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LGBT domestic and sexual violence victims suffer alone

New research suggests LGBT people have “no idea” where to go for help with domestic and sexual violence

04 June 2014

NatCen Social Research today publishes a study into LGBT people’s experience of accessing domestic and sexual violence services, ahead of legislation to end violence against women being introduced in the Welsh Assmebly this month. The research finds that LGBT people experiencing abuse feel that services do not cater for them, and in some cases, have been rejected when they have tried to access services.

Awareness of help

In the first instance, there is a lack of awareness that domestic abuse can occur in same-sex relationships. In particular, lesbian participants felt that they were not ‘covered’ by the law, and so were hesitant to contact the police. Service providers, too, acknowledge a lack of LGBT outreach.

Not only do LGBT people face difficulty in coming to terms with abuse, they may also be deterred from accessing services based on broader experience of societal discrimination or because they fear that other services will assume heterosexuality. A 56-65 year old lesbian woman told researchers:

 “I needed help but didn’t know how to access any or if there was any available to me.”

Access to help

Domestic abuse services tend to follow a ‘women-only’ or a ‘men-only’ model, which can be problematic for transgender people. Although refuge providers are legally bound to accept people in their recognised gender, professionals note that, in practice, it can be more difficult to find emergency shelter space for transgender people. Of refuge staff, one service provider commented:

“They don’t reply to you or they don’t return your call or they just say, oh no that would be really difficult. Or, actually we’re full. When the All Wales Domestic Abuse Helpline is saying they’ve got three spaces [available].”


Shannon Harvey, Senior Researcher at NatCen Social Research commented:

“We’ve come a long way in recognising LGBT people’s experiences of domestic and sexual violence, but we need to do more to ensure this knowledge is reflected in service provision. Domestic and sexual violence services must become more openly and proactively LGBT-friendly. The Welsh Government’s commissioning of this research should be commended; it signals that the Welsh government is taking the issue seriously. The rest of the UK should follow suit.”

For more information, please contact on 0207 549 9550 or 0773 960 069

Notes to editors

Barriers Faced by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People in Accessing Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Harassment, and Sexual Violence Services was commissioned by the Welsh Government, carried out by NatCen Social Research and authored by Shannon Harvey, Martin Mitchell, Jasmin Keeble, Carol McNaughton Nicholls and Nilufer Rahim It included a rapid evidence review, 18 qualitative interviews with professionals from LGBT and domestic and sexual abuse providers and 34 online written submissions from LGBT people living in Wales.

NatCen Social Research is an independent, not for profit organisation. We believe that social research has the power to make life better. By really understanding the complexity of people’s lives and what they think about the issues that affect them, we give the public a powerful and influential role in shaping decisions and services that can make a difference to everyone.