Alleged Abuse At Orthodox-Founded 'Cure The Gays' Program
Therapist Alan Downing, A Key Figure In JONAH and People Can Change, Allegedly Made Clients Get Naked And Touch Genitals
NEW YORK – Truth Wins Out (TWO) released an exclusive video statement today from two former clients of “ex-gay” life coach Alan Downing. The clients, Ben Unger and Chaim Levin, alleged that during individual therapy sessions, Downing (pictured) made them undress in front of a mirror and touch their bodies while the significantly older therapist watched. Unger and Levin call the sessions a “psychological striptease” and believe they were harmed by what they consider unprofessional behavior and sexual misconduct.
Downing, who admits he is still attracted to men, is a major player in the “ex-gay” industry and a practitioner of so-called “reparative therapy”. He is the lead therapist for Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH) and is listed on the People Can Change website as a “Senior Trainer” for Journey into Manhood, which is a controversial “ex-gay” backwoods retreat designed to supposedly make gay men more masculine.
“These dysfunctional, unscientific programs are rife with sexual impropriety and need to be shut down,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “Too often, repressed ‘ex-gay’ quacks pretend they are trying to get into your head when they are really trying to get into your pants. They call what they do reparative therapy, but it’s more like re-perv-ative therapy.”
“He was encouraging me, ‘it’s okay Ben, you can take your shirt off’…here was a man that was much older than me, and I was around 20,” said Ben Unger, a former client of Alan Downing. “At that point, I was just staring at a mirror with my shirt off and he was right behind me staring at the mirror with me at my body. Then telling me to look at my body and feel my body. It was weird.”
“While I was standing there without my clothes on, he asked me to touch my genitals,” says former Downing client Chaim Levin. “Once again, I communicated that I was not comfortable with it. And he was like, you know, ‘just feel yourself. Just feel it for a second. So, you can grasp your masculinity physically.’”
“If you believe having a closeted gay therapist undressing clients makes one straight, than you’ll believe that playing doctor makes one a brain surgeon,” said TWO’s Besen. “The concept is both outrageous and ridiculous and these sick, exploitative practices should be abandoned immediately.”
JONAH was co-founded by Arthur Abba Goldberg, a Wall Street criminal mastermind who was convicted in 1987 of “fraud of spectacular scope”. Upon completing parole, Goldberg secretly reinvented himself as a moral leader who “cures” gay and lesbian people. Known as “Abba Dabba Do” in the financial world, Goldberg was sentenced to 18 months in jail for bilking poor communities with complicated bond schemes and served six months in prison.
“Given the sordid history of JONAH, this latest scandal is not too surprising,” said TWO’s Besen. “This is an unscrupulous organization of high moral turpitude that has few qualms about harming desperate and vulnerable clients. This group has consistently been tied to bizarre, sexually suggestive methods that are unsettling, dangerous and ineffective.”
Journey into Manhood, where Downing is a counselor, exhibits similar eyebrow raising techniques. Writer Ted Cox infiltrated this peculiar program and was surprised to find what he called, “homoerotic exercises” and a cabin that he called “The Cuddle Room” because it was a space where supposedly “ex-gay” men gave each other inappropriate massages.
“Apparently some of the guys in one cabin threw their mattresses into the middle of the room and had an all-night holding session,” said one of the men attending the Journey into Manhood session, according to Cox’s article.
“How ironic that therapists that claim to cure homosexuals keep ending up naked with their gay clients,” said TWO’s Besen. “Such lurid exploitation has moved from a disconcerting pattern to a full-blown trend and it needs to be investigated by the authorities.”
Truth Wins Out is a non-profit organization that fights religious extremism. TWO monitors anti-LGBT organizations, documents their lies and exposes their leaders as charlatans. TWO specializes in turning information into action by organizing, advocating and fighting for LGBT equality.