Speaking Out About Domestic Violence

Posted: Tue Mar 23 2010

Domestic violence can affect anyone, male or female, straight or gay. Which is where charity Broken Rainbow comes in

Think of domestic violence and you tend to think of men beating women, and possibly even women beating men. But domestic violence can include anything from physical harm to sexual assault and psychological abuse. And it isn't a problem confined to heterosexuals. Formed in 2004, Broken Rainbow is the first organisation dedicated to confronting and eliminating domestic violence within and against the LGBT communities.

Broken Rainbow provides training and support to other domestic violence services such as local authorities, probation services, social services, LGBT liaison officers and the police. They also campaign, lobby, research, raise awareness and provide a confidential helpline run by trained LGBT people to support others experiencing domestic violence.I spoke to Chief Executive Officer Jackie Fernandez to find out more.

Can you give us an example of the kind of cases you deal with?

'Rosie [not her real name] had been living with her abusive partner for several years and phoned the police after an incident. When the police arrived, Rosie thought that she would receive some protection and support in leaving her partner. She was shocked to find the police officers failed to believe that she was the victim of domestic violence as she was deemed the “butch” in comparison to the woman abusing her. The police failed to provide any support and Rosie didn't pursue their help thinking that she wouldn't be believed and would be unable to leave her violent partner.'

'Whilst looking for support on the internet, Rosie found information about Broken Rainbow and contacted the helpline. With the help of Broken Rainbow, Rosie felt strong enough to leave her partner, creating an exit strategy and finding safe, temporary accommodation. Rosie has now relocated to another area and is looking forward to a positive future.'

How big a problem is domestic violence for our community?

'Research shows at least one in four LGBT people experience domestic violence. Yet most people think in terms of domestic violence experienced by heterosexual women. There is a common misconception that domestic violence doesn't occur in a same sex relationship.'

'With around six million LGBT people living in the UK, our marginalised community faces a serious struggle for recognition by mainstream domestic violence service providers. The shocking fact is most survivors do not report incidents to the authorities for fear of being misunderstood and discriminated against.'

'There's a misconception that any abuse within a same sex relationship is mutual and that the option to leave that relationship is greater. This is not the case. It is also much harder to identify the victim/survivor and perpetrator due to gender and other stereotypes about people's physical presentation. LGBT people often feel unprotected by the law which often does not consider the real need to take LGBT issues into account.'

'There is a reinforced fear of homophobia and further victimisation and consequently a lack of appropriate services. There is a clear demand for a tailor made LGBT counseling service for people experiencing domestic violence.'

Is domestic violence more prevalent among gay men than women?

'Our experience and other research shows that 38% of young lesbians and gay men experience domestic violence from family members because of their sexuality. 22% of lesbians and 29% of gay men experience same sex domestic violence. Recent research indicates that 41% of females and 35% of males reported experience of same sex abuse. It also indicates that fewer than 20% will report any incident to statutory agencies.'

What more can be done to tackle the problem?

'Awareness-raising campaigns about domestic abuse in same sex relationships are needed, both nationally and locally in LGBT communities. Training and awareness raising about domestic abuse in same sex relationships is needed in public agencies, particularly Criminal Justice, Domestic Violence and LGBT agencies. Domestic abuse is not only a heterosexual problem.'

Helpline 0300 999 5428, Mon 2-8pm, Wed 10am-1pm, Thursday 2-8pm.

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