Save Sarah: Teen Escapes Forced Gay Conversion Therapy With GoFundMe

A 17-year-old high school honor student and debate team member who ran cross-country was deemed unhealthy by her parents; then, she was kidnapped and sent to a boarding school after she took her girlfriend to prom.

Sarah, a San Antonio high school student, may have been every parent’s dream, but her sexual orientation meant she had to be sent away so she could be “fixed.”

Forcibly kidnapped and sent across the state to an East Texas facility where her parents reportedly hoped she could “pray away the gay,” 17-year-old Sarah was held without access to phone or email.

With no way out, Sarah was facing the very real prospect of missing her next year in high school.

She escaped once, but was dragged back to the facility that her parents intended to hold her for a year. Then, when extended family members arrived to take her away, law enforcement was called in to keep her from leaving.

Sarah just wanted the ordeal to end.

Instead of studying, preparing for college and hanging out with friends, Sarah’s parents hoped she’d spend the next year doing forced labor and intensive bible study designed to cure the “disease” her parents found so sinful and disgusting.

That wasn’t OK with her cousin Joey Jordan who set up a GoFundMe page and reached out to the Internet for help with the hashtag #SaveSarah.

“It’s not okay to try to make gay teens straight by sending them away and using the threat of God against them.”

Sarah’s friends and extended family reached out for help and the Internet responded. In 12 days, almost 2,000 people have donated more than $64,000 to hire a lawyer to fight for Sarah’s freedom.

Her legal costs mounted quickly, and the family faced $200,000 in lawyer bills, but they were finally able to bring her home.

Sarah was released June 10 and while her freedom is a huge win for civil rights advocates everywhere, there are others like her that remain captive to forced gay conversion therapy.

Mental health professionals at the American Physiological Association call it “reparative therapy;” not only does it not work, but it’s actually proven to be harmful to minors who undertake it, according to their website.

“Homosexuality is not a mental disorder and the APA opposes all portrayals of lesbian, gay and bisexual people as mentally ill and in need of treatment due to their sexual orientation.”

Only four states: California, Illinois, Oregon and New Jersey and the District of Columbia have laws protecting minors from undergoing forced gay conversion therapy

The laws prohibit forced efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation and places fines and other penalties on licensed therapists and mental health professionals who treat minors under 18.

Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, told PinkNews the gay conversion laws were designed to protect minors from actions that would scar them forever.

“These actions will protect young people from a practice that studies conducted by major mental health organizations and personal testimony from youth have shown can create dangerous and even life-threatening effects, including depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, and suicidal behavior.”

Sarah is free now, but her extended family has racked up $200,000 in legal fees. The GoFundMe page collected donations has been temporarily suspended while Sarah and her extended family consult with their lawyer and decide their next step.

“We are hopeful that one day soon all the other LBGT teens out there who face rejection by their families and attempts to “fix” their sexuality will be accepted for who they are.”

In the wake of the Orlando shooting that claimed the lives of 49 innocent people, it’s more important than ever before to stop the hate and discrimination faced by millions of Americans every day.

[Photo credit: Save Sarah GoFundMe Screenshot and Borja Sanchez-Trillo/Getty Images]

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