Monday, February 13, 2012

Threatened by a JONAH member

This morning I woke up to a comment from someone that I attended JONAH with and was once a close friend of:

"Chaim,

I care for you very much, and looking forward to the day when I can consider you a trustworthy friend again. And I mean this whole-heartedly.

But if you start a tirade against JONAH for the sole purpose of bringing it to the ground, you will face a lot of serious opposition from me. I have a lot of data, evidence, and support to rally together to go against many of your claims that will make you look way more "shaky" than you are claiming JONAH to be. I don't want to start a war with you. But for my safety and the safety of men I deeply care about, I will do so if I have to.

Think about it. I really hope you choose a more peaceful route. 

Jonathan "


This person begged me not to go public with the sexual abuse that I and others faced by the hand of Alan Downing who works at JONAH. His comment once again ignores what happened to me at the hands of JONAH and only accuses me of "taking people's rights away", people who don't want to be gay, people who have the right to change if they want to. He doesn't answer the biggest question of them all: How can you help others on the backs of hurting others? You say JONAH has helped some people but how about the people it DIDN'T help and people that it caused HARM to? How can you claim to do something that science, and my own experience, tells me is impossible? and how can you give people false hope, when that hope hurts?

Jonathan, are you planning on telling the "world" about my private experiences in therapy to try and discredit me? Is that how JONAH operates? First they sexually abuse their patients, and then when someone comes forward you basically threaten him with "showing" the world who he really is?  Are you threatening to tell people about my personal experiences? I've already done that. They abused me. They gave me false hope and damaged me psychologically. They drove me and my friends to the brink of suicide. All I'm doing is being honest about MY experiences that DO NOT reflect on people who want to change their sexual identity. Aside from that, I'm only making sure that people are aware that groups like JONAH are harmful and can cause real damage to people, and if someone really wants to change themselves they should do it in a safe environment that won't allow any abuse of power like the one I faced at JONAH. I do not believe they can do the good you claim. But even if they can, what can JONAH do, and what can the frum (orthodox) world do, to make sure that it doesn’t also cause the massive HARM it caused me?


Ps, this video is a small insight into reparative therapy by one of it's leaders Richard Cohen, someone who was very praised and glorified at JONAH.


13 comments:

  1. Chaim,

    I am actually going to decide to withdraw from a discussion here. The only thing I will say is that following, and there will be no responses afterwards:

    You and others should be able to notice that you took my comment to you further than what I wrote. Never did I mean to imply I'd actually threaten you, your character, and who you are as a person, let alone reveal your "therapy" sessions, which I have not a clue about besides all of the stuff you shared with me when we friends back in the day. This would never happen, because believe it or not, I still care about you and consider you a brother, and would never publicly shame you like that.

    However, what I did say was that I would fight against your claims and your positions on this matter. Particularly those that seem to limit the scope of reparative therapy to strictly that which you experienced. But I really don't want to start a dialogue here. The fact that you can get so charged over my comment, which was coupled with a sincere hope we could have peace between us again, makes me worried you would do the same with anything else I say here, and that could lead to you continuing taking things out of context. I can't imagine how messy it would get.

    And finally, just so that you have your answer to your question of how could I endorse help on the backs of hurting others: I will reiterate again the answer I gave you today personally so that it can be put out there for others to know and read: Think about that question on yourself, and whether you are being completely free of harming others too with your message of help and hope. You can't deny there are people like me that simply have a value system that would not conform to yours, especially under Orthodox Judaism, and your message only tells them that a) they must change their values, or b) they should live celibate. To me, that sounds depressing, harmful, and certainly something that could create a strong internal conflict within an individual.

    I will continue to push for a middle ground. One that opens the door for ensuring your experience in reparative therapy never happens again, while allowing people like me to choose an effective option for change. There is a solution to your issues with reparative therapy and JONAH that do not involve getting rid of it all together.

    I will continue to advocate mutual respect, love, empathy, and compassion from both sides. This is a tough matter. We will not all approach it the same way. I hope the day can come that we can stand side by side respecting the other, instead of creating arguments and debate, that ultimately lead to no where.

    With only the best intentions,

    Jonathan

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  2. It takes a small man to throw a lit torch and run away, Jonathan. Your true intentions are evident in what you wrote; it's too late to rescind it now that you've been called out on it.

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  3. On an impartial read-through in my opinion, it can honestly be said that Jonathan's words and thought's have apparently been misconstrued, not intentionally, but due to upset, anguish and hurt. I can understand the frustration and sometimes this frustration produces a slant on things. So, there really is no "thrown lit torch" here, just a lot of upset which is causing an unnecessary ruckus.

    I come with no baggage for or against Jonathan or Chaim, we are all in this to whatever degree, and my take is that both of them should just make sholom and not look for reasons to argue, EVEN if a perceived threat or comment is at fault. Just agree to disagree for now and don't look to spread machlokes, whether you are right or he is right. Just drop it!

    We all know this is a very heated topic and one wrong word can start us flying in all directions, so let's rise above that for now and take a chill.

    Thank you very much!

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    Replies
    1. You are exposing cult like behavior. Those with even a pedestrian understanding in of Scientology have heard some of the countless reports about their conduct which is just the same - using private information they attain to threaten and/or... blackmail individuals seeking to leave the cult and report on the cult's activities. This is not Judaism, it has nothing in common with Judaism, it flies in the face of Torah and it is cult-like; it must be exposed - people with knowledge of how it operates have an obligation to speak up and expose it. Let me explain further. We are all familiar with what the Torah says about loshon hara. If you don't like person A and you know they are getting reading to marry person B, you are not allowed to spread ugly rumors about person A to person B (obviously this is just one single example of many); however, if you have evidence that person A actually has a secret history of beating women, rape, violent sexual abuse, etc. that includes a history of convictions for such crimes which person A has not revealed to the community or his potential mate, you are obligated to informed person B and warn her about the potential danger. One must not withhold information that can save a life. It is in that sense, in my humble opinion, that you have an obligation to report what you know about the grievous abuses of JONAH. We are all seeing the evidence played out in the newspapers how young GLBT youth are taking their lives because of the abuse they face; heaven only knows what young people subjected to the abuses of JONAH might do.

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  4. OK, I'm about to get ranty.

    Jonathan--I am willing to accept that your words have been misinterpreted, and that you did not intend for your statement to sound threatening. However, I believe that it did sound threatening, and that I would have misinterpreted in the same way. You have clarified what you meant.

    I am sorry that you feel the need to withdraw from this discussion. It's one we need to be having. I hope you'll read what I write after this. I have some things to say that I think you should consider, and evaluate against your own experience. If you choose not to, I wish you the best.

    Chaim--I have many close friends who have suffered from sexual abuse. There is enormous pressure on the victim to remain silent. Often, people are told that what happened to them was all right. It was misinterpreted. If they speak out, people will think less of them. If they speak out, others will be hurt. They should be quiet.

    These things are often said by well-meaning people, but what they serve to do is damage the victim further, protect abusers from the consequences of their actions, and put others in danger. The moral action, and the healing action, is to speak out. You are doing this. I could not respect you more. Your actions are those of a mensch, in every sense of that word.

    This letter, whether Jonathan understood it to be such, is very much in the tradition of silencing the victim. You cannot harm righteous people by telling the truth. To be gay and wish to be straight has to be devastating. But you can't help people by sexually abusing them, by threatening them, by diminishing them, and additionally, the scientific and sociological evidence strongly suggests that what JONAH is doing simply not work.

    But let's say that it does work. Let's say that therapy can, in fact, allow someone who is gay to live happily as a straight person. Does this give JONAH permission to behave immorally toward vulnerable people in their care? No. Abuse is abuse. Abuse harms. Abuse warps. They claim to be doing mental health work.What happened to you is against the rules of that profession.

    JONAH is attempting--and by the way, I do not think that Jonathan decided solely on his own to contact you--to convince you that their work is so special and important that they should be allowed to do things no other health care professional would ever dream of doing. This is not the case. And it's remarkably parallel to the stories of a few people I know who were told that if they insisted on reporting sexual abuse, their teacher, coach, or relative would go to jail, and it would be their fault. It's a common abuser's tactic to tell a victim that reporting will cause damage. They say that because they don't want the perpetrator to face justice.

    I am training to be a mental health care professional. The behavior you have described at JONAH is beyond inappropriate. It is abusive, and damaging. And you can be sure that you are not the only victim.

    Chaim, you are doing something incredibly brave. You are literally saving lives, and nurturing Jewish souls. I can't presume to tell you what to do, but I can offer my admiration, and whatever support I can offer.

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  5. I actually have to split this into more than one post -- that's how much I have to say. That said...

    The more I learn about JONAH, the more distressed I become, not just as a Torah observant Jew but also as a mental health professional and a survivor of sexual abuse. It's bad enough to read that it's run by an ex-con who is famous on Wall Street for extreme acts of fraud, but also someone who has been BANNED from the American Counseling Association on a half dozen violations of their code of ethics. Anyone -- especially any rabbi or any of my fellow mental health or social service professionals -- who advocates what JONAH does will CERTAINLY have to answer to Hashem for it in due time. And any poor soul who honestly thinks that JONAH's outright cult-like and criminal behavior is "good" or "helpful" or, chas v' shalom, something Hashem would ever support, I pray that you see the TRUTH and gain the wholeness and courage to speak out as Chaim and others have done.

    I agree with everything that Charlotte and Akiva have already said. What JONAH advocates, preaches, and promotes is right out of the pages of the handbooks for the Church of Scientology and -- I encourage everyone to Google this -- Straight, Inc. and its spin-offs of "drug treatment" teen torture centers which are modeled after the now defunct, Baruch Hashem, Synanon cult. The threats, the efforts as we see above to pressure Chaim to stop talking, the very behavior that goes on in their "therapy", are nearly identical. In fact, the scenes in the video above are identical to what I've seen happen in Straight and its spin-off facilities, not to mention their direct predecessor, Synanon.

    The outcome of things for victims of Scientology has been horrifying -- bizarre death after bizarre death, attempted murder, extortion, blackmail, and, yes, sexual abuse. With Synanon, the same. Straight and its spinoffs led to countless young lives destroyed, a terrifyingly high number through suicide. Dare I talk about the sexual abuse, both of a physical and verbal nature, that has gone on in the Straights? Extremely few people could sit still and read, let alone watch videos or look at photographic evidence, of what has happened in those "facilities". I'm surprised I was ever able to, particularly as a survivor of sexual abuse myself, but as I studied for my master's degree in social work, there was no way that I couldn't.

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    1. part 2

      I have one good thing to say about the Straights. There have been many successful lawsuits against them for imprisonment, torture, and Medicaid fraud. Congressional hearings have led elected officials in Washington to denounce their tactics as rivaled only by torture techniques used in North Korea. Single victims have been awarded as much as $6.5 million for the hell they went through. Hmm... who else has had to pay up that kind of money? Oh yeah, the Catholic Church. I cannot begin to express how I feel as someone who converted from Catholicism to Judaism, finding that not only are some people in my new community as ignorant and bigoted about homosexuality as in my former community, but that sexual abuse is as prevalent as it is (not as frequent as we hear about with the Catholic Church... but what I hear is way too familiar and just as embarrassing and painful.)

      JONAH, you wouldn't be nearly as successful as the Vatican in evading justice if your tactics were made known to the public through channels louder than what have been utilized so far. You're lucky that I personally can't sue you. Though, I will say, if some other means were available to me to make your heinous acts known, I'd use it. And I know I'm not the only "outsider" who feels this way. Countless other people, Jewish and non, gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered, want to see you brought to justice.

      In the end, one way or another, you and other homophobic, life-ruining fools WILL pay for your actions. Not just for violating civil law, ethics codes, or even the Torah. As in the case of the Straights, I would go so far as to say that JONAH violates the Nuremberg Code (if one could argue that the program is an experiment, which I would certainly argue it is because NONE of what goes on is based on blind control studies or any other evidence based research -- and the Straights were slammed by the feds as an "experiment" that violated the Nuremberg Code on multiple counts). But far worse -- the program's goings-on violate the NOACHIDE Code. I pray that you and your brainwashed supporters will come around and repent for your actions and, at best, naivete, before the Moshiach comes, because you are in a GARGANTUAN heap of trouble.

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  6. JONAH helped and helps a lot of people. it does not work for everyone.
    Not everyone is happy being gay so JONAH is a great place for those type of people, it beats fighting on ones own, its nice to know that there are others out there like you who don't want to be gay, have a wife and a family.
    Chaim you fell through the cracks, you were unlucky and you have to remember never say yes when you mean no, you don't have to strip naked if you don't want, did you have a gun to your head.
    JONAH did not work for you but it works for me.

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    1. So you're saying that when Alan Downing told me that I MUST strip for the sake of changing I really had a choice? I've said many times that I was reluctant about the "therapy" and you're right, there wasn't a gun to my head, but seriously, is that enough to defend his actions?

      How can you help people on the backs of hurting others? I'm still waiting for some JONAH folk to properly answer that question.

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    2. It's ironic you keep asking how can you help others on the backs of hurting others when in reality you are doing just that with this blog. You are giving no choice to people who follow Torah with all it's Rabbenic prohibitions except to either live a gay lifestyle or live celibate. Without the middle more balanced option of find an effective way to change you are hurting tons of men who don't follow Torah like yourself. How cruel and damaging is that? Especially when there are indeed men out there who can attest to change. Your blog is like poison to men who want to be fully religious and not live a gay life in spite of their same sex attractions.

      So to answer your question of how can you help others on the backs of hurting others? Do what ever it takes to prevent any one from getting hurt. What have you done to ensure what you experienced does not happen to others without trying to eliminate reparative therapy all together? What can you do to make the therapy better and more safe instead of abolish it completely? Have you found out whether JONAH has done anything different after hearing what happened to you? Find a solution that can help EVERYONE, including those men who will only pursue change from homosexuality, not just people like yourself.

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    3. By asking JONAH and Torah Dec to stop sending the message and pressure that change is the ONLY answer, and the Torah Mandates change...no one is getting hurt!

      By asking that only licensed counselors practice accountable and and responsible talk therapy, and not pressure boys into getting naked and touching their balls..no one gets hurt!

      So simply get rid of the pressure, get rid of the unlicensed counselors, get rod of "naked touching", get rid of the notion that the Only appropriate response is change therapy.

      Simply say, some people may find that change therapy is helpful, and those people should be address licensed therapists to explore sexual fluidity. But many others not only fond change therapy unhelpful, they find harmful. These latter people should not be shunned, harassed or given up on by orthodox Judaism. One answer is not right for everyone. But no person should feel pressured to go through a therapy that he finds unhelpful or harmful. No person should feel isolated or bullied by the orthodox community simply because they are gay.

      This is how we will stop the hurting, and help everyone!

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  7. Watching the video was terrible to experience. It reminds me of those rebirthing type therapies that were so controversial. Sorry you and anyone else had to suffer through this.

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