Plaintiff in ‘gay cure’ lawsuit gives uplifting testimony about self-acceptance
One of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against a ‘gay cure’ group has given sometimes disturbing but mainly uplifting testimony.
Opening arguments were heard earlier this week in a fraud trial which involves the New Jersey group Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH).
JONAH was sued in 2012 by four Jersey City-based plaintiffs including Benjamin Unger.
Earlier this week Mr Unger told the jury he received a bizarre array of “treatments” including being told to beat a pillow, imagining it was his mother.
He also said how one of the counsellors at JONAH, Alan Dowling, made an analogy about “non-sexual erections” which made “no sense” to him.
“He compared it to when your nephew sits on your lap and you get an erection,” he said to gasps from the gallery.
“At one point he put his hands on my shoulder,” Unger continued. “I literally felt him breathing on my neck. Then I was told to look at my body, ‘feel my masculinity’ and then I was told to take a step further, and to take my pants off.”
Other evidence this week included a patient file kept by Dowling, which included shirtless photographs of Unger which had been lifted from his Facebook.
However ultimately he gave a message of hope. Unger, who was 19 when he went into JONAH, said: “I’m happy with my life right now. As I’ve become a healthy gay man, I’ve realised that everything they told me was a lie.”
Going on, Unger said the lawsuit wasn’t about getting revenge or monetary gain, but because: “People have a right to know what they’re getting themselves into.”
JONAH isn’t taking the lawsuit lying down, however, and refutes claims that the men were damaged by their experiences at the facility.
“They’re making things up,” defence counsel Charles LiMandri said.
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“So Mr Unger took his shirt off — big deal! … If they continue to have problems, it’s because they had them when they came in and they didn’t stay long enough.”
Jurors today heard that JONAH offered “junk science”, despite claiming to be able to “cure” gay people of their sexuality.
The four plaintiffs said “treatment” included being told to spend more time naked with their dads, and being subjected to anti-gay slurs in a locker room style setting.
The case continues.