Exclusive: Metropolitan police urges gays to report domestic violence

Jessica Geen September 3, 2009
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The Metropolitan Police Service is calling for more LGBT people to report domestic violence, saying that it is hugely underreported.

New figures show there were approximately 53,000 domestic violence crimes in the London boroughs covered by the Met last year. It is estimated that between six and nine per cent of the population are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans, but as only 503 of those related to LGBT people, police believe those suffering abuse from partners are not coming forward.

There is little research on reporting rates, although a 2008 Stonewall survey of lesbian and bisexual women found that eight in ten who had experience domestic violence to the police, and only half of those were satisfied with how officers dealt with the situation.

A 2003 paper by research institute Sigma found that only 13 per cent of LGBT women and 18.8 per cent of LGBT men reported domestic violence to police. spoke to Detective Chief Inspector Gerry Campbell, of the Met’s violent crimes division, about why LGBT people should come forward and what they can expect.

He said: “The first important thing we have to get across is that the Met is wholly committed to tackling violent crime, which includes domestic violence and hate crime. In a similar tone, we will and do work in participation with LGBT-focused groups to improve our service delivery.

“Domestic violence and other forms of hate crime are underreported, especially for LGBT people. If people in same-sex relationships are experiencing domestic violence, this means rape, harassment, violence, intimidation and damage to property.

“It’s a cause for concern for us. If people are not reporting it, then they’re not being supported. They’re still open to risk and danger and will become repeat victims of these serious crimes, which impact on their health and their quality of life. If they’re not reporting them, we don’t know who some of these dangerous and violent suspects are.”

DCI Campbell also set out what victims can expect when they report crimes and the different ways they can access help.

He said: “Victims will always lie at the centre of our decision-making. We will work with victims and a number of organisations to look after their safety.

“Let’s be clear about this – it’s about the power dynamic of the domestic violence setting, it’s not their faults.We know it takes a lot of courage to come forward and tell us about these sensitive and personal matters. But they’re also very serious and dangerous crimes. We want people to know they will be handled in a sensitive and compassionate manner.

“People can request to speak to LGBT liaison officers. There are about 215 dotted around the London boroughs covered by the Met and these officers will have a better understanding of being LGBT and same-sex domestic violence.

“It’s about wrap-around support – actual and perceived safety. Then we look next at deciding what evidence to gather, gather evidence and decide whether the offender will be prosecuted.”

For those who do not want to contact police, he stressed that other channels are available, citing Stonewall Housing, Broken Rainbow, the Lesbian and Gay Switchboard and Galop as the four main strategic groups the Met works with on LGBT domestic violence.

He added that LGBT liaison officers have profiles on Gaydar, which LGBT people can access for advice, although he added that these profiles are not checked every day.

“I don’t want anyone reporting a crime through them, but they are there to offer advice, especially for people who aren’t out or who have a heterosexual partner and don’t want letters about it coming through the door.”

According to the most recent Met statistics, there were 503 cases of LGBT domestic violence in the last year, compared with 415 the previous year. DCI Campbell believes this is due to increased rates of reporting. Of the figures for the latest year, 164 victims were female and 332 were male.

He said: “It’s really important to get across to LGBT people, whether men or women, that domestic violence does exist in same-sex relationships. Some guys are embarrassed about coming forward, they think it can’t be domestic violence if they’re a guy and it’s another man. But it is prevalent. If you get this level of criminality against you, it is a crime, it is likely to escalate.” To continue reading, click page 2

He added that women in particular, whether heterosexual or LGBT, tend to underreport domestic violence, a statement borne out by recent Met research which suggested they are up to seven times less likely to report the issue compared to men.

DCI Campbell acknowledged that LGBT people have been traditionally reluctant to approach police, due to laws and discrimination in the past.

He said: “We understand there are legacy issues, with the previous relationship between the police and LGBT community. But we know more LGBT people are coming forward, not just with domestic violence and hate crimes, but also to report things like theft as mainstream service users.

“But we recognise that for older people there will be more worries as they remember how some things used to be. We want to give them the knowledge that we will deal with this is a sensitive, confidential way.

“They can speak to LGBT liaison officers, third party groups and report crimes through the website ( There are a number of different outlets for those who are openly LGBT, those who are out to some people or those who are not out. Our first priority is safety.”

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