Staff Writer: Maya Arruda
On August 30th, 2023, Family Vlogger Ruby Franke was arrested alongside her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, following a 9-1-1 call from Franke’s neighbor. Franke was charged on six separate counts of aggravated child abuse, a second-degree felony.
A neighbor made the 9-1-1 call when Franke’s twelve-year-old son approached his house asking for help. According to the neighbor, the boy appeared emaciated, and tape could be seen around his ankles. The full transcript of the 9-1-1 call can be found here.
During a custody hearing about Franke’s four minor children on September 7th, 2023, Franke claimed that the twelve-year-old son had sexually assaulted his sister and other children in the neighborhood. This was the same twelve-year-old boy who escaped Franke’s home to ask the neighbor for help, leading to Franke’s arrest. Franke had no supporting evidence for these allegations.
Franke’s first court hearing was on September 8th, 2023, where the presiding judge ruled that she was to be detained without bail. A legal recording of Franke’s first court appearance can be found here.
Her second court hearing was set for September 18th, 2023, at 11:00 A.M. MDT (1:00 P.M. EDT) under the jurisdiction of Judge John J. Walton, but was canceled last minute. Like the first court hearing, Franke’s second hearing was supposed to be held virtually from 1:00-4:00 P.M. EDT.
Ruby Franke, along with her now ex-husband Kevin Franke and their six children, were professional family vloggers on their YouTube channel named 8 Passengers. The channel was started in 2015 and amassed 2.5 million subscribers. Since Franke’s arrest, YouTube has deleted the 8 Passengers channel and banned Franke from posting on the platform again.
While the deletion of Franke’s YouTube platform cuts her off from her main source of income and prevents any further exploitation of her children for monetary gain, the deletion also removes footage that implicates Franke as an abusive mother.
Those familiar with the 8 Passengers channel were not surprised by Franke’s arrest. The “parenting” content Franke posted on the channel regularly raised concerns with viewers and often indicated child abuse.
In one vlog, Franke discussed a text she received from her daughter’s school in which her kindergarten teacher asked if she could bring a lunch for her daughter, who did not have one. Franke told viewers that her kindergarten-aged daughter, whom she made responsible for packing her lunch each morning, would have to go hungry as a consequence of her actions and refused to bring food to the school. Franke also said she hoped “nobody steps in and gives her a lunch.”
During another infamous vlog, her eldest son revealed that he had been without a bed and had been sleeping on a beanbag chair in the living room for seven months as a punishment for pranking his younger brother.
Though the original videos have since been deleted, a montage of Franke’s abusive behavior towards her children has been archived under the apt title: “Ruby Franke being Terrible for 5 minutes.”
Another concerning act of Franke’s “parenting” is her decision to send her eldest son to the Anasazi Foundation wilderness camp, a Mormon-affiliated “therapy camp.” Camps such as this are part of the problematic, troubled teen industry, and the Anasazi Foundation is known for some of the worst 1-star reviews from survivors and staff. These correctional camps have a long history of abusing children, and occasionally, this abuse results in death.
A Change.org petition to launch a Child Protective Services investigation into the Franke family has been live since May 2020. At the time of this article, this petition has gotten 17,941 signatures.
In 2020, Ruby Franke entered into a business relationship with Jodi Hildebrandt. They used Hildebrant’s qualifications as a licensed therapist to start Connexions, self-help-adjacent mental “training” program.
Hildebrandt and Franke have been accused of using their Connexions platform to victim-blame survivors of rape and sexual assault. A clip of Hildebrant reposted on TikTok (TW: sexual assault), shows footage of her victim-blaming women who have been sexually assaulted.
Hildebrandt’s license was suspended in 2012 for violating HIPAA laws and Utah’s URE Rule 506, which states that patients have the right not to have their therapist disclose personal information to others without their consent.
In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, one patient who suffered this violation of privacy stated that “[Hildebrant] didn’t want to talk about my personal goals or my progress. She would only threaten me that if I didn’t take more sessions and have my wife take more sessions, the alleged [porn] addiction would destroy my life.”
Other patients have similar reviews of Hildebrandt’s “therapy,” including patients from her more recent Connexions enterprise with Franke.
However, Hildebrandt’s license was reinstated in 2013 and is still active despite her recent arrest for child abuse charges. Amidst Franke and Hildebrandt’s arrests, their website for Connexions remains active.
Franke and Hildebrandt have caused so much harm to the people who trusted them. Their online content exploited Franke’s children and Hildebrant’s patients to line their pockets.
Their victims deserve justice, none more so than the six children abused and exploited by their mother.