Australia’s first LGBTQI Domestic Violence Awareness Day will have its launch on Thursday, May 28 to raise awareness for high levels of unreported domestic violence being experienced within LGBTQI relationships.
Recent studies have shown that up to 62 per cent of LGBTQI people in Australia have experienced some form of domestic violence in their relationships. However, only six per cent of these cases are ever reported to Police.
The LGBTQI Domestic Violence Awareness Day aims to raise awareness and remove the stigma surrounding LGBTQI domestic violence, provide opportunities for discussions to occur and honour those who have lost their lives.
LGBTQI Domestic Violence Awareness Day founder, DVConnect Board Member and Queensland Police Officer, Ben Bjarnesen, is a survivor of domestic violence who endured over two years of physical, verbal and psychological abuse.
Since Bjarnesen left his abusive relationship, he has committed himself to campaigning, educating and raising awareness to improve services for LGBTQI victims and survivors of domestic abuse.
“It’s so important that people from LGBTQI communities know that help is available for them, that they don’t have to live with abuse and that everyone, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity, deserves to live a life free from violence and abuse,” Bjarnesen said in a statement released yesterday.
“On May 28, tell your friends, family and LGBTQI communities that you’re here for them and help raise awareness, remember the victims who’ve lost their lives, and support those in abusive relationships and those that have survived.
As May 28 draws near, Bjarnesen is also asking community members and allies to spread the word with personal messages of hope, starting with the hashtag “#ImHereForYou.”
LGBTI Domestic Violence Awareness Day is supported by DVConnect and the Queensland Council for LGBTQI Health. However, the awareness day is primarily funded by the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women through the 2020 Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month Grant.
DVConnect Chief Executive Officer, Beck O’Connor, iterated the importance of listening and empowering those affected by domestic violence.
“All relationships, across diverse genders, sexualities and bodies deserve to enjoy relationships that are free from domestic, family and sexual violence,” she said.
“We are committed to listening to the voices of those with lived experience and we see this LGBTQI Domestic Violence Awareness day as an incredible opportunity to continue learning how to support, empower and actively reduce their barriers to safety.”
Queensland Council for LGBTQI Health CEO, Rebecca Reynolds, said that that education was vital in gaining a better understanding of LGBTQI domestic violence and noted the importance of this knowledge for Queensland’s First-Nations LGBTQI communities.
“It does not take one form, and the more we all know about these experiences, the better and safer all of our communities will be,” she said.
“Awareness of the experiences of domestic and family violence that occur in LGBTQI communities and for Sistergirls and Brotherboys across Queensland is essential.”
“We are committed to this campaign and to be a visible and vocal support for those who are experiencing domestic and family violence in our communities across Queensland.”
A survivor of domestic violence, Sioned, told Star Observer that she was happy to see more efforts towards recognition of domestic violence within the LGBTQI community.
Sioned was verbally and physically abused by her partner during their three-year-long relationship and said that this awareness day marks a first step in constructing a healthy narrative for LGBTQI community-members.
“Growing up queer, you don’t necessarily know what a healthy relationship is meant to look like because gay relationships are normally unseen, so it’s kinda hard sometimes discerning the ‘unhealthy'” she said.
“I’m sure that this day is the first step for being able to take control of the narrative of our relationships. We have the opportunity to finally spread the message that domestic violence is not on – no matter who the victim or the perpetrator is.”
ACON was contacted for comment but were unable to respond.