Levin attended weekly sessions for 18 months at JONAH's Jersey City, New Jersey, headquarters conducted by Alan Downing, an unlicensed JONAH counselor who calls himself a "life coach," the suit said. Downing is named as a defendant in the case.
"I was manipulated into believing that I could change my sexual orientation, but instead I was subjected to terrible abuse that mirrored the traumatic assault that I experienced as a young person," Levin said at a news conference Tuesday. "What I can tell you is that conversion therapy does not work. My family and I have wasted thousands of dollars and many hours on this scam."
The lawsuit described what happened in one of those sessions in October 2008 with Levin, who was 18 at the time.
"Downing initiated a discussion about Levin's body and instructed Levin to stand in front of a full-length mirror and hold a staff," the suit said. "Downing directed Levin to say one negative thing about himself, remove an article of clothing, then repeat the process. Although Levin protested and expressed discomfort, at Downing's insistence, Levin submitted and continued until he was fully naked. Downing then instructed Levin to touch his penis and then his buttocks. Levin, unsure what to do but trusting in and relying on Downing, followed the instructions, upon which Downing said 'good' and the session ended."
Two other plaintiffs -- Benjamin Unger and Michael Ferguson -- described similar incidents in the suit.
"On one occasion, Downing instructed Unger to beat an effigy of his mother with a tennis racket, as though killing her, and encouraged Unger to scream at his mother while beating her effigy," the suit said.
"Conversion therapy was, in Unger's experience, 'psychological abuse,'" it said. "By the time he terminated sessions with JONAH, he was deeply depressed and had commenced taking antidepressant medications."
Downing "picked apart every human emotion and childhood disappointment" of Unger, to present them as treatable origins of Unger's orientation, the suit said.
"I watched as grown men were frenzied into fits of emotional rage against their mothers and encouraged to act out physical violence against their parents in order to access their so-called true manhood and become more heterosexual," Ferguson told reporters Tuesday.
Unger's ability to have physical and emotional relationships with men was impaired and he was unable to work for a year, the suit said.
Bruck, Levin, Unger and Ferguson are "adjusting well" four years after their last conversion therapy treatments, according to Wolfe. "They have had time to get on with their lives," he said.