Today I struggle with the facts…
-Oct. 1, 1986: Poetter charged by Douglas Sheriff Earl Lee with three counts of sodomy, one count of cruelty to children and one count of simple battery. At the time, Poetter is believed to be in Mexico City. Carl Maxwell Moore, Poetter’s chauffeur, is charged with sodomy.
Oct 1 1986, I was at Anneewakee. I had been there for a year. During that month I remember only one person being pulled out of the program, and that was one of the first people I ever saw get pulled out!
We came back to our group site after a day of working. There was a car parked at the entrance of our trail. How odd this was. Most parents had never seen Anneewakee. Parents were allowed to come to the first building on the road, this is where we had family counseling. I do not remember parents ever coming past that point. Up till this day we had no hope. No one I knew had ever been pulled out of the program and you usually had to be 18 to go home.
As we walked closer to the trail, one of our group members became excited, and ran to the woman standing outside of that car. It was Sonja’s mom!!! She seemed angry. She wasn’t going to take any shit from our group leader/Staff person. She said ” get your things right now, we are leaving ” I am pretty sure she followed us down the trail to our campsite, and was the only parent to ever do that!!!! Sonja packed her things into a plastic bag and went home that day. We did not get to say good bye to her, not in a real way. The bonds that we made at Anneewakee were unbreakable. I though about her for years and years, she reminds me of an actress I see a lot. Last year I was reunited with her and this makes me happy. I told her how that had given us hope and that made her happy.
I had a family counselling session on Oct 30 or Oct 31st, 1986. I had a copy of our Psychiatrist schedule. It showed how we each went in to see him, 5 minutes apart.
Here is a bill for a month at ATC, Dr Balbona was the Psychiatrist who made sure we all stayed as Anneewakee. He would tell our insurance companies how we needed to stay at Anneewakee, to sty alive…. He did not speak English and one day when I said to him I wanted to be on drugs like some of the other girls, he put me on Ritalin. By 1986 they were charging 100$, twice a week for every 5 minutes we spent with the Dr.
I planned to show my parents proof, finally, that I had been telling the truth the whole time, and this place was full of shit. I had no idea Poetter had been in jail since Oct 6th. I can only assume that this was all over the news and TV at the time, because ever since, when I mention I had been at Anneewakee to someone from Georgia, They knew exactly what I was talking about. I was wearing my Halloween costume. This is how I know my dates were correct. They only let you dress up one day a year at ATC, and that was it.
During Family Counselling, it was also brought up by my Mom, that she thought they had been tampering with my mail. She said that I had dated every letter, and they never had come to her in the order they were written. She wanted to know if this was their sneaky way of making me look crazy and inconsistent..My parents got angry and yelled at my Councillor. I believe they were trying hard not to believe the truth by this point because it hurt them so much to know it. Every single letter I had ever written home, begged them to believe my side of the story and to come get me. For a year they had been told I was lieing….They finally rescued me.
I went home that day…. I went right back to my campsite and packed a garbage bag of my things, I do not think they let my parents come with me to the campsite.
When I went home I did not watch the TV and had no idea any of these things were happening in the news. I found out years later, that I had a chance to go to court and get paid back for a year of hard labor, and more.
Today I still have nightmares. Almost regularly. Usually in my dreams, I am trying to ask for help or tell my story and no one will listen to me. I woke up from a dream last week, and was crying, almost hyperventilating. I normally do not spend a lot of my time thinking about Anneewakee, but my dream inspired me to tell my story and hope some one will listen to it. Maybe once I am done, I can dream about something better.
Right now I have to ask, Where where the angry mobs of parents? Why didn’t they come? No one listened to us!
-Nov. 7, 1986: Nine young women, ages 19 to 24, sue Anneewakee, charging the hospital with racketeering and conspiracy to abuse them sexually and physically, and defraud them financially. Poetter released after five weeks in the Douglas County Jail when friends and supporters raise his $1 million bond.
Mabel Poetter was Doc Poetter’s wife. In March 1987, she was charged with failure to report child abuse. Doc would bring boys into their home and rape them while she was home.
I met her in December 1985. She presented herself as a good Christian woman. She came one night to speak to us girls in the E&O. I had been at Anneewakee for about 2 months now. She spoke to us about how we were never going to be anything other than mothers/house wives, and that is really what God wanted us to strive for. I hated every thing about her. She was just another hypocrite. To make it worse, after her speech, she gave 2, and only 2 girls a cabbage patch doll and said they were voted the “Most Motherly” of our group. After she left the dolls were confiscated by the staff and I never saw anyone with one the whole time I was at Anneewakee. Just more of the psychological bull shit they loved at that place.
I wonder how confused this woman was. She was apparently mentally disabled.
here is her obituary – She never got a divorce and stood by her man’s side, and went to church on Sunday’s.
One night after dinner, it was announced we would all need to go back to our group sites and gather up some winter clothing for the night. They never told us why we did anything….we just did it. They loaded us in vans and drove us to Alabama to go skiing in the middle of the night!!!! I think it was Cloudmont Ski & Golf Resort..
I was anywhere for 150 to 200 of us. I think we all got to go! They rented us all skis and let us go. It was the most fun I had at ATC I think. Most of us being from Georgia, we had no idea how to ski. They had some kind of rope thing that was supposed to pull you up the hill, an I could not figure that out! After trying a few times, I gave up and walked up the hill. I wish I could remember who was with me, because that really was a good night! When I got to the top of the hill, I sat down to put on my skis, and one went on down the hill without me. So that is about as far as I ever got with skiing. Now I live in Colorado and I have still not tried to ski again.
Even though all the girls were there, we could still only talk to our group members. I only remember one of us being able to actually ski. We all stood at the bottom of the hill and watched her come down the hill like a pro! We were cheering her on and saying how amazing she was, when we realized she may not know how to stop! She kept coming toward us, and right before she got to this huge muddle puddle she finally stopped. Then slowly fell face first into the mud. So Totally Awesome!!!!
No one ran away that night. I thought about it the whole damn time, but I was 14 and had no idea where I was. Well, maybe I was 15 now, my birthday is in February. Freedom would be so nice. It is nice now, they have cokes and candy for sale, and there are regular people walking around. I wondered if I told someone would they help me. That is a waste of time, I will just have fun for now.
Our campus was all girls. There were two boy campuses, one in Georgia and one in Florida.
I was in the Group Mahayan. The groups were all named after Tribes. We had cabins, and I always felt lucky about that. Each cabin had a bunk bed on each side, a wood burning stove in the middle for heat, and two desks. we had kerosene lanterns for light and we each had our own refillable lighters, to this day that smell make me nauseous. I had to ask my husband to get rid of his lighter because of it. I remember 4 cabins and a building where we had couches and we had our dressers with our clothing in that room and called it a dressing room. We had a fire pit that we had group therapy at for hours and hours every night, unless it rained and we would use the room with the couches. The out house was outside of camp kind of. At night we had privy buddies, a person who would go to the outhouse with you to keep you from dieing in the middle of the woods, in the middle of the night, alone. Someone also had to get up in the middle of the night and add wood to the fire or we would get very cold! We would wake up at 5 am and hike for what seemed like 30 minutes to take a shower in the shower house, then we walked forever to the dining hall and ate with all the other groups. I think they just wanted to shove it in our faces that we could not talk to each other.
When we were not eating or in group, we were working. Any kind of work would do. We dug outhouse holes, cut grass with sling blades for 8 hours a day in the summer in Georgia, cleared land for new buildings, built new building, laid sod for new buildings, and whatever they could come up with for us to do. Some of the girls earned school. We had to do a book report and write a 10 page (?) book report with no errors at all of any kind. Most girls never got to go to school. School meant less hard labor and it was my number one goal.
Vinson Mountain Road, Rockmart, GA
I would tell you about the levels and things, but I do not remember that, I know you had to earn a crest, and that is when you could go for a home visit with your parents and apply for school. We had to earn everything. We could ask for any privilege that we could come up with. There was a piano in the dinning hall and I asked for my piano privilege. Some had a camera privilege, or radio, or all…..those could be used only during free time and we had little of that.
Mahayan was a small group. I do not remember how many of us there were, we started with two and slowly grew. They put us in groups of girl’s who had similar personalities, and we laughed and played all the time even though we were busy all the time. We talked while we walked.
We must have had Saturday’s off. I remember spending summer Saturday’s at the lake. I think it took an hour to walk to it and it was worth it!
Here is a recent picture of one of our outhouses….
Every Sunday we got dressed up in uniforms and went to a local Baptist Church in Rockmart, I absolutely hated Sundays! It reminded me that life was going on without us and it always made me sad. It made me think that the general public was aware of our plite and did not care…..
Once a week I remember going to see the psychiatrist. He was the doctor that recommended that we stay there to our insurance companies. That seems normal enough. Only, he did not speak English at all, and he spent 5 minutes with us each week. Our parents were sent a bill for 2 one hour sessions with this man every week. I once took a copy of our Dr schedule that showed how we were all scheduled 5 minutes apart, to a family counseling session, and my parents were very angry. I think family counseling was once a month. It was the only time most got to see their parents. It was also the ONLY real counseling I ever got there. The counselor was busy lieing to my parents about everything so that was very helpful.
I do not remember any of our group staff’s names. I never got close to any of them. I think most of them saw how we were mistreated and quit pretty fast. My group, being new, had no long lasting staff, and we saw them come and go often. The staff was all 20-ish and had to live alone in the woods with 10 mentally distraught teenage girls, for like 4 days in a row, with no running water or electricity. We made them cry some times….. They had to work with us and write everything down in a chart every day. Seems like a wonderful job! I can not tell you any horrible stories about the staff, I never lived any. Now that I am adult, I question anyone who ever worked there, and why they never really helped us.
I am not sure how long I spent in the E&O unit. I know I got there some time close to Halloween and spent all the Holidays there without any visits from my parents. Our days were all the same. We woke up and did 15 minutes or so of morning exercises at 5 am, in our pajamas, witch were those gowns with no ass…. Then we would have 5 minutes or so to make our beds in perfect army corners, or whatever you call it. I do not remember getting dressed, but it happened. We had a bathroom with cameras in it. We were allowed in the bathroom for 5 minutes at a time. Even for showers. If you went over, you got into trouble. We were always watched.
We would go into a dinning room with another group of girls and eat our meals. We could not talk to girls in other groups. It was called group mixing and you got in trouble if you did that. No one wanted to get into trouble, they take what little privileges you have away, like your right to leave your room, or your right to wear clothing…..
After we ate each morning we would follow a daily schedule. Each day included, but was not limited to, an hour of letter writing, an hour of group games, an hour of one on ones (just alone time with other group members) an hour of aerobics, an hour of counselling from a doctor, an hour outside in the 10 foot by 10 foot court yard we had, lunch and dinner, shower time, and many hours of group therapy, and many hours of day dreaming. School did not exists. We took turns each week writing the schedule and that was our school. There were 2 E&O groups for girls at that time. We were all aloud to write to our parents and that was about it. All our mail was illegally read by someone. We kept the place hospital clean at all times, no one ever cleaned up after us. I am not sure what our parents thought was going on, but I am sure they thought it was something totally different. They were told not to believe anything negative I said and to believe anything positive. Our parents attended group therapy with other parents…..They were very well brain washed.
The staff was ok. I listened to them like they knew something. I know now they knew nothing. They were young and dumb, just not as young and dumb as I was. I never witnessed any abuse in the E&O. There was no work yet. I picked out one of the staff members to kiss up to. She was into sports and acted like a boy, and was the easiest one to talk to. She had a few other girls who she seemed close to. I would write her letters instead of writing to my parents. This helped me get out of the E&O faster. The staff would all vote on everything, like if you got to move on, or not. I think I became closer to her than I wanted, I missed her later. I wanted to take her to the outside campus with me.
Sometime in the spring I was approved to move to the outside campus. This is when they would tell us what group we would go into. Each group on the outside had different living conditions. Some lived in Tee-pees. some in cabins, some in tool sheds, some in tents. Every group had a campsite with one outhouse that they dug and built themselves. Girls were always excited to find out what group they would be in, and who they would be with from their E&O stay. Once we moved to that new group, we could no longer look at or talk to the other girls we had been in group with before. It was painful. For months and months, you eat sleep and breath these girls into your life, only to lose them in the end. Lucky me! I was going to a campsite with cabins, and no group members yet..I had to go and start a new group. This place sucked, it had to be better than this place!!!
They take you out gradually. I Would go and visit the out side for a day and then come back and talk about it in group. During those days, I was with a group leader on my new campsite, cleaning it up! The cabins had been unused for a long time and everything was covered in cob webs. I think most girls would be getting to know their new group members during this time, but I had none. One day I did get to meet another girl for a moment. She was going to be moved from her group to mine on the day I moved out permanent. After a week or two of that, I moved out there for real. No electricity, no running water. OMG!
I know I never felt worse that the time I spent in the E&O. I am sure I was depressed from the whole experience, confused about my parents love for me, teenagers have enough problems…..This place was making me crazy. If I compare my time spent at Anneewakee to the time I spent in jail, I enjoyed jail more. I missed my parents, music, boys, the sunshine, good food, good anything.
I remember ALL the staff from E&O, their names, faces, and the sounds of their voices.
Here is a picture of the E&O today, We were in the middle of the administrative offices, some stayed here for up to a year. Because it was in the Admin Building, they played elevator music/Peach, 10 hours a day…The Christmas Music starting in November was torture!
We drove far away, I did not really mind. The treatment center I had been at was better than home. I figured it would be ok. When we got there I had to take a personality test. I had not ever taken one before. It was the lamest thing EVER! It was full of oddly worded trick questions and things like ” I hear voices that are not there” true or false? Well, if I hear them then I think they are there….So that is a stupid question. I would love to know how I did.
My parents said goodbye to me and I was taken to a room and stripped of my clothing. They put me in one of those hospital gowns that lets your ass show to the world and I was not given any underwear. I think I did have socks on. This was step 1 I guess. I had to earn my fucking clothing…. What kind of place is this?
More rules than I had ever even considered. I had to stay in my room witch had 2 beds and 2 mattresses on the floor, nothing else. I was not to ever look out the window. I was only allowed to talk to my roommates when they said I could. I had to ask to come out and go to the bathroom. there were invisible lines everywhere I had to stop at and ask to cross. We sat around and talked about our problems all day and night and got fat and our skin grew light from lack of sun. The people in charge were all young, in their 20’s. My first day there one of those 20 year olds came to me and said I had a rat tail, and I was not allowed to have that and she cut all my remaining hair off, leaving me bald basically. It was a lovely place. I actually missed home.
This was E&O. (evaluation and out take) It was only the first part of Anneewakee. I had to earn my way out of that and into some out door group where I would eventually get to have a visit from my parents, and some day maybe in 5 years or so get to go home for a few days. The out door group would have no electricity or running water. We would get to work outside all day instead of sit around all day. Maybe even get to go to school again one day! Most of us were in a hurry to get the hell out of there and into the outside hell awaiting us. I remember one girl though, she refused to try and go out there. She was smart. She said I am not EARNING THAT!!!
It is hard to explain how that felt. I felt like I did not deserve it. I listened to girls talk about drugs and parties, and all kinds of fun that I never had. I never felt so empty and alone before. There was sadness in the air. I felt broken and dissected. I became close to other girls my age in a way I also can not explain. When my friends would cry I would cry with them, and they with me.
I wrote to my parents every single day, and begged them to come get me. I eventually realized I had to become complete bull shit in order to go anywhere. I had to stop asking them to come get me and tell them how well I was doing. My mail was being read and every move I made was being judged. I started kissing the staff’s asses, I talked in group. I admitted I had a problem…..out loud at least. I am 42 now and I still think I never should have been there. Some survivors say it saved their lives. It is what it is.