Public Services fail Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (LBT) Women Victims of Domestic Abuse

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2009 National LGBT Conference
11 November 2009

Conference it is reported that domestic abuse (DA) costs the UK an estimated £2-3 billion pound a year this is through time off work, and the costs accrued by the criminal justice and health systems.

Domestic abuse knows no boundaries of gender, culture, class, age, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity or belief. However, women are most likely to be affected, with one in four of all women experiencing DA in their lifetime and 85% of victims of domestic violence being women. The UN notes that this distribution of victimisation is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality, and remains a fundamental barrier to achieving equality between women and men. But, as outlined in the Equality and Human Rights Commission Report, “Map the Gaps”, in many parts of the country, services for women who have experienced DA are chronically under-funded or simply do not exist. There are also particular issues for LBT women in accessing services.

We know that there is a strong link between DA and women’s health; indeed DA needs to be considered as a public health issue.

According to the Royal College of Psychologists’, the presence of DA increases the risk of miscarriage, the likelihood of women to smoke, drink heavily and use drugs.

Babies whose mothers have experienced domestic abuse are on average 133 grams lighter those who are not.

Women may experience depression, anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders and other self-injurious behaviours.

Recent Stonewall research has found that one in four of all Lesbian and Bisexual women have experienced domestic abuse in a relationship. Two thirds of those say the perpetrator was a woman, a third a man.

One in four of the general population of women have experienced domestic abuse. Lesbian and Bisexual women who had experienced domestic abuse from another woman said that the abuse was emotional and physical. One in five had been pushed, slapped, kicked or bitten by another woman.

LBT women often find the services set in place for women have no idea or understanding of their cultural needs and that they are often overlooked, not taken seriously or grouped in with other heterosexual women where they may experience homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

Few women in same sex relationships, who are experiencing abuse in their relationship, seek counselling or legal/medical services. It seems even fewer turn to police, shelters, or distress lines, believing social service workers, health care officials, and police lack specialist knowledge in order to address the issue properly and appropriately.

There is also a large gap in specialist service provision for LBT women, which in turn perpetuates the likelihood of women remaining isolated, and lacking access to support, advocacy or information.

Half of Lesbians and Bisexual women said that they had “experienced negative experience with healthcare in the last year” and that half of the respondents are not out to their GP.

In terms of LBT women’s health and DA these factors are extremely significant. Women who experience domestic abuse are more likely to experience mental health issues, use drugs and alcohol heavily (sometimes to self medicate), and feel isolated.

Conference is concerned that there is a lack of services available that are set up to assist LBT women seeking support.

Conference calls on the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Committee to campaign for:

1.Increased awareness of the issues facing LBT women who are victims of domestic abuse;

2.Recognition that LBT women’s domestic abuse is multi-faceted and that appropriate services be made available and accessible for lesbian women and their children seeking help;

3.Accessible health services for LBT women seeking support;

4.Increase recognition by public agencies of the need to take steps to increase the confidence of LBT women in the criminal justice system and to encourage reporting of incidents of domestic abuse.