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SALT LAKE CITY — A 19-year-old Colorado woman who claims she was sexually assaulted while at Turn-About Ranch, a treatment center for youth in Utah, filed two lawsuits this week — one against the ranch and another against "Dr. Phil" and CBS.
Dr. Phillip McGraw had recommended the ranch to her and her family when they appeared on his television show.
Hannah Archuleta, according to the legal complaints, was groped on two occasions by an adult male staff member who worked at the ranch during her first few weeks at the school. After the second instance, she reported the behavior to the school but she says in the complaints that they accused her of lying and did not do anything to fix the situation.
The lawsuits claim that the school "retaliated against Ms. Archuleta by subjecting her to both physical and emotional abuse to silence her." It also alleges that the school negligently hired and supervised the male staff member who assaulted Archuleta.
Both of the lawsuits claim that in retaliation, Archuleta was forced to clean up horse manure, walk for over six hours, sleep on a plank without a pillow, and work outside in below freezing temperatures. These were in addition to verbal abuse, threats of physical violence and humiliation in group settings.
She wrote to her family about what happened and her father came to Utah, took her out of the program and reported the sexual assault to the local sheriff's office, according to the lawsuit.
Archuleta previously filed a lawsuit with similar claims against the school, which was dismissed due to procedural issues, but the judge ruled that she could file a new lawsuit.
Archuletta appeared on the "Dr. Phil" show on Oct. 22, 2019, when she was 17, for help with suicidal ideations and drug problems. The legal complaint said that she was taken directly from the show to the ranch in Utah, with transportation that was arranged by the show's staff. Her parents were asked to quickly sign paperwork at the time, which the lawsuit alleges they were not given time to review.
The lawsuit filed in California against McGraw, the "Dr. Phil" show, CBS and related organizations claims the show and people involved with it misrepresented the ranch to Archuleta and her family.
Attempts to reach the ranch for comment on Friday were unsuccessful. Jerry Sharell, a spokesman for McGraw, issued a statement to KSL.com saying the parents chose to seek treatment at the ranch after the TV appearance. "None of the defendants in this case had anything to do with her program at that facility, as documents signed by the Archuletas reflect. We understand that she subsequently sued Turn-About Ranch but that case was dismissed and recently refiled. This case will be vigorously contested," Sharell said, "There are not and never have been financial ties to Turn-About Ranch."
The complaint quotes McGraw saying, "Hannah needs to go to the ranch to have any chance at a good life," and, "At the ranch, Hannah will be in a safe environment, eat well, be treated well and have multiple therapies."
McGraw and the show also assured Archuleta and her family, according to the complaint, that they would pay for the expenses and oversee her care while she was at the treatment facility.
The suit says McGraw neglected to tell the family about emotional and physical harm done to past guests on his show and others at Turn-About Ranch. The lawsuit filed in California listed multiple other lawsuits against the youth treatment facility in Escalante, Garfield County, which Archuleta and her family claim the show should have known about.
Gloria Allred, one of the attorneys for Archuleta, explained that the "grossly negligent representations" of the ranch by McGraw and others on the show convinced Archuleta's father to send her there.
"We look forward to fighting for justice for Hannah," Allred said.