Members of the LGBT community are more than twice as likely to have experienced domestic abuse in the past year compared to those in heterosexual relationships, and almost half of victims say that they didn’t know where to turn for support.
Domestic violence and abuse in the LGBT+ community is an issue rarely highlighted, with many victims too afraid to speak out. When questioned, 45 per cent of LGBT respondents from the 2013 ROAR study on domestic violence and abuse said that they didn’t seek help for fear that they wouldn’t be taken seriously.
To raise awareness of this growing issue and to let people know that help is available, the UK’s only LGBT domestic violence charity, Broken Rainbow, has launched its first ever awareness campaign.
The campaign, running this month, celebrates 10 years since the LGBT charity first brought the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans + (LGBT+) domestic violence and abuse out into the open.
Last year, over 4,000 calls were made to Broken Rainbow’s helpline; a figure that the charity’s Managing Director (Interim), Jo Harvey Barringer, says is increasing: “Over the past 10 years Broken Rainbow has received more than 25,000 calls from members of the LGBT community in distress, with the number of calls continuing to have an upward trend.”
Lord Brian Paddick, former Met police Deputy Assistant Commissioner, knows first hand how devastating domestic abuse can be in a relationship.
‘I didn’t go to the police because I didn’t want to be open about my sexuality and the type of relationship I was in. I was too embarrassed. We need to be more open about this so that people in abusive relationships realise they are not alone.’
Lord Paddick says services such as Broken Rainbow’s helpline are vital for those in the LGBT community who often face coercive control, emotional or physical abuse at the hand of their partners.
‘Unacceptable behaviour in a domestic abuse setting can and tragically does escalate to violence. Despite the research, the experience and the good work by some police forces, there is little the police can do to combat emotional abuse. Broken Rainbow’s helpline offers a place where those who feel they have no where to turn can confide and find support.’
Jaci Quennell, Broken Rainbow UK Trustee, echoes Lord Paddick’s comments about the difficulties of combating emotional abuse, ‘It took years for me to realise how emotionally and psychologically abusive my partner was – it was so insidious that I couldn’t see it. She ridiculed me and sabotaged my studies, my job applications and my friendships. It only really sank in how effective she had been when old friends that I hadn’t seen for years were upset at what they saw as the complete dismantling of my sense of self-worth’.
Twenty-three year old Hugo Sugg experienced domestic abuse in his first-ever relationship, and says that the support of a service like Broken Rainbow would have been invaluable.
‘In hindsight, I didn’t realise how much control my partner had over me at the time, he controlled who I saw at college and would become insanely jealous.’
Hugo finally ended the relationship when he was woken by his partner screaming at him, angered by text messages he’d found on Hugo’s phone.
‘It was then I decided enough was enough, he begged me to stay but I decided it was time to leave and went to stay with a friend.’
Hugo’s story is just one of the many previously untold about abuse in LGBT relationships. The aim of Broken Rainbow’s campaign is to encourage others to speak out and highlight the help that is available to those who need support.
Twenty-eight year old Hollyoaks actor Kieron Richardson has thrown his support behind Broken Rainbow’s cause. Having played Ste Hay in Hollyoaks, he says there is a popular misconception that needs to be overcome in LGBT relationships.
‘After playing a character in Hollyoaks who suffered abuse in a gay relationship, I was astounded at the amount of people saying: ‘it’s two guys they can just hit each other back.’
This statement is categorically wrong and by highlighting this issue and by helping people understand and educating them, we can change this perception.
‘It’s extremely important to recognise charities, such as Broken Rainbow UK, that highlight domestic abuse in an LGBT relationship. Much has been mentioned in the news and popular culture on domestic abuse but it needs to be clearer that it occurs in ALL relationships no matter what gender.’