Domestic abuse affects 1 in 4 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. You do not deserve to be abused and you can get help.
When people think about domestic abuse, they often only think about physical violence, but domestic abuse includes a range of controlling behaviours carried out by a partner or ex-partner to cause physical, emotional or mental harm. Domestic abuse often happens over a long period of time, and has a profound impact upon a person's physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.
Domestic abuse can be:
· Physical abuse, including assault and physical attacks, such as hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, pushing or using weapons. Physical abuse does not always result in injuries, and many people who experience this minimise it or think, ‘it’s not bad enough’ to get help. No one deserves to be physically attacked, regardless of how minor the assault may seem.
· Sexual abuse, including any acts which degrade and humiliate and are perpetrated against your will, including rape. You may feel pressured or coerced in to performing particular sexual acts, or your partner or ex-partner may use aggressive or violent sexual behaviour, or use degrading language.
· Mental and emotional abuse, such as threats, verbal abuse, racial abuse, homophobic/biphobic/transphobic abuse, withholding money and other types of controlling behaviour such as ‘outing’ or the threat of ‘outing’ or isolation from family and friends.
These questions might help you recognise if you are experiencing abuse.
Does your partner ever physically hurt you?
They may physically attack you, push, hit, kick or restrain you, or may throw things or use objects or weapons to hurt or intimidate you. It is still physical abuse even if you don’t get injured.
Does your partner do or say sexual things that make you feel pressured, uncomfortable or frightened?
They may pressure or force you to take part in sexual activity when you don’t want to, or to do things that make you uncomfortable. This includes refusing to have safe sex, sexual assault and rape.
Does your partner call you names, put you down or draw attention to things you feel self-conscious about, either in private or in front of other people?
The things they say may upset you or make you feel bad about yourself, your choices or your behaviour. They make you feel ashamed, worthless or guilty.
Do they tell you who you can be friends with or when you can see friends or family?
Sometimes abusive people try to isolate their partner from family and friends. They may say or do things to ruin your relationships with others, or make it difficult for you to spend time with others.
Do they text or call you all the time to check up on you?
An abusive partner might constantly call, text or message to check up on you. They may even say that they are just concerned and want to keep you safe. Do you feel that you have to respond to their messages or calls straight away? Do they make you worry about what might happen if you don’t respond? Do they accuse you of cheating on them or lying if you don’t respond?
Do they check your online activity?
Abusive partners might ask to see your contacts, browser history, private messages, call logs or text messages. They may want your passwords, or control where and when you can access the internet or your phone.
Do they threaten you in any way?
This could be threats to hurt you or someone you care about if you don’t do what they say. It could include threatening to out you to others, or to tell others personal information about you. It may be that the person threatens to end the relationship or hurt themselves, including threats of suicide.
Do they control your money?
Does your partner keep your bank card or insist on having access to your online banking? Do they tell you what you can spend, or do they take your money from you? Do they ask to see receipts or insist on going shopping with you to watch what you buy? Do they insist that you don’t work to earn money or do they claim benefits for you and keep the money?
It's important to keep yourself (and any children you may have) as safe as possible. Making a safety plan can make you feel more secure in case you have to get away from your partner in an emergency. Below are some ideas you could think about to ensure your (and your children if any) safety if an incident occurs.
· Call the police in an emergency; they can help
· Plan an escape route out of your home. If you have children, make sure they know the plan too.
· Having a room with a lockable door and access to a phone could help if your partner becomes violent. Try not to lock yourself in a room with no other escape route (such as one without a window).
· Tell someone about your situation – friends, family or a domestic abuse support service may be able to offer support. They may be able to help or could agree to check that you are okay. It can be useful to agree a code word to alert the person that you are in danger so they can call the police.
· Arrange a safe place to stay with someone you trust in case you need to leave in a hurry.
· Keep a bag of items with someone you trust, or in a safe and easy to get to place should you need to leave in an emergency. You should pack items such as cash, clothes, identification documents, benefits books, your passport, and useful phone numbers.
· Be careful using mobile phones, particularly if contacting support services as the abuser might be able to track your movements or may check call logs and messages. Use a separate sim card to call support services, and use incognito functions or delete the browser history regularly.
· Keep money for a payphone/taxi and ensure your mobile phone is charged and has credit. Ensure you have access to a list of important phone numbers.
· Keep a record of the abuse, including any verbal, physical, sexual or emotional abuse and photograph any bruises or injuries. Visit your GP or hospital if you sustain any injuries. Keeping a record of the abuse (of all forms) will help you gather evidence should you ever want to prosecute in the future.
· Save any abusive text messages, emails or social media messages. They can be used as evidence
Don't retaliate, it's not safe
Always try to avoid retaliating as it may escalate things and you might get seriously hurt. Think about how you can leave the situation if you recognise that the abuser may become violent towards you.
If you retaliate and the police are called it may be that you could be arrested and charged, particularly if your partner has any injuries caused by your retaliation.
If You Leave
If you leave the relationship, there are additional steps you can take to increase your safety such as:
· Changing your routines and avoiding areas your partner may be. You could carry a personal alarm, change your phone number and all online passwords and avoid online activity that could reveal your location, such as ‘checking in’ or tagged photo’s.
· Talk to your employer so they understand what’s happening and can take steps to keep you safe at work
· Make your home safer by changing locks and installing window locks or an alarm system. A security light outside and peep holes on the door can help you see and identify anyone approaching the property. The police and fire service can offer advise on making your home safer.
The Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse Scotland gives you the right to ask Police Scotland to look into the background of someone you think may be abusive. This could be your own partner, or the partner of someone you know and are concerned about. If they find any history of domestic abuse or violent behaviour and consider that the person poses a risk, they may consider telling their partner that they are at risk of domestic abuse.
If you are think you or someone you know is being abused, you can apply to the disclosure scheme on Police Scotland's website.
If you are witnessing domestic abuse in your family or home, there is support available. It can be very difficult and frightening to live in a house where abuse is taking place and you might feel hurt, angry or ashamed about what is going on. It’s important to remember that you are not to blame, and that help and support is available for you and for the person experiencing abuse
Witnessing abuse in your family or home can be very distressing, upsetting and frightening and can affect children and young people in many way. You may be:
· Seeing abuse take place
· Hearing the abuse take place from another room or over phone/ internet
· Seeing injuries or upset caused by the abuser after it happens
· Getting hurt if you are there when abuse happens or if you try to intervene or stop it happening
This can have an impact on your emotional, mental and physical health. It is important to remember that neither you nor the person being abused are responsible for the abuse happening. The only person responsible for the abuse is the abuser and there is never an acceptable reason for abuse.
LGBT young people often find it difficult to ‘come out’ if they are witnessing domestic abuse at home. You might be frightened that you will be abused too, or that your family have enough to deal with without worrying about you.
If you are a young person witnessing abuse in an LGBT family, you might worry that people won’t understand or will judge your family, or blame them because of their LGBT identities.
Young people are often worried about accessing support when they are witnessing domestic abuse at home. You might be concerned that support services will tell your parents/ carers or that they will report the abuse to police or other agencies. Services have a duty to keep your information confidential and will only tell other professionals if they feel that you or someone else is at serious risk of harm. They should explain their confidentiality policy to you at your first appointment so you are fully aware before you talk to them. Helplines and online support can be helpful if you would rather remain anonymous.
You may worry that that mainstream services won’t understand LGBT identities or might treat you differently because you or someone in your family are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. This is not the case and all services must treat you fairly and with respect.
Many services in Scotland have undertaken training in order to best support LGBT people experiencing domestic abuse. Some have achieved the LGBT Charter for being an LGBT inclusive service. Look out for the charter logo on their websites, social media, posters or leaflets.
You may wish to approach the police to report the abuse you have been experiencing, but may worry about the reaction you will get. The police have highly trained officers who work specifically with domestic abuse. You can report to the police by calling 101 (call 999 in an emergency) and also through an online reporting form.
Many people worry about what will happen if they make a report to the police. If you are worried about approaching the police yourself, some domestic abuse services can support you to make a report or offer third party reporting.
If you report directly to the police, either by phone or in person, they will usually want to take a statement from you at the time. They will also ask you questions that help them identify any risks to your safety. Some of the questions can seem strange, but they are designed to help the police make sure you are safe and allow them to give you information about relevant support services available in your area.
The police will then investigate to gather evidence. This could include taking pictures of any injuries or any damage to property, looking at threatening or abusive texts and messages, speaking to any witnesses and speaking to the abuser. If there is evidence, police will arrest the abuser and they will be charged. Police will usually impose bail conditions before the person is released so they can’t harass you or abuse you further.
If the case goes to court, you will be offered assistance from the Victims Advice Service. They can arrange for you to visit the court before the trial so you can see what it looks like, and can ask for special measures to help you give evidence such as:
· someone to support you in court
· providing a screen when you give evidence or having you give evidence via video so you don’t need to see the abuser
They will also keep you up to date with the case as it progresses.
Regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity, you should be treated with the same level of understanding and professionalism as any other person making a report of domestic abuse.