Warning. This article contains descriptions and first-hand testimonies of same-sex domestic abuse which some readers may find distressing.
Tuesday began as a normal day. Tamara, 26, made herself some toast and a packed lunch, changed out of her pyjamas, went into the bathroom, came out, got dressed and went to work. After work, her colleagues decided to go for a drink. Tamara, as usual, declined their invitation for her to join them. Only this time, they were particularly persuasive, so Tamara acquiesced. She arrived home to find all the glasses in the kitchen cupboard broken, and her partner Jo, 29, sitting on the sofa with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s in her hand. When she turned to face Tamara, the look of fury on Jo’s face showed that something was definitely not right…
Jekyll and Hyde
“That was the scariest night of my life,” says Tamara. “It was the first time I saw her gentle Jekyll turn into a monstrous Hyde.” Up until that evening, Jo had never laid a finger on Tamara. “Arguments could have been described as minor spats at worst, but that Tuesday, Jo was like a wild animal. She hit me on the head with her almost-empty bottle, kicked me on the shins and spat in my face, all the time accusing me of having an affair with a certain male workmate because I’m bisexual.” Tamara ran into the bedroom, stuffed as many possessions as she could into a binbag and went to sleep on a friend’s sofa.
Tamara was lucky she had someone to offer her an immediate place of safety. Cases of LGBT domestic abuse can occur outside a romantic relationship, too – indeed, the abuse is very often perpetrated by parents, guardians, siblings and even friends.“A lot of the clients that we support are fleeing abuse from their family members,” says Leanne, a Domestic Abuse Case Worker with Stonewall Housing. “But even if they’re fleeing abuse within a relationship, they maybe have had a negative relationship with their family in the past, so don’t have them to fall back on.”
When David, 19, left his partner Eric, 32, following a months-long ordeal of mental abuse, he discovered that his family were less than keen on having their son clogging up their spare room now he had told them he was gay. “I tried to ask friends instead, but the only ones interested in helping out were clubbing friends who wanted, well, ‘payment in kind’.”
David wasn’t willing to swap his body for a roof over his head, as indeed many of us wouldn’t be. “I might have considered it out of desperation, but after being raped and beaten by Eric, my bodily autonomy was sacred to me. I didn’t want to go back to being a helpless rag doll, even if there was no direct violence involved.”
David contacted the police but they didn’t take him very seriously. “Not only is there a stigma attached to being a male victim of domestic abuse, let alone a gay one, but I got the feeling that because as men we were of ‘equal strength’, the police in my case seemed to view it as some kind of silly playground slap-around. One officer repeatedly asked me to admit that David’s bruises were from a sex game, as gay men ‘enjoy those sort of things’.” David slept on a park bench that night and the next day began the slow process of trying to find temporary accommodation. “I had to quit my university course in order to be eligible for housing and benefits. Eric essentially changed my entire life forever.”
Leni Morris, Chief Executive of LGBT domestic abuse charity Galop, said: “When someone suffers abuse which targets them for who they fundamentally are, especially at such a formative age and at the hands of such an influential person, the repercussions are often lifelong. Our research results show the severity and complexity of cases we are supporting at Galop, often within which victims have never told anyone about their experience.”
Transwomen have an extra hurdle to jump, in that many women’s shelters won’t admit them and they won’t necessarily get the right support at a mixed or men’s shelter. Alison, 45, had to flee an abusive male partner by climbing out of a window. Her feeling of relief was short-lived, however, when she was told by her local shelter that “their policy was to turn away anyone who wasn’t AFAB (Assigned Female at Birth)”. Alison tells OutNewsGlobal: “I honestly didn’t even think there would be an issue. It was an absolute shock to me. I ended up finding a shelter an hour away that would accept me, but that hour was an hour I shouldn’t have had to endure in that state.”
The perfect crime
It’s hard to gauge for certain as LGBT survivors are often reluctant to come forward, but research by Stonewall found that 11 per cent of the LGBT community had been domestically abused. Stonewall also discovered that only 46% of the LGB population could be open about their sexuality with their family and only 47 per cent of trans people felt able to disclose their status to their relatives. LGBT domestic abuse is almost “the perfect crime”, so often kept in the dark due to shame and stereotypes.
If you need confidential help with domestic abuse, please contact Galop on 0800 999 5428 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone lines are open from Monday to Friday, 10am-5pm, and Wednesday to Thursday 10am to 8pm. If you are in immediate danger, please call 999.