First Published: February 2006
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.

Somewhere between a quarter and third of all LGBTs will experience domestic violence at some point in their lives - often when still at home with family or whilst living with a partner. OutUK’s Adrian Gillan asks support service Broken Rainbow what stops us reporting and what help is at hand.
“Domestic violence is not a minor crime,” insists Michael Verrier, co-chair of Broken Rainbow LGBT Domestic Violence Service (UK) - Europe’s first national LGBT organisation dedicated to confronting and eliminating domestic violence within and against the LGBT communities. “In some cases it leads to the victim being murdered.”
Research suggests well over a third (38%) of young LGBT people face domestic violence from family members - often forced to leave home too soon. Many have to deal with the double-whammy of homophobic bullying in school, losing out on their right to a decent education. Additionally, at least 1 in 4 of us will experience same-sex domestic violence within our own adult relationships. Domestic violence accounts for 16% of all violent crime and has more repeat victims than any other offence - on average there will be 35 assaults before a victim calls the police. Less than 20% of domestic violence is reported by LGBT people and - of those that do report - only about 5% will report repeat incidents.
LGBT domestic violence is - like all domestic violence - based on power and control. However, some gay-specific phenomena have emerged, including knowingly infecting a partner with HIV or threatening to disclose HIV status to family, friends or work; and outing, or threatening to out, closeted partners - notably amongst LGBT people from ethnic minority or faith groups. Such tactics make it easier for the perpetrator to isolate the victim (“survivor”) from their family and community - so boosting their dominance.

“Perpetrators are usually aware that their victim is unlikely to report to police or go to court due to a lack of confidence in the criminal justice system,” elaborates Verrier of a still tragically hidden issue, in many ways taboo even within our own community - perhaps ill-at-ease with the very concept of gay-on-gay crime. “Perpetrators are usually aware that violence against their partner - even in public, particularly in gay bars and clubs - will be largely ignored by any witnesses, or put down to just a fight between two men or women.”


Since it was formed in 2002, Broken Rainbow has given a voice to - and provided support for - LGBT people experiencing domestic violence. Its Helpline has offered a listening, signposting and information service to over 200 first-time LGBT callers, as well as taking calls from agencies, perpetrators and heterosexual survivors. Since launching an ad campaign back in January last year- calls are increasing by approximately 70% per month.

Reassures Verrier: “If survivors are not ready or do not want to take action then we can listen to them, give them time and space to talk about their experiences and discuss their options. Some of our callers will only want to talk about their experiences. If callers want to take action then we can talk to them about their housing options, give a brief outline of their legal rights, help put together a safety plan and find support services in their local area.”

Domestic violence comes in all guises. Although almost a third of Helpline callers report physical abuse, domestic violence is not just about bruises and broken bones. It also includes psychological, emotional, sexual, verbal and financial abuse. It may involve abuse because of sexuality or gender identity; racist, sexist or ageist abuse; abuse because of religion or belief; or abuse because of disability - the perpetrator may even be the carer of a disabled LGBT person. And although most Helpline calls involve an LGBT partner being the perpetrator, many relate to a family member - usually a dad or brother - abusing a young LGBT person who has recently come out or been outed.



20 year old gay man Tom spent about a year a half living with his partner John in Liverpool. John had become very abusive and threatening during arguments in their first few months together. This gradually developed into physical violence with John threatening Tom - on a number of occasions - to “track him down” should he leave.

“After John kicked me and then pushed me down the stairs, I decided I’d had enough. Although he apologised after he’d done it, he had hit me before and apologised. I didn’t want to live like this anymore.

The next day, I left without telling John and went to live in London with some friends to escape him. I was worried that he would track me down and I didn’t want to go to the police as I didn’t know how they would react. I phoned a local [domestic violence] organisation and they gave me Broken Rainbow’s number.

They [Broken Rainbow] gave me a lot of advice about support and it was good to talk to a gay person about what John had done. They also took me through what the police could do and put me in contact with my local Community Safety Unit which deals with domestic violence.

Although I still didn’t want to go to court or anything, I felt a lot safer after talking to the police.”


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