The study by academics at the universities of Sunderland and Bristol reveals that most survivors of domestic abuse do not report it to organisations such as the police - partly because they 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.
The report also calls for training and awareness raising about domestic abuse in same sex relationships, particularly in public agencies such as the criminal justice, domestic violence and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fields. Awareness raising campaigns are also needed within LGBT communities, adds the report.
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 the report reveals that, 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 abuse. They add that a lack of awareness and appropriate training among police, GPs and agencies in turn hinders them from responding in an appropriate way although some individuals within them may respond sympathetically.
Dr Catherine Donovan of Sunderland University, Co-Director of the research, said "what is worrying is the extent to which those suffering domestic abuse in same sex relationships do not report the abuse to any public agencies, like the Police, which means they are not getting the help and support they are entitled to"
The report’s findings will be discussed at a conference at St James’ Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, on Friday, December 8.
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