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LGBTI experiences of violence

  • Supporting people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) requires an in-depth understanding of the issues they experience
  • Heterosexim, homophobia, transphobia and cisgenderism can affect the way people respond to sexual assault, domestic and family violence
  • This page explains some of these issues, while the other tabs in this section explain the things support workers can do to help them respond better

Understanding the issues

The initials LGBTI stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex. You might also see it written as LGBTIQ, where the Q stands for 'queer'. All of the content on the 1800RESPECT website is written to be inclusive of all people. However, we know that for some people there can be specific needs or extra barriers around accessing support. This content looks at the issues faced by people who identify as LGBTI who are impacted by sexual, domestic and family violence.

Violence against people who identify as LGBTI includes a range of behaviours. Sexual assault, domestic and family violence and controlling behaviour based on sexuality, gender or identity, are all part of the picture. Heterosexim, homophobia, transphobia and cisgenderism play a powerful role in shaping the way we think about and respond to sexual assault, domestic and family violence.

How these issues impact LGBTI communities

Increased risk

Due to a lack of information and reporting that identifies violence or controlling behaviours in LGBTI relationships as sexual, domestic or family violence, the issue is often not well understood.

Mainstream media and the majority of information often focuses on heterosexual relationships where men perpetrate violence against their female partner and children. This makes violence in LGBTI relationships harder to recognise.

When present in LGBTI relationships, sexual, domestic and family violence can involve perpetrators using tactics unique to those relationships. It can also involve increased risk due to the valid fears that people who identify as LGBTI may have about disclosing violence.

These can include:

  • A fear of discrimination or minimisation by police, legal systems and service providers
  • The threat of being 'outed' if the abused partner has not disclosed their sexuality, gender, intersex status or HIV status to their family, friends, workplace or their cultural community
  • Pressure to look or act more 'male',  'female' or straight
  • The fear of a lack of confidentiality within, or of being isolated from LGBTI communities
  • Fear of non-offending parents that their right to stay with their children may be challenged due to different legal rights of LGBTI parents
  • Financial discrimination that makes accessing shared financial resources of an LGBTI couple more difficult or impossible
  • A fear of nowhere to go for support that is safe and culturally appropriate
  • Shame and confusion around society's assumptions that women are not violent and men cannot be victims

A lack of information that acknowledges intimate partner violence in a diversity of relationships contribteus to the barriers for accessing services. Likewise, a lack of awareness of violence based on assumptions of gender and sexuality also contribute to the problem. Understanding sexual assault, domestic and family violence is a good start.

Organisational policies and practices need to be adapted to include violence against people who identify as LGBTI to be truly effective. All staff working with any client should have regular LGBTI inclusivity and awareness training. Where possible, training should address responding to domestic and family violence that occurs in LGBTI communities.

Responding to LGBTI experiences of violence

  • If you do not respond to sexual, domestic or family violence often, our Introduction to responding page is a good place to start
  • Some people who identify as LGBTI have an understandable fear of discrimination when using a mainstream service
  • Responding effectively means developing inclusive practice
  • This page provides information on how to improve your practices when supporting people who identify as LGBTI

The importance of inclusivity

There are many things we can do to develop inclusive practice. One good starting point is to identify discrimination and unconscious bias in our service provision and to address it with best practice responses.

Fear of discrimination or not being taken seriously, including within the mainstream service system, can make it difficult for people to discuss what is happening in their relationships with partners and family members. This can contribute to an increased risk of nondisclosure. More information on the types of discrimination that can be experienced by LGBTI communities can be found in the Understanding the issues tab in this section.

Building an inclusive service by embedding inclusive practices into our services will directly address the needs of the LGBTI communities. All our knowledge around increasing safety applies and there are practical things we can do to respond appropriately. A number of resources can be utilised to improve inclusive practice at the level of your organisation.

Inclusivity in the workplace

  • The organisation embeds LGBTI inclusive practice into organisational systems
  • Services need to identify, assess and mitigate risks to ensure the physical and cultural safety of LGBTI clients
  • Professional development is provided to ensure all staff in the service are confident about LGBTI inclusive practice
  • LGBTI clients are consulted about, and participate in, the planning, development and review of the service
  • Access and intake processes send a message of welcome to LGBTI consumers at the point of access and beyond

Inclusivity as an individual

  • Don't assume someone is or isn’t LGBTI because of the way they look or what you see
  • Treating everyone the same is not necessarily meeting their individual needs
  • Create a welcoming, confidential and culturally appropriate environment for LGBTI people
  • Update your intake forms and talk to people about using inclusive language — for recommended gender and sexuality indicators see the ACON website.
  • Add an inclusivity statement on your webpage or Facebook page
  • Refer to the Pride in Diversity social inclusion initiative