THE LOG BOOKS
Season 2 Episode 9 “No reason whatsoever to doubt”
Presenters: Tash Walker, Adam Zmith
Producers: Shivani Dave, Tash Walker, Adam Zmith
Music: Tom Foskett-Barnes
Artwork: Natalie Doto
This episode contains stories about domestic violence, abusive relationships, rape and sexual consent and suicide.
[telephone dial tone, music]
TW: Here are some lines from the log book in June 1989 When two volunteers spoke to the same caller.
Took a call this morning. He said he had first sex last night after speaking to someone here yesterday or the day before. He then went on to talk about possible abuse by father when he was much younger.
He does seem like the person I spoke to last Wednesday about rape and incest.
He then said that he’d thought about committing suicide this morning.
I'd given him the number for Incest Line and Survivors. He was quite lucid, but worried that if this went any further, he'd lose his brother because he felt the family would be split up.
I think this person is trying to disclose sexual abuse - in a convoluted way – He’s quite worried about being removed from the family. Be gentle with him. Please.
AZ: This boy's story just feels very complicated and it's interesting to hear different volunteers take different calls from him and make different notes and really try to like piece together what's going on.
TW: You have to really listen to that person. You have to help them to share their story. We call it ‘getting the story’. Often people are afraid to tell you anything, you sort of, have read between the lines a bit and try to figure out what's going on - what's happening.
TW: You’re listening to the Log Books – stories from Britain’s LGBTQ+ history and conversations about being queer today.
AZ: In partnership with Switchboard: the LGBT+ helpline. I’m Adam Zmith.
TW: And I’m Tash Walker. In this season we're reading through the notes made by the volunteers who took calls between 1983 and 1991.
AZ: Episode 9 – “No reason whatsoever to doubt”
TW: We’re going to be talking about the really difficult topic of abuse, sexual violence -inside and outside of our relationship - including male rape.
AZ: And a reminder here that we’ve always change any identifying details about the callers to Switchboard. And the voices that you will here in this episode are the people who have handled these kinds of distressing calls on the phones, including one in particular who pushed Switchboard to be better. And - most importantly - survivors.
TW: The following story just needs a little bit of context. It's from one family and even though it mentions a religious background it's not representative of all people of that faith or religions in general.
This is a log book entry for March 17 1991.
Another family rape. A 17 year old Muslim woman called from Birmingham. 20 minutes silent call then bit by bit it emerged that she lives at home with her father, brother and mother. They found out she was a lesbian last night. Her brother raped her last night. Then this morning the whole family went off to Mosque - locking her in the house and she phoned us. Very hard going and didn't find out how her name - didn't want us to call the police. Tried to get her to call 999 and get taken to a refuge. She said she would, but her family was about to get back from the Mosque. So please if you get a silent call, be aware that she could still be at home being raped by her God-fearing brother.
I can't really cope with my feelings of rage and injustice. The non-consensual sex and service training would have been a help - could I've gone to it. Seeing as there seems to be more and more of these family rapes - perhaps we should organise some more sessions. Yours in blind fury.
DJ: Within certain communities, it was a little more prevalent than others at that time, but it did happen. Corrective rape for lesbians. And you had to understand the impact that that would have to a lesbian at that time. Of being raped.
My name is Diana James, and I was a Switchboard volunteer between 88 and 94/95. I'm now strategic advisor to the police and I write training manuals for the police.
TW: Complex issues, such as these, mean that people often call Switchboard again and again for support and help in getting through difficult times. One recurrent caller we saw in the log books throughout this period is a woman we're going to call Annie.
AZ: Annie’s is just one story of someone being abused by another person - reaching out to Switchboard and Switchboard being there.
TW: We've decided not to read the entries in full - due to their sensitive nature. So as a way of talking about this issue, we'll paraphrase the entries and use quotes from the volunteers and the log books.
AZ: The story starts when Annie phones Switchboard to say that her husband beats her and their child. The log book doesn't note Annie’s sexuality but she reports to the volunteer that her husband is keen on talking about her lesbianism. The volunteer urges Annie to get emergency help from social services or Women's Aid.
She was more upset today than I ever heard her before. She does need support at the moment. She is incredibly guilty about having got her husband arrested.
TW: Annie finds shelter in a refuge and starts divorce proceedings. At the same time, she is pressured by the husband's family to return to him.
I tried to persuade her that she's starting a new phase of her life and to try to give the refuge to chance.
AZ: Annie perseveres with the proceedings against her husband. There is no mention of any criminal charges against him -just their divorce.
Annie phoned to let us know her court case went well yesterday. Her divorce will be through in 21 days.
She can't remember the names of the people she has spoken to but wanted to say thanks.
TW: But despite the divorce, and Annie's apparent strength in moving forward with her life, her ex-husband’s family continues to hassle her.
She's under a lot of strain. But she's been very strong. Be supportive!
AZ: And that is where the logbook entries finish we don't know what happened to Annie.
Elaine: I think another difficult area that people find quite hard to talk about is when young people run away from home for lots of different reasons, but quite often they are being sexually or physically abused because of their sexuality. And quite often they take to the streets. And I think that is something that - even in today's world is still happening. I think it happened in the 80s, the 90s and still happens today and I think people just don't know how to deal with it.
There are certain ways, I suppose, of listening to young people and children that are bringing these sort of stories - and finding the appropriate referral systems for them to find help from. Which, of course, you can do but they have to make that call first.
I’m Elaine. I worked for the National Children's Home helpline called Careline and then I went on to work at Childline.
This is a log book entry from February 12 1991. The volunteer who took the call was Betty.
A guy just called who has been raped and beaten up by two of his friends. He was obviously very upset and in a lot of pain. He doesn't want to report it. But he's interested in the male rape crisis group. He kept complaining of feeling weak and then the line went dead. If anyone else talks to him -can you let me know what happens?
TW: It’s tough. It’s so good that he reached out to Switchboard though. Often reaching out for help and support is one of the hardest things to do.
AZ: Yeah. And especially like around the issue of male rape. I mean, first of all, it's amazing that at this time there was a male rape crisis group because, as we'll hear in the rest of this episode, male rape was not something that was, like, really talked about or handled particularly well - by any authority. And maybe today it's still problematic.
TW: Must have been really hard for the volunteer to take that call and hearing the line just go dead.
AZ: Yeah, yeah. It's one thing that we noticed in this period of the logbooks - 83 to 91 -compared to the earlier period in season one, there are more calls about male rape and discussions among volunteers actually about how to handle those kinds of calls. So that's what you're going to hear now starting with Diana reading and responding to one of those log book entries.
Log entry, 31st of March 1990.
I've just spoken to possibly the most miserable fucked up person I've ever spoke to on Switchboard. He didn't give his name, but he was from Manchester.
When he was in Edinburgh, he was forced, intimidated by his landlord to hold down a guy who the landlord raped. This was three years ago but he's still extremely messed up about it. If he calls back, please refer him to a counsellor - he needs it.
DJ: So, this did happen then. And it was a huge stigma as well for men to talk about this - to discuss what had happened to them. You had to be hugely sensitive when a guy shared this with you - because they're sharing something that is just … so… incredibly personal to them. And you really got to be there, totally, for them and reinforce what they're saying. You've got to believe what they're saying. They've had disbelief - if they've ever told anyone - and all the news stories, everything else if there is some out there - are hugely negative. So you've got to reinforce the fact that you believe them - you understand what they're saying. And that you understand the impact of what they're going through. This is not just another sexual experience. This has been a violation of who they are as a person, as a human being. And that this is hugely damaging to them. And so, you really had to take them through everything and … but, of course, at that time as well you had to take them through the HIV and AIDS information too. You know, do you know if they used a condom or not? If they didn't use a condom, then you got to think about the advice you give them about getting tested, where they should go, how they should be treated.
This is a log book entry from September 19 1983. The volunteer who took the call was Simon.
Young guy rang to say that he had been raped by a cab driver. Said he was okay. And I said you should go to the police. He will probably ring back to tell us how he got on. He was very upset and nervous.
MH: I wonder whether that cab driver felt fairly confident that it wouldn't be reported. I know that when I got raped, in a gay nightclub in Leeds in 1989, I wondered about talking to the police about it. And when I thought about it and when I pictured what that conversation would be like - I couldn't go through it. I... I felt that if I started that conversation off with: ‘I was in a gay club…’ the assumption would be that I had asked for it - that I had no ability then to turn down any sexual overture. And what happened on that occasion - I mean - I was in the loo and someone pushed me into the cubicle, beat me around the head and raped me. And I had bruises, and I had a bit of bleeding - on my head. But I still didn’t feel that the police were going to take me seriously. Now maybe I was wrong, maybe I should have gone to the police, and I do certainly regret that I didn't -on the basis that that same person may have done the same to someone else. But at the same time, I really understand why I didn’t at the time.
I'm Matthew Hudson. I first went to a gay club in 1983 when I was 15.
Diana: There's still issues around rape – male rape - right now, but at that time, it was like considered not male rape. And if they were a gay man -was that rough sex? And that, of course … it isn’t -because if it's not with consent, it's not sex, its rape. But a lot of guys back then they didn't know that and the conversations were – well how can a man be raped? But back then there was all these myths and I think to an extent they're still there - around what happens to a guy when he's being raped. And that guys can be raped. And that is - it can be within a gay relationship. It just doesn't have to be like suddenly there in the bushes on Hampstead Heath and it happens. It can happen in a bedroom.
One of the reasons I'm so passionate about the rape of any woman but also lesbians and coercive and what were called corrective rape. Is the fact that that's what happened to me - that I was raped. And the guy was shouting ‘You fucking … dyke … you bitch’ as he was raping and beating me. And then I was up in hospital so I had an understanding of how that could feel.
It wasn't something I discussed too much, within the circumstances, because a lot of the times you had to be seen … you have to be dispassionate -within certain environments -you know, you couldn't be too passionate about what you were speaking about or what you were teaching - you have to be step back, which is a very male way of looking at things. You know, to be passionless - to be distanced. And of course, I wasn't, because it had happened to me. And so, I could really feel what was happening, which is one of the reasons why I went on to set up the first national same-sex domestic abuse project - was around those particular issues and then that led on from that to Broken Rainbow and then Broken Rainbow went into Galop.
AZ: It must be so difficult to be a Switchboard volunteer- picking up the phone and taking a call about this issue.
TW: Yeah, it's super, super difficult. I don't think anything ever really fully prepares you for it. Although we have fantastic support networks at Switchboard and lots of preparation and training - which is so so important. I think it's important to remember, as well, that Switchboard is 46 years old, and it has built on all of those learnings and all of that experience of volunteers from across those years.
AZ: And one of those volunteers who helped to eventually improve how Switchboard handled these kinds of calls and how volunteers were trained and prepared in a way that you're talking about now Tash was Steve Craftman who we heard from in episodes, one, two and three.
In the log books from 1986 we found a note that Steve had typed up and pasted in as a kind of call to action to the volunteers.
TW: Yeah, he actually he actually resigns over this but thankfully he re-joined two days later.
AZ: So, let's hear from Steve reading his own log book entry.
Hi, I'm Steve. I was a volunteer at Switchboard from 79 to 87.
Log book entry from October 86.
To begin with a couple of apologies. Firstly, for writing this in the log book at all. As you will realise from what follows – I have no means of finding out who this should be addressed to. Secondly, I've had to change a number of details to preserve anonymity. You'll see why.
Some weeks ago, an old friend of mine, Bill, went out for a drink and ended up picking someone up. Bill is an SM’er although this wasn't a leather bar. As is his custom before going off with this guy Bill made sure that the guy knew what Bill's limits and preferences were. When they got back and started having sex -this guy totally ignored what he'd been told by Bill, about Bill's preferences, and limits. And also ignored Bill when he said to stop. In short, Bill lost all control over the situation. Eventually he got away.
Bill isn’t stupid. He knows from helping me when I was raped, that what happened is not, in any way, his fault. Like any rape victim, though, he needs a lot of reassurance and it was to this end that he called the Lesbian and Gay Switchboard three times. On all three occasions he spoke to a man - he cannot or will not remember the dates or times. All three men were completely thrown by the call and didn’t know how to handle the call.
Bill did not get any of the reassurance that he was looking for – and needed. Quite the reverse. He was told what happened is your own fault, really. And since there was no anal penetration it wasn’t proper rape. Bill has gone from being the sort of person who talks to people in bars because they look lost – with no intention of getting off with them - almost to a recluse. He now says that he won't speak to anyone that he doesn't know. One hell of a change.
Lesbian and Gay Switchboard could have helped. Instead on three occasions Bill was badly let down by the organisation. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the incompetent and uncaring attitude of the men he spoke to has damaged Bill’s chances of recovering from a nightmare.
I have absolutely no reason, whatsoever, to doubt anything that Bill has told me. It is therefore apparent that within this organisation there are people who know next to nothing about rape, sadomasochism, or consent.
Bill’s problems would not be so acute had he not phoned Lesbian and Gay Switchboard. I’m disgusted with the men that he spoke to and ashamed to be a member of this organisation.
I will probably not the only one to feel this. I'm too angry to say what I think should happen now. It's over to you.
Another volunteer added:
I can well believe what Steve has to say. The in-service training on male rape showed up how much we needed to learn. Can more be organised? This is an issue for all of us – which we have to get beyond feeling uncomfortable about.
SC: I know that I wrote that. I can always recognise my own style of writing. A year or two before that I made the distinction between a rape victim and a rape survivor. Attitudes to rape in the 80s were appalling. It just didn’t happen. Or if it did happen - it was in the context of a joke and ‘lucky you!’
You might feel like a victim of rape now but what you have to do is to learn how to be a rape survivor.
I was raped in 77 - I think it was. About a year later, I think, I wrote an article for Gay News. The Editor didn’t want to use it because of the language I’d used. And a number of the staff threatened all kinds of dire outcomes if the editor didn’t use it. There was very very little written about men who had been raped, at the time. So much of the time I was working things out in the dark.
It struck me that ... as you process -learn to accept the fact that it had happened, learn that it wasn't your fault, learn to deal with the anger, the hatred … the urge to beat the crap out of somebody. You come out the other side a survivor.
TW: We're now going to hear some log book entries and some stories from contributors talking about abuse in relationships, as is something that historically is not talked about a lot within LGBTQ+ relationships. It's just something that very much stayed behind closed doors.
AZ: There was that book recently - In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, which sort of chronicled the author's experience of abuse in a same sex relationship. And it was very, very powerful and started lots of conversations about this. And it was kind of one of those weird moments where I think a lot of people who read that book thought ‘wow, yeah, I haven't read this story before’.
TW: It sort of gave permission for those stories to be shared.
This is a log book entry from September 18 1991. The volunteer who took the call was Ishmael.
If Phil - 23 years old from Canada originally- rings, please give him lots of support. He lives and works in Rochester. Split up from his partner three weeks ago who lives with him in his council flat. Phil has experienced violence from his partner in the past but now gets regular and increasingly more intense beatings when he's drunk, and when he's just plain angry. Also threats outing him etc. I gave him solicitor contacts. Suggested he works out how far he's prepared to go i.e., temporarily moving out until his ex does, bringing about police charges, seeking supportive friends - including the gay man at work, get supportive personnel officers. Phil, basically being at a low ebb, needs encouragement to make the necessary decisions. He may call again before my shift next Wednesday.
This is a log book entry from 22nd May 1988. The volunteer who took the call was Debbie.
I've been talking to a young woman, Jane, who is in an oppressive and isolating relationship with her partner. I've tried to encourage her to make contact with Women's Life. She’s so submissive to her partner's demands and needs gentle, persuasive encouragement to address her own needs for her life. I hope she will call us back and get more encouragement. Monday evening maybe. May initially be silent - as she was with me.
Diana: I think another quite difficult area -for gay people in those days and probably currently to- is that because there's so much prejudice against that part of society. When things go wrong in relationships, like any sort of abuse between partners. It was always quite taboo because people didn't really want to put their hand up and admit that somehow that was happening in their relationship. So, I think for a lot of people, there wasn't anywhere to go. There wasn't any help that they felt was available to them. And I think that's always been a difficult issue. And yeah, we have had a few people that we've helped through the years that have experienced that sort of problem.
This is a log book entry from May 28 1987. The volunteer who took the call was Martha.
Man rang wanting an address of a battered women’s refuge. Very suspicious when I said we didn't have it. Sounds as if he was looking for a wife in one. Might try again.
TW: Earlier in this episode, Diana mentioned an organisation called Galop -the UK’s only, specialist, LGBT+ anti-violence charity, who also run the UK LGBTQ+ domestic abuse helpline. So, we spoke to someone who works on the helpline. They always choose not to give their name. And she told us about how things are different today from the 80s.
Anon: Hi, I am the manager of the national lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, plus domestic abuse helpline called Galop. Galop is an anti-violence charity. It's by the community for the community. It's been running since the 80s. It was initially a volunteer run organisation. As many organisations that are charities now were that's how we started. I would say that the helpline is there for people who have experienced domestic abuse in their life or are experiencing domestic abuse now.
This helpline is there to talk to you about those experiences -now or in the past - to enable you to try and begin recovering from that experience. We do get callers who say – ‘oh, am taking up valuable resources and taking up space.’ You know, ‘I'm sure there's somebody else who needs this more…’
And I think the minute someone says that I always think - go get yourself a cup of tea, sit down and tell us what's going on - because usually there's a long story to be told. But in terms of the types of things we are having to work with … with people is coping with living in a hostile environment where they may have been out in their life prior to COVID and had to come back to the family home. Come back to the family home -the family home is very non LGBT+ friendly and they are having to shrink themselves back down into a position of secrecy, into a position of feeling ashamed - which you can imagine like a pressure cooker, isn't it? And how long can you keep doing that.
People calling feeling suicidal, previous suicide attempts - that's increased. I remember when I first started working in domestic violence area, I thought - there must have been refuges for people to go to flee for domestic abuses in the 1700s. How naive was I? Because the refuge movement started in the 1970s and the refuge movement was about giving -predominantly women and children- the space to flee from the atrocities that were happening within their home.
I think it's really worth us being aware of how many gender nonconforming lesbians were at the forefront of this movement of, of talking about the fact that you know, we understood violence and abuse to happen in warfare, to happen outside of personal lives - but to kind of really pinpoint and explicitly say: society these are happening at home, these are happening to your family dynamics by partners, by family members. And there was so much of consciousness raising at that point to say, well, what is our lived experiences. And using lived experience as evidence for building service for people that are experiencing domestic abuse. So, we started in the 70s, really, doing this kind of work. So, if you think the 80s and the 90s were hardly any where advanced. In terms of what do we see people needing through the help line service now – its really varied. You can have so many different situations in any one day. But the kinds of things that we see is reoccurring themes, what for example, something that we probably wouldn't have seen in the 80s - is people calling about parenting with an abusive partner.
This is something that's coming up more regularly on the helpline, with situations that are very complex. So, for example, typically in a relationship they have, parented a child together. This has not been done through a kind of - in inverted commas - official way. So, they have … so one parent has got parental responsibility, but the other parent hasn't got parental responsibility. And the person the parents got the parental responsibility is the perpetrator … the alleged perpetrator …. in the situation.
And so you've got one partner who has been caring and parenting these children and is no longer living in the family home - has had to flee - but has no entitlement access to the children. So we can see that circumstances can be very complicated for people to navigate and manoeuvre within the systems that we have. Definitely situations with children present is something coming up more. Lots of concerns about houses. I think we've had a 30% increase in contacts with people who are under 30 talking about homelessness. So, you know, it's really not unusual to get contact from a young adult who has been sleeping rough for a couple of nights. Their parents have found out that they are LGBT+ -not having it, and they are kicked out of home and call the helpline and say: what do I do? Where do I go? What now?
That's one type of call that we would get another type of call is someone just really wanting to explore the relationship they are in - they don't know if it's abusive or it's not. It's very confused and conflicted feelings about it. They don't want to get their family member in trouble. They don't want to get the partner into trouble. But they also recognise that what is happening, can't go on. It's impacting on them too much.
That kind of call might take, you know, an hour and it might be that we call them back later in the week to see how did things settle, how did things process for them, and then we can then at that point, really considered what they might be feeling ready and willing to do. It might just be that they just needed to offload it -which is have a conversation, say it out loud, and have somebody talk with them and give them the words to explain and explore what's going on for them.
If you know someone calls up and say: ‘well, I had this this situation, it didn't feel right or what do you think’ and the helpline worker can say -from our experience we would regard that as being abusive because when you have tried to do something that’s important to you like visit your family, they have threatened you. And these threats have made you change your behaviour. So that would explain why that is also abusive. So, I think when we think and talk about domestic abuse, it's very likely that we're going to get caught into a narrative of how complicated, how hopeless, how terrifying circumstances, how much people are victimised by abuse. That is all true. But at the same time, there is always a counter narrative. And this sometimes gets lost, but it is of equal significance when we're working with survivors of abuse, because in every situation when somebody is faced with domestic abuse or partner that is behaving in ways that harmful to them. They will always try and prevent more incidences of abuse, defy the abuse, reduce the harm to them. They are always looking to manage, cope, and show resourcefulness in that time. And they I think it's so important for us to always acknowledge and recognise the resourcefulness, the strengths shown by those that are living with domestic abuse now or have done in the past and how they've got through such difficulties.
And that's something that in the helpline sense, we really, really try and foster with anybody that calls and speaks to us is we know how challenging and difficult this is, but we also are so blown away by what you've done to keep safe and keep well. There's a number of different ways that people can contact or use the domestic abuse helpline.
The most popular way is still the phone line. So that's a free phone number 0800-999-5428. That's open five days a week Monday to Friday, 10 to 5 and then Wednesday and Thursday evenings. We also have an email so people can just email us in explaining about the situation and that's firstname.lastname@example.org. We have a web chat service that's open on Wednesday and Thursday evenings if you wanted to, you know it wasn't safe for someone to speak on the phone. They can use a web chat service and talk to a helpline worker that way. We also have a self referral form, which is on the Galop website - on the front page in the right hand corner at the top. You can explain a little bit about what is going on in your circumstance and this gives, the helpline worker more information to get back in contact with you and go through what .. what is happening. So, there's like, I think, four or five different ways that we have to be contacted.
AZ: In our next episode, we're gonna look at another big theme in the log books from this period of time, which was censorship
TW: Censorship by the government on what was considered obscene. Especially when it came to LGBTQ+ content.
AZ: Calls to Switchboard are confidential so to bring the log books to life we’ve changed the caller’s names. The Log Books is produced by Shivani Dave, Tash Walker and Adam Zmith in partnership with Switchboard: the LGBT+ helpline.
TW: If you think other people would like The Log Books please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. These ratings and reviews really help others to discover the show. You can send us your feedback and stories to email@example.com or join the conversation on social media with the #thelogbooks
AZ: Our music is by Tom Foskett-Barnes and our artwork is by Natalie Doto.
TW: Thanks to Stef Dickers and team at the Bishopsgate Institute.
AZ: The BFI National Archives
TW: The folks at Acast,
AZ: MACE the media archive for central England.
TW: Peter Zacaroli at West Digital
TW: Gareth Mitchell at Imperial College London,
AZ: Content is Queen
TW: The staff and volunteers at Switchboard.
AZ: And all the contributors who shared their stories.
Switchboard continues to take phone calls from 10am to 10pm every day. If you are affected by any of the issues in this podcast or need to discuss anything to do with your gender identity or sexuality you can call Switchboard on 0300 3300630; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or instant message via switchboard.lgbt where you can also donate money or time to help.