Danielle Bregoli, aka Bhad Bhabie, is coming forward about her experience at Turn-About Ranch in Escalante, Utah. She was placed in the troubled teen wilderness program following her viral appearance on Dr. Phil in 2016. In a YouTube video uploaded on Friday, she details how she was kidnapped in the middle of the night, handcuffed, and taken to the isolated ranch, where she was denied "necessity privileges" and witnessed troubling behaviour, including other children being physically restrained by staff. Bregoli, who is now 18, was sent to the abusive program when she was just 13 years old.
"I was taken there against my will," Bregoli shares. "[They] come in the middle of the night, they don’t tell [the kids] where they’re going. They just take them, handcuff them, and put them in the car. It’s basically like kidnapping."
The rapper says that she was inspired to share her story after a fellow program attendee and Dr. Phil alum named Hannah Archuleta accused one of the Turn-About staffers of sexual assault. "When I had seen the punishments [Archuleta] was given, I knew I really had to say something … because I truly believe they did that,” she said in the video.
"It’s just our word against the staff’s word when you’re there, because there’s no witnesses, there’s no cameras, you don’t have a phone, there’s none of that," Bregoli explained. "That’s why I was so scared to speak out, because I was like, 'No one’s going to be believe me.'"
There are hundreds of these programs across the country, and they’ve been under intense scrutiny recently. Bregoli’s claims are comparable to Paris Hilton’s, who was also sent to a teen wilderness program in Utah, as well as Provo Canyon School, a boarding school for troubled teens. Hilton spoke out about the trauma she endured last year in her documentary This Is Paris and also works closely with Breaking Code Silence, a social movement organized by survivors of the Troubled Teen Industry that Bregoli highlighted in the description of her YouTube video. Sending "troubled teens" away to programs like this is "part of the whole Dr. Phil show," according to Bregoli. In her YouTube video, the 18-year-old claimed that while her mother had threatened to send her away before, Bregoli never believed she really would — until she ended up at Turn-About Ranch.
Bregoli's video includes many troubling details about her time at the ranch, which is still in operation, including being forced to sit up for three days straight — laying down and sleeping comfortably was apparently not allowed. "This place is all about taking away privileges, like okay yeah, the phone and the TV and all of that, but they take away necessity privileges, like sleeping on a bed, eating good food, not being cold," she revealed. Program attendees were required to do intense manual labor, and would be punished if they broke any of the ranch's numerous rules — or if a staff member was in a bad mood, Bregoli said. She also described being ignored after telling staff members that another student was being bullied or mistreated by a peer.
In one upsetting part of the video, Bregoli recounted hearing about the death of James "Jimmy" Woolsey, a Turn-About Ranch employee who was murdered by a teen enrolled in the program, through a counsellor's walkie-talkie, an experience she calls traumatic and scary.
"I’m not really sure why Dr. Phil still sends kids here. It really doesn’t make sense," Bregoli says. "Are you trying to help them or are you trying hurt them even more?"
Representatives for Dr. Phil have not responded to Refinery29's request for comment, and Dr. Phil — who has not renewed his license to practice psychology since 2006 — has yet to respond publicly to Bregoli's claims.