LGBT domestic violence is - like all domestic violence - based on power and control.
However, some gay-specific phenomena have emerged, including knowingly infecting a
partner with HIV or threatening to disclose HIV status to family, friends or work;
and outing, or threatening to out, closeted partners - notably amongst LGBT people
from ethnic minority or faith groups. Such tactics make it easier for the perpetrator
to isolate the victim (“survivor”) from their family and community - so boosting
“Perpetrators are usually aware that their victim is unlikely to report to police or
go to court due to a lack of confidence in the criminal justice system,” elaborates
Verrier of a still tragically hidden issue, in many ways taboo even within our own
community - perhaps ill-at-ease with the very concept of gay-on-gay crime. “Perpetrators
are usually aware that violence against their partner - even in public, particularly in
gay bars and clubs - will be largely ignored by any witnesses, or put down to just a
fight between two men or women.”
Since it was formed in 2002, Broken Rainbow has given a voice to - and provided support
for - LGBT people experiencing domestic violence. Its Helpline has offered a listening,
signposting and information service to over 200 first-time LGBT callers, as well as
taking calls from agencies, perpetrators and heterosexual survivors. Since launching an
ad campaign back in January last year- calls are increasing by approximately 70% per month.
Reassures Verrier: “If survivors are not ready or do not want to take action then
we can listen to them, give them time and space to talk about their experiences and
discuss their options. Some of our callers will only want to talk about their
experiences. If callers want to take action then we can talk to them about their
housing options, give a brief outline of their legal rights, help put together
a safety plan and find support services in their local area.”
Domestic violence comes in all guises. Although almost a third of Helpline callers report
physical abuse, domestic violence is not just about bruises and broken bones. It also
includes psychological, emotional, sexual, verbal and financial abuse. It may involve
abuse because of sexuality or gender identity; racist, sexist or ageist abuse; abuse
because of religion or belief; or abuse because of disability - the perpetrator may
even be the carer of a disabled LGBT person. And although most Helpline calls involve
an LGBT partner being the perpetrator, many relate to a family member - usually a
dad or brother - abusing a young LGBT person who has recently come out or been outed.
20 year old gay man Tom spent about a year a half living with his partner John in Liverpool.
John had become very abusive and threatening during arguments in their first few months
together. This gradually developed into physical violence with John threatening Tom - on
a number of occasions - to “track him down” should he leave.
“After John kicked me and then pushed me down the stairs, I decided I’d had enough.
Although he apologised after he’d done it, he had hit me before and apologised.
I didn’t want to live like this anymore.
The next day, I left without telling John and went to live in London with some
friends to escape him. I was worried that he would track me down and I didn’t want
to go to the police as I didn’t know how they would react. I phoned a local [domestic violence]
organisation and they gave me Broken Rainbow’s number.
They [Broken Rainbow] gave me a lot of advice about support and it was good to talk
to a gay person about what John had done. They also took me through what the police could
do and put me in contact with my local Community Safety Unit which deals with domestic violence.
Although I still didn’t want to go to court or anything, I felt a lot safer after talking to the police.”