Healthcare professionals will encounter people who have experienced domestic abuse in all avenues of life and within all communities. However, many people think of domestic abuse as problem experienced by heterosexual women only. As a result, domestic violence in LGBT communities can remain hidden.
- 1 in 4 lesbian and bisexual women have experienced domestic abuse
- 49% of all gay and bisexual men have experienced at least one incident of domestic abuse since the age of 16
- Up to 80% of trans people experience intimate partner violence at some point in their lifetime
How might LGBT people experience domestic abuse differently?
Certain characteristics are more likely to be significant in LGBT relationships, such as:
- ‘Outing’ as a method of control – LGBT people may be ‘outed’ by their abusers which can impact their employment as well as their relationships with family and social circle
- Abuse associated with sexual orientation or trans status[LW1] – this can lead to internalised feelings of homo/bi/trans-phobia and shame and internalising the belief that no-one else will support or accept them
- Not associating abusive behaviour with domestic abuse because most domestic abuse literature is framed within a heterosexual and cisgender context
- Using children and parenting rights to initiate control over a partner
Differences in LGBT relationships means domestic abuse can manifest differently to heterosexual and cisnormative[LW2] (the assumption that someone’s gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth) relationships. These are illustrated in the LGBT Power and Control wheel below:
There are often issues of additional stigma, particularly within same-gendered relationships and for trans people. Threats of violence and abuse are common, especially towards trans people, and may cause them to feel that they are responsible for the pain that they cause their partner, family members, children etc. and therefore ‘deserve’ the abuse that they receive.
People in same gendered relationships may feel the need to counter-act homo/bi-phobia by representing their relationship in a positive way. As a result, many may choose not to disclose that they are experiencing abuse because of the shame this may bring to LGBT communities by making all same-gender relationships ‘look bad’.
Individuals in violent or abusive relationships may not recognise that they are experiencing abuse. They may be fearful of reporting abuse due to having to disclose their sexual orientation and/or trans status and concerns that they may not be believed. Therefore, health professionals need to be aware of what can constitute as domestic abuse and the services available to support patients. Domestic abuse can take many forms and LGBT people face a variety of myths and barriers that prevent them from accessing help. As a healthcare professional, you have a duty of care to protect patients and their families from harm.
- Use monitoring questions to highlight needs specific to a service user’s identity
- Dispel myths and barriers e.g. not presuming that only women can experience domestic abuse
- Provide resources and information about support services
- Ensure your service is inclusive and welcoming to any member of the community
- Display posters for support with domestic abuse in places where people can discreetly take their details, such as inside toilets
At LGBT Foundation, we have a specific LGBT Outreach Support Programme for people experiencing domestic abuse. When working with this group of patients [LW4] it is key to be aware of their needs and plan support around these, as each individual will have a different experience of domestic abuse.
Galop/National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline
0800 999 5428 | www.galop.org.uk/domesticabuse
National Domestic Violence Helpline
0808 200 0247 | www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk
Men’s Advice Line
0808 801 0327 | www.mensadviceline.org.uk
LGBT+ Oxfordshire • http://www.lgbtoxon.uk/domestic-abuse/
LGBTDAP • http://lgbtdap.org.uk/
LGBT Domestic Abuse Forum • Roar
Scottish Trans Alliance • Transgender People’s experiences of Domestic Abuse
[LW1]Should be trans status
[LW2]Probably needs a definition
[LW3]This diagram is brilliant
[LW4]With PiP we tend to use ‘patients’ as this is most familiar to health professionals, whereas at LGBT Fdn we tend to talk about the people we support as ‘service users’. It is probably best to choose one of these and use it consistently throughout the compendium.