The lack of focus on domestic violence toward LGBT people mean that an entire population is at risk of not receiving support they desperately need.
The news cycle can be an extremely overwhelming place right now, and for once, it’s not solely because of Donald Trump. Since last year, stories have continued to break on abuse. For survivors, it can be a difficult time to navigate when one wants greater awareness and yet even turning on the news can be triggering.
However, while more awareness on the levels of abuse in society, there’s still ignorance about how it can manifest. #MeToo may have risen, but still our culture is obsessed with actors and franchises that have records of being problematic. For instance, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is still one of the most popular franchises around and stars Depp, a man accused of assaulting his then-wife Amber Heard (who is bi). LGBT stories too risk being lost. In part, it is because LGBT people are often erased in society but another factor is that in challenging LGBTmisia (hatred), the community has sought to only focus on the positives. It is an understandable tactics. To combat the ideas we are amoral, we show that we aren’t. The problem is the desire for outward positivity has risked leaving a community inwardly struggling with the issues taking place. Domestic violence is a real danger for LGBT people, as much as it is for anyone else.
Domestic violence is not limited to intimate partner violence. There is a real risk of it in family settings. This could be when LGBT people are adults and have their own families or, for instance, when LGBT people are younger and their family react extremely to their coming out. These are just two instances. Domestic violence can be complex and wide-ranging.
Stand Up Magazine spoke to Alice Lobb, an LGBT Domestic Abuse Project Coordinator, who is leading the only LGBT specific domestic violence service in Wales. Domestic violence toward LGBT people is an incredibly important issue that rarely gets the attention it deserves.
However, it must still be noted that ‘LGBT’ has become more exclusive. Queer communities at risk of the same forms of oppression (such as asexual, aromantic, intersex and pan people) almost never receive direct services or resources created for them underneath the LGBT umbrella. This is critical as it means that there may be many more queer people who need support services but cannot access them. The more conversations start to diversify on such important issues though, the more likely it is that services will be invested in. Each conversation helps bring change.
Stand Up Magazine: What exactly is your role as a LGBT Domestic Abuse Project Coordinator?
Alice: My role as an LGBT Domestic Abuse Project Coordinator is to ensure the project is running smoothly and achieving its full capabilities. I attend engagement meetings/events to promote our services and accessibility to support. I also hold awareness sessions to organisations providing LGBT awareness in regards to domestic abuse. Most importantly, I provide support to victims who have/currently are experiencing domestic abuse in the LGBT community. This support can either be face to face or via telephone at an ongoing basis until the client is ready to end the support. Within the support we provide, we assess the risk of the victim and implement safety plans to protect them during this time. We also work through a support plan and how to best tailor it to the individual needs of the client, this could be but not limited to confidence boosting or planning the best way to leave the relationship. Alongside the emotional support, I also provide advocacy if the client wishes. This would be liaising with other organisations on their behalf; this could be the police or housing association’s etc. I also provide practical help, such as providing clients with personal safety alarms etc. All of our support services are free of charge to anyone who may need our support.
SUM: Why do you think there needs to be a specific domestic abuse/intimate partner violence service for LGBT people?
Alice: The LGBT community hold so many additional vulnerabilities towards experiencing domestic abuse. 80% of people who identify as Trans+ experience some form of domestic abuse!! This could be through romantic relationships or within the family home. Domestic abuse can occur within the family home if the family are struggling to come to terms with the victim’s sexuality/gender identity. We know that’s a shocking statistic and sadly someone experiencing this would be less likely to access mainstream domestic abuse support due to fear of not being taken seriously. If domestic abuse occurs within the family home, this could cause the victim to flee making them more vulnerable to abuse in their romantic relationships due to a lack of support network around them. There needs to be a specific service due to the high rates of domestic abuse happening for this group and the lack of faith in mainstream organisations. Domestic abuse needs to be tackled for the LGBT community too! Sadly, we are the only LGBT specific domestic abuse service in Wales. More needs to be done to promote accessibility. No-one should suffer in silence.
SUM: What resources do you provide?
Alice: We provide personal safety alarms amongst other safety devices. We also provide resources in regards to support networks. If a client is isolated away from the LGBT community, we do our best to promote the social groups within Cardiff and the Vale to create a support network. We also have an online reporting tool on our website. So if someone is a victim of domestic abuse and doesn’t want to go to the police themselves, they can report it with us and we will go to the police on their behalf. We also use a specific power and control wheel for LGBT relationships to refer to when supporting victims as well as implementing our individual safety and support plans.
SUM: Do you feel that intimate partner violence and/or domestic abuse in the LGBT community is overlooked?
Alice: Certainly, domestic abuse is more likely to be associated with heterosexual relationships where the male is the perpetrator of abuse towards the female. This often results in LGBT domestic abuse being overlooked as it doesn’t fit into the mainstream category of abuse. With this view, this reduces the likelihood of people within the LGBT community to seek support as they may overlook the abuse themselves due to their experiences not fitting in with the representation in the media. There’s a common misconception that a male abusing a female is more serious than the other way round or if it’s two females etc. Due to this view, people are less likely to report it to the police due to a fear of not being taken seriously which causes the abuse to carry on. Another issue here is that the LGBT community have fought so hard to promote equal rights and freedom of sexual/gender identity that they may be less likely to report the abuse due to fear of adding stigma.
SUM: What issues do you find in tackling LGBT domestic abuse? For instance, is there an added stigma?
Alice: There definitely is an added stigma. We find many issues in tackling LGBT domestic abuse, for instance normalisation of this behaviour. If someone is going into their first LGBT relationship, they may be told by their partner that this is normal behaviour in an LGBT relationship and accept that the abuse that’s taking place. As there’s still a big stigma around AIDS, sometimes this diagnosis can be used as a means of control, e.g. ‘I’ll tell everyone about your diagnosis if you don’t do this for me’. Or even withholding medicine as a form of abuse (aids medication, medication for the Tran’s community or even medication for mental health). Some people might not be ready to come out to their family yet, this could be another method used for control, e.g. ‘I’ll out you to your family, work colleagues, friends.’
It’s also important to look at Honour Based Violence putting the LGBT community at risk. This could occur if someone who identified as LGBT is part of a family where same sex relations is considered a ‘sin’, this could put them at risk of violence due to this. Asylum seekers can also experience domestic abuse. For example, an asylum seeker might have to prove their same sex relationships to prevent being deported to a country where they could be persecuted for their sexuality. This relationship could become abusive resulting in the victim being trapped in this relationship due to fear of leaving. Another issue is ‘corrective rape’ or conversion therapies with the view of ‘curing’ sexual orientation.
It should be considered that domestic abuse can occur for the LGBT community via homophobia from someone who is cisgender/heterosexual which could happen within the family home including ‘dead naming’. This is a term for someone who is part of the Trans community being called the name assigned to them at birth to try and demean their sexual identity. Someone in an LGBT relationship might be forced to stay closeted by their partner who isn’t ready to come out yet. This could result in this person being isolated away from the LGBT community losing opportunities to make new friends. Another issue is coercion into taking part in ‘Chemsex’ by their partner putting them at risk of getting an STI/HIV.
SUM: Can society do more to tackle LGBT domestic violence?
Alice: Yes! Society as a whole needs to be more aware that Domestic Abuse doesn’t just occur in heterosexual relationships where the male is the perpetrator. It can happen in any relationship regardless of gender and sexuality. Society needs to not buy into the common myths surrounding abuse. Society needs to be aware that domestic abuse occurs in one in four women who identify as being lesbian or bisexual and almost half (49%) of males who identify as being gay or bisexual experience domestic abuse either within the family home or in romantic relationships! Not forgetting the shocking 80% of individuals who identify as Trans experiencing domestic abuse. These statistics can’t be glossed over and much more needs to be done to tackle domestic abuse for this group. Even by just being aware of these statistics means you are more likely to look out and notice the signs of an abuser and you now know that there are services like Rainbow Bridge can help. Services should try to be more inclusive, whether that’s being aware of appropriate language, having an LGBT flag visible to highlight that they are LGBT aware and accepting of this. I’m always happy to deliver awareness sessions to support this being done!
SUM: What do you hope your service can achieve?
Alice: As you can see, there are so many additional issues when tacking LGBT domestic abuse. By having an LGBT specific domestic abuse service, we are aware of these extra vulnerabilities towards abuse and understand the barriers this group might face in accessing support. Our service aims to help break down the stigma/misconceptions around domestic abuse and LGBT relationships, making people feel comfortable to come to us without fear of being judged. As a whole, the LGBT community are much less likely to seek help via mainstream services. By being LGBT specific, we hope that this will increase accessibility to support services for a community most vulnerable to experiencing domestic abuse. As we know, a lot of the LGBT community are less likely to report to the police due to fear of not being taken seriously. As we can advocate with them, we hope that this will promote an increase of domestic abuse being reported. Our main goal is to reduce the shocking statistics associated with domestic abuse in the LGBT community as much as we can.