By Lee-Anne McCormick
The appointment of domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty as the 2015 Australian of the Year has sparked a long overdue national conversation about how to best address this very personal yet, far too common issue. Sadly, however, Australia’s LGBT communities have largely been left out of the conversation despite it being one which we desperately need to have.
Domestic violence can take many forms including physical violence, sexual assault, emotional abuse, social or financial control, and crosses all spectrums of relationships, social classes, ages, cultures and geographical areas.
In Queensland, police, domestic violence services and shelters, the courts and LGBT organisations all report they are working with same sex couples who are experiencing or have experienced domestic violence however there is still limited research and records in respect of the level of domestic violence in same sex relationships. Some experts in the area believe that domestic violence in same sex relationships is under reported comparative to domestic violence in heterosexual relationships. Whether this is because members of the GLBT community are reluctant to report domestic violence or whether it is simply a reporting and data collection issue is unclear.
What we do know is that while domestic violence in same sex and heterosexual relationships may share many similarities, we also know that there are a number of aspects that are unique to same sex relationships. Those aspects may include “outing” as a method of control, a general belief that domestic violence doesn’t happen in same sex relationships and geographical isolation for members of the GLBT community who live in smaller cities and rural areas. All of these factors may make it even more difficult for members of the LGBT community to seek help. They may feel embarrassed, isolated or even ostracised because of their sexual preference.
What can you do if you’re suffering through a domestic violence relationship? Well, the first thing is don’t blame yourself. Take action and if you are afraid for your own safety or others then call police. Queensland Police are committed to working closely with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities and have a number of dedicated LGBTI liaison officers that you can ask to speak with.
In Queensland you can also apply for a protection order which is designed to protect you from physical assault, stalking, harassment, intimidation and even damage to your property. If you’re still unsure about your rights, contact a solicitor.
What can you do if know someone who is in a domestic abuse relationship? You can be supportive, you can encourage them to seek help and advice. The LGBT community is a small close knit community, so do your bit to make it a safe one as well.
Lee-Anne McCormick is a family lawyer and writes courtesy of Matthew Love Family Lawyers.