The unseen challenges facing LGBT victims of domestic violence

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Two men with LGBT flags on back. Source: James Just
Gay men and women often struggle in revealing their sexual identity when seeking assistance. Source: James Just

Domestic violence in the LGBT community has remained a hidden issue that is just now being uncovered with the recent government crackdown on “all forms of domestic violence”.

We have all heard of the struggles LGBT people face time and time again with brutal disputes, religious intolerance, and senseless acts of homophobia flooding the media.

However, the spotlight is yet to focus on the hardships LGBT people face when it comes to victims seeking assistance with their domestic violence situations.

People holding an LGBT flag. Source: James Just
Loyalty in the LGBT can be an issue when seeking help. Source: James Just

Improved media coverage around issues concerning LGBT domestic violence has assisted many LGBT people in living better lives, yet there is still a lack of understanding regarding their struggles, making their individual situations increasingly difficult.

Coordinator of the Louisa Domestic Violence Service, Janette Dale said there are many reasons why people of the LGBT community may not seek assistance with their domestic violence situation.

“The sexual orientation of LGBT people can be a factor in whether someone seeks help, and these people often feel threatened that their abusive partner will expose them,” Ms Dale said.

“We need more awareness around the issue to help COUNSELLORS and people who specialise in dealing with domestic violence issues understand and cater for the delicate needs of LGBT people.

“This could even allow for better training and more effective strategies in helping an LGBT person find the right kind of support they need with people he or she feels comfortable with.”

Ms Dale said more focus needs to be made on under-represented groups like the LGBT community, with more effort placed around the elimination of misconceptions surrounding domestic violence services.

Woman holding rainbow umbrella. Source: James Just
As a minority group, the exposure of abuse and violence within the community is feared as something that will hurt their community. Source: James Just

According to a study conducted by ACON, over 85 per cent of LGBT people face some sort of violence or harassment throughout their lives, with one in three LGBT people experiencing some form of domestic violence.

A leading cause for why LGBT people tend to not seek assistance is often attributed to them believing they will face those who do not agree with their lifestyle.

Manager of DVConnect Mensline, Mark Walters said the way some professionals treat LGBT victims may discourage them from seeking further assistance.

“There is a cohort of men who believe they are superior just by their gender and sexuality and these men don’t necessarily sit in a club down the street, but instead permeate all levels of society,” Mr Walters said.

Man holding rainbow sign. Source: James Just
Homophobia is still an issue related to domestic violence in the LGBT community. Source: James Just

“People who come across these men, especially those within the LGBT community can feel discouraged by the way these professionals treat them and I think that’s an issue we should be addressing.

“Though I can’t say there is much homophobia with people seeking help with their domestic violence situation, more public awareness is definitely needed in all aspects of domestic violence, especially in minority groups like the LGBT community.”

According to the Australian Domestic & Family Violence Clearinghouse, the reason for the shortage of public awareness and data on LGBT domestic violence in Brisbane is partly due to homosexual activity not being decriminalised in Queensland until 1990.

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Some LGBT people don’t know there are services catered to them. Source: James Just

The Australian Human Rights Commission has also suggested LGBT domestic violence statistics are less numerous due to the complex nature of violence in the community, with the added issue of stigma from the community in reporting domestic violence and other issues.

Executive Officer of Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, Karen Willis said one often forgotten reason for why members of the LGBT community may not seek assistance may relate to loyalty.

“I think there’s often the perceptions that people who might be gay or lesbian think that if they go and talk about violence about their partners and other gay people that they’re being disloyal to the community,” Ms Willis said.

“They [LGBT community] are already a vulnerable group and if people are going out and talking about sexual assault in the community it can feel like they’re being disloyal and that there are bigger issues within the community.”

Ms Willis said it is possible LGBT people may experience homophobia from some services when seeking assistance.

“I would suggest that there are some homophobic services out there, as I would find it difficult to be confident that absolutely every service in the universe ensures it provides a non-homophobic response,” Ms Willis said.

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There is not enough known about LGBT domestic violence and more awareness is needed. Source: James Just

Ms Willis’ initial statements are reflected in the exceedingly low sum of statistics related to LGBT domestic violence produced by anti-domestic violence organisations and services.

Brisbane Domestic Violence Service support and advocacy worker, Sarah Silveira said educating not only the general public, but those within in the LGBT community was important.

“I think that getting the word out that there are services available and that anybody can access them is important, as most LGBT people don’t know that,” Ms Silveira said.

“There can be lots of factors in determining why a person of the LGBT community could avoid help, such as not knowing what services are available, being afraid that they won’t be believed, being threatened to be outed and a whole list of factors.”

Ms Silveira said there is a real possibility of LGBT people developing mental disorders if they suffer constant abuse at the hands of their partner.

“From our experience, anyone who continues living a life strung with bouts of domestic violence can develop mental issues and sometimes that’s simply circumstantial, as they may develop depression because of their situation and from being constantly put down,” Ms Silveira said.

“I think anybody would feel oppressed and we have a lot of people coming to us saying they have a mental health issue and that’s usually from the constant abuse they’ve experienced and the negative feeling about themselves.”

A general consensus surrounding LGBT domestic violence has suggested more research is needed to ultimately eliminate abuse in the LGBT community and beyond. Accompanied by accurate reporting in the media to assist LGBT victims of domestic violence.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence in any capacity you should reach out for support.

In an emergency dial 000

DV ConnectDVconnect : 1800 811 811

Mensline: 1800 600 636

Sexual Assault line 1800 010 120