In her new memoir, author Alex Cooper recounts her grisly experiences with reparative, or "gay conversion," therapy as a teen.
Cooper's book, Saving Alex, details the "exhausting and humiliating" time she allegedly spent at a home in St. George, Utah. Now 21, the California native said her Mormon parents told her she'd be spending time with her grandparents shortly after she came out as a lesbian in 2010. Instead, she said, they sent her to live with Tiana and Johnny Siale, for eight months. The Siales told her parents they'd "cure" their daughter of her homosexuality, she said.
Once there, Cooper said she was subjected to beatings and torture, CBS affiliate KUTV reports. In the video clip above, she recalled a time she was forced to carry a backpack filled with rocks in an attempt to change her sexuality. She said she also attempted suicide.
"No one should be beaten, or be told that God doesn't want them, or be sent to dangerous so-called 'conversion therapy' because they are gay," Cooper, who was 15 when she came out as gay, wrote in an excerpt cited by the Human Rights Campaign. "No family should feel they have to choose between their faith and their child."
Cooper, who now works at an Oregon women's shelter and is no longer a practicing Mormon, said she hopes Saving Alex will inspire more U.S. states, including Utah, to follow California, Oregon, Illinois and New Jersey in outlawing reparative therapy, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.
"It's like sending you to therapy to change your eye color," she told KUTV. "It’s not going to work. What it's going to do is damage you."
Cooper eventually won a legal battle in which she was granted court orders to protect her right to be an openly gay teenager in Utah. She said that she and her parents have since reconciled and, ultimately, she chose not to press charges against the Siales because, as she told Publishers Weekly, "As long as I was sitting in a courtroom looking at them I couldn’t move on with my life, and that’s what I needed to do."
Meanwhile, Church of Latter-Day Saints spokesman Eric Hawkins said that his church "denounces any therapy that subjects an individual to abusive practices," according to KUTV.
"We hope those who experience the complex realities of same-sex attraction find compassion and understanding from family members, professional counselors and church members," he said in a statement, which was confirmed by the Religion News Service.
Saving Alex, which hit stores on March 8, has already received praise from HRC President Chad Griffin, who called Cooper's story a "call to action."
"We must put a stop to this brutal practice of conversion therapy and ensure that every child is embraced for who they are in their homes, schools and communities,” he said in a statement on HRC's website.