Abuse in the LGBTQ+ Community
- The rates of sexual, family and intimate partner violence (SFIPV) for LGBTQ+ people are statistically very similar to the rates reflected in general population data.
- Until recently, LGBTQ+ SFIPV was noticeably absent across many domains, including education, research, practice frameworks, policy development, data collection and evaluation.
- As with any emerging field, LGBTQ+ best practice must first and foremost seek to understand the impact of its previous absence on the LGBTQ+ community and the sector.
- Many LGBTQ+ people and communities have been impacted a lack of visibility and support specific to their needs. Many do not know or feel they cannot trust that an inclusive service system response is available to them.
- Resources like this website are essential for sharing knowledge, and our hope is to enact meaningful change through a multifaceted response including community engagement, systemic advocacy and committed resources for capacity building.
Visibility and Inclusion
People who identify as LGBTQ+ struggle not only with the aftermath of abuse, but with systematic oppression and discrimination. Thus, culturally competent, LGBTQ-affirming services are crucial.
For many LGBTQ+ people who have been abused, not engaging with services is a protective mechanism – given the history of exclusion LGBTQ+ people have faced accessing an unknown service could seem like a further risk. This is especially true for police, legal systems, medical providers and religious services who have historically perpetrated violence against LGBTQ+ communities. When someone has been sexually abused they already feel unsafe, invisible, vulnerable and powerless. Make sure that you and your service do not increase these feelings of lack of safety.
Your LGBTQ+ client may feel safer according to how visible they feel as an LGBTQ+ person, or how obviously LQBTQ+ friendly a particular person or environment is. For this reason it is essential that services actively promote the fact that sexual assault happens to LGBTQ+ people, whether it is visual representation on your website or on your promotional materials, a poster in your office, waiting room or police station and by clearly stating on your public facing materials that LGBTQ+ people are victims of abuse as well.
Allyship and Advocacy
Allyship and advocacy are deeply interrelated.
Allyship is how we actively support LGBTQ+ people and communities, champion LGBTQ+ rights and work to address homo/bi/transphobia and systemic exclusion.
Advocacy is the way we integrate our allyship into our work by using specialised knowledge to foster inclusive practises and drive positive change in our roles, organisations, our sector and our community as a whole.
For many LGBTQ+ people, it is extra important to make them feel like they, as a person, are worthy of being treated with dignity and respect. For some LGBTQ+ people, they may have been given strong messages across their lifetime that they are not worthy of respect.
Violence by and against LGBTQ+ people is still a form of gender-based violence that is often motivated by homophobic, biphobic and transphobic attitudes and directed at those perceived as defying hegemonic gender norms. The same motivators of violence that drive men to sexually abuse women, are the drivers of violence that lead LGBTQ+ people to be assaulted. The problem is that when professionals only discuss and promote the work they do with female victims and male perpetrators, LGBTQ+ people who do not fit into this binary are left unsupported – or worse still, will be further damaged by the stigma this can reinforce. A victim who does not see themselves represented in mainstream discussions will be led to believe that only ‘straight men abuse straight women’ and might internalise these messages to convince themselves it was not abuse or that the abuse was their fault.
Even if your service only works with female victims you can still advovate alongside LGBTQ+ communities by acknowledging wherever possible that assault happens in LGBTQ+ communities. This could be at the table with policy makers and funders or by sharing relevant material on social media, even if your service is primarily focussed on “men’s violence against women”.
Trans and gender diverse people comprise an estimated 2% of the population. This means that, as cisgender people are in a great position to be strong allies the trans community. The TransHub website has more information for how you can be an ally to trans people.
Building on our understanding of power and control, intersectionality equips us to have a holistic, dignifying and nuanced response to people experiencing harm.
Intersectionality is a theoretical framework used to understand and explain how a person (or group of people) may have overlapping elements of their identity that create unique experiences of discrimination and disadvantage.
For example, a woman who is transgender and comes from a non-white background could face discrimination for all three identities independently, as well as for the combination of all three identities.
It is important to work with your clients through the lens of intersectionality, which means addressing their other identities – for example their ethnicity, cultural background, class background and disability, as well as their diverse gender and sexuality. Acknowledge that LGBTQ+ people are often affected by other forms of marginalisation, and note the fact that while the majority of vocal LGBTQ+ advocates are often white and privileged in other aspects of their life, this can further silence LGBTQ+ people with other minority backgrounds and identities.
An example of this difference is that a white LGBTQ+ person would have a very different experience to an LGBTQ+ person of colour, who may have a very different experience from an LGBTQ+ person with a disability, and so on.