Domestic violence in LGBT community hidden despite high rates

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there is a lack of awareness and willingness to address domestic violence, researchers say (BSIP/UIG via Getty Images)

Domestic violence remains an “invisible” issue in the LGBT community, with many victims feeling too ashamed to make a complaint or seek support, a report in Australia has found.

Despite research that shows that one-third of people in a same-sex relationship suffer from domestic abuse, there is a lack of awareness and willingness to address the problem, researchers say.

“I think it is often more difficult to recognise domestic violence or family violence from the perspective of the victim or indeed the offender, because the language has been extensively relating only to heterosexual couples or in fact families that are all heterosexual,” Philomena Horsley – of Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria – said.

“Because [there’s] also such an invisible issue within the community, there’s a high level of shame associated with it.

“So in the anecdotes and the stories that we hear, it’s very common for friends not to be aware at all of same-sex violence that is occurring.”

Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria’s Anna Brown said there were “obviously unique circumstances” in LGBT relationships, such as threats to “out” a partner to their family or workplace as a means of control.

“They will tell people they will lose custody of a child, using homophobia, transphobia as a tool of control, so they will tell their partner you will be unable to access a police or justice service or other support service because the system is homophobic or transphobic.”

Other threats can include victims being told they “deserved” the abuse because they are LGBT, threatening to disclose a person’s HIV status or withhold medical treatment, reports The Age.

It can also include deliberate misgendering a person.

Dr Horsley said trans people were at even greater risk, with recent research showing that they suffer higher rates of violence than gay and lesbian people.

She added that because so many LGBT people experienced regualar violence, prejudice and discrimination outside of their relationships, it often became harder for both victims and perpetrators to identity.

“It’s almost less distinguishable for many people,” Dr Horsley said.

“We know that LGBTI people have higher rates of depression and anxiety and mental illness overall, combined with the social isolation mean that the experience of violence just becomes part of a spectrum of experiences.”

The report comes after results of a survey in the UK found disturbingly high levels of depression, low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts among gay men.

The survey found that 24% of gay men admitted to trying to kill themselves, while 54% admitted to having suicidal thoughts. A further 70% said low self-esteem was the main reason for their depression and suicidal thoughts.

Other factors included relationship issues (56%), isolation (53%), not feeling attractive (49%).

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article and need to talk to someone, visit samaritans.org or call 08457 90 90 90

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