Rebekah Home for girls

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Information
Current status Closed
Image:Detainees.gif Capacity ?
Checked November 16, 2010
Image:Open.gif Opened 1967
Image:Close.gif Closed 2001 ?

Rebekah Home for girls was a behavior modification facility located in Corpus Christi, Texas [1].

It was founded by Lester Roloff in 1967. At least since 1979, before Roloff's death, the home was ran by the Wiley Cameron and his wife.

The state of Texas had on several occations tried to regulate the facility so the detained girls could live under humane conditions, but the home managed to stay unregulated for a number of years until the authorities caved in and accredited the facility [2]

It moved to Missouri around 2001. Later that year, moving to Florida and changing it's name to New Beginnings Girls Academy.

Contents

Program structure

This facility use corporal punishment
THIS INFORMATION REGARDS THE TIME FRAME THAT BILL AND JENNIFER MCNAMARA OVERSAW THE REBEKAH HOME IN CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS. THIS IS NOT AN ACCOUNT OF ANYTHING PRIOR TO THAT TIME.

The program consisted of forced attendance of bible recitation, prayer, church visits and isolation from the family until the detained girls had accepted the Christian lives, expected by the facility and their parents.

There was a level system where the girls with seniority in the system (named Helpers) handed demerits (each infraction had a specific amount of demerits attached to it. Anywhere from 1-5 demerits. "Direct Disobedience", which was 5 demerits, could ralso be the label for any infraction, if the Helper deemed that more demerits were necessary, and could also be added onto any demerits handed out, if the Helper chose to do so.) out for wrong-doings, which could be:

  • talking about "worldly" things (such as television shows, secular literature, or old friends)
  • singing songs other than gospel songs
  • speaking
  • doodling
  • nail biting
  • looking at boys in church
  • failing to snitch on other sinners
  • being too close to another girl (called the "Six Inch Rule")
  • falling asleep at any point during the day
  • if you were a "new girl" (arriving within the past 30 days), you could not make Eye Contact with another "new girl"
  • talking
  • "Direct Disobedience"
  • (before they removed the doors from the bedrooms) closing your door before "Lights Out"
  • talking after lights out
  • not finishing food.
  • bad attitude
  • negativity (if anyone heard you say anything that they considered negative, i.e. "I don't think I like it here", "My parents said they might let me come home early", "My boyfriend's name is _______", "I'm here because _____", "That's a stupid rule". Also rolling eyes, slamming doors, or Direct Disobedience. Really, if someone saw you break any rule, and they weren't a "Helper" they could yell, "Negative! Negative!" and a Helper and inevitably a staff member would be there within a minute to assign demerits.
  • forgetting to wear a slip (which many girls are not accustomed to)
  • Chores. A Helper would check their daily chores after the girls had gone to school. If a wrinkle was found on the bed, a drop on the counter, a water spot on the faucet or mirror, or a hair in the drain you received automatic demerits. There are many other reasons that you could be counted off for Personal Chores or for the chores you did around the dorm.
  • wrinkles in school uniform.
  • leaving lights on. If you leave the room, turn off the light.
  • "communicating"- since you weren't allowed to speak, if a Helper or Staff Member were to walk by and saw a girl signaling to turn a bathroom light off (so the girl could avoid a demerit), the one who signaled would receive a demerit for communicating.

Living conditions

In the facility there were no televisions, no radios, no magazines. Only approved books were to be read. The approved movies that were watched in the home consisted of Little House on the Prairie and videos with preachers shouting about the penalty of sinful living, music, and thoughts. The bible was enforced every moment of every day. Anywhere from (approx.) 30-60 bible verses were recited aloud and as a group at least once a day. Bible verses were recited before meals, before songs practiced and performed for church performances (the girls performed every Sunday for the People's Baptist Church and a small group toured at different times throughout the year), and sometimes during disciplinary action.

Communication

  • Speaking of anything worldly was forbidden, as was singing worldly songs.
  • Meeting eyes with boys in church was barred.
  • Letters going both in and out of the home were read first by the staff and censored. If a girl were to say, "Bro. McNamara told me that I would grow up to be a prostitute today. When I started crying and defending myself, I received licks!" The entire portion would be blacked out with a magic marker.
  • Phone calls, which could be placed only to immediate family members, were monitored. If any negativity concerning the home was brought up, the call would be disconnected immediately.
  • No conversations were private, since staff listened in on the intercoms that were installed in each bedroom. The staff could listen to each room seperately. They could also talk through the intercoms into the rooms of any girls they believed to be talking.

Consequences

  • Licks: Being spanked with a wood paddle. Other times, whatever was handy was used. (i.e. the rod from a set of blinds)
  • Confinement: Spending weeks hanging her head without speaking or making eye contact with anyone. This punishment was called "red shirt" or "discipline". The former name being due to the fact that these "deviant" girls were given only red and white checkered shirts to wear. They were only allowed to wear any other shirt when they went to bed. They were also made to stand with their nose to the wall and their arms at their sides all day. A 10 minute break allowed if they complied to the Helper's satisfaction. Many times the Helper would forget to give them a break. In this instance, the Red Shirts just had to remain silent and hope for a break to be given. Or, the Red Shirt could take a demerit (or three) for raising their hand to remind the helper or taking their nose off the wall-- no matter what, the Red Shirt will be in trouble for the Helper's oversight. More often than not, the Helper was sitting at a desk with nothing better to do than critique them.
  • Sitting on the wall: Being required sitting (suspended above the floor, as if there was a chair beneath them) with the back against a wall and without the support of a chair, arms outstretched with the palms flat against the wall. Helpers would come around to each girl and place a book on their thighs, if the book slipped off, they would push the girl's hips down. If they failed twice, they might have to start over.
  • Kneeling: Being ordered to kneel, while either have two bibles resting on each outstretched palm or with pencils wedged between the legs.
  • The lockup: (THIS WAS NEVR USED WHILE THE MCNAMARAS WERE OVER REBEKAH, THE ROOM HAD BEEN MADE INTO A REGULAR DORM ROOM. IT WAS OBVIOUS WHICH ROOM HAD BEEN THE LOCKUP ROOM, THOUGH; THERE WAS A CAGE OVER THE INTERCOM AND THE WALLS WERE SOME SORT OF METAL WITH WALL PAPER OVER THEM. THE ROOM WAS SOMEWHAT UNSETTLING TO BE IN, EVEN IF YOU DIDN'T KNOW IT'S HISTORY) An isolation room used as solitary confinement. During the stay in the lockup the intercom piped in hourlong prayers from the pastor (Lester Roloff or Wiley B. Cameron) that would play in loops 24 hours a day. The detained girl could use a toilet but there was no possibility to wash or bathe. Girls have told of terrible smelling survivors of the lockup when they were released after a month of isolation.
  • Calesthenics:* Girls would do laps (1 lap run + 1 lap walk = 1 lap) for first 5 demerits, and then 100 of chosen exercise for every demerit after that up to 10. "cherry pickers", "calf lifts", "jumping jacks", "squats", "arm cirles", "lunges", "leg lifts", "kills" (10 slow "calf lifts", 10 fast "calf lifts", jumping 10 times, 10 "scissor jumps", 10 half jumping jacks, 10 whole jumping jacks, and then going back through the exercises finishing with the 10 slow "calf lifts"= 1 Kill= 1 demerit worked off) etc. No matter how hot it was, you would do the exercise outside. When it would sleet or was below freezing, they would let the girls do their exercises either on the enclosed patio or inside. As mentioned, after 10 demerits, it was one lick for every 2 demerits. If you had 20+ demerits, your licks would be transferred to the next day. If you recieved demerits the next day and you ended up with 20+ again (that day's demerits PLUS the rollovers), they would continue to roll over until Sunday. Being the day of rest, you didn't have to work off demerits. You attended church twice a day and rested. Demerits started at 0 on Monday, unless you were on someone's bad side. Although it may seem like it would be easy to avoid getting to that point, it wasn't. Helpers were rewarded for giving out the most demerits. Not with an award, but Bro. Mac would verbalize his admiration for their righteousness or begin to give them extra privileges or leniencies.

Misc.

Pregnant girls were sent to another Roloff home in another state and forced to give their child up for adoption. One of these typical cases can be learned about in a child seeking mother group [3]

I was four yrs old when my mother was sent to the Lester Roloff, Rebekah Home for Girls, in Corpus Christi, TX. She was then flown to Thomaston, GA. to give birth. Assumption is that the baby was born in Upson Regional Medical Center. The baby, a girl, was born 6/13/69.

In the news

In 1999, the state of Texas found evidence of physical abuse and neglect at the Roloff Homes’ Rebekah Home for girls. Faye Cameron was found guilty and as a part of the conviction, she was never allowed to work with children again in the state of Texas [4][5]

External Links

Info pages

Survivor groups

Message boards

Specific threads

General boards

References

  1. The campus built around 1972 near Corpus Christi
  2. Remember the Christian Alamo, By Pamela Colloff, Texas Monthly, December 2001 (Reprint from Project Nospank)
  3. adoptee - adoptee looking for birth mother, Yahoo group
  4. Secrets in the Schoolhouse, by Duwayne Escobedo, Independent News, December 2, 2004
  5. New Beginnings Rebekah Home - Florida, New Beginnings Rebekah Home - article collection of the webpage of International Survivor Action Committee
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