Casualties of war and conversion camps

Published 10:06 pm Wednesday, February 28, 2018

By Kenya Smith

The 1989 film “Casualties of War” is about a young Vietnam veteran named Max Eriksson (Michael J. Fox) who flashes back to his days as a soldier. In the flashback, Eriksson witnesses the kidnapping, rape and murder of a Vietnamese farm girl named Than. The horrendous act is conspired by Eriksson’s own platoon under the leadership of Sgt. Meserve (Sean Penn). After Than’s murder, Eriksson persists to seek justice for her even though he is advised to be quiet. I will not spoil rest of the movie, but “Casualties of War” has helped me with a controversial topic.

Bored Panda posted an article about a photo project created by Ecuadorian photographer, Paola Paredes. Paredes’ project, “Until You Change,” exposes the persecution of LGBTQ individuals living in Ecuador’s therapy clinics. First, the parents would hire men to drug their daughters and transport them to the clinic. At the clinic, the orderlies would beat the girls with numerous objects for making mistakes. The girls are even forced to drink a mixture of chlorine, bitter coffee and toilet water. Some girls testified that the male employees would drug and rape them as part of the therapy. According to Paredes, there are approximately 200 therapy clinics in Ecuador. These establishments confine LGBTQ persons against their will and practice force-feeding, beatings and corrective rape. Unfortunately, many of these clinics are still in operation.


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America is also home to similar facilities. As a teenager, Lyn Duff was sent to a Mormon conversion camp after she came out to her parents. For 168 days, Duff underwent therapy that included watching same-sex porn while smelling ammonia, psychotropic drugs and solitary confinement. The camp even punished patients for minor mistakes by making them cut the lawn with small scissors, scrub the floor with toothbrushes and suffer verbal abuse from their peers.

Last year, 20/20 investigated the now defunct Restoration Youth Academy in Alabama. Numerous reports stated that the “Christian” school was abusing its students, especially LGBTQ students. Some of the students came forward about their experiences, saying they had experienced or witnessed beatings, strangulation, isolation and food depravation from the facilitator David Young and two camp leaders. The students even confirmed that LGBTQ students were the main targets. Lucas Greenfield revealed that the school confined him in an 8-by-8 room for two months in his underwear and discharged him for bathroom breaks only. Like Greenfield, many LGBTQ teens were sent to RYA for conversion therapy. Young and his accomplices are now serving 20 years in prison for their crimes.

These real-life incidents should not be happening to anyone, anywhere. It is wrong to cover up and pretend that there is nothing to hide. We cannot dismiss these incidents as minor errors. If we remain silent, we become like the religious leaders that Jesus describes in Matthew 23. It might mean that we experience persecution within our own faith, but in order to bring forth the Gospel, we must shine the true light of Jesus Christ through our actions.

Kenya Smith is a Suffolk native and graduate of Regent University. Email her at