LGBTI Domestic Violence Awareness Day – the Victorian Perspective

“We cannot call ourselves ‘progressive’ until we are all moving forward together at the same pace.”
-- The Hon. Gabriel Williams, at the launch of the Everybody Matters Inclusion and Equity Statement

May 28 has been declared the inaugural LGBTI Domestic Violence Awareness Day. Rainbow Health Victoria welcomes this opportunity to raise awareness of the unique experiences of intimate partner and family violence experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender drivers, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people.

Existing research has shown that intimate partner violence is reported at similar rates in same-gender relationships to heterosexual relationships. Bisexual women can even experience higher rates than lesbian and heterosexual women, and trans and gender diverse people have been found to report intimate partner violence more often than their cisgender peers. Unfortunately, there is little research that examines the experiences of intimate partner violence of intersex people.

LGBTIQ people also experience violence within their ‘family of origin’. Many LGBTQ people, particularly young people living at home, hide their identities out of fear and shame. In ‘coming out’ within families, LGBTQ people can be subject to family violence based on their sexuality or gender identity including rejection, abuse and violence. People with intersex variations may experience unnecessary medical and other ‘normalising’ interventions, and experience negative attitudes towards their bodies and identities.

Despite an increase in legal recognition and protections in the last decade, LGBTIQ people regularly experience inequality and de-valuing of their identities and relationships, as well as systemic failures to protect bodily autonomy. Many report regular experiences of harassment, abuse, violence and discrimination driven by homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and intersexphobia. These experiences create the conditions for family and intimate partner violence experienced by LGBTIQ people, and shape the forms that it takes.

Existing models for a family violence response have necessarily focussed on men’s violence against women, but in the process have inadvertently led to failures in recognising and responding appropriately to LGBTIQ intimate partner violence at a policy, service, community and individual level. Myths have been perpetuated that violence either doesn’t occur in same-gender relationships, or that it should be excused. Victim-survivors have experienced denial of service, a lack of service pathways, and even stigma and discrimination from providers.

In response to these issues, recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence in Victoria in 2016 mandated a focus on system change to ensure safe and supportive service access for LGBTIQ people experiencing violence. This approach was strengthened with the launch of Everybody Matters – Inclusion and Equity Statement in 2019 by the Victorian Government. This statement calls for an intersectional approach that acknowledges diverse experiences and drivers of family violence, proactively addresses barriers to receiving help, and recognises the importance of working together to end all forms of family violence.

Since 2018, Rainbow Health Victoria has been funded to coordinate a series of inter-connected projects that have improved LGBTIQ inclusion across the Victorian family violence sector. These include:

• enabling services to work towards Rainbow Tick accreditation through a roll-out of the HOW2 training program to specialist family violence services state-wide
• developing and delivering family violence all-staff professional development training state-wide
• coordinating peer support for practitioners through the Queer Family Violence Sector Network
• mentoring the first two LGBTIQ-safe family violence refuges in Australia
• evaluating the roll-out of the Rainbow Tick and LGBTIQ-inclusive practice training across the sector.

On this, the first ‘LGBTI Domestic Violence Awareness Day’, the family violence team at Rainbow Health Victoria would like to thank our partners for their ongoing engagement and commitment in these projects, and invite others to join us in our collective vision of an Australia where all people, including LGBTIQ people, are supported equally to live free from domestic and family violence.

Thank you,

The LGBTIQ Intimate Partner and Family Violence team
Rainbow Health Victoria
Matthew Parsons, Marina Carman, Jackson Fairchild and Shamini Joseph