South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault & Family Violence

Family violence and the LGBTI communities

For Family & Friends, Female Survivors, Male Survivors, Students, Teachers, Workers, Young People

Tags: Family Violence

Author: South Eastern CASA

No matter who you are, you can be affected by family violence (also called domestic violence).

Within Australia, intimate partner violence is the most common form of family violence. Evidence presented to the Royal Commission into Family Violence suggested intimate partner violence is as prevalent in LGBTI communities as it is in the general population:

  • 54.7% of all participants reported that they had previously been in one or more emotionally abusive relationship, while 34.8% reported that they had been abused sexually or physically by a previous partner. 1
  • in a national study, a high percentage (32.7%) of LGBTI Australians have reported having been in a relationship where the partner was abusive (same sex or opposite sex partner), representing a considerable burden of distress and injury (Pitts et al. 2006). One third of this group reported having been physically injured, but only 20% had reported this to police.2
  • in a Victorian study, one third of GLBT respondents had been in a same sex relationship where they were subject to abuse by their partner: 78% of the abuse was psychological and 58% involved physical abuse or being hit. Lesbians were more likely to report an abusive same sex relationship than gay men (41% v. 28%) (Leonard et al. 2008).2
  • transgender people may experience significantly higher levels of emotional, sexual or physical abuse from a partner or ex-partner (Scottish Transgender Alliance 2011). 2
  • in one survey of LGBTI respondents have experienced abuse in their relationships. It also found nearly three-quarters experience emotional abuse from their partners. 1

LGBTI people may face specific types of family violence

For LGBTI people, family violence may focus more on a person’s sexuality, gender identity or expression, or intersex status. Some examples of this type of family violence include:

  1. threatening to ‘out’ a person or disclose their HIV status
  2. isolating a person from the wider LGBTI communities
  3. ridiculing a person’s gender expression or intersex traits
  4. preventing a person from accessing gender affirming hormones or treatments for HIV or other chronic illnesses
  5. telling a person no one will help them because the support services are homophobic
  6. telling a person they ‘deserve’ the abuse because of their sexuality
  7. telling a person they’re not a ‘real’ homosexual because of their former partners, or their friendships and preferences
  8. portraying the violence as mutual or consensual combat (hiding the abuse behind stereotypes)
  9. portraying the violence as an expression of ‘masculinity’
  10. pressuring, forcing or tricking a person into having unsafe sex
  11. involving a person in bondage and discipline or sadomasochism (BDSM) without consent
  12. making a person have sex with other people
  13. threatening to infect a partner with a chronic illness, such as HIV.

LGBTI people may feel shut out from services and support

LGBTI people face particular barriers to obtaining services and support. They often feel invisible in the system and worry that services will be homophobic, transphobic or judgemental. Some examples are:

  1. Self-blame: Sometimes, an LGBTI person who is struggling with their sexual identity will blame the abuse on their sexual identity and hate themselves for it.
  2. Fear of discrimination: Some people within the LGBTI communities may fear seeking help because of the possibility of homophobia, transphobia and other discrimination. They may also be concerned about their privacy and confidentiality in small or rural communities.
  3. Lack of information and support: The police and courts system and some mainstream service providers may not be as aware of family violence experiences for LGBTI people as they are for other communities. This may make LGBTI people feel unseen and unheard.
  4. Under-reporting of family violence: Some people may be too afraid to report their abuse to police or fear being outed if they report the abuse, and so the crimes are not being recognised within LGBTI communities.

The lack of knowledge about family violence in LGBTI communities can cause other problems for the victim of abuse too. For example, they:

  1. may incorrectly believe family violence doesn’t happen in LGBTI relationships
  2. may not recognise their experiences of abuse as family violence
  3. may not know how to respond if they see family violence among their friends and family.

All of the issues and barriers facing LGBTI people can be even worse for people who are LGBTI and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander or from a culturally and linguistically diverse background.

Despite these challenges, it is important to report family violence and to get help and support. See the ‘Where to get help’ section below for information on specific services for LGBTI communities, and mainstream services.

This booklet is a useful resource for LGBTI people experiencing family violence, and their family and friends.

Remember…

  1. Family violence can happen regardless of your gender and sexual identity or your cultural background, ability, religion, wealth, status or location.
  2. Intimate partner violence may be just as prevalent within the LGBTI communities as it in the general population.
  3. For LGBTI people, family violence may focus more on a person’s sexuality, gender identity or expression, or intersex status.
  4. Despite the barriers and issues facing people in the LGBTI communities, it is important to report family violence and to get help and support.

Where to get help

References

1. Calling it what it really is: A Report into Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Gender Diverse, Intersex and Queer Experiences of Domestic and Family Violence (2014) Retrieved from http://www.glhv.org.au/sites/www.glhv.org.au/files/Calling_It_What_It_Really_Is%202015.pdf

2. Family violence and the LGBTI community: Submission to the Victorian Royal Commission into family violence. (2015) Retrieved from http://www.glhv.org.au/files/Royal_Commission_LGBTI_Submission.pdf

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