 5 layer desert.
After a few months the Ramona school was officially closed by the state of California. My mother and I stayed at the school until the last girl was either transferred to Florida or went home with their parents.
Once closed it was desolate no one was there but my mother and myself. Oh how eerie the place was and so full of residual negative energy. My mother and I packed up our van and drove cross country to the Florida school where she and I lived for the first few months in a 20' travel trailer. I would go to school but would hang out with the girls most of the time.
In 1991 my life took yet another unexpected turn. My mother told me one night that she had received a phone call from my step-father; he was going to be in Louisiana and wanted her to go there to meet him for the weekend. I begged my mother not to go as I knew how utterly manipulative he was, a real womanizer. I told her before she left that I knew if she went that she was going to get back together with him. She assured me this would not happen. So off she went, she came back and told me what I knew was going to happen all along.
She was getting back together with him! I was upset as I never developed a good relationship with him. I never thought for a minute that I would be placed back in the school as a girl in the program. Unfortunately that is what happened. My mother got married at the Florida school; I was then placed back in as a girl in the program while my mother and step-father left to go live their lives. I was told I could leave when I finished high school.
When I was placed back in the school I sometimes think that Mrs. P felt sorry for me because she would allow me to go on the weekly all day shopping trips with her and Debbie. I was able to go spend the night at Debbie's house and use the phone when I wanted with in reason.
Through my entire affiliation with the school not only were the girls dictated to by Brother P but the staff was as well, and very closely. New staff would come and if they did not fit the mold they would mysteriously disappear being "called by God to do other things".
I finished my paces early, a year earlier than I should have because I wanted to get out. All I wanted to do was to be with my mother. My mother paid for and reserved my dorm room at Pensacola Christian College as that is where I was to go after high school however, I had different plans. My mother and step-father came for my graduation and they took me cross country to go to their new home in Oregon for the summer until school started. Once we got to the West Coast I told my mother I did not want to go back to Florida. I was finally 18 and they could no longer dictate to me where I was to be.
I enrolled in the local community college in Oregon but all of a sudden I discovered men, drugs and all the things that I had been previously accused of by the school but had not yet ever done.
My life has been very hurtful and challenging. I am now going to be 36 years old. I have had 1 failed marriage and am now on my 2nd. I have a beautiful 14 year old daughter who I have had the privilege to help raise since age 3. My relationship is like no other with her as I learned one thing in that place called VCA and that is, our children are precious gifts not to be thrown away like trash. Life happens and there is no teenager on this earth who is perfect. As long as you keep open communication even if it is something as a parent you don't want to hear, it is the best gift ever. I also have a wonderful son who is 3 he was born with a rare brain defect and is a strong, brave, and intelligent boy. I have my oh so supportive husband of 10 years Al who talks with me and listens to all my horrible stories of my past. He helps me realize that I am not trash, I am a woman who deserves the best life has to offer.
So everyone that is my story, I am a survivor and I am so thankful for the life I have now.
Note from Christian School Confidential: A reunion is being planned for survivors of the Victory Home for Girls. Read this account of the 'first reunion' which occurred last week in Mission Viejo.
Article: First of many.