Abusive partners in LGBTIQ relationships often claim violent or disrespectful behaviour is normal.
It is not.
A healthy relationship is a healthy relationship regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or hair colour.
Unfortunately, sometimes previously healthy relationships deteriorate, and domestic and family violence enters the picture.
QNews Magazine asked Krissi and Louise (pictured) to each name something they believed essential to a healthy relationship.
“Equality,” said Krissi, “Both partners deserve to have equal input into the relationship. We enjoy pursuing our mutual interests together and we also do our own thing with individual interests.”
“Respect,” said Louise, “You have to respect who the other person is, not some idealised version of who they could be. Love them for who they are. Our relationship is a safe place where we are free to be ourselves.”
Not Now, Not Ever
In a healthy relationship both partners feel loved, respected and safe. It is a relationship founded on balance and equity, not power and control.
Power and control are not part of a healthy relationship. In fact, they are more likely indicators of domestic and family violence.
Domestic and Family Violence in the LGBTIQ Community
Long forbidden to love as we chose, to hold hands or kiss in public, and denied the right to marry the person who meant most to us, LGBTIQ people were assumed to be spared domestic and family violence.
However, research has highlighted that the LGBTIQ community is as vulnerable to domestic violence as any other, and even more susceptible to family violence.
Domestic violence occurs between two people in an intimate personal relationship while family violence takes place between people who are related (or can reasonably be regarded as related.)
Domestic and family violence happens within every culture and every demographic, across all socio-economic groups and in every variety of relationship. No one is immune from it and even previously healthy relationships can fall prey to it.
Domestic and family violence can affect anyone.
Domestic and family violence is generally perceived to involve a female victim and male perpetrator – for good reason. Statistics clearly show most victims of domestic and family violence are women and children. Hence, strategies to combat abuse have mainly focused on a situation involving a female victim and a male perpetrator known to her.
Therefore, other victims, including LGBTIQ persons, often fail to identify their own situation as domestic and family violence. Those who do recognise the problem are less likely to report it. Even those who do solicit assistance often have difficulty accessing meaningful or appropriate support.
Unfortunately, same-sex physical abuse is sometimes seen as a mutual fight between equals, although physical violence is only one aspect of domestic and family violence. Domestic and family violence is abuse whether or not an abused partner has the ability to defend themselves during an incident.
What is Domestic and Family Violence?
Perpetrators utilise domestic and family violence to maintain control and power over their victims. The abuse is not always obvious. It may be subtle at first and intensify as the victim becomes accustomed to it.
The Queensland Government Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Strategy 2016–2026 defines it as “any behaviour that is physically, sexually, emotionally, psychologically, economically, spiritually and culturally abusive, threatening, coercive or aimed at controlling or dominating another person through fear”.
Perpetrators of LGBTIQ domestic and family violence also exploit vulnerabilities specific to LGBTIQ persons. They may:
- Use their victim’s intersex status, gender, gender expression, sexuality, transgender or HIV status against them.
- Threaten to ‘out’ their victim to family, friends or work colleagues for their gender, sexuality, intersex status or HIV status.
- Pressure them to conform to sex or gender norms.
- Control HIV medications.
- Control gender transition medication, either withholding hormones or insisting on unwanted hormone treatment.
Perpetrators take advantage of the reluctance of LGBTIQ people to seek assistance. It is common for victims of domestic and family violence to avoid reporting abuse for fear of blame, shame, escalation or ostracism or through a misguided desire to protect their abuser. LGBTIQ victims confront additional barriers particularly the belief they will be discriminated against by the frontline services they access.
Family violence primarily affects the young and the elderly members of the LGBTIQ community – people who are either financially dependent on their family or rely on them for care.
This abuse is often grounded in either homophobic or transphobic family belief. It can result from a relative seeking retribution for the shame they feel the LGBTIQ family member has brought on the family. Sometimes the abuse is meant to ‘reform’ the ‘errant’ family member – abuse as conversion therapy.
LGBTIQ people experience higher rates of family violence than straight people. Unfortunately, this can lead childhood victims to accept abuse from loved ones as normal, making them more susceptible to domestic violence.
How do we recognise domestic and family violence?
“Each and every Queenslander has the right to feel safe, and be safe, especially in their own home. Domestic and family violence is a violation of this basic human right.”
– Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Strategy 2016–2026
If you do not feel safe in your own home because of a partner or family member, you are experiencing domestic and family violence. This may be because of:
- Constant belittling, undermining your self-worth.
- Gaslighting: leading you to question your feelings, instincts, and even your sanity.
- Threatening behaviour.
- Threatened violence.
- Actual physical violence or unwanted sexual contact.
- Limited control of your personal finances.
- Stalking, threats, intimidation.
The Queensland Government has made ending domestic and family violence a priority with a ten-year reform program to combat the problem. The main aims are:
- enhancing protection and support for victims and their families, and improving support for perpetrators to stop using violence
- tailoring responses to meet the needs of vulnerable Queenslanders
- supporting community and workplace cultural change
- amending legislation to prioritise victim safety and hold perpetrators to account for their actions.
The government has recognised that domestic and family violence can vary across different communities and has committed to addressing that. Earlier this year the Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Di Farmer said, “We know domestic and family violence affects all communities, including the LGBTIQ+ community,” when she committed resources specifically to combatting domestic and family violence in our community.
If you or someone you know is at risk of domestic and family violence
In an emergency call 000 and ask for the Police.
Talk to a friend or family member you can trust.
Talk to a Counsellor.
Develop a Safety Plan to protect yourself. Search “safety plan” at qld.gov.au for information.
Apply for a Protection Order. If you are unsure how to do this call PoliceLink on 131 444 for assistance.
Speak to a LGBTI Police Liaison Officer. There are dedicated officers around the state and PoliceLink on 131 444 will identify a liaison officer in your area.
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.
Call Diverse Voices on 1800 184 527 3pm – Midnight.
Diverse Voices is a peer to peer phone and internet counselling service focused on the diverse voices that make up our community.
If you suspect a friend is experiencing domestic and family violence
Talk to them when it is safe to do so.
Respect their privacy if they are not ready to talk.
Offer support but remember you are not an expert.
Seek expert advice.
For your own safety and that of the victim, do NOT confront the abuser.
Reassure your friend or family member that domestic and family violence is never the fault of the victim.
Thanks to our campaign partner: Queensland Government.