Donna Lynn Trout – New Bethany Home for Girls, Arcadia, La.
My time in New Bethany Home for Girls in Arcadia, La., was from November 1985 to October, 1986. I was put in New Bethany by my Mother. I just wanted to be left alone with my boyfriend, but my Mother did not “approve” of him. So, there I was in Arcadia, La. looking at a compound behind a 12 foot fence topped with barb wire and electric wire. There was a line of girls all dressed the same – blue skirt, white shirt and red vest.. They were all walking in a line over the road which was also fenced in to another building. My first thought as we pulled up was, “What the hell!” Little did I know that this was where I was being brought.
We entered the building and were greeted by Miss Nora. She was a scary looking woman. I was led off by another girl to change my clothes. She told me that once I learned the rules and how to fit in, everything would be fine. I told her it didn’t matter because I wasn’t staying. I left the bathroom to find my Mom and tell her I wasn’t staying there; but she was gone. She left me there alone. So, I decided to rebel. We went for supper, but I refused to eat. I never ate that kind of food before — okra and beans. I was from Michigan. We didn’t eat that. The next day, I didn’t eat, didn’t talk. Nothing. I would get out one way or another. I did this for days until they decided to tie me up and force the food down my throat. That’s when I met Mack Ford. He told me the devil was in me and he was there to bless him out of me. After this, my plan was to run. They shut the outside world away from us. Nothing was familiar to us or what we had ever known. We weren’t allowed to cut our hair, but God forbid we let it get in our eyes. Many of us just wore pony tails. Church services often entailed standing in front of the church during the service while Mack Ford degraded us. They read any and all letters going in and going out of the home. They monitored everything. They took so much of our stuff and threw it away. Our parents provided what snacks we received, but, they stayed locked in a room. We did not have free access to what our parents would send us. If we were good, we would get them like once a month and a few minutes outside. No television. No radios. One five minute phone call a month to our parents. The calls were always on speakerphone and they listened to everything to make sure we did not tell our parents anything about how they were treating us.
I tried to tell my parents once what was happening, but the phone was taken from me and then I received licks from Miss Nora. That woman could hit, but not as hard as Mack Ford and David Garris. I don’t remember any good times from there. I do remember talking about running with Stacy Liner and Kelly Riley and a Lisa Chic from California, but Nora had the room bugged and confronted us during devotions that very night.
I was put on strict watch then, and was not allowed to speak with anyone. I couldn’t go to the bathroom by myself and received “licks” once again. I left for three days in January for an ear surgery and stayed in a hotel with my parents. I tried to convince them of what was happening at the home, but they thought I just wanted out. I did, but with reason. So, I went back to hell at New Bethany and decided to fake it. I played along and acted like them and acted like I got “saved”. That was hard. I really had no choice. I played the role for a few months but, seeing all the beatings taking place and the constant degrading of us girls daily took its toll on me. The bullshit that happened every single day caused me to decide to run. Others tried to run, why not me? A couple of the girls made it, I think, because they never were brought back and were never found. They never checked the hidden wells on the property either. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they found someone there.
So, one night, I decided to do it. I was doing my watch and had put paper in the doors when I closed them to get back out. I made it outside, threw a shirt over the fence and almost made it over when I was grabbed and pulled back down. It was two boys and behind them stood Mack Ford and Mr. Garris. They pulled me down and I began to fight. I gave them a hell of a fight, but they over-powered me. Mack grabbed me by the arm and led me back into the house. Once inside, Nora and three girls took me. I was so tired and sore and didn’t know what was going to happen. They took me to the back and there stood Mack Ford with his wooden paddle. I swear it was a 2 X 4 with a carved handle. He told me to grab my ankles and began hitting me. I wanted to die. How could someone hit a child so much! After 13 hits, he stopped. I was hurting so badly that I was almost numb. Then he handed the paddle to Mr. Garris and he began beating me. He stopped at 10. I could hardly move the next day. I was put on pots, scrubbing pots for hours with a steal pad, standing while the Bible was read to me. I didn’t lay or sit on my back side for over a week. I showered only the front of my fingers. My fingers were so tore up that you could see the bones. I wrapped them with toilet paper. After that, I shut down. I didn’t take any phone calls. After 3 months, my Mom knew something was wrong and she got me out over night. She had to FIGHT to get me out of there. I was lucky not to have dealt with the sexual abuse that some of the other girls were dealing with. My heart goes out to the ones that had to put up with that.