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Broken rainbow: Domestic violence in the queer community

Broken Rainbow, an organisation that provides a specialist service to queer communities living with and experiencing domestic violence in the UK, is seeking funding to offer a formal program for domestic violence perpetrators. Chief executive Jackie Fernandez spoke with Katrina Fox.

 How long has your organisation been going and what exactly do you offer? 

We were established in 2004. We operate the UK’s only dedicated, national LGBT domestic violence helpline – supporting LGBT people who are experiencing domestic violence. Demand is so great for this service as statistics states we are only able to answer 17%. We will be looking to expand services during 2010. 

We provide training and awareness of LGBT cultural needs and issues, which are not understood or met by mainstream services.  We deliver training to an annual average of at least 1,000 professionals responsible for providing support, advice and information to LGBT victims and perpetrators. 

We provide services to LGBT communities that will include intersex communities. 

How common is same-sex domestic violence (DV) compared to heterosexual-based DV? 

One in three LGBT people experience domestic violence. This is born out in research such as  Comparing domestic abuse in same sex relationships & heterosexual relationships

Also recent research (Prescription for Change/Stonewall 2008) states that at least 1 in 4 lesbians experience varying forms of domestic violence and are least likely to report to the police for fear of homophobia. 

What about support for perpetrators of same-sex domestic violence? 

We do not currently provide formal support in the form of a Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programme but this is something we would like to provide. We will be looking to submit funding applications to fund this project over the next 12-18 months.  

There are two main types of perpetrator programmes in operation in the UK, statutory and non-statutory.  

Both programmes deal mainly with heterosexual perpetrators and fail to address the needs of LGBT perpetrators.  The charity named Respect (providing support to perpetrators of domestic violence) recently created an accreditation process centred mainly on heterosexual perpetrators.  

We are in discussion with Respect in regards to creating an acceditation system that will focus on LGBT perpetrators. 

Why is it so important to have programmes for perpetrators? 

The evidence to support the need for this work is small to non-existent and it is imperative that this gap in services and support is addressed.

Over the last year 2% of the calls made our helpline were from LGBor T perpetrators.   Respect have stated that they deal with an average of 2 LGBor T perpetrators on their helpline. 

The issues of sexuality play a part in domestic violence and disclosure of being a perpetrator based on fear of being judged, isolation and homophobia. 

What are some of the reasons people carry out DV on another person? 

Domestic violence is a form of power and control that usually occurs in relationships but is not exclusive to this set-up.  

Domestic violence is the abuse of one partner within an intimate or family relationship. It is the repeated, random and habitual use of intimidation to control a partner.  

The abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual. Anyone forced to alter their behaviour because they are frightened of their partner’s reaction is being abused. 

The highest categories over the past year is physical abuse followed by psychological and financial. 

What are some of the signs of abuse?

  1. If a victim is forced to change their behaviour because they are frightened of their partner then they is being abused.  If they are experiencing any of the following then it’s likely that they are being abused.
  1. Is he/she jealous and possessive?
  2. Does he/she cut the victim off from family and friends and try to isolate them?
  3. Is h/she charming one minute and abusive the next, does he have sudden changes of mood  – like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?
  4. Does he/she control her life – for example money, who they should see and what they should wear?
  5. Does he/she monitor her movements?
  6. Does he/she blame her for the abuse?
  7. Does he/she humiliate or insult them in front of others?
  8. Does he/she verbally abuse the victim?
  9. Does he/she constantly criticise victim?
  10. Does he/she use anger and intimidation to frighten the victim and to make them comply with their demands?
  11. Does he/she tell the victim they are useless and couldn’t cope without them?
  12. Has he/she threatened to hurt the victim or people close to them if they leaves?
  13. Does the victim change their behaviour to avoid making the perpetrator angry and triggering an attack?
  14. Are they forced to have sex when they do not want to?

But this list is not exhaustive. 

How is Broken Rainbow funded? 

We are currently funded by the Home Office and Lankelly Chase Foundation. Fundraising is extremely hard for an LGBT organisation as few funders include or acknowledge the need for specialist services that are much needed in the LGBT communities. This has been made even more difficult in the current financial climate. 

Charities in UK are constantly fighting for survival due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of the LGBT needs which causes barriers for LGBT charities and in turn LGBT individuals who really need our help.  

Visit the Broken Rainbow website for more information.

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