Keynote Speaker

Protecting Our Youth: Conversion Therapy & Institutional Abuse

Samantha Russo

Penny Lane Centers

Keynote Session #3

9AM - 10AM - 09:50:00

Session Overview

Institutional Abuse is a national epidemic that our country has chosen to ignore. Many parents send their children to Residential Treatment Facilities when the child's behavior becomes too much for the parent to handle. Other parents send their children to these facilities when the child comes out to them and they want a quick fix to what they view as a problem. While treatment facilities and educational reparative environments can be a great resource and beneficial to those they offer treatment to, many abuse their power and physically, emotionally, and sexually abuse the children they are there to care for. This epidemic is ongoing, and many lawsuits have been filed, but the abuse has not stopped. Advocates have worked with legislation to change laws, but this work has not been enough. This is true of Conversion therapy as well, as it has not been outlawed federally. In fact, it is a common practice in many of these facilities. The truth about conversion therapy is frightening and this workshop will touch on the facts, details and all other information to what occurs behind Residential Facility’s closed doors. Television and other forms of media often make these types of environments look fun, friendly, and safe; but the truth is they often result in youth leaving with PTSD, physical disorders, and sometimes, death (by suicide). This workshop will help attendees become familiar with institutional abuse and how they can advocate against it. This workshop will be from a Social Work lens, and very interactive.


Samantha Russo is a Clinical Social Worker (ACSW/LMSW) that is currently based in Los Angeles, CA. She identifies as a Survivor of Institutional Abuse and Conversion Therapy. Samantha enjoys traveling around the country speaking at conferences, and has recently been recognized as a finalist for Forbes 30 Under 30, 2019, and named an Honorary Faculty and Panel Speaker with Outlaw at Thompson Reuters. Samantha has published two articles on her research of Conversion Therapy, and currently works as a therapist. In summer of 2018, Samantha started UnBroken, a nonprofit that offers free legal, therapeutic and vocational services to survivors. Samantha plans to enroll in a PhD program next fall, and focus her research on disassociation disorders that occur in survivors of Institutional Abuse and Conversion Therapy.