Barriers to Support

The NSW Government’s new domestic and family violence policy was launched in early 2014, following many years of work by community based LGBTIQ organisations. It Stops Here recognises that LGBTIQ people are a vulnerable group in terms of seeking support from mainstream domestic violence agencies and services, and that they sometimes find it hard to identify abuse in relationships.  

The new policy says, “People who identify as LGBTIQ experience domestic and family violence at similar rates to that of the wider community but are less likely to identify the experience as abuse, report violence to the police, or seek assistance from a domestic and family violence support organisation for fear of prejudice and discrimination. Sometimes, services may not understand the needs of a LGBTIQ person or the nature of their relationship, or support workers may have preconceived ideas about the diversity of sex [intersex], sexuality, gender or family.” (It Stops Here, p.8) 

Recognition of the diversity of LGBTIQ relationships and family structures, the importance of connection to the LGBTIQ community and explicit understanding of the barriers to seeking support in government policy are all significant steps forward for LGBTIQ people experiencing domestic and family violence. There is much more work to be done before all mainstream and specialist services will understand the community’s needs but service responses are improving.

Apart from being LGBTIQ, there are a number of other factors that may impact on a person’s confidence to seek support in relation to domestic and family violence. Groups such as young people, older people, people with disabilities, mental health and chronic health issues, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culturally and linguistically diverse people, are all identified as vulnerable groups in mainstream domestic violence research. LGBTIQ people who have multiple risk factors may find it even more difficult to seek or find support that meets their needs or to identify that they are experiencing domestic or family violence.

Sometimes the language used to describe sexual and gender diversity, and intersex (LGBTIQ) excludes people from diverse communities. Some cultures use different words to describe being same-sex attracted or transgender or intersex. It’s important to consider how everyone can be included and how best to help them to find the support that meets an individual’s needs. 

Some communities or groups have a mistrust of police and other government agencies because of previous negative or traumatic experiences either in Australia or in another country. Police should always be inclusive in their approach and work with an individual’s diversity, be it culture, race, sexuality, gender, intersex or any other difference, to provide a fair and equitable service. 

Services May Not Be Well Developed

Although women can access most mainstream domestic and family violence services (e.g. refuges, court assistance schemes, resource centres, and counselling services), these services may have little experience in working with LGBTIQ domestic and family violence and may therefore not offer the most appropriate support for LGBTIQ people. 

There are very few domestic and family violence services for men. 

The LGBTIQ Domestic Violence Interagency has made significant progress in addressing these issues. Many mainstream domestic and family violence service providers now receive training in recognising and responding to LGBTIQ domestic and family violence. 

The Inner City Legal Centre’s Safe Relationships Project is a specialist LGBTIQ domestic and family violence service providing court support, legal advice and non-legal referrals for clients, and community legal education for service providers. 

ACON offers a range of services to LGBTIQ people experiencing domestic and family violence including counselling and care coordination services.  

The Gender Centre offers a range of services for transgender people and gender diverse people who are experiencing domestic and family violence.