A firm of solicitors has joined forces with Stonewall Housing to create an advice service for LGBT people experiencing domestic abuse.

Clients will be able to meet in person with a housing adviser and at the same time consult with a solicitor about issues relating to civil and criminal protection from domestic abuse.

The service will be free and confidential.

Stonewall Housing provides housing support, advice and advocacy to LGBT people across London with supported housing for 41 young LGBT people in four London boroughs.

Copper Stone Solicitors has a Legal Aid franchise, which is designed to specifically help victims of domestic violence and is able to offer services via Legal Aid for those who qualify.

Arrangements can also be made for translators for Hindi, Gujarati, Russian, Bengali and Turkish speakers as well as phoneline interpreting for other languages.

Maria Sookias, the advice service supervisor said:

“People who experience domestic abuse around the Christmas and New Year period frequently remain in their homes because many services are closed.

“Launching this service now will give LGBT people experiencing abuse an opportunity to find safety and access emergency civil and criminal protection to see them through the festive period and beyond.”

Bob Green, CEO for Stonewall Housing, said:

“Christmas is often seen as a time for families but for many family life is far from merry. More than one in five lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who call us for housing advice are victims of domestic abuse.

“This service will ensure they will be able to find safe and secure accommodation.”

Research carried out in 2008 found that one in four of all lesbian and bisexual women have experienced domestic violence in a relationship.

Two thirds said the perpetrator was a woman.

Issues faced by LBT women include having to out themselves in order to access support services like GPs and hospitals or facing institutionalised homophobia (for example many police forces still do not have dedicated LGBT liaison officers) which can lead to lower reporting rates for LBT women.

A recent American study found that 32% of gay and bisexual men have been abused by their partners.

Eric Houston of the Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago conducted research about the rate of domestic violence in the gay community.

HIs study looked at not only the rate of abuse, but also examined the effects that such abuse had on the victims suggesting that:

“Men in abusive relationships were more likely to report suffering from serious health problems such as heart disease, hypertension, depression, and anxiety.”

It was also suggested that victims of gay domestic abuse were much less likely to report incidents because of the stigma associated with male-on-male violence leading them to turn to alternative and often unhealthy ways of coping with the problems.

Stonewall Housing’s advice line: 020 7359 5767 or email:info@stonewallhousing.org