There is a growing body of literature concerning domestic and sexual violence produced in the UK focusing on heterosexual women victimised by male partners, family members, or other men. This is not surprising, since according to national statistics and academic research heterosexual women constitute the largest victim group. It is, however, increasingly recognised in both policy documents and practice that domestic and sexual violence occurs across all population groups and gay men, lesbian or bisexual women and transgendered individuals also experience domestic and sexual violence (Best, et al., 2011; Donovan, et al., 2006; Harvey, et al., Rahim, 2014).
A small number of local or national research has surveyed same sex domestic and sexual violence (Roch, Ritchie, & Morton, 2010; Stonewall, 2009). The majority of this focuses on the psychological impact of these incidents and explores the appropriate practical and emotional support needs of the victim. In addition, to educate and raise awareness on the topic, the National Health Service has supported development of several resources (NHS, 2008, 2009) focusing on specific information which will assist individuals and professionals accurately to identify incidents of same-sex intimate partner violence and support victims.
Despite more recent studies one of most significant contributions today remains a study conducted by Donovan et al., (2006), which is a detailed survey of same-sex domestic violence and the first document in the UK directly comparing domestic violence in same-sex and heterosexual relationships. Donovan et al. found that domestic violence is experienced in very similar ways by those in lesbian and gay relationships although men were more likely to experience sexual violence. Examining help-seeking behaviours of LGBT survivors, the study found that many in same-sex relationships who experience emotional and sexual violence do not recognise it as domestic violence, and this influences its reporting.
Only limited prevalence data exists on lesbian and gay male experiences of domestic violence in the UK. Donovan et al. have found that 1 in 4 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes, which is the same rate as heterosexual non-trans women. Studies also found that, although experiences of domestic violence are similar for lesbians and gay men, gay men are significantly more likely to experience physical and especially sexual violence, while lesbians are significantly more likely to be affected by emotional and sexual violence. Additionally it has also been found that 50 % of gay/bi men have experienced at least one incident of domestic violence from a family member or partner since the age of 16, and that 78 % of gay and bisexual men, who have experienced domestic violence have never reported the incidents to the police. (Stonewall, 2009)
While there is a wide range of services working to support women victims, and there are also help-lines aimed at male and LGBT victims of domestic violence, research examining the service needs of LGBT people remains scarce (Hester et al., 2012). Addressing this gap our database found three studies relevant to the UK context, all confirming that those who identify as LGBT experience various difficulties in accessing services.
Robinson & Rowlands, (2009) compared the needs of gay and heterosexual men in relation to service provision. Among other things, they found that gay male victims are less likely to recognize or disclose their experiences as abusive, yet are more willing to take up services and support in comparison to heterosexual male victims. The findings also note gay male victims appear to be the most similar to female victims of domestic violence in terms of their desire for support and advocacy, whereas heterosexual male victims are appear less likely to engage with the service.
Examining the situation in Wales, Harvey et al., (2014) found that LGBT people who experience domestic and sexual violence may face specific barriers to accessing services. These included “individual barriers” related to their knowledge and perceptions, “interpersonal barriers” related to control and abuse from/by other people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity, and “structural and cultural barriers” that related to the way existing services have been designed with the needs of heterosexual women in mind.
Hester et al. (2012), focused on three areas of England: the South West, the North West and London and studied the service and support needs of male, LGBT, and BME victims of domestic and sexual violence. The findings of the research observe that gender, ethnicity and sexuality intersect in shaping the experience and impact of domestic and sexual violence. The extent and nature of violence and related service needs therefore differ, and such complexity should be taken into account when considering service needs.
Written by: Jasna Magić
Adapted for Bleeding Love blog from: LGBT Needs Assessment Domestic and Sexual Violence Service Provision in the London Borough of Newham, Report 2015
Best, C., Burton, G., MacGillivray, M., & Ware, J. (2011). Voices Unheard, Domestic Abuse: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trangender Young People’s Perspectives (p. 32). Edinburgh.
Donovan, C., Hester, M., Holmes, J., & McCarry Melanie. (2006). Comparing Domestic Abuse in Same Sex and Heterosexual Relationships (p. 23). Sunderland, Bristol: University of Sunderland; University of Bristol.
Harvey, S., Mitchell, M., Keeble, J., McNaughton Nicholls, C., & Rahim, N. (2014). Barriers Faced by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People in Accessing Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Harassment, and Sexual Violence Services (p. 80). Cardiff.
Hester, M., Williamson, E., Regan, L., Coulter, M., Chantler, K., Gangoli, G., Green, L. (2012). Exploring the service and support needs of male, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered and black and other minority ethnic victims of domestic and sexual violence (pp. 1–76). Bristol.
NHS. (2008). Domestic Violence A resource for lesbian & bisexual women (p. 23). London.
NHS. (2009). Domestic Violence: A resource for trans people (p. 35). London.
Robinson, A. L., & Rowlands, J. (2009). Assessing and managing risk among different victims of domestic abuse: Limits of a generic model of risk assessment? Security Journal, 22(3), 190–204.
Roch, A., Ritchie, G., & Morton, J. (2010). Out of sight, out of mind? Transgender People’s Experiences of Domestic Abuse (p. 36).
Stonewall. (2009). Recognising the impact of hate crime and domestic violence on lesbian , gay and bisexual (LGB) people and how this impacts on health (p. 32). London.