Conversion therapy survivor and activist Jayne Ozanne has revealed how she was told to vomit out her “problem” by a religious “counsellor”.
Ozanne, a former government equalities advisor, told the Daily Mail that she spent almost two decades enduring conversion therapy, as faith leaders attempted to “cast out” her sexuality.
She shared her story after it was confirmed in Tuesday’s (11 May) Queen’s Speech that a conversion therapy ban would be brought forward to parliament.
She tried to tell herself that it was a “one-off”, but her attraction to women refused to go away.
When she was 32, Ozanne went to a Christian conference, where she was approached by a faith leader who told her: “I can see the spirit of man on you. We must cast it out.”
He took her into a side room, she said, and “urged me to vomit up the evil inside me”.
Ozanne continued: “Without batting an eyelid, he whipped out a bucket. This was obviously standard practice.
“It was horrific. He made me believe a demonic presence was living inside me that had to be exorcised.
“Of course, it didn’t work. I was still attracted to women. But I felt so guilty and ashamed afterwards I subjected myself to endless therapies.”
She recalled another “therapist” who, in her living room, encouraged her to vomit out her “problem” for hours on end, causing blood vessels in and around her eyes to rupture.
While the physical effects of the sessions were horrific, the mental effects, she said, were far worse.
“The physical pain of the sessions was bad enough but the psychological torture was so profound it left me wanting to die just to stop the agony,” said Ozanne.
“In fact, I often contemplated taking my own life just to escape the hell I was in.”
Left feeling “constantly ashamed and made to feel wrong, sinful and unacceptable”, Ozanne’s mental health deteriorated so drastically that she was eventually admitted to hospital.
Conversion therapy could continue if religious exemptions included in ban
Jayne Ozanne is now director of the Ozanne Foundation which works with “religious organisations to eliminate discrimination based on sexuality or gender”
In March this year, she was one of three members of the government’s own LGBT+ Advisory Panel quit their positions, accusing the Conservative party of creating a “hostile environment” for LGBT+ people.
She, like many other campaigners, fear that the Tories’ planned conversion therapy ban could allow the practice to continue legally if exemptions are included for religious institutions.
She said: “It is the dark side of religion. It’s done under the radar.
“There are tens of thousands of people in the UK who have endured this. I know of at least a thousand myself.
“It’s happening every day in leafy suburbs and university cities. I got off lightly. I’m aware of others who have been raped, electrocuted, violently beaten or burnt.
“Today I can’t believe I allowed myself to be preyed on. But it just proves how easy it is to become a victim.”
She added: “We need to send a clear sign that it is not tolerated, that people who practise it will be prosecuted.”