Scottish domestic violence stereotypes ‘fail gay and transgender people’

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The Scottish government’s definition of domestic violence leaves some victims ‘invisible’, a law lecturer has claimed.

Brian Dempsey, who teaches at the University of Dundee in Scotland, said that the standard view of male abusers and female victims means that LGBT people may be unable to access help.

Writing in the Edinburgh Law Review, he said: “My impression is that both politicians and people involved in delivering domestic abuse services are sympathetic to lesbian, gay bisexual and trans people but are generally pretty unaware of our needs – especially so in relation to transgendered people.

“But the overwhelming emphasis on presenting domestic abuse as something that men do to women means that people such as accident and emergency nurses or GPs or housing officers just aren’t picking up on the signals that an LGBT client might need help.

“For LGBT people themselves it’s often not worth the risk of raising the issue in an atmosphere where you don’t know if you will be taken seriously and where services all seems to be geared to female victims of male abusers. To say ‘I’m a male victim’ or to say ‘my abuser is female’ is often just too risky.”

The Scottish government’s definition is: “Domestic abuse (as gender-based abuse), can be perpetrated by partners or ex-partners and can include physical abuse (assault and physical attack involving a range of behaviour), sexual abuse (acts which degrade and humiliate women and are perpetrated against their will, including rape) and mental and emotional abuse…”

Mr Dempsey said that no attempts should be made to define the issue in terms of gender.

Meanwhile, the Westminster government defines domestic violence as “any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality”.

There is little research the rates of LGBT people who report domestic violence to police.

However, 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.