Tough Love | Teen Ink

Tough Love

January 7, 2012
By asian7art SILVER, Basalt, Colorado
asian7art SILVER, Basalt, Colorado
6 articles 3 photos 5 comments

“All my instincts said ‘leave this place now’ but I didn’t listen to my instincts.”
-Michael Harvey

All over the world, teens are being subjected to these “wilderness rehabilitation camps”. These camps are said to be designed for teens that are being defiant or have a drug addiction that their parents just don’t want to put up with anymore. They send their children to “tough love” camps with high hopes that their son or daughter will come back with a better outlook on life as well as a positive character building experience. Sounds great doesn’t it? All of your teen’s problems can be taken care of by a facility in the middle of nowhere. So, on the flip side to that, what if your child doesn’t come back? In Erica Harvey’s case, she didn’t come back.
Erica Harvey died on a hike in a Catherine Freer Wilderness Therapy Program. The camp noted that she refused to eat or drink anything from the camp. While on a hike the next day, her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she toppled off the trail into a deep ravine. She was unconscious and had no pulse. The camp staff thought she was faking it. Only after a while did they start giving her CPR. The EMT had never been on a trek before. The inexperienced staff radioed in for a rescue helicopter and gave them the incorrect coordinates therefore decreasing the chances of her survival. Her cause of death was dehydration and heatstroke.
Erica Harvey is far from being the only victim of this boot camp in particular. Aaron Bacon, 16, also died while enrolled in this program. While in the camp, Aaron complained about a pain in his stomach. The staff didn’t believe him. They called him a slacker and a faker. He told them that he was in so much pain that he could not carry his backpack. Their solution? Since he could not carry his backpack, which contained his food, he would not have food. Throughout his stay at the camp, he had lost 23 pounds because everyone that ran the camp was too ignorant to realize that he had a perforated ulcer. Upon later examination of the body, the medic reported that, had there been earlier medical attention, the condition could have been stopped and Aaron’s life could have been saved.

These camps abuse, humiliate and demoralize these teens by putting them through brutal exertion and emotional damage. The staffs at these camps tear down the participants bit by bit till there’s nothing left. Many of these kids may have become more respectful or gotten clean, but the emotional trauma that they have experienced will be more damaging than any drug they have ever tried. Charles Bufe states, "Tough Love: Abuse of a type particularly gratifying to the abuser, in that it combines the pleasures of sadism with those of self-righteousness.” Let me clarify what he just said. “Abuse is particularly gratifying to the abuser.” Does this sound beneficial to a child in need of rehabilitation? Emotional and physical abuse should never be a part of any sort of rehabilitation. People get rehabilitated from being abused. Tough Love camps tell parents, “We will build your child’s character.” What they mean is “we are going to push your kid to the farthest point they can be pushed. We will make them endure physical tasks that they could never accomplish. We will call them names and beat them to teach them respect. We will take every ounce of stamina your teen has and crush it.”

Silverman, Amy. "Losing Erica." Phoenix News, Events, Restaurants, Music. 05 Nov. 2009. Web. 08 Jan. 2012. <>.

"Children's Gulags." Orange Papers. Web. 08 Jan. 2012. <>.

Ross, Brian, and Rhonda Schwartz. "Tough Love Teen Camps." ABC News. 10 Oct. 2011. Web. 08 Jan. 2012. <>.

The author's comments:
After watching the movie Boot Camp, I was inspired to look deeper into tough love camps

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