Queensland workers in the domestic and family violence sector will receive extra training in a bid to help them better support LGBTI victims of domestic violence.
The Queensland Government has announced $155,000 to go towards the training, to be used to create resources to support the training across the state.
“We want to equip frontline workers to recognise domestic and family violence in the LGBTIQ+ community and respond to perpetrators, victims and their children,” Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Di Farmer said.
“This project will focus on training staff in the domestic violence and family violence sector as well as other relevant professions so they know what to do when faced with these situations.”
The Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC) will deliver the new training program to more than 500 workers at 25 sites around the state.
QuAC executive director Michael Scott said previous research had shown that workers in the sector are dedicated to supporting LGBTIQ people, but have felt ill-equipped to do so.
One LGBTI-identifying domestic violence survivor told the ABC the idea of having to explain to someone that she was being abused by her female partner was a barrier to her seeking help.
“At the time, because I wasn’t out to everybody and because of how much embarrassment and shame you’re already coping with, the thought of having to speak to someone homophobic was just too much,” she said.
“To try and have that conversation and the confusion that might result from, ‘Why is it a woman that you’re trying to escape from?’ meant it absolutely it took me longer to leave.
“I honestly didn’t expect to ever be in that situation, being in a same-sex relationship it had never entered my mind that it could be something that could potentially occur.”
Queensland Police Senior Constable Ben Bjarnesen said domestic violence in the LGBTI community is under-reported, and said gay people didn’t come forward for reasons including fear of police or being outed to family or friends.
He said QPS officers were working to build bridges with the LGBTI community through initiatives like the QPS’ LGBTI liaison officers.
“If they report domestic violence to police then [they fear] somehow their family or friends or workplace will find out,” he said.
“If a community member wants to report something we can be their first point of contact as that sort of person who they know is going to be trained in LGBTI issues.
“They know that they’re not going to be judged, or treated poorly or anything like that. There’s a misconception of homophobia by police which can prevent people from coming and reporting.”
Many domestic violence victims who aren’t being represented in awareness campaigns, and that meant they were not necessarily identifying themselves as victims of abuse, he said.
“We need to look at portraying the different faces, ethnicities, genders and sexualities through these sorts of campaigns,” he said.
“We need to start a conversation and get it happening between people their families, their friends, and get the understanding out there that it is a problem, it is happening and we all need to be aware it’s there.”
The “Not Now, Not Ever” report into domestic and family violence released in 2015 recommended the Queensland Governmnet include LGBTI representation in campaigns to raise awareness, remove stigma around reporting and seeking help, and provide LGBTI victims with advice on where to go for support.
Confidential support for those affected by domestic violence is available from the national 1800 Respect helpline on 1800 737 732. Support for Queensland women is available from the DVConnect Womensline on 1800 811 811. Support for Queensland men is available on the DVConnect Mensline on 1800 600 636. LGBTI counselling is available from QLife on 1800 524 187 or online at QLife.org.au.