LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Day highlights domestic, family and intimate partner violence and abuse in LGBTQIA+ communities.
The national campaign recognises the additional struggles facing members of the LGBTQIA+ community when experiencing domestic violence.
A recent literature review by Our Watch found that rates of intimate partner violence within lesbian, gay and queer relationships are as high as the rates experienced by cisgender women in intimate heterosexual relationships.
However, the dominant understanding of intimate partner violence is largely heteronormative.
The invisibility of queer relationships in this narrative leads to a lack of recognition by mainstream service providers, and can be a barrier to support.
A night of terror
Kate* works as an advocate, a woman who spends her life fighting for the human rights of others.
She never expected to become a survivor of domestic violence herself.
At the start of her relationship with her abuser, Kate described it as “perfect.”
“I just thought this woman was amazing, perfect. Perfect for me.”
Kate moved in with her new partner sooner than she ordinarily would have.
She now understands that was a tactic of control.
Psychological and emotional abuse began long before Kate was first hit.
She said a small misunderstanding fuelled by alcohol escalated into a horrific night of abuse, including physical assault, emotional abuse and r*pe.
It took Kate three days to pack her bags and leave the house while her abuser slept.
She couch-surfed with her dog for two months, while her abuser continued to torment her via social media.
Fake dating profiles, abusive text messages and a social media smear campaign led Kate to reach out for support.
‘What chance does anyone else have?’
With contacts from her advocacy work, Kate reached out to authorities to try and get her abuser charged.
She wanted an AVO to ensure her safety, but phone calls and emails to police went unanswered.
“I have written policy, I have helped change legislation, but I couldn’t get help for domestic violence,” she said.
“People from the police force and parliament know my name, but I couldn’t get help.
“If I can’t get help, what chance does anyone else have?”
Kate believes because the abuse occurred in a same-sex relationship, it wasn’t taken seriously by authorities.
“I think they don’t understand how two women could have any issues,” she said.
“I think they’re very heteronormative, and I don’t think they have the knowledge or understanding that DV can occur in any type of relationship.”
Specialist support required
Just.Equal Australia spokesperson Rodney Croome AM said LGBTQIA+ survivors are less likely to seek support than their heterosexual or cisgender counterparts.
“This is for a number of reasons including fear of prejudice, fear of being blamed, fear of not being taken seriously and because some services are faith-based and/or gender-specific,” Croome said.
Croome said reticence about seeking support required a two-fold response.
“First, there must be training and accreditation for existing support services so LGBTIQA+ survivors know which ones will unequivocally support them,” he said.
“Second, we need dedicated LGBTIQA+ domestic and family violence support services in each state that are able to support survivors in regional and rural as well as urban areas.”
Croome said he was pleased to see election commitments from both Labor and Greens to fund LGBTQIA+ domestic violence support.
Nationally, Labor have committed to providing 15 workers across various LGBTQIA+ community organisations to help people experiencing domestic violence.
The Greens have committed $12 billion for the next National Plan on Ending Violence Against Women and Children.
This plan will include dedicated, long term funding for services to assist LGBTQIA+ victim-survivors.
Croome said advocates would be ensuring there was constant pressure on both parties to prioritise LGBTQIA+ domestic violence.
*Not her real name.
If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.
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