Conversion therapy report reveals 'urgent' need for safeguarding

(Photo: Unsplash/Chris Lawton)

Large numbers of people who underwent therapy to change their sexual orientation say the experience left them feeling suicidal, while some say they were even forced to have heterosexual sex, a report has found. 

The report by the Ozanne Foundation asked the views of 4,600 people who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or same-sex attracted, including 458 people who had direct experience of conversion therapy.  The Ozanne Foundation said the responses came primarily from those with a Christian faith background.

Shockingly, 22 people said they had been forced to have sex with someone of the opposite sex in a bid to cure their same-sex attractions. 

The study said that these attempts were 'overwhelmingly unsuccessful', with nearly three-quarters stating that 'it
did not work for me and I do not believe it works for others'. 

Only 13 people out of 361 respondents said 'it worked completely', while 60 people said that it had 'seemed to work for a while but it then wore off'.

The report, which is being presented to the Church of England Synod this week, also revealed widespread mental health issues among recipients of conversion therapy.

Nearly a third (91) said they had attempted suicide, while over two-thirds (193) said they had suicidal thoughts.  

Two-fifths said they had self-harmed, with the study finding that this was more prevalent among women. A quarter said they had suffered from eating disorders. 

Less than a third said that they 'have gone on to lead a happy and fulfilled life' after taking part in conversion therapy, while nearly half stated they had 'found it hard to accept myself for who I am' and that they had 'had to leave or change' their faith group.

Recipients tended to be young too, with over half of the survey respondents said their first experience of conversion therapy happened when they were aged 18 or under.

A majority of respondents (51.1 per cent) said the practice should be criminalised. 

The study was overseen by Synod member Jayne Ozanne, who came out as a lesbian in 2015 and said she had experienced mental health issues after attempts to change her sexuality. 

Commenting on the findings, she said they raised serious safeguarding issues. 

'For many, much of this report will confirm what they already know regarding the dangers of "conversion therapy",' she said.

'However, it is the scale and severity of the problems experienced and the age at which children are said to be exposed to these practices that are of the gravest concern.

'The high level of reports of attempted suicide and suicidal thoughts amongst those who have attempted to change their sexual orientation is not something that can be easily dismissed.

'These are serious safeguarding issues which require urgent action.'

In his foreward to the report, the Bishop of Liverpool and chair of the Ozanne Foundation, the Rt Rev Paul Bayes said the report was 'hard reading' for the faith community. 

'The level of considered and attempted suicide reported here is shocking and sobering,' he said.

'The statistics reflect lives which have been scarred and strained by mixed messaging of love, acceptance, condemnation and fear. I thank those who have revisited this pain in order to help us all.'

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