Thursday, March 12, 2009

REFORM AT VICTORY - a survivor's story

"Michele Ulriksen's story is a compelling personal story that also contains a pointed political message. Ms. Ulriksen exposes the damage that can be done by those whose religious mantles cover up abusive ideologies and anti-therapeutic methods. I hope this account will impel parents who want help for 'troubled teens' to learn much more about their options and compel legislators to carefully examine all requests for funding of 'faith based' childrens' services before doling out tax dollars to support them."
- Barry W. Lynn, Author and Executive Director of Americans United for the Separation of Church & State

"The reason we have a fence surrounding the property is to keep boyfriends out who keep trying to rescue their girlfriends." Mike Palmer, the former proprietor of the Victory Christian Academy in Jay, Florida, once told me.

I kept waiting for one of the boyfriends to make an appearance while reading Reform At Victory - a survivor's story, written by Michele Ulriksen, a former resident of the House of Palmer.

Michael Palmer, a former photographer, followed in the footsteps of his hero, Lester Roloff, by opening a chain of girl's homes throughout the world. If you send your daughter to his schools, she will be thrown into a small room. She will be deprived of human contact and subjected to non-stop tapes of Jerry Falwell.

It's the wet dream of every bitter fundamentalist parent. Your vegetarian daughter will be forced to eat meat. If she throws up, she will be accused of pretending. Your daughter will be forced to eat the food again. Never mind the vomit.

If she asks a question about evolution, she will be made to write, over a hundred times, sentences that affirm she will never question the ways of the Lord!

The girls at the Victory Home for Girls, in Michele's book, are routinely chastised as 'whoremongers and drug addicts', even if they never engaged in drugs or sex.

Michael Palmer, or Brother P, does not hit the girls, however. He just pushes them around. Hard.

Real gentlemen, Brother P.

It doesn't take much to get your daughter into this home. She doesn't even need a criminal record. She just needs to dress black (a favorite). Listen to punk. Rock. Goth. But why limit ourselves?

If the behavior is weird, you can send her there!

Getting her there might be a problem. No truly rebellious girl will let a parent drive her to a prison of their choice.

The parent must lie.

If there are parents that do not wish to cross the line and 'lie' to their children, there are always 'escort services'.

Dr. Allison Pinto, Clinical Psychologist at Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, in the afterword to Reform at Victory, paints a chilling picture of children met by strangers hired by their parents to bring them to these lock down facilities.

Yeah, that shows real integrity, doesn't it?

Each of these kids are worth about $1200 a month, although, with the recession, it's hard to tell if the price of rebellious teens is still at a premium.

The facilities are surrounded by a fence.

Sometimes a small fence, like I saw when I stopped by the facilities in Jay, Florida back in 1993.

The Victory home, when it operated in Ramona, CA, had formerly been an FBI facility. It had a ten foot electric fence.

Fences seem to be necessary in Palmer's world. Not to keep the girl's in, he said, but to keep the boyfriend's out!

I kept waiting for one of the boyfriend's to show up while reading Reform at Victory.

Didn't happen.

The only male who showed up was a brother to one of the residents.

He was such an appetizing male, Palmer instructed his sister remove ALL photos of her brother from her bunk walls. That way, the other girls won't have anything to lust after.

Michele is forced to spend one year in this facility. She cannot speak with her parents during the first three months. All letters to her parents must be read by staff so she doesn't spread 'lies'. 'Lies', in this case, means anything negative about the home, even if it's the truth.

She buckles down. Memorizes the verses. Writes the lines, then finds herself behaving exactly like the girls she hated when first thrown into the Get Right room.

It is a routine scenario:

Car drives up. Girl does not want to enter the home. Palmer and staff take her by force. She is thrown into the Get Right room while a 'buddy' waits outside telling her that they only want to help her. She cannot talk to, or make eye contact with, anybody except her 'buddy', until after thirty days.

Michele is now a buddy, but trying to be good so she doesn't find her stay in the home extended.

Her departure date grows near. Palmer encourages the girls NOT to find each other after they leave.

They will only drag each other down. . .or find each other on the internet and try to alert the world to the abuses happening in homes like these.

Michele leaves the home. Her ACE education was inadequate. This high school student only received the equivilant of a sixth grade education!

Her mother passes away a year later. Cancer. All that valuable time wasted.

Palmer's home continued to be investigated by California authorities before it was closed down on Valentine's Day, 1991.

The book ends with Michele putting her life back together, but the saga of Michael Palmer continues.

Carey Dunn, a girl described by a survivor of the Palmer homes, as a 'ray of sunshine' is killed when Palmer forces her to engage in construction work. A stack of dry wall falls on her.

Palmer survives this investigation, but the home is finally closed after a woman from the home finally tells her story on public access television.

He leaves California and sets up shop in Jay, Florida. It is at the Jay, Florida home where Rebecca Ramirez accuses Palmer of raping her.

"He said it was God's will." Rebecca told The Messenger.

Bonnie, the mother of Rebecca, told of a call from Patty Palmer, Michael's wife, that he was on his way to their house and had his guns. When he arrived, Palmer was cleaned up, polite, took the parents to a restaurant, and offered $25,000 (dowry?) to marry the young girl.

The parents turned him down, and Rebecca continues warning people about Palmer's tactics.

"I feel like it's my fault for believing this person." Bonnie told The Messenger. "I'm her mother. I want to protect her from all bad things and here I send her to a place where this happens. It's really, really hard."

The Florida Association of Christian Child Caring Agencies is no longer involved with Palmer, but the facilities they do license are still under scrutiny for neglect and abuse.

Palmer opened another home in Mexico called Genesis by the Sea. It was closed down by Mexican authorities because of abuse and neglect.

Wow! He couldn't even stay open in Mexico, a haven for abusive and questionable health facilities!

The latest saga has Palmer in Fort Dodge, Iowa, where he may, or may not, be considering opening another facility. Michele's book alerted the press to Palmer's tactics.

If this sounds like a crusade against one man, keep in mind there are many 'Michael Palmers' throughout the United States. Men, and couples, and sometimes women, running unaccredited homes, and 'schools', for children with little concern from the state.

Julia Scheeres, in her book Jesus Land writes a chilling account of an evangelical girls and boys home in the Dominican Republic. There is no need to conform to the standards set in the United States for these homes. Children are also subjected to treatment we associate with prisoners of war (isolation, diet deprivation, sermons being played for hours on end) until they snap and co-operate.

This is generational persecution.

This is not rehabilitation.

It is brainwashing.

Most children who are sent to places like New Horizons, and Victory Christian Academy, or the now defunct Genesis by the Sea, have been sent for the 'crime' of being different.

Dressing different. Listening to strange music. Asking questions about the contradictions they see in the lives of their parents, youth leaders, and pastors.

Julia Scheeres has described the home she was incarcerated in as a 'dumping ground for the problem children of wealthy evangelicals'.

Indeed, a deposition from the defunct Bob Gray child molestation trial had one girl sent to a Roloff home because she was pregnant.

Out of sight. Out of mind.

Democrats and Republicans, unfortunately, give lip service to faith based programs like these. If they really knew the devastation that homes like these cause, would they still be as willing to indiscriminately praise such 'institutions'?

Reform at Victory and Jesus Land are two books that should be in the hands of every United States congress man, and woman, pondering the reality of Faith Based ministries for children.

Michael Palmer timeline and connections as presented by

Palmer Home, Jay, Florida.

Clip of headline where Palmer denies any connection to Jay, Florida property.

My middle finger points to the Get Right room. This is a scale model of the compound from when it was an FBI facility.

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