Senior police investigators tasked with investigating the activities at the Transformed Life Ministry Rehabilitation Centre say they will now be looking into fresh allegations of abuse at the facility.
This after one of four persons previously housed there, who were not part of the group resuced last week, claimed that during his two-year stay he was abused by several people.
Investigators say this and other allegations made by several other people once housed there will be “thoroughly investigated.”
It was also an assurance given by ACP for Crime Jayson Forde, who told the media yesterday that the investigation was a wide-reaching one and police were still interviewing several of the people who were rescued from the facility. Forde said investigators were working “assiduously to charge those that are culpable.”
One of the victims, whose name was changed to Anil by Guardian Media to hide his identity, on Monday levelled serious allegations of abuse while at the Arouca facility.
Anil, who is in his early thirties, said the harrowing ordeals occurred regularly during a two-year stay in the facility, describing it as “hell” as he recounted being forced to do things against his will with several people, including workers.
Anil was admitted to the facility sometime in early 2017 for treatment for bipolar disorder.
“Soon after I got there, they made me take off my clothes for almost a year in a cage,” Anil revealed.
Anil alleged that he was abused countless times and beaten at times to submit to different types of abusive acts.
“I was really stressed out. I was being forced to do these things against my will. I spoke about Jesus and I told these people I just want to be calm and have no issues but they kept coming at me,” Anil claimed.
Trying to maintain his composure during the interview, Anil said the experience shattered his emotional state.
“I felt violated. I don’t want the wrong idea to come across that people could do those things to me. It still hurts and this is my life and self-respect.”
Gripped with fear and terror while he was at the facility, he said he was only now willing to give police a full report about his abuse after seeing the raid on the organisation last week.
Anil’s parents eventually took him out of the home after his pleadings and transferred him to another home in East Trinidad late last year, where he has since been making tremendous progress according to the owner of the new home who spoke with Guardian Media when we visited.
Another former individual housed at the facility, Hayden (not his real name), who is in his late twenties, said he spent four of his “roughest” months in life after he was taken there by his parents to kick a marijuana habit in late June this year.
Like the other victims, he described the inhumane treatment he was subjected to, which included being put into cages and being fed food with bones in it. He alleged that during his treatment employees tried to exorcise demons from him with force.
“They are locking me down and doing me all kind of wickedness. They are cuffing me in my belly and telling me that is to take out the demons and thing. They would do this every Thursday and Friday,” Hayden said.
The abuse, Hayden said, almost drove him to take his own life.
“I had the intention of harming myself because I was feeling so depressed and it just adds more frustration to my problem. I was feeling suicidal but I could not do it, I had the love of Jesus in me and he made me pull through and that is why I am delivered today. I no longer smoke marijuana or cigarettes. The place where I am now is like heaven now.”
He said his parents finally took him out of the facility just two weeks ago after his continued complaints.
The horror story for Michael (not his real name), who spent nine months at TLM, was also just as unsettling. Michael said he was caught stealing at a Sangre Grande grocery and was later taken before a magistrate and given a bond. He said he was first sent to the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital but doctors did not find any mental issues with him.
“My mother then told me someone told her to take me to this place where I could cool off and rethink my life,” he said.
In the first three months, Michael, in his late twenties, said he spent most of the time in a cage and allegedly saw people being beaten and liquid thrown in their eyes, which he alleged caused some to become partially blind.
“I got my first visit after three months and I told my mother but she never believed me because she thought I wanted to go home,” Michael claimed.
Held in a cage for months, he said he felt like he was being treated like an animal by those working there.
“You have to number one and number two in a bucket. And they sometimes take the bucket away from you and you must do everything on the ground and according to how you talk to him, he will handcuff you down. And you sometimes urinating and defecating on yourself and you not eating for days, it was real pressure.”
He said it was through the divine intervention of someone who worked at the facility part-time and knew his father that he got the message to his parents to come and remove him from the facility.
“My mother came and take me out but like she was scared to talk to me. She did not realise I was speaking the truth but I want to tell her that I forgive and love her very much.”
Michael, who is also now at the new home in East Trinidad, said he was relieved when he heard the news that people were rescued from the facility last week.
“It made me feel really good. That needed to happen because somebody needed to know what going on. They cannot hide it away anymore because it’s a church,” he said.
“I just think the pastor has to start all over. You need to fix that place. Because I used to feel sorry for those women who were in cages for months and being fed through the holes. The only time they came out was for the church service on Saturdays.”
Anthony (not his real name), who also has a bipolar disorder like Anil, also spent six months there before he was transferred to the facility in East. He also faced similar treatment like the other three victims and said it seemed that the people there were more interested in the money than in treating the people who went there.
Luckily, after six months and with the help of friends he was able to leave.
In enduring the tribulations, he faced at the facility, Anthony said he had one message for the people who had been kept there.
“God does not sleep, what goes around comes around.”
(See Page A4 in Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, Wednesday 16 October, 2019)
Story by: MARK BASSANT (Lead Editor, GML Investigative Desk)
Image by: ABRAHAM DIAZ
Image caption: One of the rescued people from the Transformed Life Ministries in Arouca, during a police operation last week