This project aims to look at the underreported crime of domestic violence with individuals who identify as homosexual either male or female, the professional view on services available and a focus group with gay individuals to outline if these services are known about.
Domestic violence is the act directed towards an individual whom the perpetrator is often involved in a romantic relationship. According to the Home Office this violence can be psychological, physical, sexual or emotional and it can include honour-based violence, female genital mutilation, and forced marriage. (www.homeoffice.gov.uk) domestic violence is mainly looked at from a male predator view, perpetrators are equally likely to be men or women (Johnson, 2006). Three types of domestic violence are identified in the British Crime Survey covering emotional, physical and sexual behaviours. Emotional behaviour is various behaviours that control individuals due to emotional control. These range from being isolated from friends and relatives, being insulted and put down, spending and housework controlled to suit the abused and threats of future abuse. Within gay relationships being outed is a huge form of control, emotional control results in being frightened and trying to please the abuser to reduce abuse Physical behaviour is injuries that are outward and treatable, these include being slapped, punched, restrained or physically threatened. Many people affected by domestic violence are prevented from getting help for injuries. Sexual assault is a drastic form of domestic abuse that is often hiden in heterosexual and homosexual relationships. Sexual assault is being touched in a way that caused fear, alarm or distress, being forced into sexuality activity or threats of sexual assault.
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Since the 1970s domestic abuse in heterosexual relationships has been of increasing public concern in the UK, domestic abuse in same sex communities has only more recently become apparent. A number of factors may be seen to have contributed to the greater invisibility of same sex domestic abuse, including fears of making obvious such problems within communities already considered ‘problematic’ in a homophobic society. The Sigma surveys of gay men and lesbians (Henderson 2003) found that one in four individuals in same sex relationships probably experience domestic abuse at some time. Homophobia also explains why gays and lesbians are not equally protected from domestic violence. Homophobia is a fear of homosexuals” (Burke,1998, p. 165). Reed (1989) reported that gay victims of same-sex battering were both physically and verbally revictimized by the police. As a result of homophobia and heterosexism, community knowledge’s (Weeks et al. 2001) exists in LGBT communities that public agencies are not able to respond appropriately to the needs of those in same sex relationships. Most services are currently using a heterosexual model of domestic violence in which the female survivor is understood as the physically smaller and therefore more vulnerable person against the physically stronger and more powerful male perpetrator. Which causes an unequal power ideology when asking for help in a same sex relationship specially for gay men who are undermined generally for being male. There have been well-founded political fears about disrupting this ideology, such as a fear of contributing to negative stereotypes about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans populations (Ristock, 2002).
Domestic violence is power control, gay and lesbian couples experience the same issues of power and control as heterosexual couples. All relationships have the potential to become abusive, these behaviours are jealousy, quick involvement, controlling actions, isolation, blaming feelings and problems on others, sexual violence, verbal abuse. Abusers often threaten violence to control, past battering occurs due to situational circumstances. Same sex partners can be lesbian, gay,
bisexual or transgender (LGBT) according to statistics domestic abuse occurs in 30
to 40% of LGBT relationships. Research on same-sex battering has tended to focus on one section of the population, such as on lesbians or gay men, rather than on the entire gay community. Few studies have examined the factors related to reporting practices of gay and lesbian victims of either bias crimes or same-sex battering. It is hard to find statistics, which are current and up to date as crimes often remain unreported due to the stigma and fear of reporting. Inequality in the legal protection from domestic violence may explain why so many incidents of same-sex domestic violence go unreported to criminal justice authorities (Burke, 1998). As in opposite-gendered couples, the problem is underreported, many homosexual individuals fear reporting domestic violence as it also involves coming out to more people, at the moment the level of service available is not at the same level as a heterosexual victim. Robson (1992) states that “laws on domestic violence use words such as “battered wife” or “abused spouse,” are not inclusive of gay or lesbian persons.
A study in 2003 by the Georgetown University Medical Center outlines that “homosexual men are just as likely as heterosexual women to be victims of domestic violence,” Studies show that as many as a third of lesbians have been victims of sexual assault or coercion at the hands of another woman. “The fact that few cases are ever reported shows the near complete lack of support for women who have survived a same-sex sexual assault” (http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/) Men often find it extremely hard to ask for help, they are likely to feel deeply shamed, frightened, experience a loss of self-worth and confidence. Men can be victims of sexual abuse, more common within same sex partners, many men in abusive relationships do not feel in control of their own sex life and feel manipulated. (www.hiddenhurt.co.uk) Letellier (1994) found that gay men are more likely to be killed by their partners than by strangers. Turell (2000) reported data about an extremely broad range of physical and nonphysical abuses that same-sex partners inflict on each other. Results strongly suggest that there is little to no difference between the varieties of abuses that same-sex partners, compared to heterosexual partners. The research towards the gay community is often bias and hard to evaluate as statics often vary. Domestic violence in same sex and heterosexual relationships share many similarities, isolation and fear are the same yet there is number of aspects that are unique to same sex domestic violence. Within same-sex partnerships there is an added issue of sexuality. Many couples have one individual out or out to a greater extreme, a major issue is these relationships is using outing as a source of control. The individual threatens to out the individual by manipulating this power, this in turn controls the individual but causes the abuse to be associated with sexuality and not the individual. When sexual identity becomes associated with the abuse, the abuse is blamed on being gay or lesbian causing problems with self image and self esteem this negative image with the gay label can cause a detachment from the gay community. This detachment can be increased by an abusive partner as when retaining contact with the gay and lesbian community, means an individual lacks a support service and only has heterosexual individuals to compare relationship with. http://ssdv.acon.org.au/information/index.php
The gay community offer supports as a friendship basis, if these friends cannot be accessed it is easy to be isolated and feel alone, the abusive partner forms the base of all activities which in turn causes further control and isolation from other forms of support. The gay community in the past have been found to hide domestic violence to keep the myth that there are no problems. Victims of same-sex battering may be hesitant to report domestic violence incidents to the police because they fear ostracism by the gay community. Talking about domestic violence can reinforce the ideology that relationships are “abnormal.” This can further cause the victim to feel isolated and unsupported, or feel they deserve the behaviour towards them. Survivors may not know others within the LGBT community, meaning that leaving the abuser could result in total isolation, if the abuser has been controlling for many years it is hard to leave the situation with the added fact of being outed families may of cut ties. Ristock (2002) identifies first relationships as high risk for domestic abuse due to the risk of outing and support available. The traditional domestic violence services lack the training, sensitivity, and expertise to adequately recognize and address abusive relationships. The Gay community have much more problems when overcoming domestic violence as many individuals have difficulty in finding sources of support than heterosexual women who are battered by their male partners. Many individuals within the gay community have reported hiding their gender of the batterer to be perceived as heterosexual, this can cause problems within counselling and opening up about the violence. Lesbians face additional safety issues within shelter locations as the abuser has opportunity to pose as a victim to gain access. The only option to dispute being heterosexual is ” to come out” which is a major decision. http://www.lambda.org/
The Home office produced a paper in 2003 called Safety and Justice (Home Office 2003). The government was seeking views to measure incidences of domestic violence and of the effects of strategy to reduce it; how to raise awareness about domestic violence among the general public, particular groups and key professionals within the criminal and civil justice. The gay and bisexual community in Northern Ireland has suffering from disproportionate rates of domestic violence. In 2007, 142 people died in domestic attacks within Northern Ireland, including 38 men. http://www.broken-rainbow.org.uk/
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Shaun Woodward the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland states in ” the government is committed to tackling domestic violence throughout the United Kingdom, research shows that one in five young men and one in ten young women believe that violence towards a partner is sometimes acceptable.” Recent research into violence towards the Gay and Lesbian community in Northern Ireland outlined problems faced by reporting crimes against them. The lack of support available for the gay community and the beliefs surrounding the institutions lead to a lack of confidence in the systems and mechanisms to those who require them. In the study carried out in 1993 by McWilliams and McKiernan, Bringing it out in the open – Domestic Violence in Northern Ireland, one of the difficulties faced in determining the prevalence of domestic violence was that 31.3% of victims of domestic violence report the incident to the police (2000 British Crime Survey). However, Henderson, L, Prevalence of domestic violence among lesbians and gay men, London, 2003, found that 86.9% of women and 81.2% of men had not reported the abuse to the police. (Cited in rainbow) This explains current statics are a higher majority than previous thought.
The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 provides for a range of protections for victims including making common assault an arrestable offence. It is PSNI policy to investigate all reported incidents of domestic abuse in a consistent, robust and proactive manner. Police officers will take positive action at all domestic incidents to prevent crime, ensure public safety and protect the rights and freedoms of all parties, in particular the victim. Within Northern Ireland there is support for the gay community yet there is a stigma in accessing the service. The introduction in 1995 of a 24-hour Helpline by Northern Ireland Women’s Aid Federation and the continuing development of Women’s Aid services has provided enormous support for female victims and their children. Lesbians can access women’s aid yet the myth of having to be heterosexual has been hard to squash, with many victims hiding their true sexual orientation. There is a small percentage of groups available to the gay community in Northern Ireland, Lesbian Line provides a confidential Helpline and Befriending service for Lesbians & Bisexual Women. Men’s Advisory Project offers a service to men who are victims of domestic violence The Rainbow Project aims to address the physical, mental and emotional health of gay and bisexual men. The rainbow project is the only gay male specific counselling and support service available in Northern Ireland.
Professionals in order to be effective in working with same-gender couples, must be
familiar with the complex issues related to domestic violence in these relationships. It is not sufficient to apply a general professional background in the areas of domestic violence, trauma, couples therapy, or divorce. At the moment there is limited training of counsellors with regard to both gay and lesbian issues and to domestic violence
A major problem encountered by lesbian couples in counselling for domestic violence has been the contraindication of working on the issues in the context of couples’ therapy (Hammond, 1989).
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