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Therapeutic camps

State: no evidence of abuse at 'ex-gay' camp

Christopher Curtis, PlanetOut Network, June 28, 2005

Tennessee's investigation into a Christian reparative therapy camp found no evidence of child abuse, despite the assertion by mainstream psychiatric and psychological associations that the process is emotionally harmful and can lead to self-destructive behavior.

Last week, Tennessee's Department of Children's Services investigated reports of child abuse at the Refuge program run by Love In Action International, an organization that believes homosexuals can be turned into heterosexuals through various types of therapy.

Refuge "treats" people between 15 and 18 years old.

The camp made headlines after "Zach," a blogger who identified himself as a 16-year-old from Bartlett, Tenn., said his parents had sent him to a camp to change his sexuality.

"I'm a big screwup to them, who isn't on the path God wants me to be on. So I'm sitting here in tears ... and I can't help it," read the blog.

The Department of Children's Services could not say whether it found "Zach," or even if he really exists.

"DCS dispatched its special investigations unit to the facility, and after conducting a full investigation, determined that the child abuse allegations were unfounded," said Rob Johnson, an agency spokesman in a quote published by the Associated Press.

John Smid, executive director of Love in Action, defended the program.

"We understand people don't have control over what they feel, but we teach them they are able to control what they do," Smid said in a quote published by the AP. "We don't have to act on those desires, even if we feel them."

Both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association have strongly discounted reparative therapy, saying it is an unsound practice that can hurt those who undertake it.

"What's interesting to me is that the people who think you can change are the ones who want you to change," said Ron Schlittler, the deputy executive director for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

Schlittler told the PlanetOut Network that the people behind reparative therapy are

"driven by ideology and financial motive. They are selling snake oil and promoting reparative therapy because it's a business. They prey upon people who have never been given any information on it. It's absolutely an industry."

Schlittler added he did not blame the parents who took their kids to these programs.

"I would say that they're also victims who in years past thought they were doing the right thing -- they just didn't know any better. But when they learned what a damaging thing it is, they were ashamed and horrified at what they did."

"They are totally ignoring what we know about sexual orientation," Schlittler concluded. "That people don't have a choice."

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