THE impacts of family violence on the LGBTI community have been specifically named as a consideration for Victoria’s Royal Commission, with advocates calling services to address same-sex relationship violence “under-resourced”.
Formally established by the Victorian Government on Sunday, the Royal Commission into Family Violence names LGBTI communities in its Terms of Reference as people to be particularly considered in the commission’s recommendations.
“To properly address family violence we need to acknowledge that there is not just one type of family in Victoria with one set of experiences,” he told the Star Observer.
“The Terms of Reference ensure that the Royal Commission is able to look at how factors such as discrimination and social exclusion faced by many LGBTI Victorians may overlay or directly contribute to experiences of family violence, as well as effect the nature of services required.”
LGBTI community organisations have praised the inclusion of LGBTI people in the scope of the Royal Commission.
The Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) was one of the organisations to welcome the news.
“This is a very welcome step and an important opportunity to tackle the very real problem of domestic violence within same-sex and other LGBTIQ relationships,” VGLRL co-convenor Anna Brown told the Star Observer.
“There is very limited research in this area but we do know that there are fewer support services available and that victims face even greater barriers to seeking help, given the risk of experiencing discrimination and homophobia.”
Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) chief executive Simon Ruth told the Star Observer that while gendered services are an appropriate response to the gendered nature of family violence, it is also important to recognise the different ways LGBTI people are affected by family violence.
“When you talk about family violence you tend to talk about gendered violence, because the vast majority of family violence in the community is men being violent towards women, and that’s why we look at it that way,” he said.
“But when you have that as your sole lens for looking at family violence you actually forget male-on-male violence in gay relationships and women-on-women violence in lesbian relationships.”
Ruth also raised other forms of family violence as affecting LGBTI people in specific ways.
“Particularly for young gay and lesbian kids and transgendered kids there could be violence in the home, and there’s specific areas of adolescent violence in the home and elder abuse where we sit in quite different positions to the rest of the community,” he said.
Ruth said funding for family violence services in the LGBTI community is desperately needed, arguing there is effectively a blank slate in the sector in terms of services specifically targeting LGBTI people.
Counsellor Anthony Lekkas at VAC runs Revisioning, Australia’s only men’s behaviour change program for same-sex attracted perpetrators of family violence, and said there are multiple barriers to addressing violence within the LGBTI community.
“In my work with same-sex relationships I have come to feel that relationship violence in same-sex relationships is not recognised as seriously as violence towards women and children,” he told the Star Observer.
“The lack of police referrals, mandates on court orders to attend programs, referrals from mainstream services reflects this. And we know that violence in same-sex relationships occurs at similar rates as it does in heterosexual relationships.”
Lekkas argued a lack of resourcing for programs and services, as well as inadequate referral pathways, meant LGBTI communities struggled to respond effectively to violence in same-sex relationships.
“I’m worried that services within the LGBTIQ community do not respond more adequately because of the lack of appropriate and relevant programs and services to refer them to,” he said.
“Often those seeking assistance may be referred to a mainstream service (as opposed to a LGBTIQ inclusive practise service provider) and so we risk losing them as clients.”
The Royal Commission into Family Violence is due to report back to the government with recommendations by February 29, 2016.
Commissioner Marcia Neave said the date for submitting the report left the Royal Commission with a “relatively shorter timeframe”.
“Family violence is the most significant problem confronting our community with widespread detrimental social, health, economic and other effects,” she said.
“It is critical that our deliberations are informed by those who have experienced the damage wrought by family violence either personally or through providing support.”
The commission is accepting written submissions until May 29.
If you or someone you know is being subjected to family violence, call 000 if there is an immediate threat to safety, or in Victoria call the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) on (03) 9865 6700 to speak to a counsellor regarding support. If you are using family violence and wish to stop, call VAC on the number above and ask to speak to Anthony Lekkas about the Revisioning program.
Outside Victoria, call the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line 24 hours on 1800 737 732.