Simone’s Story of Abuse At New Bethany Home For Girls, Arcadia, La.
This story is also posted on Chuckles Travel’s Blog: This story may not be used or copied in any manner without the express permission of its Author.
Simone’s Story of Abuse at New Bethany Home for Girls, Arcadia, La
It was the summer of 1981, I was thirteen years old and had spent most of my life in orphanages, foster care, and had been shuffled around since the day I was born. Going to New Bethany was only one of my many experiences as a child. Actually, I believe that it was at New Bethany that I realized that I was thrown away. I was a child, and apparently the only thing I had ever really done wrong in my life, was being born. All of the adults in my life, who were supposed to love me, protect me, and care for me, tossed me aside like a piece of damaged merchandise. These are only a few of my memories during my stay at the New Bethany home. I was there from 1981-1984.
Survival should not be a childhood memory
I remember pulling up to the gate at The New Bethany home for girls like it was yesterday. There was a nine foot chain linked fence, topped with barbed wire, and the gate had a lock and chain on it. My heart was pounding, it looked like a prison. I wasn’t a bad child, just an unwanted one. As we pulled into the gate, I kept trying to tell myself that this place couldn’t possibly be as bad as some of the other places I’d been. Could it? When I entered the front door I was shocked at the way the people looked at me, the way that they were dressed, the look in their eyes, and the things they started saying to me. Immediately one of the house mothers started telling me that I needed to get out of my sinful clothes, (I was wearing a pair of jeans, and a t-shirt) wash the makeup off of my eyes (because I looked like a whore) and get ready to be inspected, and take a shower. I turned and went for the front door. That was my very first mistake, as well as my very first beating at The New Bethany Home for girls. (I had only been there for a total of maybe fifteen minutes.) All at once, I was taken to the ground by several women, some of them weighing at least 200 pounds. I was screaming for them to get off of me, telling them that I couldn’t breathe, and that I was not going to stay there. That is when I felt the first blow of the paddle. I was shocked to say the least, I figured they would hit me a few times and then it would end. I don’t remember how many times I was hit, I just know that the pain of being hit, while being held down and not being able to defend myself, was when I realized that this was going to be my ‘home’, until I turned 18. After about 2 hours of being held down and told that I was this horrible sinner, and that I needed God in my life, they finally got off of me. I was bruised, brokenhearted and, was instantly plotting on finding out the quickest way to get the hell out of this place. Next, I was taken to the bathroom, with two women and one girl and told to strip. I was thirteen years old, had already lived a life of hell, in trying to protect myself, and had at least acquired some modesty. I was embarrassed, I slowly removed my clothing, with my audience standing there in front of me looking as if they were ready, and willing to attack me again, if I didn’t do exactly what they told me to do. I got everything off except my bra and panties; surely I could keep them on? WRONG! I had to remove them, so they could spray me for crabs (which I had never even heard of) and lice. Then I was told I had three minutes to get in the shower, wash my hair, scrub my filthy body, and get out. ‘We don’t waste water here at New Bethany’, one of the women told me.
After my shower, I was assigned a ‘watcher’. She was the only person I was allowed to speak to, look at, or ask any type of question about the ‘rules’. She was the only person I was allowed to trust. Many girls were only on watch for a month or so. Usually, the extreme brainwashing got to them. They were children, locked behind a fence, with the constant threat of being severely punished. For some, it was easier to just give in, and go with the flow. At New Bethany, you were expected to conform immediately, out of fear many did just that. By conforming, I mean that you as a child were expected to believe everything that you were told, get on your knees and beg God for forgiveness of your sins, and worship the owner and founder of New Bethany, Mack Ford. He was after all ‘the closest thing to God that we would ever meet’. We, as young children were whores,sinners and we should be happy that ‘someone wanted us’. He preached that from his pulpit. And if he wasn’t preaching it, one of his many other staff members, who were so-called preachers, were sure to remind us, daily. I am not sure how long I had been at the home, nor how many times I had been beaten, before a whole ‘new’ form of abuse started. Some of it I remember as clearly as if just happened yesterday, some of it is only fragments and pieces. All of it, as a child, was horrifying. It is called rape.
Every day before leaving the main dorms, we would all have to line up and have our uniforms checked. We had to prove that we had on a bra, camisole and a slip. Your skirt had to be below your knees and your blouse had better only show two fingers worth of skin, from your collar bone down. If your uniform was deemed inappropriate you had to go change, and you got licks because they assumed that you were trying to be like a harlot. I had passed the uniform check that morning, so what happened to me next, was to say the least, confusing at first, then after the assault, terrifying. Upon arriving across the road for school, we were lined up again and had breakfast. After breakfast, we lined up once more to head upstairs to the schoolroom. One of the teachers would check us as we walked by her; it always seemed to me that I disgusted her. I was getting ready to find out just how badly her disgust was for me. She stopped me in the line and confronted me, saying that my skirt was too tight. She said I was to go up to the ‘office’ immediately. (The office was another room, above the school room.) I walked up those stairs slowly, thinking to myself how my skirt can be too tight? It was an ‘A’ shaped skirt, it wasn’t tight at all. Not even in the waist. I knew at this time that going upstairs to the ‘office’ meant that you were going to get beaten, it happened to me frequently. It happened to me so frequently that I didn’t even cry anymore. Maybe if I had shown some type of emotion or submission to these people, what was about to happen to me would have never taken place. When I got up the stairs to the ‘office’, I was met there by the principle. He gave some of the hardest licks, I was scared, but I didn’t show it. He told me to bend over the desk and to lift my skirt, I did as I was told and was prepared for the beating to begin. “No” he said. “Your slip too.” I turned and looked at him. I can’t explain to you the look in his eyes, and what I saw in them. I know now as an adult that it was pure evil. I turned back around and lifted my slip; he yanked my panties down and jammed himself inside of me; telling me, as he was raping me that I needed God, that I was a whore, and that he was going to help me find the salvation that I needed. When he was done with his “punishment”, I was sent back out to the woman who had sent me upstairs and beaten by her. She knew what he had done and she was angry with me. She was beating me, because he raped me? I had tempted him with my tight skirt. It was my fault, wasn’t it? I cannot say with all certainty that I was ever molested or raped by anyone else at the school. However, (I know) for some strange reason, that Mack Ford has never been circumcised. I have remembered that because faint, quick thoughts of his uncircumcised penis seem to flash through my memory at times when I am sleeping; sometimes even when I am awake. I see him coming at me with his pants undone. This type of punishment was frequent for me. I hated that little ‘office’ above the school room. I hated that no matter how hard I tried, my uniform was always wrong. I hated that I couldn’t find this ‘God’, that he said I needed so badly. Shortly after this, I had received a severe beating from the house-mother. After my beating was over, I was walking down the hallway called ‘White hall’. I was headed back to my room and I was a mess. I leaned up against the wall, and broke down. I slid to the floor and just started crying uncontrollably. I felt someone touch me, I am pretty sure I jumped. But, it was a different type of touch; one that I had never felt before. Someone had their arms wrapped around me, and it wasn’t hurting me. I was being hugged? I WAS BEING HUGGED! I heard a whisper in my ear, that I can still hear to this day….”Stay strong”…..The hug wasn’t long-lasting, as the punishment for showing affection at New Bethany was severe. But that hug, and those words have stayed in my mind my whole life — ‘Stay strong’
Born to Run
I was only at The New Bethany Home for girls and boys for a very short time, before I attempted to ‘run’ the first time. All of the doors and windows had locks and alarms on them, so if you were going to try to get away, you had better make sure you were ready to make a run for your life. I waited until late at night, after the ‘floor walkers’ had made their rounds. The ‘walkers’ would have to stay up all night, and check on each and every girl, making sure that everyone was in their beds. The second I could tell that they had gone down the next hallway, I flung the window open and made my escape. The alarms were screaming, lights were flicking on everywhere. I headed towards the fence, and realized that if I tried to climb it, I would be instantly caught. So, being thirteen and very scared I headed for an old abandoned bus. I was a tiny little thing at thirteen. I think I may have been about five foot, five inches, and maybe weighed in at one-hundred pounds soaking wet. When I got on that old abandoned bus, I instantly curled myself into the tiniest ball and hid underneath one of the seats. I could hear the staff yelling and screaming, I could hear the dogs barking and I was scared half to death. I saw the light from a flashlight shining into the bus, I was trembling, I was sure to be found, taken inside and beaten half to death. However, the light came and went. They didn’t see me. I was safe. The only problem I had to face now was that I was still inside the gates,and I had to figure out a way to make it over that fence. How was I going to do that now? Everyone knew I was the one missing. I stayed in that bus all night, they never found me. By the time the morning came, I was numb from the cold, scared to death of being found, and had not one clue as to how I was going to make it out of that bus and over the fence. I guess I finally gave up the thought of actually making it. I got out from under that seat, and went to the front of the bus and just sat on the step. The staff member that found me immediately took me inside with a grin on their face. It was a grin of sadistic pleasure. I was like a prize. And they were proud to have ‘found’ me. The beating that took place after I was turned over to the house-mother was just like any other beating. I would lose count after about the fourteenth lick; and that was at times only a third of the way into the beating. I attempted running every chance I got. It didn’t matter to me that I would be beaten every time. I had to get away. I couldn’t handle the abuse any longer. I was being abused in every way shape and form. Taking a chance was worth being beat. I just kept telling myself that one day, I would make it into town and somebody would save me. I learned that I couldn’t have been more wrong. The last time I ran, I was actually with another girl from the home. We had a chance and we just took off. We ran so hard and so fast that neither one of us could barely breathe. We did it, we were gone, and apparently nobody knew, until we were so far ahead of them, there was no way they could catch up with us. We ran and ran, it seemed like it was miles. It was five-mile to Arcadia, it seemed like five hundred. When we finally made it, we went into a bathroom at a gas station. Both of us were bloody from all of the briars and bushes, we were covered in dirt and sweat. But we made it! WE MADE IT! What happened next, made me realize once again that I had not one person in this whole entire world that cared about me or wanted me. We actually got to talk to the police. I was covered in bruises, from the middle of my back, all the way down to the bottom of my shins. Some of my bruises were so bad that they had scabs on them. The police officer listened to us, as we frantically told of the things that were happening to us at The New Bethany Home for girls. Then he said something that I will never forget, He said, “Well kids let’s give your parents a call”. I didn’t have parents. He told me that he had to take me back to the home. There was nothing I could do; there was nothing that he could do. The beating I received after being taken back to the home is one that I have never forgotten. I remember the house mother’s evil grin, as the police officer handed me over to her. I was taken into her room, laid across the bed and beaten for what seemed like hours. I could hear her labored breathing with every lick, I could smell her sweat. I think at one point during the beating I must have passed out. I remember her hitting me so hard that it felt like I would break in half. I couldn’t sit down for weeks, I could hardly use the restroom, and I wasn’t allowed to speak. I never shed one tear during all of this, now as I write about it, the tears won’t stop. I never ran from the New Bethany Home for girls again. I was there, and there was nothing, and no one, that was going to change that.
Am I Dead?
It wasn’t until I was at The New Bethany Home for girls for a while, that I found out I was deathly allergic to bee stings. They had us work in the fields, on a regular basis picking corn, peas, black-eyed peas, purple hull peas and digging up potatoes. It was one of the things that really didn’t bother me. At least if I was working in the fields, I didn’t have to go upstairs to the ‘office’. I was working away, picking peas, I believe when all of a sudden I felt the sting. It hurt, but I didn’t really complain. It was only a bee after all. About four of five minutes later, my vision became blurry, I was shaking horribly,and I couldn’t breathe right. My watcher asked me what was wrong; I turned to her and tried to say something. The only thing I remember her saying is “Oh my gosh!, what is wrong? Your eyes are almost swollen shut!” I remember vaguely, the hustle and bustle of the girls, and the staff. At some point someone gave me some type of shot. I think?
Then I woke up, on the sofa in Martha dorm. The girls were all talking at once, I wasn’t understanding the things that they were saying. My head hurt, my eyes were still swollen almost completely shut. I remember asking one of the girls that was standing over me, “Am I dead?” She smiled and said, “No, but we thought you were.” Apparently, I had been on that couch for a few days, drugged with who knows what. I know that I didn’t go to the doctor. At New Bethany you could be almost dead, and you still wouldn’t receive medical attention. I was made to get up off of the couch, take my three-minute shower, and head off to church. Mack Ford preached that night. He preached about how ‘God’ had given me a chance to live, they had prayed the ‘Devil’ out of me, and wouldn’t I love to accept Jesus as my personal savior? My head was spinning, I couldn’t believe that I had almost died, and this man was telling me it was because ‘God’ had given me the chance to live, so that I could conform to Mack Fords beliefs? They had ‘prayed’ the ‘Devil’ out of me? I was stung by a bee. Not possessed by the “Devil”. I looked at Mack Ford, and said as bravely as I could and said ‘No sir’. He came running at me from his pulpit, screaming and yelling that I was going to burn in hell. God had given me the chance to live; Mack Ford had made sure of it! He had after all, prayed the ‘Devil’ out of me. He then took me by the arm and began dragging me outside. He took off his belt and began whipping me with it, all the time telling me I was an ungrateful and worthless whore. He beat me for a while, and then he drug me back into the church. I guess because I didn’t scream out, or shed a tear, he decided that I was truly of the ‘Devil’. He had the house mother take me back to the dorm, and administer another beating. The only thing running through my head was the statement that I had made earlier that day, to the concerned girl who stood over me, “Am I dead.”
Churches still send Mack Ford money.
Prior to going to the New Bethany Home for girls, the only religion I had ever been exposed to was the Catholic religion. I remember the priest speaking in a very calm voice. I remember standing, getting on my knees, sitting and the little bells. “Peace be with you.” ‘Ting-a-ling’ “And also with you” and again, ‘Ting-a-ling.’ I never really understood what the priest was talking about, but I do know that I was never scared of him. The religious teachings at The New Bethany home for girls, was to say the least, more of a ‘cult’ than it was any type of religion. Mack Ford was the leader, plain and simple. I believe he made up his own rules. Sure, he claimed to be ‘the closest thing to God’ that we would ever meet. But in all reality, he was the most evil man that many of the girls of the home, would ever lay their eyes on. He had created his own empire. Churches were donating him thousands of dollars, people were giving him their land, and parents were paying him thousands of dollars to ‘fix’ their wayward teens. Mack Ford would travel all over the country with a bus full of girls going from church to church, claiming that he ran his home on donations only. That the Lord saw it fit for him to help these poor children. He would coach the girls on their testimonies, at times making sure to have the girl with the saddest testimony standup before the church, and tell of how she was a drug addicted prostitute, prior to coming to the home, how she had no family to take care of her, and how thankful she was to Mack Ford for taking her in and leading her to the Lord. Then he would have the girls sing their little hearts out. Many of the girls were very talented, they could sing like angels. The church members would break down, thinking that it was the Lords will to give as much money as possible. Mack Ford was raking in the dough, and people had no idea what was really going on behind the fences of The New Bethany home for girls. Mack Ford also had two other ‘groups’ of girls, sent with different pastors, one who was the administrator/principle of the home, and another who had come to the home and preached a few times. These were smaller groups than what Mack Ford took with him. But, they were still doing the same thing. Going from church to church, telling of how the home had saved them from a life of drug addicted prostitution, and how thankful they were to Mack Ford, for leading them to the Lord. What really seemed to get to the members of these churches was how talented these girls were. Like I said, they could sing like angels, literally. Mack Ford had it all figured out. And still, not one of these churches knew what was really going on behind the fences of the New Bethany home for girls. Behind those fences children were being systematically brainwashed, children were being beaten, children were being raped, children were being sexually abused, children were being denied love, children were referred to as whores, Children had their privacy taken, children had their self-esteem smashed, children had no emotional support, children had no choice, children were getting no education, children were being brutalized, children were turned against one another, children were lied to, children worked in the fields so they could eat, children were hungry, children were cold, children were frightened, children were told that no one wanted them, children were cut off from the outside world, and children were told that no one(except Mack Ford) loved them. Mack Ford is not God. He tried to make us all believe that he was. I guess the only thing that he will live to regret is not taking the time to realize that one day, that we would all grow up. We are not children anymore, and we remember everything. He still lives on the property that was once the New Bethany Home for girls and boys. He is sitting on a fortune that was earned by the children he terrorized for decades. I believe he has close to 300 acres, with five huge buildings on the land that was donated to him. By innocent people who had no idea, what was going on behind the fences of the New Bethany home for boys and girls. And yes, churches STILL send Mack Ford money!
The Sickening Antics Of Nora Carter (Shepard)
Nora Carter is the monster that for the entire time I was there, brutalized, terrorized and just about beat me half to death on several occasions. She was the ‘house-mother’. Nora Carter was aware of the sexual abuse that was going on at the New Bethany home during the 80′s. She did nothing to stop it. She did nothing to protect us. We were children and her impression was that it was ‘our’ fault. We were whores without God in our lives. She did nothing for us in the 1980′s and apparently, as I’ve been told, she did nothing for the girls in the 90′s either. One of the girls, who had graduated and became staff, actually taped herself being assaulted by Mack Ford. She turned the tape over to Nora Carter, and all hell broke loose. The tape was turned over to Thelma Ford (Mack’s wife) and he was supposedly asked to leave. I’ve also been told that Robbie (Mack’s daughter) and her husband Timothy Johnson came to the home and removed the girl who had become staff, and had recorded Mack’s abuse. Parents were called, girls went home and statements were taken by Nora, by other girls/children who had also suffered Mack Ford’s sickening sexual abuse. Yet STILL she didn’t contact any type of law enforcement? This was her golden opportunity to finally do what was right. She didn’t.
Instead, Nora Carter married the gardener Tom Shepherd, and went out to make sure that no one would talk about what had happened behind the fences at the New Bethany Home for girls.
Nora and Tom followed behind the group of girls that had gone home. They even had some of the girls from the New Bethany Home with them. They ended up in Washington State, trying to be ‘supportive’ of some of the girls who had been abused by Mack Ford. It is my opinion and the opinion of many others that she was actually doing her best to make sure that no one spoke out about what she had failed to report to the authorities. Nora and Tom got an apartment, reportedly paid for by the parents in this support group. They tried to start another home, and Tom tried to start a church. That failed, so they headed to Milan, Tennessee. What I have been able to confirm, in conversation with Douglass Powell, Pastor of Immanuel Missionary Baptist Church, is that Tom and Nora went on to Milan,Tennessee to a church by the name of Immanuel Missionary Baptist Church. The Pastor of this church, Douglas Powell, and his wife, had a Christian day school. It remained open for about twenty years. They had a firm belief in the division between church and state, but always allowed the inspectors to come in and inspect the school, if they asked to do so. It was after all the LAW, and they had nothing to hide.
Tom and Nora arrived in Milan TN, in a blue van with four children (reportedly from New Bethany) from Washington State, they immediately opened a children’s ‘home’ called ‘Faith Ranch’. This ‘home’ was open and running for two years. Until one day the state came and wanted to inspect the ‘home’. Nora and Tom refused. Doug Powell did everything he could to explain to them that it was the law. He had meetings, offered to step in and represent the ‘home’ and deal with the inspectors himself, by allowing them to come in and inspect. Nora and Tom still refused, and declined his offers of help. After much debate, as to doing things legally, Doug Powell asked Nora and Tom to leave the property. I was also able to confirm in conversation that it was then that Nora and Tom moved to Campbellsburg, IN. Tom’s longtime friend, and Pastor John Lewis (Old Paths Baptist Church) invited them to come there. They stayed with church members, with 6 children in tow, until they could find a place to open another ’Faith Ranch’. In 1996, they found some property owned by Eric Wheeler, and yet another ‘Faith Ranch’ was opened. The agreement was that the Shepherds would fix the place up, in lieu of paying rent, for the use of the property. In August 1997, Tom Shepherd died leaving Nora Carter alone and in charge of the home, and the children. In September 1997 Nora (Carter) Shepherd receive $50,000.00 in life insurance proceeds from Toms death.
In March 1998, Nora Claims to have purchased (with Tom’s life insurance money) a portion of a fifty-two acre parcel of land, from an individual named Alma O’Connor. In all actuality, the pastor of Old Paths Baptist Church John Lewis, paid for almost all of it, through donations from church members. (As well as money from his own pocket.) In the summer of 1998 construction began on the building that would become ‘Faith Ranch’, and by winter the 3400 square foot three story building was completed enough that Nora and the children could stay in it. John Lewis, pastor of Old Paths Baptist Church and Nora had agreed that the top story would be used for the church. When the building was completed, Nora quit the church, claimed that the ‘home’ was hers, and even went as far as going with another church member and putting it in the name of ‘Old Paths Baptist Church INC’. A lawsuit ensued; with Nora claiming to be the ‘victim’ of ‘John Lewis’. She was attempting to sell the property on the open market for $65,000.00. John Lewis was horrified, to say the least. He refers to Nora (Carter) Shepherd as the ‘Biggest thorn in his side’ as well as doing the worst ‘demonic satanic attack’ on his church. He is devastated. His church members are devastated. They tried to help this ‘Godly’ woman, and were extremely hurt in the process. The property was eventually split between Nora (Carter) Shepherd and Old Paths Baptist Church. They now have a road between the two properties. Nora (Carter) Shepherd now is the proud owner of a 3400 square foot, three story home, located in Campbellsburg, Indiana on 20-25 acres. She is also the proud owner of a brand new Cadillac as well as a Suburban. Although now, it has been reportedly put into her ‘daughters’ name. This girl that Nora claims as her daughter is actually only one of the children from Nora’s home. Since leaving New Bethany, she had three (possibly four) different homes opened. Nora Carter (Shepherd) has never been held accountable for the abuse that she covered up, she concealed abuse victims, and for this you would think that something could be done? She is still living in Indiana, to this day. Not caring one bit about the children that she abused for decades, or about the children that she didn’t help, knowing that they had been physically and sexually terrorized .
In August 2010, five of us went back to that horrible dark place, trying to find some type of closure. This is for my sisters, for the survivors, and for those that we have lost.
A year ago today, we stood up to our fears
A monster lives behind the fence
Decades filled with tears
Secrets dark and dismal Hidden deep inside
Scars and fear deeply embedded
It’s from him we wished to hide
A year ago today, we saw a different man A
coward hidden behind his fence
We spoiled his master plan
Our paths have joined us together
From him we hide no more
Through all the torrential weather
It’s one another we adore
A year ago today, we walked right past that man
An old man crumbling behind his fence
We finally took our stand
Our intention was for healing
But it has become so much more
He will never again look into our eyes and refer to us as whores
A year ago today, I held my sisters hands
Life has a new meaning
Since we took our stand
Nothing will stop us now
From speaking out the truth
It’s the monster who should be punished, from us he stole our youth
Now, in my life, I am doing everything that I can to help expose these types of places. I am now a coordinator for an organization called “HEAL.” (http://www.heal-online.org). As a child I had no voice. It was taken from me during my stay at the New Bethany home for girls. I intend on doing my best to be the voice of as many children as I possibly can. Children who are still suffering in places like New Bethany. Survival should not be a childhood memory.
The New Bethany Book is now available for everyone to read! Click here to read the stories of abuse from those who were sent to this home. — New Bethany Book – Download FREE!