Survivors of conversion therapy are sharing their stories on TikTok in the hopes that the horrific practice gets banned.
The harmful impact of conversion therapy is evident in the videos and with hundreds being shared under the hashtag, it is clear that the practice is still prevalent.
According to UCLA’s Williams Institute, nearly 700,000 Americans have undergone conversion therapy, half when under 18.
Activities range from counselling and ‘praying the gay away’ to electric shocks.
Mike Dorn, username mikecult, is one of the many sharing their story on the platform.
Dorn came out to his parents at the age of 15 and they sent him to a Christian camp in California for three months. Here, Dorn was told he would go to hell, was forced to dig holes while praying and physically assaulted if he disobeyed orders.
When he returned home, his parents locked him in his bedroom for a further three months.
The now 30 year-old said he has been overwhelmed by the support from hundreds of other survivors and young people who fear they may be forced to undergo similar practices.
His story has been viewed over a million times on TikTok. The hashtag has had 9.5 million views.
“I was going through a pretty dark time being at home all the time and I knew that I needed to talk about it,” he told Reuters.
“A lot of people were messaging me, and it was this form of love and support and family that I’ve never experienced before.”
@mikecultPart 3. Conversion therapy ##gay ##gaytiktok ##lgbtqia ##conversiontherapy ##mystory♬ original sound – mikecult
Another survivor, 20 year-old Merry, also shared her story hoping to help others. Her video, ‘How to survive conversion therapy’ has been viewed over 500,000 times.
“Don’t tell them anything about your past.
“Anything traumatic in your life, you do not get to tell them about… They are going to get inside your head and convince you that that is why you are gay.”
@godsgayestangelPart 1 ##conversiontherapy ##conversiontherapysurvivor ##mikepence ##thesagaends ##trump ##impeach45 ##lgbt ##lgbtq ##lesbian ##bi ##winterbreak ##vlogmas♬ original sound – merryskelton75
Merry told Reuters she has received messages from about 50 teens at risk of conversion therapy and 20 survivors, from teens to late 40s.
Merry said a church counsellor forced her to put her hand in a bowl of ice until it melted while talking about her “homosexual thoughts” – an aversion technique aimed at making her associate attraction to women with pain.
After posting her story on TikTok, Merry started receiving five or six messages from teenagers every day.
“I got some terrifying messages from some kids where I ended up seeking out legal intervention to get them out,” she said.
Conversion therapy is widely condemned by leading medical groups, including the World Psychiatric Association and the Irish Council of Psychotherapy.
The United Nations has called for a global ban on the practice but few countries have followed through.
A ban against both the practice and advertisement of it has not been brought into effect in Ireland despite the Bill passing through second stage of the Seanad in 2018. It currently awaits a third reading in that chamber, and passage in the Dáil.
As of February 2020, only three United Nation member states, Brazil, Ecuador, and Malta, which have enacted national laws to restrict so-called ‘conversion therapies’.
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