Former TLM Resident: ‘Abuse and licks for demons’

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 caption: One of the rescued people from the Transformed Life Ministries in Arouca, during a police operation last week

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