When most people hear the term ‘domestic abuse’, they picture a man beating up his wife or girlfriend. However, the fact is that domestic abuse happens on a much more diverse scale, in many situations.
Men can be abused by women, women can be abused by women and men can be abused by men. Not only this, domestic abuse can happen in our relationships with other people, such as a child abusing a parent. What’s also important to realise is that domestic abuse is not always physical; it can often be psychological, sexual or financial.
TNT went down to Manchester’s LGBT Foundation and spoke to Mental Health Lead Rossella Nicosia. We found out about some of the difficulties that domestic abuse victims in same sex relationships face.
Sometimes the victims can have difficulty knowing where to turn. Domestic abuse services ordinarily deal with heterosexual relationships and will assume that the partner is of the opposite sex.
“When people come here they know there will be no assumptions about the gender of their partner”. This makes it easier for victims to talk about their experiences, without concerns of having to explain their sexuality too.
Rossella explained that there is an issue with professionals failing to pick up on abuse in same sex relationships. When it is flagged up and recognised, it often isn’t taken seriously.
“People have told me of times that professionals have actually said, ‘what was it they were fighting over, the straighteners?’”
If a woman is abusing a woman for example, this is often not recognised as abuse. This is due to women being stereotypically seen as gentle and caring. Yet statistics show that lesbian and bisexual women experience domestic abuse as much as women in heterosexual relationships.
We also wanted to find out what local support there was in Manchester for LGBT domestic abuse victims.
Rossella said, “The first point of call is usually our helpline, which is open 10am-10pm Monday to Friday and varied times on a Saturday. People can pop in and see us too, anytime from 10am until 7pm in the week”.
Free one-to-one and confidential counselling is ran by volunteers at the foundation for support of domestic abuse victims. They also provide self esteem courses, as self esteem is often seriously damaged following domestic abuse. Another related course is about relationships, which teaches how to recognise the signs of abuse.
In the aftermath of having experienced domestic abuse, victims can often feel isolated. When this is the case they can come to the LGBT Foundation for befriending sessions. These tend to start one-to-one then progress into group sessions, building back the victim’s confidence.
If you’re concerned about the way your partner or anyone else is treating you it’s important to talk to someone. Staff at the LGBT Foundation are more than happy to listen and point you in the right direction for support.
TNT LGBT Natasha Dunn