In his ongoing series of articles on the field of domestic abuse, Luke Martin of Martin Training & Consulting give Practitioners tips on issues they may like to consider when encountering domestic abuse in same-sex relationships.
Whilst working with lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender victims of domestic violence there may also be some additional barriers and forms of abuse which should be considered. This article focuses on the additional challenges an LGBT person experiencing domestic abuse might face.
Barriers to Accessing Services
There is often a fear expressed by victims that they will not be believed by domestic violence services, a perpetrator may highlight that when two men or two women are in a relationship it is deemed acceptable to use violence as the power is balanced and stress that this is the view of services and professionals. This is often a way for perpetrators to play on the externalised homophobia their victim may experience. This belief ties in with the lack of knowledge and discussion within the broader LGBT community on domestic abuse. With 1 in 4 LGBT relationships being abusive it is still a taboo subject within the LGBT community. There are very few domestic violence services which promote themselves as LGBT or LGBT friendly domestic violence services.
A further barrier is that a victim will have to disclose his or her sexuality every time they access a different service. For some they may not have ‘come out’ to their friends or family yet, or even be comfortable admitting to themselves that they are LGB or T. It would then be difficult to tell a police officer called to an incident that you are gay, you may then be referred to a DV service where, again, you have to tell the worker you are gay, you may then be referred on to counselling, drug and alcohol or mental health services, where once again you must ‘come out.’ This is a fear for many LGBT people.
Outing can be used as an additional control method for perpetrators of domestic violence. If a victim has not identified his or her sexuality to friends, family, colleagues or children perpetrators may threaten to ‘out’ their partner to gain control. It sits as a form of psychological abuse, forcing the victim to act against his/her will to avoid further challenging or abuse from friends, family or colleagues. A perpetrator may lead a victim to believe that being out to family, or in the workplace would be horrific and embed fear in to the victim.
Perpetrators with HIV: Where the perpetrator may be HIV positive it is common for the victim to be treated as a nurse and provide constant medical attention if possible. Victims may be conditioned to believe if s/he was not there the perpetrator would not be able to take medication or function normally. Perpetrators with HIV may use psychological abuse to lead the victim to believe if s/he were to leave nobody would take care of him and the perpetrator would not be able to cope.
Victims with HIV: Similarly to outing perpetrators may threaten to tell friends, family or colleagues of a victim’s HIV status putting personal relationships and employment in jeopardy. A perpetrator may also withhold medication or block access to medical support as a form of abuse. Perpetrators may also threaten to leave the victim or stop supporting him or her, which is often reinforced by the perpetrator telling the victim nobody else would want to love or care for a person with HIV, which falls in to the category of psychological abuse.
Although many heterosexual victims are isolated from friends and family by perpetrators this may be a crucial additional barrier for LGBT people. LGBT victims may have been disowned or have reduced contact with their family if their family and friends did not agree with the victim’s sexual orientation. It may not be obvious to family members who have very little engagement with a LGBT victim that they are in a vulnerable situation. Because of this an LGBT person may already have a reduction in support networks readily available. This often puts the victim more at risk because it is these networks that may encourage a victim to access support services.
First LGBT Relationship
Domestic violence is more prominent in first LGBT relationships. This is irrelevant of age of the victim or perpetrator, it is as likely to take place in a relationship where the victim came out as 16 as a victim that has come out at 46. A perpetrator will often tell the victim that domestic violence is expected in same-sex relationships as two men or two women are of equal power. Although this may take place in any first relationship it is more common where the perpetrator is older than the victim and can often work in the same way as grooming. To this effect younger LGBT people may be forced to access gay bars and clubs by an older partner before a victim feels ready.
Use of Alcohol and Drugs
There is a great amount of academic research which shows drug use and alcohol consumption is more prominent within the LGB community generally. It is possible that perpetrators coerce victims into drug use as well as alcohol use. Perpetrators may be the person the victim is using to access drugs if s/he has become dependent which is a further abuse of power. Drugs and alcohol may also be used as a coping mechanism by victims; it may also act as a trigger for further abuse if the perpetrator is using drugs and alcohol.
Although only a brief insight in to the vast field of domestic abuse, this article lays a foundation for what may arise for professionals as well as a basis for future articles focusing on domestic violence and the law. For more information please visit www.martintrainingandconsultancy.co.uk or contact Luke Martin by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.