The ‘invisible issue’ of LGBT domestic violence

Family|August 11th 2015

Domestic violence within lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities in Australia is often “an invisible issue”, advocates claim.

Speaking at a public hearing in Melbourne called the Royal Commission into Family Violence, Australian advocacy group Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria (GLHV) said their research found that one in three LGBT people in the country have been in an abusive relationship.

Dr Philomena Horsley is a research fellow at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, which is part of La Trobe University in Melbourne and works with GLHV. She said that “there’s a high level of shame associated with [domestic violence]”. This often prevents victims from coming forward so friends and family of victims may be unaware that violence is occurring.

GLHV co-convenor Anna Brown added that LGBT violence victims can face additional pressures which keep them from speaking out. Perpetrators may threaten to ‘out’ the victim to their family and workplace as a means of coercive control. This is a form of non-violent abuse which is used to keep a spouse or partner from behaving in certain ways.

Abusers may also resort to measures such as telling the victim they “deserve” the abuse because they are LGBT, threatening to disclose their HIV status or telling them that support services won’t help because of homophobia or transphobia.

Dr Horsley also claimed that as LGBT people can experience violence and discrimination in other areas of their lives, it is often difficult to identify perpetrators and victims of violence in a domestic setting. As a result, she said, domestic violence often “just becomes part of a spectrum of experiences”.

The Royal Commission into Family Violence was set up by the governor of Victoria in the south-east of the country. Through testimonies from various experts on the subject, it aims to produce recommendations which will “foster a violence-free society”.

Photo of Melbourne by Alan Lam via Flickr

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