This LBT Women’s Health Week, SafeLives – in partnership with Stonewall and Galop – are shining a light on bi victims of domestic abuse
BY DANIELLE MUSTARDE
March 12-16 marks Lesbian, Bi and Trans Women’s Health Week, the aim of which is to raise awareness about lesbian, bisexual and trans women’s health inequalities, and to make it easier for service providers to empower service users and communities to support LBT women.
On top of that, and as the UK Government puts forward proposals for new domestic abuse laws, it’s important to recognise the role of health services and professionals in the response to domestic abuse.
There is no “typical” victim of domestic abuse and we know that some women face additional barriers to accessing support, because many services and professionals are not set up to meet their needs.
National domestic abuse charity SafeLives holds the UK’s largest dataset on domestic abuse services and their clients and this data tells us that bisexual women experiencing domestic abuse are highly vulnerable and face significant challenges. Of the women in our dataset identifying as bisexual:
🔸 34% have attempted suicide
🔸 39% have self-harmed
🔸 17% were abused by multiple perpetrators
🔸 9% have experienced historic abuse by a family member
🔸 16% have experienced historic abuse by a previous intimate partner
All of these vulnerabilities are experienced by bisexual women at higher rates than those who did not identify as LGBT+, and higher than the LGBT+ dataset overall.
Bisexual women have for too long felt hidden in a society that often fails to understand their identity – a failure of understanding which often comes from within the LGBT+ community.
Bisexual women find themselves regularly stereotyped, objectified and erased by the culture in which we live and these factors contribute to internalised biphobia and low self-image, which in turn make bisexual women vulnerable to abuse and pressure from partners.
It’s likely that many bisexual women are not seen by domestic abuse services until they reach crisis point – professionals from all agencies responding to domestic abuse need the support to be able to ask their clients about their sexual orientation and relationship history in a safe and supportive way.
“We know that it’s a huge, brave step for anyone experiencing domestic abuse to reach out to a professional for support – but imagine asking for help and being put in a position where you have to explain or justify your identity”, says Suzanne Jacob, CEO of SafeLives.
“Bisexual and lesbian women face additional barriers even with something as simple as seeing a GP; if a woman visits the GP with her male partner, and the GP suspects abuse, they will often find a way to speak to her alone.
“But if a woman visits her GP with a female partner, it’s likely that the GP will assume she’s there as a supportive friend and the right questions won’t be asked. We want to empower professionals to recognise the signs of domestic abuse and the many forms it can take, to make sure that no one feels hidden.
“During LBT women’s health week, we’re reminded that four out of five victims of domestic abuse never call the police – but many do access health services. Domestic abuse is everyone’s business, whether you’re a nurse, a GP or a mental health worker.
“We want everyone experiencing domestic abuse to get the right response at the right time – whoever you are.”
Jasna Magić , LGBT domestic abuse policy and research officer at Galop – the LGBT+ anti-violence charity – added:
“Our casework data, suggests that bisexual women are at higher risk of stalking and harassment than other clients. Bisexual women are also experiencing the highest rates of abuse from family members: a family member is the primary perpetrator for 32% of our clients who are bisexual women, compared to 27% of lesbian clients.
“Our experience tells us that biphobia within the LGBT+ community plays a huge part in the emotional abuse our bisexual clients experience from same sex partners.
“Despite all these increased risks, bisexual people are the least likely group to access our service, indicating that there is more work to be done to make specialist LGBT+ services feel inclusive and welcoming for these clients. We would like to see more research that focuses on the needs and experiences of bisexual people, and acknowledges the differences between the groups who sit under the LGBT+ umbrella.”
Galop: LGBT+ anti-violence charity
Galop leads the Domestic Abuse Partnership to provide services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people whose needs are not being met by mainstream organisations. Galop also runs the National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline, funded by the Home Office, which is open to anyone in the country who would like to anonymously get advice about domestic abuse. Further information about both services can be found here: galop.org.uk/domesticabuse. To contact the helpline call 0800 999 5428.
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