In a photo series titled ‘Until You Change’, Ecuadorian photographer Paola Peredes has documented the brutality of the country’s torture clinics that claim to ‘cure’ homosexuality — using violence, sexual abuse, and persecution.
Disguised as religious “clinics”, these secret treatment facilities for alcoholics and drug addicts boast of treating and converting homosexuals — in the most brutal ways including emotional and physical torture through force-feeding, withholding of food, forced prayer, beatings, electric shock therapy, and corrective rapε. Paola, herself a lesbian, told Huck Magazine.
“Since I was going through my own personal journey with my sexuality at the time, it affected me in a completely personal way. The thought that I could be locked up in one of these clinics myself lingered in my mind for years and I think, deep down, I knew I had to create something about it.”
In her attempt to take the viewer inside the secretive buildings, Paola went undercover, accompanied by her parents (who posed as potential clients), wearing a microphone hidden in her bra.
“What shocked me the most was when I saw the girls. They had been forced to wear makeup and my informants had described it perfectly: bright red lips, pink cheeks, and blue eye-shadow.”
Incorporating her emotions and first-hand experiences with theatrical methods to explore the abuse of women in these ‘clinics’, Paola decided to recreate the dreadful moments in her gripping photo series.
With first person accounts, she enlisted the help of friends and actors to re-enact scenes depicting the horrors that she had herself witness, imagining that she was being ‘treated’ and tortured for her sexuality.
“These images allow us to see what was never meant to be seen. The perversion of pills and prayer books; the regime of forced femininity in make-up, short skirts and high heels; torture by rope or rubber gloves; the spectre of ‘corrective’ rapε.”
In the bathroom, a gay woman must be vigilant when mopping and scrubbing every surface with a toothbrush. She must pick up all the hairs on the floor. If she makes a mistake, an orderly pushes her bare hand into the toilet bowl and holds her down until it is clean.
Both men and women are seχually assaulted and rapεd by the employees as part of ‘treatment programs’ to cure homoseχuality.
One of the young women seeks out liquids of her own, overcome by a growing dread. She glugs down the contents of a shampoo bottle. The small hope is that it gets her to a hospital bed, out of the anti-addiction centre.
Refusing to eat leads to questioning the authority of the staff. Later, she is kicked into a corner by a male employee to set an example to the others.
As part of the daily regime designed to ‘cure’ women of their seχuality, exercise takes place in the early morning or late at night. A therapist or orderly shouts at the girls over push-ups and squats.
The beverage is worse than a beating. An orderly force-feeds the girl a corrective concoction of liquid for misbehavior. She does not know what she is drinking. The women in the centre share their suspicions that the beverage contains chlorine, bitter coffee and toilet water.
A girl is beaten with a TV cable for failing to pick up her bag from a chair.
The first time she was tied up was the night her parents hired men to sedate and kidnap her in order to bring her to the centre. Once there, she has been tied to a bed or left in the bathroom on many nights.
Each imprisoned woman spends hours and hours of her time on cleaning duties. If the staff are not satisfied with her work, they insult and beat their charge on the spot.
Violence from the staff is not limited to days when the ‘patients’ have disobeyed the rules. They come to reckon on it regardless of what’s said or done. Slapping and choking are not uncommon. (Photos & Captions: Paola Peredes)