Shut down Victory Village USA
Shut down Victory Village USA
Freedom Village USA, located in Lakemont, NY, was founded by Fletcher Brothers in 1981. Freedom Village presents themselves as "North America’s premier home for at risk youth”, targeting parents whose children are struggling with substance abuse, as well as psychological problems stemming from sexual, physical and/or mental abuse. Fletcher Brothers has drawn supporters, staff, and parents in with his charismatic personality for nearly 40 years. Yet, behind the scenes, he uses fear, intimidation and scripture to exploit and mentally abuse the character of teens that have been entrusted into his care.
Upon arrival, you are strip searched by a staff person you’ve barely met, without a parent present. Many of the items you have brought with you, including clothing, will be deemed unapproved. After your parents sign both theirs & your rights away- you are closed off from any physical contact with family for 3 months, meaning no visits are permitted. One 10 min phone call is allowed after the first 2 weeks. Unless of course your put on No-Level which will disqualify you from making any phone calls. You are required to write a letter to your parents specifically stating that you are happy and that this place is a great place. If you said anything about the realities of what was going on they would throw your letter away and make you write it right in front of them to make sure it is to their standards. They also monitor and edited all letters received.
Some of the program rules include the following: You’re not to allowed to have any contact with the outside world. You cannot watch regular tv (such as the news), read the newspapers, listen to the radio or have any contact with the outside world. You are immediately weaned off medications because they do not believe in medication. Which meant that many times when anyone came with prescriptions or were prescribed medication during their stay, they were not allowed to take it. As you can imagine, that made medical conditions worse than they needed to be. You are not allowed to talk to or look at the opposite sex under any circumstances. Women had to wear extremely loose fitting clothing. We were taught that the outside world was a deadly place and that we would die if we left Freedom Village USA. The emotional abuse and manipulation caused many to be diagnosed with PTSD and various other mental health conditions after leaving. The negative impacts of it still have a stronghold on us to this day.
Up until 2013, schooling was provided through the ACE program. Students were told that the diploma they obtained through this program could be used to get them into college. Yet, upon leaving the program, many learned that their "diploma" or completed credits were not accepted at other high schools & major colleges. Which set people back YEARS in the educational aspect.
Instead of sailing, swimming, camping and riding horses (like the Freedom Village USA pamphlet promotes) students’ time was spent cleaning various places around the FV campus including: cockroach infested kitchens and moldy bathrooms as well as staff peoples homes and offices. We were also made to clean every building including the off campus chapel, from top to bottom. We were made to move heavy boxes and operate equipment without proper training. Every week there would be a truck that would come with food donations that were the expired items the grocery stores could no longer sell. Students were forced to eat moldy, expired food and would be punished for refusing to eat it. Students were subjected to write-ups that are read from the pulpit & are then are publicly punished in front of their peers. Which degraded many, making them feel worthless by often singling them out. Punishments ranged from hauling wood, shoveling snow, cleaning filthy places or writing scripture four up to 4-10 hours in extreme weather.
There are levels, with different privileges and they would use this system to control and subdue staff and students. If they complied they’d receive more privileges, if not they receive little to none. With a bias staff you can imagine the amount of unfair ranks given.
Staff members, who often graduate from the program, are put in leadership roles (without proper educational backing, training or credentials) to take care of and counsel people dealing with Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, PTSD, Self Harm & Addiction. Many were subjected to blatant discrimination by staff based on ability, race and sexual orientation. Nothing about their system is backed by anyone who is educated or had credentials which became a breeding ground for misconduct on both the staff’s and high ups behalf. It was known that many times these decisions were bias and discriminatory yet it was allowed to continue under the leadership of Fletcher and Jeremy Brothers.
The ideologies backing the beliefs of the founder and his family explain why many of these things were allowed to happen. Not only do they fully support the Confederate Flag but they still believe in conversion therapy as it relates to the LGBTQ+ community. It is not a place that supports minorities (including women, people of color, LGBTQ+ and Disabled people) in any way, shape or form. Many times, boys and girls alike were accused of being gay without any proof and were subjected to questioning and punishment for something they did not identify with. Different races were not allowed dating privileges or to marry unless it was approved by Fletcher Brothers. Which 99.99% of the time, he never did. He would talk avidly about how God says “different Races should not mix”. Decades later, the associated trauma in regards to racism & homophobia continue to have a negative impact on many.
Furthermore, there were instances that program kids were left unsupervised with Fletcher in his home. There were kids who were already vulnerable who were left in even more vulnerable positions during their stay at Freedom Village. Grooming did occur by certain staff and higher ups. There are also a number of sexual abuse allegations and attempts to not only cover up the truth but silence those who choose to speak- both by bribes & threats.
Since the beginning, Freedom Village has relied on donations to pay for their day to day expenses. They have a program called Adopt-a-teen, where students shared their stories and were sent donations by someone who wanted to sponsor them. The problem is that they almost never received a penny of these donations. There is also a founders program that calls for supporters to pay 1,000-10,000+ as well as donation emails that are sent through constant contact almost daily. There were many families who paid up to 5,000 a month whose children were still sent to give their testimony, on Freedom Village’s radio station: Victory Today Radio, in order to obtain more donations.
Fletcher Brothers often states that without these donations students would not be able to attend Freedom Village. Yet, many students who had no financial support from parents were left without necessities which included: warm clothing, thick coats, blankets (for the icy winters), feminine products, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc. Not have these items lowered our quality of life. There would also be clothing and other items donated that we never were allowed the privilege of using. Students who would request $100 vouchers were often denied, unless of course they were personal favorite of staff or the Brothers themselves.
It isn’t only students who suffer either: Freedom Village has recently had a class action lawsuit against them for the back pay of underpaid staff members along with missing and misused funds donated with the promise of repayment in the 1980's.
Regardless of the vast amounts of untraced donations, Freedom Village has filed for bankruptcy multiple times in their 38 years of operation, despite records showing that donations far outweighed the actual costs. The result of this lawsuit ordered Freedom Village to pay 1.5 million in restitution, which is only a fraction of the debt they owe. They made yet another attempt to file bankruptcy but were once again denied.
After all this time, we as a collective will no longer remain silent about the negative experiences we endured at Freedom Village USA.
It seems as if the years of bad press have finally caught up with Fletcher Brothers who is now moving his program to Sunset, South Carolina. They will be starting a partnership with Hannah Grace Homes in hopes of operating under them as Victory Village USA. By changing their name they are attempting to erase the fact that detrimental actions have been taken by the Brothers and staff during the operation of Freedom Village USA.
We are asking that you help us stop Fletcher Brothers, Jeremy Brothers and any organization they partner with from opening and operating in SC. By signing this, you are helping us make it known that we do not support any organization that is ran by or supports The Brothers. Children should not be subjected to being under the authority and care of any organization that accepts Jeremy and/or Fletcher Brothers and their unlicensed staff.
By Signing this you are helping us set the standard for all religious-exempt, church based institutions, by taking action to make sure that legislation is passed to help prevent any others from being subjected to abuse and exploitation from institutions that lack the proper education, training and licensing to run and operate a program aimed at children, teens and young adults.
For More Information and ways to help email: TheFreedomVillageExperience@gmail.com