Does conversion therapy happen in the UK?
Evidence from Galop’s LGBT+ Experiences of Abuse from Family Members report shows that 5% of LGBT+ respondents had been subjected to so-called ‘conversion therapy’ by a family member. The National LGBT Survey 2017 shows that 5% of over 108,000 respondents said they had been offered conversion therapy, and a further 2% said they had received it. A higher proportion of trans respondents (13%), compared to non-trans respondents (7%), said they had been offered or received so-called ‘conversion therapy’.
How do I know if I or someone I know is experiencing or has experienced conversion therapy?
So-called ‘conversion therapy’ includes any practice or abuse that has the intention to change, ‘cure’, or suppress your sexual or romantic orientation and/or gender identity.
This may be carried out by family members, community members or groups, religious leaders or organisations, health workers, counsellors/therapists, or other practitioners within the ‘well-being sector’. It might happen in your own home, someone else’s home, or in a community, religious, or therapeutic space. Conversion practices are not always tied to religion or to specific cultures, but in some cases, they can be.
So-called ‘conversion therapy’ may involve verbal, psychological, physical or sexual abuse, being prayed over or exorcised, being made to eat or drink something to ’cleanse’ or ’purify’ you, being shamed in front of others, being locked up or denied food and/or water, having your movements, access to resources, contact with others, or gender expression controlled, threats being made regarding a forced marriage or sexual assault, and other types of abuse.
You don’t have to be sure you’re experiencing conversion therapy in order to reach out to us. There are lots of ways to contact us, and all of them are free and confidential.
Where can I get support?
Phone or Webchat
0800 130 3335 or the bottom right of the screen.
Monday, 10.00 – 20.30
Tuesday, 10.00 – 20.30
Wednesday, 10.00 – 20.30
Thursday, 10.00 – 20.30
Friday, 10.00 – 16.30
Conversations will last up to 40 minutes but that doesn’t mean you can’t get in touch again on another day.
If you’re not ready to speak to a person yet, our chatbot can help you find more information.
Available 24/7, 365 days a year the bottom right of the screen.
If I experienced conversion therapy a long time ago, can I still get support?
Absolutely, this service is available to anyone who has, or thinks they might have, experienced so-called ‘conversion therapy’ at any point in their life, or may be at risk of it happening – whether it’s happening now, about to happen or happened at any time in the past. There are lots of ways to contact us, all of them free and confidential. You can get in touch via the details above or at this page.
Is the support service confidential?
The service is confidential. We won’t ask for your details, unless you would like us to refer you for further support, which could include a follow up call or email.
We may break confidentiality only if there is a serious safeguarding issue affecting you or a child or vulnerable adult. This will always be discussed with you, unless it is unsafe to do so. Breaking confidentiality is something we take very seriously and only do when absolutely necessary to protect life or prevent harm to a child or vulnerable adult. If you have questions about this, please ask the helpline workers.
Where does the support service operate?
The service is available to anyone living in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Can friends and family of victims of conversion therapy call the helpline?
Absolutely – the helpline is here for you, too. If you’re concerned for someone who may be undergoing or at risk of conversion therapy, please contact the helpline, live chat or chat bot where you will be provided with appropriate information, advice and guidance.
Can I consent to conversion therapy?
In some cases of so-called ’conversion therapy’, you can be made to believe you have asked for, or consented to, what is happening. You may even be told that the only way to live a happy and fulfilled life is to change your sexual or romantic orientation and/or gender identity – but these practices are abusive, and no-one can consent to abuse. (The Human Rights Act, 1998) (United Nations, 2020).
Many survivors of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ carry guilt and shame because they believe what happened to them was their fault. It’s not your fault, and support is available.
Is it possible for someone else to convert or change your identity?
Although some people may believe it is possible, it is not. Whilst for many, sexual or romantic orientation and/or gender identity can change and develop over time, they can’t be converted to something which they are not. We do not choose who we are and how we feel.
What’s the difference between talking about your gender identity/orientation and conversion therapy?
So-called ‘conversion therapy’ includes all behaviours towards someone that have the intention to change, ‘cure’, or suppress a person’s sexual or romantic orientation and/or gender identity. Everyone should have access to services that support them, and spaces to explore their gender and sexual or romantic orientation freely. The key difference is that those spaces and support services should not have a predetermined outcome. Everyone should be supported to come to their own understanding of who they are, and no-one should be forced to be someone they’re not.
- Predetermined: Something that is already established or decided in advance. So-called ‘conversion therapy’ always has a predetermined intention to change someone’s sexual or romantic orientation and/or gender identity.
- Exorcism: To get rid of or attempt to get rid of a supposed evil spirit from a person. Some people who experience so-called ‘conversion therapy’ may have been through an experience of exorcism.
- Coercion: The practice of persuading someone to do something by using force, threats or emotional pressure.
- Suppress: To suppress someone’s identity and/or orientation is to prevent the development, exploration and expression of who they are.
- Psychological: Mental rather than physical, relating to the emotional state of a person.
- Consent: Consent means giving your permission or agreeing to something. Consent must be freely given, informed, genuine and revocable.
- Abuse: Abuse can take many forms and can affect anyone from any background and identity. It can include psychological, sexual, economic, emotional or physical abuse, coercive or controlling behaviour, so-called honour-based violence or forced marriage.
- Intent: Determined to do something. With so-called ‘conversion therapy’ there has to be a predetermined intention by the practitioner to change another person’s gender identity and/or sexual or romantic orientation.
- Victim/Survivor: The term ‘victim’ often refers to a person who has recently been impacted by the actions of someone else or a group of people. The term ‘survivor’ often refers to a person going through a recovery process. When talking about the terms ‘victim’ and ‘survivor’, some people prefer one of the terms, both or neither. A victim or survivor may be/have been subjected to abuse alongside others, as a group
- Perpetrator: An individual or group of people who carry out harmful, abusive, or violent acts against other people. For example, a person who is physically and/or emotionally harming their sexual or romantic partner is a perpetrator of domestic abuse.
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