Going undercover in the world of gay conversion therapy is no small undertaking. That risk is intensified exponentially if the facility is using methods that are tantamount to torture.

And yet that is the harsh reality in many places around the world, where LGBTQ people are still treated as deviants with serious mental health problems.

Ecuadorian lesbian photographer Paola Peredes visited one such facility in her home country, where abuse and torture are practiced in the false name of “therapy.” She documented the atrocities being performed by the staff, and has released a photo project that aims to recreate what she saw and experienced. Peredes also chose to be the main subject in the photos.

“Ecuador is very religious and very Catholic, it’s kind of taken to the borderline fanatic Catholic,” Paredes told Cosmopolitan. “Homosexuality becomes something taboo, something not talked about, something wrong.”

Warning: the images Peredes created may be extremely distressing to some readers.

“It’s very hard to enter these clinics and document them with traditional practices because cameras aren’t allowed, and the victims who were interviewed didn’t want to be photographed.”

“It was really hard figuring out how to make the images authentic, a lot of these images are violent and gruesome. The images you see are really going on, you see me really going through this. I was myself, I was being locked up. The scenes are real — I put myself through those emotions. After I did those scenes I had a couple of months where I had to see a therapist.”

“A lot of these clinics try to have these traditional gender roles for men and women — if you learn how to put makeup on and you learn how to behave like a proper woman, then maybe you will stop being lesbian. And on the other side, there’s this horrendous type of treatment, horrendous physical and emotional torture.”

“It’s family [that puts the women in the clinics], which is the saddest part. They’re put in by their family against their will.”

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