Junkfood Science: At any time he could have “got up and finished the run” ...but he was dead

October 10, 2007

At any time he could have “got up and finished the run” ...but he was dead

The abuses endured by children sent away to fat camps — be it public humiliation, grueling starvation diets and forced endurance runs — live in the nightmares of countless fat children. More recently, their torture has even become a form of television entertainment as celebrities direct regimens to whip them into shape.

Incredibly, children and teens have no legal protections, and no legal authority is required to inspect facilities for fat or troubled kids or ensure that they are humanely treated.

Anyone can open facilities for kids and teens and market them as "boot camps," "wilderness programs," "tough love" programs...or weight loss camps. No professional qualifications or criminal background checks are necessary. As an article in Huffington Post reports:

Teens placed in these settings do not have any right to appeal their confinement: they may be held without contact with the outside world... Moreover, in the programs, they are often subject to “therapies" that many consider torturous: food deprivation, sleep deprivation, total isolation, punitive restraint and constant emotional and even sexual humiliation. When such tactics are used on suspected terrorists, there is a human rights outcry — but these programs have done everything short of water-boarding kids with impunity for decades.

For example, one girl was made to dress as a prostitute, wearing a nametag that said “Shameful Slut." “Slut, 25 cents" was written on her skin in lipstick. Boys had to yell “slut" and "ho" and “bitch" at her. Others were made to wear diapers and boys were dressed in drag and called “faggot." In another program, a girl was gagged with Kotex; another was made to clean toilets with her bare hands. Some children had to use their toothbrushes first to scrub the floors, then their teeth.

That's not to mention the dozens of gruesome deaths that have occurred because “tough love" ideology does not accept the idea that teens ever have legitimate medical complaints. [I’ll spare you the details.] ... Right now, of course, seven boot camp guards and a nurse in Florida are on trial for manslaughter in another death — that of a 14-year-old boy who couldn't complete required exercises and was beaten and forced to inhale ammonia to prove he wasn't faking. He died proving it....[Florida case story here.]

Today, a full committee hearing on “Cases of Child Neglect and Abuse at Private Residential Treatment Facilities” is scheduled to hear the stories of survivors and the results of a Government Accountability Office report on what’s happening at these camps. Survivors wanting to send their stories to members of Congress can use this contact list.

Sadly, the stories that will emerge from these hearing will probably be more troubling than those that have already come out. But finally, someone is believing children and reaching out to help them.

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