More work is needed to raise awareness of domestic abuse in same sex relationships, according to a new study due to be discussed in Bristol next week.
The study by Professor Marianne Hester of the University of Bristol’s School for Policy Studies and Dr Catherine Donovan of the University of Sunderland, reveals that most survivors of domestic abuse do not report it to organisations such as the police and domestic abuse agencies.
The report says this is partly because survivors do not recognise it as domestic abuse and see it as their own problem and partly because they do not believe they will get a sympathetic response.
It concludes that training and awareness-raising about domestic abuse in same sex relationships is needed in public agencies, particularly those in the criminal justice, domestic violence and Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender fields.
The research recommends that awareness raising campaigns are conducted within LGBT communities.
The new study is the most comprehensive ever undertaken into domestic abuse in same sex relationships in Britain and is the first in the UK to directly compare domestic abuse across same sex and heterosexual relationships.
Respondents to the study indicated that, as in heterosexual relationships, a considerable number experienced domestic abuse at some time and as with heterosexual female survivors, post-separation abuse by ex-partners is a ‘sizeable problem’ in same sex domestically abusive relationships.
Of those who said they had experienced domestic abuse, just over one in five (22 per cent) did not seek help from anyone. Of those who did seek help, more than half contacted friends, rather than statutory agencies. Just one in 10 contacted the police. This is in stark contrast to the much greater resort to contacting the police by all female domestic abuse victims as recorded in the British Crime Survey.
A key problem identified by the authors is that the traditional model of domestic abuse involving a male and a female, in which the overwhelming majority of those experiencing abuse are female, hinders people in a same sex relationship from understanding that they may also be experiencing domestic abuse.
They add that a lack of awareness and appropriate training among police, GPs and domestic abuse agencies in turn hinders such groups from responding in an appropriate way, although some individuals may respond sympathetically.