An all-girls reform school has shut its doors after a TikTok account helped expose its owners' alleged abuse.
According to a recent NBC News report, 29-year-old Amanda Householder launched @ExposingCircleofHope after receiving a disturbing message about what was allegedly taking place at Circle of Hope Girls' Ranch—a religious-based boarding school owned by her parents, Boyd and Stephanie Householder. Amanda received the message via Facebook back in March from Joseph Askins, a family friend who claimed to have witnessed several incidents of abuse at the school.
Askins told the outlet he saw Boyd hit one of the children in the mouth and watched him force another "to chug water and then drink her own vomit." He also provided a video he recorded in which a man's voice can be heard encouraging the girls to assault each other. The footage was allegedly taken at Circle of Hope, and the man's voice is said to be Boyd's.
After watching the video, Amanda shared it on YouTube and Twitter, before she was advised to post it on TikTok. She received the suggestion from Miranda Sullivan, a podcast host who focuses on the "troubled teen industry," which includes behavioral modification schools for "out-of-control" youth.
"The benefit of TikTok is the kids who get activated and are amazingly useful," Sullivan said. "With Circle of Hope, it got enough random people who were highly motivated to nag the local offices in Missouri who are not used to this much attention."
According to NBC News, there have been more than a dozen abuse reports at the school since it opened in 2006. Shortly after Amanda created the TikTok page, former residents of the ranch came forward with their own abuse allegations, which ranged from physical, emotional, and sexual abuse to starvation.
The Cedar County Sheriff’s Department and the state Department of Social Services have since launched a currently ongoing investigation. Boyd and Stephanie reportedly closed down Circle of Hope this year after state authorities removed two dozen girls from the school.
According to court documents obtained by NBC News, social services determined that in 2018 Boyd had physically abused a minor. Boyd denied the allegations, and the case is still pending.
The outlet points out that the troubled teen industry has very little regulation, and the Circle of Hope was never licensed or accredited in Missouri. Parents attribute these factors to the unchecked abuse.
Per NBC News:
Cedar County Sheriff James McCrary said his office had received multiple calls about Circle of Hope over the years; he declined to go into details but said that since he became sheriff in 2017, he made sure his staff investigated every complaint. A sheriff’s deputy told Amanda in a Facebook message this year that they had not had enough evidence. A federal prosecutor had turned down the case in 2019, a state highway patrol sergeant told Amanda in an email. The state’s education department told a parent in 2008 that it had no authority over the ranch because it operated as a private boarding school.
Earlier this week, two former residents of the ranch filed a lawsuit against Boyd and Stephanie Householder. One of the anonymous plaintiffs claimed that in 2014 Boyd had physically assaulted her and gave her food portions that were so small she ended up losing 40 pounds. The other plaintiff accused Boyd of raping her multiple times in 2015 and claimed Stephanie was aware of the abuse but did nothing to stop it.
Stephanie denied the allegations in an email to NBC News: "It is a fact that the accusations will not withstand the scrutiny of examination and the testimony of others as to the truth," she wrote.
Amanda, who says she has been estranged from her parents since 2016, said she will continue to seek criminal charges against her mother and father.
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