Domestic abuse is a major health concern for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* (LGBT*) people and a causal factor for homelessness. It is ironic that in the month we celebrate the prospect of LGB marriage, support organisations and specialist service providers working with survivors are being cut or merged into generic services.
Stonewall conducted two major research projects into the health needs of LGB people. (Prescription for Change and Gay Men’s Health survey) They found:
- 49% of gay and bisexual men have experienced domestic abuse from a family member or partner compared to 17% of men in the general population.
- One in four gay men experience domestic abuse from family members
- One in four lesbian and bisexual women experience domestic abuse in relationships, which matches the experience of women in the general population. Two thirds of those say the perpetrator was a woman, a third a man.
- 39% of lesbian and bisexual women and 63% of gay and bisexual men with a disability had experienced domestic abuse since the age of 16
- 81% of lesbian and bisexual women and 78% of gay and bisexual men did not report the incident to the police.
Scottish Transgender Alliance and Scottish LGBT domestic abuse project published two research documents.
Trans Mental Health Study found:
- 17% of trans people had experienced domestic abuse.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind, a self selecting research project found that:
- 80% of respondents had experienced domestic abuse.
- 45% had experienced physical abuse
- 47% had experienced sexual abuse
Supporting LGBT* survivors demand both an understanding of domestic abuse as well as knowledge of the lived experience of LGBT* people in a society that is designed to support heterosexual and cisgender privilege.
Bringing shared knowledge of LGBT equality and domestic abuse together had developed a new language and terms of reference. “Identity abuse” is a new term coined to define changes in gender identity or sexuality being used as a tool to exert power and control over survivors. Phrases like “same sex domestic violence” already seem out of step with the notion that sexuality and gender identity can be fluid.
LGBT* people experiencing domestic abuse within their relationships do not always follow the same patterns of power and control. For example, the overwhelming evidence of violence against women and girls who identify as cisgender and heterosexual is a clear reflection of gender inequality and a causal factor of domestic abuse. For LGBT survivors, power and control can be a reflection on other forms of privilege based on notions of cisgender or heterosexual superiority.
The government definition of domestic abuse is broad enough to include forms of abusive behaviour used to control survivors – for example, constructive rape, honour-based violence (not limited to BME communities), forced marriage, sexual coercion into “rent”, non-consensual polygamous relationships, abusive casual sexual relationships, exorcism to root out offending sexuality or gender identity, sexual exploitation or abusive age differentials for first sexual encounters.
Further exploration is clearly needed, into, for example, the nature of the various LGBT* scenes, the influence of drug/ alcohol/substances, peer pressure, family courts, family isolation, HIV and other STDs, access to gender transition procedures, the lack of resources, and safe emergency accommodation at crisis point all need to be understood to asses risk.
In 2011-2012 Stonewall Housing found that:
- 25% of clients in housing need identified domestic abuse as a support need.
Working in partnership and sharing expertise is the best way of supporting the diverse needs of LGBT* survivors but as smaller front-line organisations – who are frequently the first point of contact – are cut or integrated into larger generic organisations, the risk will be that this level of knowledge is at best not fully developed or at worst lost altogether, leaving survivors more isolated.