Survivor Testimony of Charlotte Holt (Casa)

My Story

I think a little background info about me is in order….

I was born and raised in Manhattan, NYC. Both my parents were psychotherapists (my mom was also a RN). When I was born my mom was 45 and my dad 55! That is an unusual age to have a baby. I am an only child with two half siblings (30 + years my elder) My childhood wasn’t filled with bad memories. My only ailment was I did not like school. Also, I never was the daughter my mother wanted, she would always try to make me wear these frilly little dresses and I always refused wanting to wear my usual spandex electric blue pants and over sized tee shirt, at 6 and 7 years old she always defined this as “rebellious” or “optionally defiant”. So be it.

When I was 9 we moved to Vermont. The move was hard on me. We moved to a very small town (pop. 2000) and everyone in my class had known each other since Kindergarten. There wasn’t really a place for me to fit in. I missed 45 days of school that year. That may sound alarming but I was just a young kid adjusting to a new place. My parents were very “Concerned”.

By the next school year (6th grade) life had gotten better. I made my first real “best friend” and felt like I had a place in my school. I made more friends but was always the outcast with the popular crowd. I was over weight with glasses, braces AND zits!!! Ok, I’ll admit it, I WAS A NERD! But life was ok.

I always had an attitude with my parents. I always thought this was because I was some cruel mean girl. Looking back, I was only imitating what I saw at home. My dad was mean to my mom always “going for the kill” and my mom was equally mean and nasty to my dad. They should have been divorced long before I came into the picture. However, my parents never noticed this connection and labeled me as a mean little girl.

By the time 8th grade rolled around I was still a nerd but trying to come into my own. Wanting to try smoking cigarettes, trying a beer, interested in boys all the normal stuff for a 13 year old. But in the eyes of my parents this behavior was alarming and they took immediate action!

Casa by the Sea

In October 1998 on our family vacation to “Hawaii” we spent one night in San Diego before our ‘flight’. The next morning my parents were acting very strange and then Jade and Cassie Robinson arrived. I will never forget Jade saying “we can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way.” I was in disbelief. They said they were taking me to a school in Mexico. What the hell are they talking about “a school in Mexico”? I live in the US. I already go to school. My parents just said goodbye and gave me a hug. I remember sitting in the back of their car on the way to Mexico trying to figure out what was going on. I thought this was a ploy to scare me into being better. I asked a few questions about the school and then was very silent until we arrived.

When I arrived I was given a medical exam by a nurse. After the nurse I was escorted to my “family’” Alliance. I was the 9th lower level girl to arrive at Casa. It was hard to adjust to all the strange rules. No looking at the boys, walk in straight lines while always facing forward, speak only with permission and speak only in Spanish, ask permission to use the bathroom, no note passing, no non-verbal communication, don’t stand or sit without permission, the list goes on and on.

No one can understand what it is like to be so young and sent somewhere against your will except those who were in the program. The feeling in the pit of your stomach is indescribable. If nothing else, that feeling of abandonment has scarred me more then anything in my life.

It took me 8 months to make it to the upper levels and then another 10 months to get to level 6 and P/C 2. I never really made a lot of trouble, I tried to keep to myself and not get noticed. Some of the worst things about Casa:
The food: Hot cereal made from sour milk, disgusting Tuna that smelled worse then low tide, I’ve blocked the rest out of my head. I know other places had it worse because at least we had quesadillas with rice and beans or hotdogs sometimes, but still it wasn’t the best.
The administration: I liked Jade although he could be hot headed. Luke and Jason were bastards and I rarely saw Dace. They all liked to play head games and see what you would admit to when questioned.
Health care: I never saw a doctor while I was at Casa, only the nurse. Once I was so sick with a stomach bug I think I was severely dehydrated in Sick Bay for days. The only one who took care of me with an upper level girl probably a year older then I was.
Hygiene: Once the girls side was moved out of the main facility and into the “Trailers” things got worse. There were about 5 or 6 trailers one for each lower level family and one for the upper level girls. That’s about 15-20 girls per trailer with only 6 showers and 4 toilets. The bathrooms were in the trailer without doors and the smell was horrid. We were not allowed to flush the toilet paper and never had any hot water to shower in. Its amazing how you can get used to cold showers. And lets not forget that we were showering in Mexican water, so foul you can’t even drink it.
Education: I am not dumb but I could not learn from the independent learning BS at Casa. I like having a teacher tell me what’s going on and how to do Algebra. I finally convinced my parents that I had a learning disability and had to have the special ed classes. Once I got away with that I went from Grade 9 to Grade 11 in about 3 months.
Seminars: I felt like the seminars were strange and scary but in some strange way they helped a little. The “Seminar High” was wonderful. Being allowed to attend seminar graduations was a lot of fun. But I agree that a lot of it is brain washing. “What you fear you create” “doing the same thing over and over the same way expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” All the talk about your image. The weird processes in Discovery with the towel. It all still haunts me.
Punishments: We were made to do”’work sheets” which is where you listen to “The Scarlet Letter” and similar subjects on tape for an hour while sitting on the hard tile cross legged with your arms on your head and then have to take a quiz about it after. If you pass the quiz you get points and you need so many points to get out of worksheet depending on what you are in there for. Once a girl ran away and we were all forced to stand in the seminar room with out noses touching the wall all day. No talking, no bathroom breaks, no food or water. Just the deafening silence and the wall in front of you. That was Jason’s favorite punishment for us. I could go on and on but I’m not going to.

Home Again

When I finally got out it was so exciting. I couldn’t wait to get home. After 18 months you are ready to treat your parents like gold if you can be home and watch the damn TV! When I got home things went ok for a few months. Then the shit hit the fan. It turned out that while I was in Mexico my mother had an affair. It just so happens that my father found out a week after I got home. I found out while stuck on an airplane with my dad on the way to the Program “reunion”. Although the affair wasn’t really my business my father told me everything. It was shocking to hear (at only 15). And what really got my goat was that all this time I was in HELL trying to better myself to be the daughter they wanted, she was out having the time of her life sneaking around my dads back and destroying my family.

After that weekend of hell with my father I just shut down. My family contract went out the window because the entire focus was on them. My father completely lost his mind and my mother became this verbal punching bag for him. When I was at home it was like a constant battlefield between them and I didn’t want to be around it. I stayed late after school everyday, slept over at friends’ houses, did anything to stay away from them. I started hanging out with a new crowd of friends. These friends did drugs, smoked cigarettes and partied. Before the program I had never tried drugs and had smoked about 4 cigarettes total. I started smoking pot before school, during school and after school. A year later I started smoking cigarettes. I also became sexually active sometime in between all that and started drinking and stealing my parents prescription pills to get high.

In 2002 I graduated high school and got a job at a local doctor’s office as the receptionist. I moved out of my parent’s house as soon as I had enough money saved up in 2003. Two months later my mom was diagnosed with terminal Cancer. 9 months later in Feb 2004 my mom passed away. I don’t feel like I ever resolved how I felt about her sending me to Casa. Even when I told her about all the things that happened at Casa she never admitted that it may not have been an acceptable solution for our family’s problems. I don’t feel like I was able to even talk to her while she was dying. I don’t know if I was unable to be around her because of my issues created by the program or not. All I know is that she is gone and there are so many things left unsaid.

The Aftermath

Now I have a 5 month old son and I live with my boyfriend (my baby’s father) in Vermont. Not the life I expected at 22, but still my life none the less. I don’t do drugs anymore or drink or smoke. I live my life for my son. Being a mother I can not imagine sending my son away and would never dream of it. Kids press boundaries and break rules. It’s the parents’ job to deal with it and raise them with morals to help them through the difficult teenage years.

So for those of you who actually could stand to read this I thank you and look forward to hearing your own story.

(reused with both author and administrator permission from

2 Responses to “Survivor Testimony of Charlotte Holt (Casa)”

  1. Kayla Says:

    Okay… I was at Casa by the sea 98-99 in the Courage family…. We had to have been there the same time because everything you said is sooo true and I was there when the stupid girl ran from my group courage and we had to stand facing a wall all damn day in the big room where they did those seminars. I am 30 now been married for 11 years , I have 5 children and I could never do that to my kids…. I grew up in Las Vegas…. We now are living in North Carolina…. My email is if anyone cares to connect…. So glad those days at Casa by the Sea are over……


    • Brooke Says:

      Kayla, I was also there around the same time in the courage family! I still have nightmares about that place! I didn’t realize how mistreated we were until I was older. They manipulated us and brainwashed us using scare tactics which is awful. I wish I could forget everything that happened but I can’t. The psychological abuse will never go away.


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