Child sexual abuse in the world of Romney’s top LDS donors

By Susie Madrak

I remember running this posta couple of years ago:

An employee of KTVX-TV who apparently used the wrong Twitter account to send a slightly off-color message to KTVX’s 4400 followers has been dismissed, reports Lost Remote.

The staffer was trying to send the following to his/her personal account, not the account of the ABC station in Salt Lake City:

“I’m downtown eating. Surrounded by Mormons and repressed sexual energy.”

KTVX says it accepted the resignation of the staffer who got his/her wires crossed.

Little did I know how right that reporter was. I’ve been doing some reading about the LDS culture, and the duties of a Mormon bishop (like Mitt Romney) in particular. There’s some pretty creepy stuff — and a whole damned boatload of repressed sexual energy. We’ll get to that later.

But first, what I’m coming up with are numerous accounts of child abuse — and child sexual abuse, as spelled out in “Scout’s Honor,” an award-winning investigative series about how the LDS church and its Idaho Falls scouting program covered up for the sexual molestation of Scouts by a Mormon pedophile.

Funny thing: Peter Zuckerman, the reporter who did the series, was outed as gay in a full-page newspaper ad paid for by billionaire Frank VanderSloot, Romney campaign finance co-chair and chairman of Melaleuca, Inc., an MLM company. VanderSloot is famous for threatening reporters, bloggers and publications with lawsuits. He’s also a major donor to the Restore Our Future superPAC.

I also discovered a long chain of stories about “ranches” and “camps” owned and run by very politically connected Utah Mormons – especially the World Wide Association of Specialty Schools, founded by Robert Lichfield, who was Mitt Romney’s finance co-chair back in 2007. He either resigned or was asked to resign after the abuse stories broke:

Robert Lichfield, a businessman with no clinical training in psychology, formed the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs in 1998. The Utah-based organization promoted itself as an umbrella company that linked independently run programs operating under WWASP guidelines to families in need. Further investigations have revealed, however, that all programs were operated and run by family members and business associates of Robert Lichfield. WWASP operated programs both in the US and abroad.

Multiple lawsuits have led to the closure of all official WWASP facilities, though rumors persist that several schools have reopened under new company names. Accusations include locking children in dog cages, severe physical beatings, food and sleep deprivation, pepper spraying of minors, isolation, lack of communication to parents, unreported sexual abuse, unsanitary living conditions, and brainwashing/emotional abuse.

And you thought Mitt locking his dog in a cage on the car roof was bad? Kids were sent to these camps for crimes like being gay, or for refusing to attend early-morning LDS services.

Now, here’s where it gets really interesting:

In 1997, Aspen Education Group was founded in part by Elliot Sainer. A subsidiary of CRC Health Group, Aspen Education is owned by Bain Capital Group, founded in 1984 by Mitt Romney. Aspen Education Group provides therapeutic programs for youth including wilderness therapy, residential treatment facilities, therapeutic boarding schools, and weight loss facilities. Aspen Education is one of the most profitable teen treatment chains, boasting annual revenue of $150 million plus.

According to an article by Keith Chu of The Bulletin, many of Aspen Education Group’s programs – including now defunct Mount Bachelor Academy – were based directly on the CEDU methods of treatment. Lauding support by celebrity figures such as Dr. Phil and several other TV programs including “Brat Camp,” “I Know What You Ate Last Summer,” and “Intervention,” Aspen Education has become one of the most revered and successful programs of its kind.

Recent lawsuits and scrutiny, however, have led to the closure of multiple facilities and a total restructure announced in March of 2011. Mount Bachelor Academy, once one of Aspen Education’s top programs, closed in 2009 after lawsuits alleging sexual reenactments of past sexual abuse in front of peers, sleep deprivation, forced lap dances as part of therapy, and emotional and physical abuse. Sagewalk, one of Aspen’s top wilderness therapy facilities, was called “reckless” by State authorities following the death of 16-year-old Sergey Blashchishen. At least four other teenagers have died under Aspen’s care. Criticisms of Aspen’s weight loss facilities have also indicated child abuse, noting that children within its care were subjected to diet plans of under 10 grams of fat daily.

From FamilyLight, a psychological consulting group which evaluates teen programs:

CRC Health Group, controlling the Aspen brand name, is not just a for-profit organization but it is owned by a private investment firm Bain Capital with a fiduciary responsibility to maximize return on investment. The reality is that the best care in therapeutic facilities is not necessarily the care that produces the greatest return on investment. We would like to hear a commitment directly from Bain Capital that they have directed CRC Health Group to provide the highest quality of care they can, observing that while short-term financial gains might result from taking shortcuts, the long term best financial performance will result from delivering the highest quality services with the highest standards of ethics.

FamilyLight’s stated concern is that the same extreme tactics are applied to every single child who enters their programs, not just defiant teens.

Next installment: Just like the Catholic Church, Mormon leaders reportedly persuade sexual abuse victims not to report cases to the authorities.

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