A Mississippi man is claiming that a local Baptist school teacher raped him as a means of a gay cure.
Jeff White, now 32, told the Washington Blade he suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Steven Barnes, a teacher at church-run Bethel Baptist School in Walls, Mississippi. The alleged abuse occurred between 1996 and 1999, while White was a student. Barnes would allegedly schedule "appointments" with White each Wednesday in his classroom or an office and would force him to have oral or anal sex because of his sexual orientation.
“He would rape me because I was gay and because it would make me hate men and make me change,” White, who was sent to the school after coming out to his parents in the seventh grade, told the Washington Blade.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), a non-profit law firm that advances lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality through litigation, filed a complaint with the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department on behalf of White on Aug. 26. In a press release published on the NCLR website, the group states White was sent to the school because the school promised White's parents he could be "cured." The alleged "counseling" sessions with Barnes were intended to "convince him that being gay was more painful than suppressing his sexual orientation."
“After growing older and witnessing so many who are still harmed by the church and by efforts to correct homosexuality through traumatic and damaging tactics like the ones used against me, I finally realized that it is my duty to stand up against those who have harmed me,” White said, per the press release. “By speaking out against the wrongdoings that were committed within the walls of Bethel Baptist School, I hope to shed light on the darkness that is so easily hidden within the church, and to help ensure that no one else suffers the pain that I had to endure."
Barnes is now an assistant pastor at Bethel Baptist Church, the school's parent congregation, according to the NCLR.
DeSoto County Sheriff's Department spokesman Dick Hackett confirmed to the Associated Press that a complaint was filed last week against the church and the case is currently being investigated. The church intends to cooperate.
A spokesperson for the church has not returned The Huffington Post's request for further comment. However, a woman who answered the phone at Bethel Baptist Church Tuesday told the Washington Blade that White's allegation is “the biggest lie there ever was.”
The American Psychological Association has issued an official statement on gay conversion therapy, specifically noting how individuals with ties to religious organizations have utilized the practice. The APA states such procedures are "based on a view of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major mental health professions." Homosexuality was declassified as a mental disorder in 1973.