Imagine being a teenager, roused in the middle of the night by strangers; they take you out of your bed and your home by force, then drag you onto a plane—literally, if you fight them—to a foreign country, where you’re effectively a prisoner at a labor camp.
Now imagine that all this was done at the behest of your parents, for any reason they wanted—including being gay.
Unfortunately, this is the reality for thousands of US teens in “tough love” programs, for which their captors are paid handsomely. Such organizations charge $2,000 a month or more, and their scare tactics pull in enough parents to make treating “troubled teens” a two-billion-dollar industry. Most operate partially or entirely outside US borders, which means they go unmonitored by any outside agency; none of them are subject to federal regulation.
For the documentary “Kidnapped for Christ,” director Kate Logan managed to get access to an Evangelical Christian reform school, Escuela Caribe, located in the Dominican Republic, where she interviewed several American teenagers being kept there, and documented their living conditions. The school is advertised as a “therapeutic Christian boarding school” whose mission is to “help struggling youth transform into healthy Christian adults.”
The documentary crew says that in reality, “so-called therapeutic boarding schools, boot camps, and wilderness rehabilitation programs take in teenagers with a wide range of issues and use unsafe and often harmful tactics to reform them. Using political connections, religious affiliations, and substantial amounts of money, many such camps and schools have committed inappropriate and abusive acts behind their guarded walls for decades with impunity.”
It also notes that since the 1970s, “at least 157 American teens have died in behavior modification programs.”
As of early December 2013, “Kidnapped for Christ” is 90 percent finished, and the crew is set on premiering the film in January 2014; however, while filming is complete, post-production doesn’t come cheap. The team successfully raised $10,000 on Indiegogo in early 2012; for the final $25,000 they need, they’ve set up a campaign on Kickstarter.
Director Kate Logan told 429Magazine, “Like most people, I had no idea that these types of programs existed, where American teens could be sent away for any reason and subjected to dangerous treatment methods and often physical abuse. When I stumbled upon the school featured in the film, I was completely shocked that this was happening and that no one was doing anything to stop it.
“I found that teens had been sent to Escuela Caribe (the school featured in the film) for reasons ranging from mental health issues, running away from home (often because there was abuse), drug use, eating disorders, identifying as LGBT, premarital sex, and even for things a simple as fighting with their parents. Yet, every student was treated like a hardened criminal. When some students insisted that they hadn’t done anything wrong, they were told that they were not being ‘in reality’ and eventually many of them fabricated stories of drug addictions or crimes they had committed, just so they could please the staff members who insisted that they were hiding their past transgressions.
“This project has been a real labor of love for everyone involved.”
The Kickstarter page adds, “We need your passion and support to take us through the home stretch.
“The $25,000 we are raising through this campaign will go towards three essential things we need before we premiere: music composition, sound mixing, and errors and omissions insurance.
“Since our last fund-raising campaigns we have been able to complete the remaining interviews and shoots, finish editing the film, and get most of our graphics done. We’re 90% of the way there! Now we need to finish the last 10% of the work on the film so we can bring it to the largest audience possible.”
As a project with the International Documentary Association (IDA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, contributions on behalf of the film are tax deductible (minus the value of any thank-you rewards).
Backer rewards range from DVDs and posters to co-producer credit and personal thank-you dinners with the crew, including executive producer Lance Bass. As an added bonus, those who donate $100 or more before December 15 will get a signed holiday card in time for Christmas.