Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Washington Post alludes to sexual abuse at JONAH

The following appeared in the Washington Post last night:

Abuse victims’ advocates turn to the Internet Emily Wax

“We are breaking the silence in the frum [religious] community, and more people are getting online to tell their stories every day,” said Chaim Levin, 22, who was raised in the Chabad-Lubavitch community, an ultra-orthodox branch of Hasidic Judaism. Levin recently began blogging about the sexual abuse that he says he experienced at age 19 at an Orthodox Jewish counseling center in Jersey City. (The center — JONAH, or Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality — did not return calls or e-mail requests for comment.) Levin, who is now openly gay and no longer religious, still lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, which is the Hasidic movement’s headquarters.''

“Our goal is to capture the eyes and ears of the world,” said Levin, who earlier this month traveled to Georgetown University to speak about abuse on “Faith Complex,” a campus TV talk show about religious issues."

When this article came out, I was writing my previous post about my actual current religious beliefs. My post also touched on the dangers of reparative “therapy” generally; it all by itself is a repugnant, harmful practice, denounced by the American Psychiatric, Psychological and Medical Associations.

The article, however, alludes to specific abuse I and others have experienced at JONAH. I had gone to JONAH, desperate to change my orientation. I attended JONAH's "counseling" sessions for over a year and a half. During my last session with my life coach, who described himself as "ex-gay", I was asked to remove my clothing and touch myself as part of process that I needed to undergo in order to "heal myself of my homosexuality". He instructed me to step out of my comfort zone and remove my clothing in front of mirror with him in a locked room. He insisted that this was the "work" that I needed to do in order to change an unfortunate and blatant lie told to already vulnerable patients. JONAH still operates today with the very same life coach seeing clients regularly.

I appreciate that mainstream media has brought some light to JONAH and its sexual abuse, but I am disappointed by the lack of detail. Because of lack of awareness, I actually turned to the Internet before I began blogging. Over two years ago, Ben Unger and I discussed in a video what happened to us at JONAH in the hands of Alan Downing:

I hope the Washington Post will consider doing a follow up piece exposing what going through "ex-gay" therapy was actually like for me and many other young people who come from both religious and secular backgrounds.

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