Recent statistics released by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has noted that most categories of crime have remained steady. However, there has been an increase in domestic assaults.
The recorded number of assaults related to domestic violence over the quarter to March increased by a total of 4.8 per cent.
While the records do not differentiate between incidences that have occurred in heterosexual and LGBTI relationships, the fact that the figure has risen is a cause for concern.
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill told SX awareness about domestic violence in the LGBT communities is still quite low.
“Although we are talking about it more, there are significant issues in recognising abuse, identifying domestic violence and getting support,” he said.
“Research shows that the rates and types of domestic violence among same-sex partners appear to be roughly the same as those in the wider community.
“About one-third of people in same-sex relationships experience domestic violence but only 30 per cent of these people ever seek support from service providers.”
The differences between opposite and same-sex relationships creates extra obstacles for people in reporting domestic violence.
“There are unique features of domestic violence for our communities that don’t have parallels in opposite sex relationships,” Parkhill added.
“These include threats of ‘outing’ a partner’s sexuality, gender, intersex or HIV status to family, friends or workmates; controlling medication; belittling sexuality, gender or pressure to gender conform; a desire to minimise abuse to demonstrate healthy and valid relationships; the relatively small size of LGBTI communities making it difficult to seek help; isolation from support within the LGBTI community.
“Many of us think that domestic violence doesn’t happen in LGBTI relationships and many find it difficult to know what to do about it.”
Parkhill highlighted the need for domestic violence services to improve their accessibility to LGBTI people.
“Accessing domestic violence services is a significant issue as most services don’t offer appropriate support, don’t understand the issues, or may subscribe to myths regarding LGBTI domestic violence,” he said.
“LGBTI people may not trust a service and this affects access or disclosure. Reporting abuse to police can be similarly challenging including the fear of someone’s sexuality, gender or intersex being scrutinised in a legal process.
There has been a greater focus on the issue of LGBTI domestic violence with ACON moving to address some of these issues and concerns, Parkhill said.
“ACON’s Anti-Violence Project (AVP) is working hard in this area and is making significant progress in service and police awareness and responsiveness, policy changes and community awareness/ support.”
But while the increase in the number of recorded assaults may indicate a rise in domestic violence incidents, it also suggests that more people, even in LGBTI relationships, are coming forward.
Superintendent Donna Adney is the corporate spokesperson for gender and sexuality for the NSW Police Force. She suggested the data increase could also point to more trust and confidence among people in reporting to police, including those in same-sex relationships.
“We have worked solidly, in partnership with organisations like ACON and The Gender Centre, on reporting campaigns to encourage GLBTI people to report to the police and perhaps some of this work is showing results,” she told SX.
“We have also worked very hard to train police to better understand the barriers faced by GLBTI people and other vulnerable groups reporting to police, e.g. that some people will fear 'coming out' to a police officer by reporting domestic violence.
“Everyone should feel safe and supported to report any kind of violence, no matter who they are and who the offender is.”
LGBT people reporting domestic violence should expect an officer to listen to them, be supportive and to take their matter seriously.
“They should feel that the officer will treat their case professionally and make appropriate referrals to support services,” Adney said.
“The law in NSW protects same-sex couples in the same way as other de facto couples and police will enforce the law to protect them.
“The NSW Police Force has specialist roles such as Domestic Violence Liaison Officers and Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers, both of which help build the capacity of general duties police to work with victims of domestic violence.”
While it’s important that all incidences of domestic violence are reported to police, many who experience it choose to contact an organisation that specifically helps LGBTI communities, such as the AVP.
“They understand domestic violence and can offer a range of support, information and referral options to anyone experiencing domestic violence or concerned about a friend or family member,” Parkill said.
For speaking about it is the first step to getting help and raising awareness.
To contact the ACON Anti-Violence Project, call (02) 9206 2116 or 1800 063 060.
Another Closet (www.anothercloset.com.au) is an online resource for people in LGBTI relationships experiencing domestic violence.
More information on the sexual and gender diversity within the police force and the reporting of LGBTI Domestic Violence can be found at NSW Police online (www.police.nsw.gov.au).
Original article was published at Gay News Network.