A Community Response
A Community Response
Sexual, family and intimate partner violence can happen to anyone. However, it is not spoken about enough in LGBTQ+ communities.
Research has found that family and intimate partner violence in LGBTQ+ relationships happens at similar or higher rates than what women in the wider community experience. However, an absence of conversation means there is a lack of awareness, acknowledgement, research and support available specifically for LGBTQ+ people.
Why Isn’t It Discussed?
Many authors have documented the lack of acknowledgement of sexual, family and intimate partner violence within the LGBTQ+ communities and the wider population.
The reasons for this are multiple and complex, but can include the following:
- People may not recognise abuse outside of dominant community understandings of relationships, which are primarily heterosexual.
- Many LGBTQ+ people do not feel comfortable being completely open about relationships with our cisgender heterosexual friends, family or mob.
- There is a significant lack of research, focus, funding and understanding about LGBTQ+ domestic and family violence.
- “Rape culture”, where the experience of sexual assault is downplayed, can be not only embedded within broader society, but also toward and within LGBTQ+ communities, especially as there are many stereotypes and assumptions about promiscuity in the LGBTQ+ communities.
- There is a general lack of understanding of LGBTQ+ relationship dynamics across support services and justice responses.
- Many LGBTQ+ people fear that coming out about violence may further negative stereotypes relating to the LGBTQ+ communities.
For the LGBTQ+ communities, the cumulative impact of the discrimination we all face can contribute to the normalisation of violence and a higher tolerance for it. Basically, that means if you have experienced discrimination for years, based on your gender, sex, sexuality and/or race, culture and physical ability, then you tend to not recognise or may easily dismiss more subtle forms of abuse and not seek help.
What Can We as a Community Do to Help?
1. Supporting people who have experienced violence
Many of us do not feel comfortable being completely open about our relationships with our cisgender heterosexual friends and family. As such, many LGBTQ+ people tend to ask for help and advice from other LGBTQ+ friends.
Knowing how to recognise, respond to, and support people who have experienced abuse can be a practical way to support your friends and family in LGBTQ+ communities.
Visit our Friends and Family Toolkit for help.
2. Challenging attitudes and behaviours that can lead to violence
Take safe, assertive and positive action against violence, harassment and abuse when you recognise it.
Sexual, family and intimate partner violence within LGBTQ+ communities is complicated and can be caused by internalised homophobia, adhering to rigid gender stereotypes, and the impacts of a long history of discrimination.
You can challenge these factors broadly in a number of ways, including rolling your eyes, not laughing at inappropriate jokes, backing up a person being demeaned, or speaking up in support of someone. This can be difficult, but the responsibility for a healthy and safe community belongs to everyone.
Here are some ways to address behaviour you may experience amongst your friends and community:
- Challenge someone when they make assumptions based on stereotypes or of sub-communities/”tribes” (e.g., “Do you really think that?”).
- Don’t laugh at demeaning jokes (e.g., “I don’t get it” or “I just don’t think that is funny”).
- Challenge rigid stereotypes about sexuality, gender, sub-communities, tribes or sub-cultures within broader LGBTQ+ communities (e.g., “How can you possibly think this applies to a whole community?”).
- Don’t question or enable other people to question other’s sexuality or gender identities (e.g., “Why would you say that?”).
- Call out negative and demeaning stereotypes used across LGBTQ+ communities, such as assumptions based on “tribe” or preferred sexual position (e..g., “That is a pretty simple way of thinking”).
- Challenge the common assumption of feminine and masculine roles in relationships (e.g., “personally, I’d never settle for that” or “did we go back in time to the 1950s?”).
- Prevent and express disappointment if a friend is trying to touch someone who has not consented (e.g.“I’m pretty sure that would be sexual assault” or you can physically stand in the way).
- Disapprove of inappropriate “call outs” and wolf whistling (e.g., “You know there are less obnoxious ways to get someone’s attention”).
3. Be a healthy relationship role model
Role modelling healthy relationships is important. In the LGBTQ+ community, our relationships are mostly filled with positive and healthy partnerships based on respect, transparency and communication. However, many people in our community did not grow up with any positive role models, especially not from LGBTQ+ relationships.
As a community, we can choose to be the healthy role models others may not have seen before. We can celebrate respectful, equal relationships, challenge stereotypes and celebrate peaceful love in all its glorious diversity. In similar ways that the community has banded together against other forms of violence and homo/bi/transphobia, we can take a zero tolerance approach to violence in our intimate relationships.
You can view our mini-series: Our Relationships here. This series looks at how other LGBTQ people role-model healthy relationships.
4. Raise awareness
Don’t downplay or deny sexual, family or intimate partner violence in our community.
Unfortunately, even though it is common, it is not talked about very often. Until we start talking about abuse, little can or will change.
Without greater awareness, people who have experienced abuse and violence will continue to hide or accept the violence and abuse perpetrated against them, or not even be able to recognise that this behaviour is not acceptable.
We need to begin talking about it.
At your next social gathering talk about sexual, family and intimate partner violence in LGBTQ+ relationships and educate those around you. Share resources, tell them about this website, invite people to events, make it a topic of conversation. Keeping violence and abuse in the closet only enables abuse to continue and thrive.
Use your workplace, art or democratic powers to raise awareness in the broader community in order to include LGBTQ+ people in mainstream recognition of sexual, family and intimate partner violence.