Domestic violence 'very real' problem for LGBTI people, report reveals

A survey has found domestic violence is a 'very real' problem for LGBTIQ people. Source: AAP

A new report has revealed domestic and family violence is a serious issue for many LGBTI people in NSW.

A survey of LGBTI people in NSW has found more than half have experienced physical or sexual abuse at the hands of their partners.

The survey, Call It What it Really Is, conducted in 2011 by the NSW LGBTIQ Domestic Violence Interagency and released on Tuesday, also found nearly three-quarters have experienced emotional abuse from their partners.

Many still live with partners who have sexually or physically abused them, the survey found.

Staff at the University of NSW analysed a total of 813 valid responses and found LGBTI people could be subject to domestic and family violence like all people, but may experience unique forms of abuse targeted at their sexuality, identity or their intersex status.

Experiences of abuse were most pronounced among transgender and intersex respondents, the report said.

“For example, perpetrators may threaten to ‘out’ their partner [as transgender or intersex], isolate them from the wider LGBTI community, ridicule their gender expression or intersex trait/s or prevent them from accessing gender affirming hormones or treatment for HIV and other chronic illnesses,” the report said.

Solicitor at the Inner City Legal Centre's Safe Relationships Project, Cedric Hassing said the number of transgender and intersex people threatened in this way had surprised him and his colleagues.

*Note: intersex and gender diverse respondents accounted for small numbers of valid respondences to this question, with nine and 18 valid responses each.


"The threat of outing we had heard about, but it was more prevalent than we expected," Mr Hassing said.

"The survey questions seem to have been designed to allow transgender and intersex people to open up a bit more."

He said for someone who had been able to settle into their transgender life successfully, the threat of their previous gender being 'outed' was very confronting.

The report noted more research "focusing on transgender, gender diverse and intersex individuals’ experiences of domestic violence" was needed in consultation with appropriate community organisations. 

Mr Hassing said the survey's findings in relation to other forms of domestic abuse, including physical and sexual abuse, were in line with what he and his colleagues had experienced at the Legal Centre.

"They weren't a surprise to us on the project as such, because it's what we've heard from our clients," he said.

"We do hear about a lot of emotional abuse and controlling behaviours."

The survey found 25 per cent of respondents had experienced emotional abuse from their partner and 41 per cent had experienced verbal abuse.

Fourteen per cent of respondents reported being physically hurt by their partner and four per cent said they had been raped at least once by their current partner.

The report also showed numbers of LGBTI people reporting domestic violence to police were low, with only 12.9 per cent of respondents saying they had done so.

The survey found 42 per cent of people had never reported domestic violence instances to police.

Mr Hassing said there was still lot of fear and mistrust towards institutions like the police and courts.

He said organisations like the Safe Relationships Project were able to shepherd victims through the process of reporting and court appearances, but more education was needed to spread the work throughout the LGBTI community.

Mr Hassing said recent government funding was welcome, but more money needed to be invested in crisis accommodation, which was particularly difficult to find for gay men and transgender and intersex people, and LGBTI people who needed to bring their children with them. 

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