One Equal World

Gay Men Sue Conversion Therapists

Posted on: December 6, 2012

Four gay men from New Jersey are suing a conversion therapy center that claimed it would make them straight. Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) claims that it is dedicated to helping people “struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions,” and the director, Arthur Goldberg, promised one of the defendants that “JONAH could help him change his orientation from gay to straight.” Therapy can cost up to $10,000 per year.


But the therapies the center used sound more like quackery from centuries past, resulting in “depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior.” Some therapy sessions had the men strip down naked in group sessions, cuddle with same-sex counselors and patients, beat effigies of their mothers with a tennis racket, visit bath houses to be nude with father figures, and subject themselves to verbal abuse and ridicule for being gay.


Goldberg reportedly told one of the defendants, Sheldon Bruck, “As long as you put in the effort, you’re going to change.” But after five sessions, the 17-year-old Bruck quit, unable to stand the abusive techniques used by JONAH and experiencing “deepening depression and anxiety leading to suicidal ideation and feelings of hopelessness about his life.”


Chaim Levin is another gay man involved in the lawsuit. He attended sessions for 18 months when he was 17. “I was manipulated into believing that I could change my sexual orientation, but instead I was subjected to terrible abuse that mirrored the traumatic assault that I experienced as a young person,” he said. ” What I can tell you is that conversion therapy does not work. My family and I have wasted thousands of dollars and many hours on this scam.”


Benjamin Unger, another plaintiff, called the gay conversion therapy used by JONAH “psychological abuse” that “picked apart every human emotion and childhood disappointment.”


The fourth plaintiff, Michael Ferguson recalls the sessions. “I watched as grown men were frenzied into fits of emotional rage against their mothers and encouraged to act out physical violence against their parents in order to access their so-called true manhood and become more heterosexual.”


In California, conversion therapy was recently made illegal for clients under 18. Lawyer Samuel Wolfe says, “We really want to bring this lawsuit to bring attention to this practice that takes place in many parts of the country, preying on vulnerable young people.”


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