Family violence is a serious issue and family violence can happen to anyone.
It can be hard to talk about family violence in LGBTIQ+ communities but if we want to end family violence we have to break the silence.
Everyone deserves to be safe, always.
Further resources, including those in other languages:
Phone: 1800 737 732
Understanding Family Violence
Types of violence:
Family violence includes a range of harmful behaviours and occurs when someone acts in ways that hurts or scares their partner or other family members, including chosen family or carers. Violence is a choice and a pattern of behaviours that aim to control and dominate someone else. These behaviours include, but are not limited to:
- physical abuse (e.g. hitting, slapping, punching)
- sexual abuse (e.g. unwanted touching or kissing, being forced to watch or participate in pornography, rape)
- stalking or harassing (including online)
- financial abuse including withholding or controlling money
- isolating someone from friends or family
- threatening to or harming pets
- emotional or psychological abuse
- spiritual and cultural abuse including racist comments and threats to have someone deported
- threats to harm or kill, including threats to self-harm
There are some forms of violence that are unique to some LGBTIQ+ relationships:
- threatening to out a person to family, friends, co-workers, or their community – this may include HIV status, gender, intersex status or sexuality
- using that status as a way to hurt, harm or control
- controlling or destroying medications or blocking someone from accessing medical treatment
- pressuring a person to conform to particular “norms” of sex or gender
Family violence is serious and can happen to anyone – but it is preventable.
This campaign is part of a movement to change our society so that family violence is a thing of the past. We all have a role to play, no matter how big or small, by supporting respectful relationships and challenging gender inequality. We know that this is how we will change things.
Meaningful long-term change takes time however, and if you are experiencing or enacting family violence now, support is available.
Anyone can experience family violence. It can sometimes be hard to identify abuse, as it can take many forms and sometimes ones that are not so obvious. Experiencing violence can significantly impact your mental health and sense of self-worth, as well as your ability to engage with other people, work or study. The person or people using violence may also blame you for the abuse – but it is never your fault.
Remember, if it doesn’t feel ok, it is not ok and support is available to help you.
Accessing the right support
Accessing the right support can be hard for anyone who has recently left, is trying to leave, or trying to end a violent relationship. It can be especially challenging for LGBTIQ+ people seeking assistance or support.
LGBTIQ+ people form a wonderfully diverse community who can experience family violence in lots of different ways. When most people talk about family violence however, they are talking about men’s violence against women and children. This can make it difficult for LGBTIQ+ people to see their own experience as family violence. We most often hear “family violence is gendered” as a way of understanding family violence. When LGBTIQ people are not included in discussions of gendered violence this can make LGBTIQ+ people feel invisible, like their experience of violence isn’t real or doesn’t matter.
Many LGBTIQ+ people also experience stigma, discrimination, disempowerment and violence in their everyday lives because our society is unequal. Many things contribute to LGBTIQ+ experiences of violence, including harmful community attitudes that don’t value LGBTIQ+ people and that minimise or ignore LGBTIQ+ experiences. Transphobia, biphobia, homophobia and intersexphobia are terms used to describe the prejudiced, harmful attitudes, thoughts and actions that exist about LGBTIQ+ people in our society. This can make it hard for LGBTIQ+ people to find services and supports that are safe and that understand them; however, the good news is that these services do exist.
Barriers to seeking support
One of the biggest barriers to seeking support can be feeling that your situation isn’t ‘serious’ enough or isn’t ‘real’ family violence.
If you feel like something is wrong in your relationship, or if you feel confused or scared, there are people you can talk to. If you are unsure, they can help you work through whether what you’re experiencing is family violence.
Some other reasons that LGBTIQ+ people might hesitate to reach out include:
- Fear that a disclosure of family violence won’t be believed, or a fear of being blamed for the abuse
- Fear of involving police (whether for ourselves, our partner, or our community)
- Fear of discrimination or lack of understanding from services
- Fear that no services exist to help us stop using violence or that we will be shunned
- Shame about what has happened to us, or of what we are doing to others.
These fears are real, but we still encourage you to reach out, and to know that there are different options available to you. You have a right to safety and to support.
Family violence can affect us differently
We all have unique identities and backgrounds. Experiences of family violence can involve many broader social inequalities being used or exploited in a relationship, because family violence is ultimately about power.
Many of us experience discrimination or inequality for more than one reason, and this can influence our experience of family violence.
We know that, for example, people with disabilities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and people from migrant communities, who are also LGBTIQ+ people can experience family violence at higher rates than the general population.
For those of us with a disability, family violence might look like our carer hurting or neglecting us. For those of us on a temporary partnership visa, it might look like our partner threatening us with deportation. For those of us who do sex work, it might look like a partner trying to stop us working or threatening to out us.
Ultimately none of this violence can be blamed on who we are or the communities to which we belong. Family violence happens because perpetrators choose to use violence and control. Our identities and communities are actually sources of pride and strength, and must remain so no matter what.
If you’re using family violence:
If you find yourself needing to control your partner and their decisions, blaming your partner or other life factors for making you angry, hurting others physically or emotionally, or if you are finding it hard to express your feelings and then exploding, then you might be using relationship violence.
There are supports available if you are feeling anxious or confused about your behaviour and would like to talk to someone about it.
What to expect when you contact a service
When you first contact a family violence service, the person you talk to will have training and experience in helping people in situations very similar to yours. If you contact an LGBTIQ+ specific family violence service, you can expect that workers will either be qualified community members themselves or strong allies. They will be comfortable with and have knowledge of the wide range of identities and communities that make up rainbow families and relationships and an understanding of the impacts that sex, gender and sexuality-related stigma and discrimination can have on your life.
These days, many mainstream family violence services are committed to diversity and inclusion, and have had training in how to support people experiencing violence in LGBTIQ+ relationships. If you reach out, and don’t happen to get the right support or what you need at that time, then don’t give up. There are trustworthy services to help you, and you can get the support and advice that you deserve.
At a trusted service, workers will understand that sharing your story can be hard and they will work with you, at your own pace, to explore what’s going on for you and help you decide what kind of support will be most helpful right now and in the future. Your choices will always be respected.
Depending on your situation, the supports you need could include:
- emergency accommodation (if you are currently very unsafe)
- outreach support
- financial assistance
- behaviour change programs (if you are using violence in your relationships)
- referral to other legal, health or wellbeing services
You can contact a family violence service to help work out whether what you are experiencing, or how you are behaving, is violence or abuse. Sometimes we just have a feeling that things aren’t quite right but we aren’t sure. That’s ok. If a family violence service isn’t right for you, we can refer you to somewhere that is. You can also talk with someone if you have concerns about people you are close to who you think might be experiencing or using family violence.
Whatever your situation, you can expect:
- to be listened to
- to be supported
- to be believed
- to feel safe
- to have information provided to you clearly and in a way you can understand
- to have your wishes and choices respected
Sometimes, if you are not at immediate risk, there might be a wait for some services, such as counselling or behaviour change programs. In this case you can expect services to keep in touch with you and check in with you about your safety and other needs while you wait.
If you are in immediate danger:
Please call emergency services (Police and Ambulance) on 000.
These services provide 24 hour crisis support via telephone and webchat. They are not LGBTIQ+ specific services but are trained and recognise that family violence occurs in LGBTIQ+ relationships.
Safe Steps is Victoria’s 24/7 family violence response centre. Provides specialist support services for anyone in Victoria who is experiencing or afraid of family violence.
- Information and referral
- Crisis response
- Specialist family violence risk assessment
- Safety planning
- Access to supported crisis accommodation
Phone: 1800 015188
LGBTI specific family violence services
Thorne Harbour Health
Provides family violence case work and counselling services to LGBTIQ+ communities and delivers ReVisioning Men’s Behaviour Change Program for same sex and same gender attracted men (including transmen and masc identifying people) who use violence.
Open: 9am - 5pm, Monday to Friday
Phone: (03) 9865 6700
A helpline for LGBTIQ+ community members and their family and friends to talk about what is going on for them. The helpline offers you a place to share your experience with a peer family violence support worker. Services include phone support, information, risk assessment, safety planning and referral.
Open: 10am - 5pm, every day
Phone: 1800 729 367
Text: 0480 017 246
Other useful services
Victoria Police - LGBTIQ Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers (GLLO)
Can be a valuable resource to aid in supporting you to interact with mainstream police support should you feel uncertain about having direct contact with police; if you contact police ask to speak to a GLLO if possible. General GLLO phone messages and email are monitored during business hours. Messages and emails received out of business hours are responded to on the next business day.
Open: 9am - 5pm, Monday to Friday
Phone: (03) 9247 6944
Support for friends and family
If you are worried that someone you know or care about may be experiencing family violence, there are things that you can do to help.
You can find a private moment to share what you have noticed, let them know you care, and ask them if they are ok. Take the time to listen without blame or judgement, reassure them that any violence or abuse is not their fault and that everyone deserves to feel safe in relationships. You can also provide them with information about family violence services and encourage them to make contact with a support service if they would like to explore their options.
Even though it might not make sense to you and can be hard to witness, it’s important that you don’t pressure the person to leave the relationship, blame them for staying, or give up on them if they return after leaving. The best thing you can do to support someone experiencing family violence is trust that they know what is best for their own safety and be there if amd when they need you.
Supporting someone who is experiencing or using family violence can be very stressful. It is important that you take care of yourself first so you can help the person you know or care about. If you are uncertain about what to do, or feel out of your depth, you can contact a family violence telephone counselling and information service like 1800 Respect, Safe Steps or Rainbow Door for support and advice.
A safety plan is a plan you can put in place when you sense that violence is escalating to help keep you safe. It’s something you can use whether you are staying in a relationship or deciding to leave.
You are never responsible for other people’s violence or abuse. However, chances are that if you are living with violence, you are already taking some actions to help keep yourself safe.
Services can help you identify more useful strategies and assist you in making a practical and detailed safety plan.
You can find more information on safety planning on these websites:
Children and young people
Children and young people also experience family violence. Sometimes they may be the direct targets of violence and abuse, including physical violence, sexual, financial or emotional abuse, or threatening behaviour. Exposing a child to violence or causing them to witness violence against another family member is also a form of family violence.
A young person who is being coerced, controlled or abused due to their sex, gender expression or sexuality within the family is also experiencing family violence.
Even if the violence and abuse is not specifically directed at them, children and young people will be negatively impacted if they are living with family violence. Even if adults are doing their best to hide the violence, or protect their children from violence, children usually know that something is going on and will be experiencing some level of distress.
If you are a young person experiencing family violence yourself or worried about other people you know experiencing family violence you can contact any of the services listed on this site as well as Kids Helpline, any time, on 1800 55 1800.
The whole community has a role to play in keeping children and young people safe.
If you are using violence
It can be hard to acknowledge that your behaviour is harming those you love but you can get help.
Do you find yourself…
- Always acting like the ‘boss’?
- Controlling your partner’s decisions?
- Blaming your partner or other factors for making you angry?
- Finding it hard to express your feelings and then exploding?
- Hurting your partner, friend or family physically or emotionally?
- Feeling anxious or confused about your behaviour?
- Finding yourself constantly apologising for your behaviour?
Then you might be using relationship violence. ReVisioning may help.
ReVisioning is a group where you, as a gay, bisexual or queer man (inclusive of cis, trans and gender diverse identities), can learn about breaking patterns of violent, abusive or controlling behaviours. The group offers a safe environment where you can explore issues with power and control in your relationships. You can also raise your awareness of the effects your behaviours have on others and yourself.
ReVisioning aims to provide information and support so you are able to challenge yourself to take more responsibility for your behaviours. Together we work to build your confidence and self-control as well as help you deal with conflict and difficult emotions — whether in your relationships or other parts of your life without the use of abusive or controlling behaviours.
To get help, Call Thorne Harbour Health on (03) 9865 6700. Ask to speak with the duty worker or the Revisioning team.