Things Started Changing Very Soon After Straight, Inc. Opened.
The graduates of the Straight Inc. program were interviewed in December of 1977. They entered the program in 1976 and graduated in 1977. All of the graduates had similar stories. They were enrolled in the program against their will by a parent and within the first week realized they wanted to be there and/or needed the help that was available there.
The first graduate investigators interviewed was a seventeen year old who had a five-month-long program and became one of the first graduates of the program. His intake date was September 4, 1976 and he graduated on February 11, 1977. He said he was not physically or verbally abused and didn’t see that happen to anyone else and he spoke very highly of the four counselors that were on staff during that time. (They had since left the program). He told investigators that he no longer visited Straight or participated in the graduate rap sessions because he didn’t approve of the way things were now being done. He told them that things were a lot different now than we he was there and he doubted that he would have been helped if the things going on now were occurring when he was there. He noted that he was shocked in one of the graduate raps he attended when he heard Jim Hartz call one of the participants a ‘dumb-ass.’ He tried to stay around to change things that he did not believe were right for the program, but his efforts seemed useless. He finally gave up and has not visited Straight since.
When the second graduate, a 16-year-old who had a seven month program, was interviewed she began by saying she was neither physically abuse or verbally abused, nor did she see anyone else abused. However, she stated that she did remember one case of possible abuse. In one rap Helen Petermann asked —–‘s sister if she (the sister) wanted to hit her brother and when the sister answered yes, Mrs. Petermann took the two of them out of the sight of group. No one knew for sure what happened out of their view. Also Helen Petermann refused to grant this second graduate permission to take some prescribed pain-killer medicine that was given to her by her doctor following a tooth extraction. She had a strong dislike for Helen Petermann and reported that her sex lectures were gross. She has not attended any of the graduate raps and has no intentions of doing so as they were just “come down” raps.
The next two graduates interviewed spoke of having histories of multiple drug abuse and feel that they would be dead or in jail now if it hadn’t been for Straight Inc. They praised Helen Petermann and express gratitude not only for helping themselves but their families as well.
All together the graduates were almost a perfect sample of the controversy that has always surrounded the program. About five of the graduates spoke specifically of disturbing aspects of how the program had changed since the very beginning and the other five spoke of the program as though it were literally a life saver.