OPINION: Domestic abuse happens in LGBT relationships too and we need to take action
Charlotte Cooke explains why The LGBT Foundation's LGBT-specific domestic abuse support service is so important
When people think about domestic abuse, quite often there’s an assumption that it only happens to cisgendered people within heterosexual relationships. However, recent news stories and research show that LGBT people are equally, if not more likely, to be victims of Domestic Abuse. Stonewall’s research suggests that one in four LB women have experienced domestic abuse in a relationship, with two thirds of those experiencing abuse from a female partner. Almost half (49%) of all gay and bi men have experienced at least one incident of domestic abuse from a family member or partner since the age of 16, and our own Transforming Outcomes research highlights that between 17% and 80% of trans people have experienced domestic abuse.
So why is there so little awareness around domestic abuse within the LGBT community? There are often issues of additional stigma, particularly within same-gendered relationships. Individuals in these relationships may not recognise that what they are experiencing as abuse, and may be fearful of reporting due to having to disclose their sexuality/gender identity and fearful that they may not be believed. There are issues around domestic abuse in same-gendered relationships not being recognised by professionals, and a lack of LGBT-specific domestic abuse support services. Housing for male victims of domestic abuse is incredibly limited, for LB women often women’s refuge spaces don’t feel accessible, and trans people can face multiple barriers in accessing accommodation which is appropriate for their needs.
There are also some types of abuse that are specific only to the LGBT community. Coercive control can include threats to out a partner, or encouraging someone to out themselves knowing this will further isolate them and reinforce the abusers control. Victims can have their sexual orientation or gender used as a weapon, either by questioning the victim’s identity or accusing the victim of mutual abuse.
At LGBT Foundation we recognise the need for LGBT-specific domestic abuse support, and we have a service which is available to anyone 16+ who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans, and anyone falling under the umbrella term of LGB&T* such as queer, intersex, pansexual, gender non-binary or gender fluid, including those questioning their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. The service provides two different areas of support, one being casework and the other being practical housing advice for those who are at risk. In the casework support, which is 1:1 work, areas such as healthy relationships and boundaries, power and control, and general wellbeing will be covered. For those who are at risk of homelessness, or who are currently homeless due to domestic abuse, there is an option for practical housing advice which would include 1:1 sessions with a domestic abuse caseworker where you will be offered advice and guidance around benefits, housing options, safety and budgeting to ensure long term security.
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