Community health groups have urged same-sex domestic violence victims to report their experiences after a national gay health survey found one-third of respondents had been in an abusive relationship but few told police about it.
Thirty-three percent of the Private Lives survey’s 5,500 LGBT participants said they had at some point been in a relationship where their partner was abusive.
Lesbians were more likely to experience violence at home than gay men, but domestic violence was most common for female-to-male transgender respondents, 62 percent of whom said they had been with an abusive partner.
The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society study, released last week, showed same-sex domestic violence among all genders was unacceptably high, co-author Anne Mitchell told Sydney Star Observer.
Regular insults from partners were the most common form of violence respondents experienced. And almost half of gay and lesbian participants said a partner had hit them.
One of the concerns was the low number of people who had contacted police about it, Mitchell said.
Just one-fifth of respondents who had been hit had reported it to police. About the same amount of people who said a partner had forced them to have sex told police about it.
Clearly the community doesn’t feel the confidence to contact them, Mitchell said.
ACON chief executive Stevie Clayton said her organisation had also seen a reluctance by domestic violence victims to report abuse.
There’s also a low level of general awareness of what same-sex domestic violence is, and a lot of people think that the sort of behaviour they’re experiencing, they should just keep quiet about it, they should just put up with it, she told the Star.
An ACON survey at Fair Day this year found about one-third of respondents had experienced partner abuse. International research suggested the amount of domestic violence in gay and heterosexual relationships was about the same, Clayton said.
But in same-sex partnerships, the violence could take a different form, including threats to out someone as gay or using someone’s HIV status to manipulate them.
Reporting violence in NSW was also difficult because police gay and lesbian liaison officers (GLLOs) were not always available across the state.
It’s a dilemma that we’re encouraging people in our community to go and report domestic violence to the police at the same time that we’re seeing the police service in NSW running down the GLLO program, Clayton said.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a GLLO to report to.
Clayton called for more government funding of services for domestic violence victims.
The Private Lives survey also found high levels of depression in the gay community, and 16 percent of participants said they had thought about suicide in the two weeks before doing the survey.
More than half of respondents said they’d been insulted because of their sexuality and 70 percent had changed their behaviour to avoid homophobic discrimination.
Ninety percent said they’d refrained from public affection for a same-sex partner, but older participants were more secure about being gay.
It is encouraging to think that people do find their way to a more stable place or a more supportive environment [as they get older], Anne Mitchell said.
For more information about same-sex domestic violence and for links to support services, visit the Another Closet website or or call the Domestic Violence Line on 1800 656 463.