Gay and gender diverse Canberrans reluctant to seek domestic violence help
Gay and gender diverse Canberrans’ experiences of domestic violence are “largely invisible”, as they battle a lack of awareness and struggle to access appropriate support services, a report has found.
Barriers including low reporting rates, high rates of fear and shame, and services that catered largely to women and children have prompted calls for more inclusive approach to domestic violence services in the ACT.
The latest Women’s Centre for Health Matters report said research showed gay and gender diverse people were at least as likely to experience violence at the same rate as heterosexual people.
The report said family and domestic violence was often stigmatised, hidden, under-reported or not recognised as abuse by victims in the gay and gender diverse community.
It found lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) victims in the ACT were less likely to identify domestic violence in their relationships, often due to a lack of understanding that what they experienced was abuse.
The report said violence in those communities often included an added layer of shaming, fear, control and threats of exposing a partner’s sexual identity.
“There was a lack of understanding about the service delivery system and whether as an LGBTIQ person they would be accepted or indeed able to access support within that system for domestic or family violence,” the report said.
They were also concerned they might not be taken seriously, met with homophobia, or that support staff might not have a solid grasp of how domestic and family violence affected people in same-sex relationships.
Women’s Minister Yvette Berry was at the report’s launch and acknowledged gendered understandings of violence created barriers for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer Canberrans accessing services.
Women’s Centre for Health Matters executive director Marcia Williams said the findings showed gay and gender diverse people experienced domestic and family violence in similar, but not identical ways, to heterosexual people.
“It is important that mainstream and domestic violence and crisis services are supported to build their capacity to respond appropriately and to broaden the service options for LGBTIQ people to access.”
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