Are members of Australia’s LGBTQI community suffering from domestic violence that is not being counted in statistics? And are there specific differences in how domestic violence is experienced in LGBTQI relationships?
There is currently no national data collection on Australian LGBTQI people nor figures on those affected by sexual, domestic and family violence, say experts quoted in an article in the Western Advocate.
Abuse is thought to occur at “similar if not higher rates” to the heterosexual community, according to Domestic Violence NSW spokesperson Renata Field. But associate director Kai Noonan from NSW queer health organisation ACON says “not being counted leads to not being seen”.
Obtaining accurate figures can sometimes be hampered by issues such as the fact that LGBTQI people may experience barriers to reporting domestic violence to authorities, and accessing services, due to fears of discrimination or frustrations over “a need to educate professionals about their identity and relationships”.
Noonan says those in the LGBTQI community may also have a “higher threshold when it comes to tolerating abuse”, due to the conditioning of a lifetime of discrimination they have already experienced as a minority group.
How might abuse differ in LGBTQI relationships?
One transgender person described their abuse in similar terms as heterosexual victims might, as “physical, emotional, psychological, sexual and financial abuse”. However, they offered insight into several unique aspects of domestic abuse. This includes the disrespect of bodily boundaries which may be more salient to LGBTQI people, as well as threats of being outed which is an example of coercive control.
Where to now?
With the reality that domestic abuse behaviours may vary in LGBTQI relationships, it’s argued the community and professional bodies need more awareness of different warning signs and different abusive behaviours.
The belief is that the inclusion of the LGBTQI community in debates and campaigns relating to domestic and family violence is needed in order to ultimately provide better targeted services and support.
“Unfortunately there are no funded specialist DV services in NSW so LGBTQI people are at greater risk of harm from DV than ever,” Ms Field of Domestic Violence NSW said.
Criminalising coercive control
Some have argued that it would greatly assist the LGBTQI community—as well as the heterosexual community—if coercive control were to be criminalised in all jurisdictions in Australia. Currently, Tasmania is the only jurisdiction to have made particular coercive controlling behaviours (economic abuse and emotional abuse) criminal offences.
Coercive control is a collection of behaviours designed to strip someone of their sense of autonomy and self-worth. Some examples of these behaviours include removing contacts from a partner’s social media, dictating where and when their partner sleeps and eats, threats of self-harm if the relationship ends, and physical violence.
The debate on whether a new offence is necessary or whether existing laws are sufficient centres around issues such as: the problem of how to define the behaviours to include, police training and education, and how to prove coercion in the courts.
“Violence in LGBTQ communities can be understood within the broader social context of marginalisation and discrimination faced by LGBTQ people,” Noonan said. “It is only through addressing broader views that LGBTQ people and their relationships are less valid and worthy that we can start to address the drivers of violence within our relationships.”
If you need family law advice, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.