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Miss. man says he was sexually abused in gay ‘conversion therapy’

Miss. man says he was sexually abused in gay ‘conversion therapy’

HERNANDO, Miss. — A Mississippi man has filed a complaint alleging that a teacher at a church-run school sexually abused him in an attempt to change his sexual orientation from gay to straight.

Jeff White
Jeff White

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) assisted in filing the complaint Friday with the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department on behalf of Jeff White, 32, a former student of Bethel Baptist School in Walls, Miss.

White says he was sexually abused for three years by a teacher attempting to “cure” his sexual orientation.

According to the complaint, White alleges that, shortly after coming out in 1996, his parents turned to the local church, which ran a school it promised could “cure” their son and stop him from being gay.

White claims that teacher Steven Barnes began subjecting White to weekly “counseling” sessions in which he regularly raped and sexually assaulted the teenager 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,” says White, in a statement released by the NCLR.

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“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.” he says.

Sheriff’s department spokesman Dick Hackett confirms that a complaint was filed last week against Bethel Baptist Church in Walls. He says he can only say it’s being investigated.

Church spokesman Josh Carlisle said Friday the church knows there’s an investigation and intends to cooperate.

White is now the executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Rainbow Center, the first LGBT center in the state. Barnes is currently Assistant Pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in Walls.

Associated Press contributed to this report.
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