Kidnapped for Christ, a forthcoming documentary, tells the disturbing story of evangelical teenagers sent to a "Christian reform school" in the Dominican Republic. Their parents send them there to rid them of such "problems" as homosexuality and insubordination; the physical and psychological abuse the youth endure is terrifying.
The film centers around David, a gay youth from Colorado whose parents sent him to Escuela Caribe after he came out to them in 2006. The film's production team writes:
"Like many others, David was taken in the night without warning by a 'transport service' and was never told where he was going or when he would be brought back home. While at Escuela Caribe, David had no way of communicating with any of his friends or family back home until the filmmakers arrived and he decided to ask them if they would smuggle out a letter that he had secretly written to his best friend."
Peter Menig, a former Escuela Caribe
student inmate, describes his experience at the school on the Kidnapped for Christ blog:
"'Escuela Caribe.' When I first read those words in the glossy pages of a pamphlet handed to me by my parents, images of beaches, palm trees, and coconuts filled my mind. It appeared to be a fun, exotic Christian summer camp. Things had been tense at home and agreeing to go through this program in the Dominican Republic would make my parents happy. So, after being promised that I could enroll in college in the fall, I agreed to go to the Dominican for the summer. Just in case they planned on keeping me there longer, I had saved up enough cash to buy a plane ticket home. Little did I know that my passport would be locked up along with any hope of leaving even after I turned 18...
"When I first arrived on the remote campus, way up in the mountains, it was immediately clear that it wasn't a regular Christian Bible camp. None of the other students spoke to me or made eye contact. Armed guards patrolled the campus and the windows were barred.
"I got a crash course in 'the Program' - the complex points and levels system and seemingly endless list of rules governing our every move. Some students couldn't even walk from one room to another or go to the bathroom without asking permission from a male staff member. Standing, waiting for permission to just walk across the living room was humiliating. I was often ignored so that I would be late on my jobs, which elicited more punishments.
"Consequences for breaking rules were severe. Students were sometimes locked up in 'the quiet room,' which was a tiny concrete room with just a bucket to go to the bathroom and a thin pad to sleep on. Students would have to spend hours doing pointless labor like scrubbing a pot, digging a hole and re-filling it, or moving rocks from one end of a field to another, sometimes ALL DAY."
When Peter made the mistake of allowing a friend to massage his shoulder, which was sore from cutting grass with a machete, he saw how viciously the school treats gay students.
"Immediately, veteran students around us reported this to our house staff. For the next 20 minutes I was yelled at and berated by a staff person for touching a gay student. He couldn't understand how I could let someone so filthy touch me. I remember the loathing and hate that was in his voice. I remember him saying, 'If you only knew who he was you never would have let him touch you.' My punishment was swats on the ass with a leather strap, administered by a 30-something male staff member with others watching. My housemate's were much worse.
"For the next few weeks, I lost the few privileges I had. I wasn't allowed to talk to my gay housemate and we had to keep at least 8 feet between us at all times. We needed special permission to sit at the same dinner table. Then he wrote in his 'private' journal about wanting to run away, so they took away his shoes. He drank window cleaner, a cry for help, and instead of helping him he was punished and no one was allowed to talk about the incident. Like I said, you did not want to be gay at Escuela Caribe."
Kidnapped for Christ premieres next month at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Watch the trailer after the jump.