What this is about
How domestic violence, sometimes called domestic abuse, is a problem in gay relationships, and how to handle it.
Domestic violence happens in gay relationhips as well as straight ones. It was thought that the incidence of domestic violence in gay relationships was broadly on a par with the incidence in straight relationships. UK National Statistics calculated that 25% of gay relationships may feature domestic violence. The Stonewall research published in 2012 indicates that domestic violence in gay relationships is nearer 37%, and may exceed the level of domestic violence in straight relationships:
49% of gay and bisexual men have experienced at least one incident of domestic abuse from a family member or partner since the age of 16, compared to 17% of men in general.
37% of gay and bisexual men have experienced at least one incident of domestic abuse in a relationship with a man.
23% of gay and bisexual men have experienced domestic abuse from a family member since the age of 16.
78% of gay and bisexual men who have experienced domestic abuse have never reported incidents to the police. Of those who did report it, 53% were not happy with how the police dealt with the situation.
Regardless of the figures and estimates, it is much too frequent to be tolerated by society.
The usual portrayal of domestic violence is of physical violence. In fact, it may include mental instead of physical control, or denial, and there may also be some unique aspects which emerge in gay and lesbian relationships. Domestic violence does not have to be directed at partners; it can be directed at children and even parents.
From March 2013, the definition of domestic abuse in law has been widened to cover psychological intimidation and controlling behaviour and apply to victims under the age 18. It means acts such as preventing partners from leaving the house or having access to a phone could lead to a prosecution.
It is thought that most of the resources available to help the victims of domestic violence are only relevant to part of the problem.
Since 2005 UK Police are allowed to photograph the victims of domestic abuse to capture a record of any bruising or temporary injury. Gay couples and other unmarried couples are protected. Courts can already order suspected offenders to keep away from their partners but the government is trying to make such orders easier to enforce. Suspected offenders may receive a “yellow card”. If the yellow card is ignored there will be a possible jail sentence of five years.
The law makes common assault an arrestable offence, triggers multi-agency reviews in cases of domestic murder, as happens with child killings, makes breaching non-molestation orders an arrestable offence with up to five years jail, establishes a register for domestic violence offenders, forcing them to tell police when they change their addresses, as for sex offenders, provides a new offence of causing or allowing death of a child or vulnerable adult, introduces a ban on the media naming victims of alleged domestic violence in court cases in an effort to encourage more people to come forward with complaints and establishes a victims’ commissioner to speak up for the interests of victims.
Under 10% of victims of gay domestic violence report their abusers to the police because of fears of prejudice and being forced to reveal their sexuality, say Staffordshire Police, who estimate that reporting of gay domestic violence has doubled in the past year but that this is still only a small percentage of the actual number of cases taking place. National statistics indicate about a quarter of all people in same-sex relationships become victims of domestic violence while a fifth also suffer sexual abuse. Victims only come forward after they have suffered around 35 attacks.
Domestic incident co-ordinator Helen Appleby said: “There are lots of reasons why victims don’t come forward but we know that confidence is increasing now. They have to face all the problems that heterosexual victims have, such as having nowhere to go and fearing financial independence, together with a lot of other issues that come along with being gay. For instance, a lesbian can find it difficult to go to a women`s refuge for help because they don`t want to be ostracised or seen as a threat by others. “Unfortunately the issue hasn`t been highlighted in the media and soap operas like it has with heterosexual relationships.”
Force hate crime officer PC Pete Rigby added: “It`s a misconception that there is a butch one and a feminine one in gay relationships, the abuser is more likely to be the one who wants power and control over the other and that will not always be obvious. Previously, police officers wouldn`t have recognised a problem when attending a fight between a gay couple. It would just be logged as an assault, not as domestic violence. Sometimes if there is no box to tick on a form, it can be ignored. But we are now recording these offences and when we get a clear picture of what is happening will bring it onto the agenda and do something about it.”
However the coalition government has shelved plans to introduce a trial scheme of domestic violence protection orders which would have enabled senior police officers the power to intervene immediately to safeguard families they considered to be at threat from domestic violence.
The traditional strategy for dealing with domestic violence has been to remove the victim(s) to a place of safety but increasingly agencies dealing with domestic violence are trying different interventions. Sometimes removing the victim actually makes the situation worse or more dangerous and an intervention designed to address behavioural issues or to repair the relationship are actually safer for the victim.
Domestic violence in gay relationships can also develop into far worse situations including murder. The American city of Boston reports that since 2010, there have been seven killings as a result of domestic violence, a sharp increase from prior years when one to three such homicides were reported.
ILGA reports that many police, prosecutors, and judges lack the sensitivity and training to help gays, lesbians, and transgender people who are victims of abuse. Often, authorities fail to recognize who is the batterer in such relationships and who needs help. The consequences can be disastrous, leaving victims with few resources and empowering the abuser.
There are things you can do to make yourself safer. These include:
Do not retaliate, it’s not safe and may make things worse.
Talk to someone on a helpline.
Keep a record of dates and times of all incidents. If you have been injured, get medical attention from Accident and Emergency or your GP and they will make notes of your injuries.
Keep your phone fully charged and on you at all times and your credit topped up in case you need to make emergency calls.
Male Advice Line 0808 801 0327 (free from landlines and most mobile phones – limited hours.)
Tell a friend or family member about what’s been happening.
Keep your passport and copies of important documents in a safe place (with a friend or relative).
Think about telling your employer about your situation.
Always report the violence or criminal damage to the Police. Ask to speak to the Community Safety Unit or Domestic Violence Unit because there are officers who have appropriate training, experience to help.
The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 Order 2005 | Guardian, writer Ally Fogg | Guardian -shelving of domestic violence protection orders | ILGA | Male Advice Line | Make yourself safer | BBC News |
Proof read 25 March 2013
Links checked 25 March 2013